The motorsports industry is a driving force of the Charlotte USA economy.
Dozens of racing teams from the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series are headquartered in the region, and so are hundreds of companies that supply parts and engineering technology to the teams. In fact, nearly 700 motorsports-related businesses generate a $5 billion economic impact within the 16 counties that make up Charlotte USA.
Racing teams, a specialized labor pool, a well-developed supplier chain and some 700 businesses support the motorsports industry and employ more than 20,000 people in the region. Buttressing the industry are academic-based research assets that include the North Carolina Motorsports and Automotive Research Center at UNC Charlotte. Beyond the racing teams based there, the region supports a number of other motorsports-related enterprises, including NASCAR Media Group, the MRN Radio network and a trio of wind tunnel test facilities that aid motorsports research.
Another business, Camber Ridge LLC, works with major U.S. automotive companies that want to improve tire performance.
“Our expertise is actually in electronic stability control, where if a car starts to lose control, it will automatically apply brakes to one or two tires to straighten the car and hopefully avoid a wreck,” says Jim Cuttino, Camber Ridge president. “Electronic stability control is now second only to seat belts in the number of lives it can save, so it’s exciting technology.”
Cuttino says Camber Ridge tests tires at high speeds on a special roller coaster/asphalt track it has built, and is doing work for customers such as NASCAR, Formula One racing and even the U.S. military.
“We are able to measure the loads, angles, forces, grip and speeds of tires at high accuracy, then feed all the data into computers to provide individual vehicles with the best tires possible,” he says. “We’re doing all of this at a temporary facility in Charlotte while our new headquarters opens in 2013.”
Start Your Engines
When most NASCAR fans throughout the nation hear the word “Charlotte,” they probably think of Charlotte Motor Speedway – the most famous motorsports landmark in the region. The track in Concord is a 1.5-mile oval that can seat up to 167,000 spectators and has been a racing and tourism destination ever since opening in 1959. The 2,000-acre speedway complex, which also includes the zMAX Dragway, generates an annual economic impact estimated at $400 million.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Winston Kelley hopes a brand new motorsports attraction will bring even more people to Charlotte USA, and so far his wish is coming true. Kelley is executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is licensed by NASCAR but owned by the City of Charlotte and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
The Hall of Fame opened in May 2010 and attracted 275,000 people during its first full year, second in American sports hall attendance only to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Our studies show that roughly 50 percent of people who came to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the first year did so with the hall being their primary purpose for coming to Charlotte,” Kelley says.
The three-story facility is in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, across from Charlotte Convention Center and right off Interstate 277.
“Our studies also show that more than 67 percent of Hall of Fame visitors stay in the Charlotte area for 2.5 days and spend an average of $1,200 during their stay,” he says. “People from all 50 states have already visited us.”
NASCAR legends inducted into the hall so far include Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bill France Sr., Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Junior Johnson.
“Motorsports will always play a big role in Charlotte," Kelley says. "And the NASCAR Hall of Fame will always be here to celebrate it all.”