zMAX Dragway Celebrates Fourth Birthday; Remembers Milestones
Four years ago today, Pro Stock racers Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin Jr. drove through the ribbon signifying the completion of zMAX Dragway, and the face of drag racing was changed forever. Following through on a promise to build the Bellagio of drag strips, Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith unveiled the only four-lane, all-concrete drag strip in the world, that in just four short years has already seen its share of history-making moments.
“Four years seems like an eternity ago when you reflect upon the significant records zMAX Dragway holds both on and off the track,” said Christian Byrd, general manager of zMAX Dragway. “The team at zMAX Dragway takes a lot of pride in providing the best customer experience in motorsports and we will continue to improve as we move forward.”
The ribbon was cut at zMAX Dragway on Aug. 20, 2008. The NHRA visited the Carolinas in front of a standing-room-only crowd as zMAX Dragway's first major event was held Sept. 11-14, 2008 with the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series breaking in the immaculate facility.
The inaugural O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals was not only a huge success for zMAX Dragway, setting a three-day NHRA event attendance record, but was also a historic weekend on the track as well. Tony Schumacher recorded his 53rd career victory to pass Joe Amato as the NHRA's all-time Top Fuel wins leader. The other national category winners were Jack Beckman in Funny Car, Justin Humphreys in Pro Stock and Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In early 2009, the popular television show PINKS All Out came to zMAX Dragway with more than 500 cars competing in front of yet another sold-out crowd, there to witness cars race four wide for the first time at the Bellagio of drag strips.
In August 2009, officials announced that in 2010, the NHRA would visit zMAX Dragway for two national events. The following month, in September, at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, officials hosted a first-of-its-kind, NHRA-sanctioned, four-wide exhibition race, featuring drivers who were eliminated in the first round.
The inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, highlighted the 2010 season as the first ever four-wide event in NHRA history. The legendary Funny Car driver John Force, Top Fuel pilot Cory McClenathan, Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Smith all picked up wins in the historic event.
In addition to hosting two NHRA National events and PINKS All Out, the facility also hosted a variety of street-legal races, allowing everyday fans to race their personal cars.
In April 2011, the NHRA brought its 60th anniversary celebration to zMAX Dragway, along with an unprecedented lineup of NHRA legends, including “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Kenny Bernstein and Connie Kalitta. The NHRA Four-Wide Nationals also marked the debut of the NHRA’s new Christmas Tree. Instead of the conventional two rows of pre-staging and staging bulbs, the new Tree includes one row of four large circles of LED lights to indicate the pre-staging and staging of the cars in all four lanes.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals launched year four in fine fashion, as the event saw cool temperatures, prompting record-setting passes. Matt Hagan ran the first Funny Car pass under four seconds, with a 3.995. A total of three national records fell, including the speed record and the in both Funny Car and Top Fuel.
The 2012 zMAX Dragway schedule was one of the most ambitious yet, including 16 open test and tunes, a six-round Mayhem @ the MAX bracket racing series, the debut of the world’s premier eighth-mile drag racing series, the American Drag Racing League, and two NHRA national events.
At the 2012 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Spencer Massey became the first Top Fuel driver to top 330 mph at the 1,000-foot mark, Robert Hight became the first Funny Car driver in history to record four consecutive event wins and Greg Anderson became the winningest pro driver in zMAX Dragway history by notching his third win at the track.
The summer of 2012 included more NOS Energy Test-N-Tune events than ever before and the introduction of a bracket racing series, NOS Energy Mayhem @ the MAX presented by Kooks Custom Headers, JE Pistons and Roush Yates Performance Parts.
The ADRL enjoyed record-setting performances during its successful debut at zMAX Dragway the first weekend in August.
zMAX Dragway will usher in its fifth year with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 14-16. If conditions are right, NHRA national records could be in danger, yet again.
“Looking forward to 2013 there will be some great additions to the track calendar,” promised Byrd. “I have spent all year talking to fans, racers, and other promoters to make next season our best ever.”
Tickets and camping are still available for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 14-16 at zMAX Dragway, by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).