Motorsports are big in the state’s Piedmont region, but that’s only the beginning
The central part of North Carolina is the Piedmont region. It’s where visitors can find the state’s largest cities including Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill triangle.
Just 45 minutes from Charlotte, the hub of NASCAR racing, you’ll find delightful Lexington. It’s said with some authority that Lexington is famous for barbeque, art, wine and racing. Lexington might be the epicenter of Eastern North Carolina style barbeque. Traditionally, this style involves the whole hog being roasted over wood, chopped or sliced and served with a thin sauce of vinegar and spices, including cayenne pepper. There are a dozen Lexington restaurants with barbecue in the name serving it the traditional way. One of the state’s largest events is a one-day October street festival, The Barbecue Festival. It’s big enough that Amtrak makes a run from Charlotte to Lexington just to service festivalgoers.
A visit to the Bob Timberlake Gallery may be reason enough to tour Lexington. Timberlake is an American artist that began his career in the early 1970s with mostly watercolor paintings. Showcasing much of the artist’s talent, the Timberlake Gallery opened in 1997.
When it comes to shopping, a visit to Uptown Lexington will not disappoint travelers. This historic section of the community presents a delightful mix of boutiques and shops. With the Timberlake Gallery at one end of Main Street and Uptown Lexington in the middle, it’s only appropriate Childress Vineyards would be located nearby. While racing cars in California, Richard Childress would also visit wineries with friends. His dream became a reality when he decided to build on farmland in Lexington. Group tours and tastings led by knowledgeable staff show off the facilities of this prominent winery and how the wines are made.
You do not have to be a NASCAR fan to be inspired by a visit to Richard Childress Racing. Founded in 1969, the 52-acre campus near Lexington in Welcome has grown to become one of the largest and most successful organizations in NASCAR competition. No stranger to winning NASCAR events, the RCR team has more than 200 victories and 15 championships, including three wins at both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.
Visitors witness this tradition of winning at the Richard Childress Racing Museum. The journey begins with a look at the early career of Childress as a NASCAR driver. The story continues with the Dale Earnhardt No. 3 team and their championship years. Included are the No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolets that won at the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. A half-dozen other winning vehicles are on display from the 1998 Budweiser Shootout driven by Mike Skinner to the 2018 No. 3 Dow Chevrolet driven by Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500.
All these cars are built from scratch and it takes a team of 500 employees from engineers to mechanics to graphic artists to pull it all together. Danny “Chocolate” Meyers, a No. 3 pit crewmember and the Museum curator, sums it up by saying, “We never stop building new cars.”
Racing fans and visitors interested in the process can enjoy a bird’seye view with the addition of the Fan Walk. “With this new addition, visitors have the opportunity to view the team preparing for the next race. Along with the museum that brings the past, present and future together,” Myers added. Begin planning at rcracing.com.
Located just off I-77 a few minutes from Charlotte and along scenic Lake Norman, Mooresville is home to many of NASCAR’s most noticeable teams. Although there’s ample reason behind the nickname “Race City,” there are also many options that don’t involve motorsports.
The best places to begin absorbing the heritage and culture of a destination are at its museums and the Mooresville Museum and Mooresville Art Gallery will not disappoint. The former is located downtown and has a wide variety of artifacts, including historical photos. The latter is located in a renovated train depot with rotating exhibits focusing on North Carolina artists. Both attractions, along with a dozen others, are part of a walking tour through downtown.
For outdoor adventure, Lake Norman State Park, North Carolina’s largest manmade lake, is popular with groups and reunions. There are 30.5 miles of mountain bike trails, fishing spots and a campground. Maybe the best way to enjoy Lake Norman is a lunch, dinner or sightseeing cruise on the Mississippi River-style paddleboat, the Queens Landing. Another option is the two-hour cruise aboard the luxurious Lady of the Lake yacht, which includes a three-course chef prepared meal. For all there is to enjoy in Mooresville, it will always be the epicenter of racing. Catch just a few of the names that call Mooresville home: The Dale Earnhardt Experience, JR Motorsports, Kasey Kahne Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, MTJ Motorsports and Team Penske.
The shop floor at Kasey Kahne Racing gives fans an inside look at World of Outlaws dirt track racing. After 15 years and 18 NASCAR Cup Series wins, Kahne returned to his roots. Fans of 2017 NASCAR Cup Champion Martin Truex, Jr. will want to visit MTJ Motorsports and if you’re a fan of NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series racing, stopping at Kyle Busch Motorsports is a must. It’s home to Busch’s Toyota truck team and a wealth of trophies, race vehicles and memorabilia. The Dale Earnhardt Experience showcases the career of the Intimidator, winner of seven NASCAR championships. At JR Motorsports, more than 500 exclusive Dale Earnhardt, Jr. items chronicle the driver’s career.
To see how a race car is built, a visit to Team Penske is a must. The facility houses both the NASCAR teams, the Indy Car and ALMS teams while the NASCAR race shop allows visitors to view through windows and walk upstairs to a 330-foot fan walk that includes a look at the NASCAR truck bay.
There’s plenty additional racing to be discovered in Mooresville from Performance Instruction and Training and NASCAR Technical Institute to the NC Auto Racing Walk of Fame, North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Memory Lane Motorsports. You should probably plan to stay an additional day, or two. racecityusa.org
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