One of Santa’s helpers is bringing some special gluten-free treats, including delicious gluten-free corn dogs and funnel cakes, to Speedway Christmas. Big John’s BBQ and Catering has two locations, one at the Coca-Cola Ice Rink and one in the Christmas Village at Speedway Christmas, which offer gluten-free menus.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and about 1 in 133 people are diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that is triggered by the consumption of gluten.

John Crane, the owner/operator of Big John’s, was first introduced to the concept seven years ago when his wife and son were each diagnosed with celiac disease. This prompted him to do research and offer gluten-free menus at his concession stands. His stands offer everything from french fries to funnel cakes, and each item is gluten-free. The only things served at his locations that contain gluten are the buns that hotdogs, hamburgers and barbecue sandwiches are served on, but those are kept in a separate location to prevent cross-contamination.

“From a vendor’s standpoint, it’s really not hard to go gluten-free,” said Crane. “You wouldn’t know the difference if I didn’t tell you.”

Most items at Crane’s stands are made on site in small batches in order to ensure that the items do not come in contact with any wheat products, and because gluten-free items often have a shorter shelf life. The recipes are ones that Crane has developed after researching suitable alternatives to using wheat products. The funnel cake recipe took about three months to research and develop using recipes found on the internet.  

Instead of using prepackaged and frozen items, Crane finds it easier to make them himself, right down to the sauces he uses for his barbecue sandwiches and sundaes. This not only provides the consumer with a homemade and fresh product, it also allows him to use ingredients that don’t contain gluten.

At the Coca-Cola Ice Rink, Crane offers french fries, barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers and gluten-free funnel cakes and corn dogs. Inside the Christmas Village at Speedway Christmas, Crane offers all of those items, plus a barbecue sundae in a cup, bratwurst and Brunswick stew, all of which are gluten-free if eaten without a bun.

A Matthews, N.C. resident, Crane’s business also has a presence at other Charlotte Motor Speedway and zMAX Dragway events including the NASCAR race weekends, NHRA race weekends and Food Lion AutoFairs. 

Speedway Christmas, which includes more than 3 million lights on a 3.5-mile drive-through course, is open 6 to 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day. Tickets are available online or at the gate nightly during event hours for drive-up traffic. Admission is just $15 per car on nights the Christmas village is closed and $20 per car on nights the village is open. Group packages are available.

The Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink, sponsored by New Life 91.9FM will be open daily from through Jan. 21, excluding Christmas Day. Admission is $12, which includes skate rentals. Visitors get $2 off if they bring a Coca-Cola product. For information about group lessons or private events at the rink, call Extreme Ice Center at 704-882-1830.

For more information about events, camping or tickets, call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. For daily updates from The Greatest Place to See The Race, connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CLTMotorSpdwy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/charlottemotorspeedway.