As race fans across North Carolina and around the world set their sights on Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 10 greatest days in racing, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith outlined a program Friday that will spur friendly competition in North Carolina cities and further educational programs across the state.

Through the May Race to Education program, mayors and community leaders from Asheville to Wilmington were paired by random drawing with drivers who are currently locked into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, being held May 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The driver who wins the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600 will each win a $20,000 zMAX Race to Education award, to be used for educational programs in the community with which he was paired.

“Every driver in the All-Star Race is a winner. That’s how you get into it,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “And then, of course, we’ve had several back-to-back winners recently that have won both the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600. With this new program, we’re adding even more winners, the children and communities that will benefit from the zMAX Race to Education Rewards.”

More than a dozen mayors and community leaders from across North Carolina came together for a luncheon at The Speedway Club to kick off the program. Each participating mayor selected a driver through a blind drawing, revealing the pick to those gathered for the event before being presented a hat, die cast car and commemorative t-shirt.

Final pairings are listed below:

Charlotte: Council member David Howard selected Kyle Busch
Concord: Mayor Scott Padgett selected Marcos Ambrose
Gastonia: Mayor John Bridgeman selected Clint Bowyer
Harrisburg: Mayor Tim Hagler selected David Ragan
Hickory: Mayor Rudy Wright selected Kurt Busch
Huntersville: Mayor Jill Swain selected Regan Smith
Kannapolis: Mayor Pro Tem Gene McCombs selected Jeff Gordon
Matthews: Mayor Jim Taylor selected Ryan Newman
Midland: Mayor Kathy Kitts selected Kevin Harvick
Mooresville: Mayor Miles Atkins selected Denny Hamlin
Mount Pleasant: Mayor Del Eudy selected Brad Keselowski
Salisbury: Council member Maggie Blackwell selected Tony Stewart
Statesville: Mayor Costi Kutteh selected Paul Menard
Wilmington: Mayor Bill Saffo selected Greg Biffle

Additional cities that were unable to attend the event that were paired with drivers currently locked into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race include:

Asheville: Matt Kenseth
Boone: First place winner of the Sprint Showdown
Durham: Winner of the Sprint Fan Vote
Fayetteville: Second place finisher in the Sprint Showdown
Greensboro: Carl Edwards
Greenville: Jimmie Johnson
High Point: Kasey Kahne
Raleigh: Mark Martin
Winston-Salem: Trevor Bayne

In addition to being paired with a driver, each community leader was given 50 tickets to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race to be distributed to local teachers and 500 vouchers for children 13 and under to attend additional race week events, including the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 or LiftMaster Pole Night.

SMI Chairman Bruton Smith added that the track’s souvenir company, SMI Properties, could also engage with cities to create a customized t-shirt-selling campaign to raise additional funds for education.

In addition to providing needed financial resources for the winning community, the program aims to generate some friendly competition between the participating muncipalities as race fans and those new to the sport cheer for the driver that has been matched with their community. As the mayors drew their driver’s name, many outlined plans for supporting their driver in the days ahead, and each aimed to one-up the previous mayor’s plans.

Mayor Miles Atkins said he would use Mooresville’s Race City USA Festival, held on May 19, to get behind his town’s driver, Denny Hamlin. “We’re going to have a wonderful platform to promote this and get the buzz going,” he said.

Hickory mayor Rudy Wright said he was also thinking of ways to help build support for the driver representing his city.

“We are going to declare May 19-27 as the Kurt Busch week in Hickory and (give him) a key to the city,” said Wright, after selecting the Phoenix Racing driver for his city.

Tickets for the upcoming races are still available at or through the Charlotte Motor Speedway Ticket Office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). Weekend packages for both the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 weekends start at just $99. For all the latest from the Mecca of motorsports, “Like” Charlotte Motor Speedway on Facebook at or follow the speedway on Twitter at