NASCAR Community Reflects on 50 Years of Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway celebrates 50 years of racing this month with the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May
24 and the 25th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 16. As legendary NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs and team owners reflected on those years of great racing action at the speedway, they shared the following
Jeff Gordon, Sprint Cup driver, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet (On memories at LMS):
"I have incredible memories of (Charlotte Motor Speedway). I remember the first time I ever came to Charlotte I was going to the Buck Baker driving school.
I landed in Charlotte and had to drive out to Rockingham, and everybody told me you have to go by (Charlotte Motor Speedway). I can remember just the first time driving by it I was blown away. I had seen the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before, but I had no idea that this speedway was going to be as big as it was. I remember the grandstands looking very futuristic in the way that they had them designed, and the office building and the condominiums. I never even went inside. I just saw it from the outside and thought it was incredible.I couldn't wait to drive a stock car and couldn't wait to get to Charlotte Motor Speedway."
Gordon (On winning the 1994 Coca-Cola 600):
"My favorite 600 memory is obviously 1994, because that was my first-ever win that I had in a Cup car. It was beyond a dream come true to win a race at the Cup level, and to do it at Charlotte. Everybody knows how special Charlotte is, just its history within the sport but also because it's located in the backyards of all the race teams. They all consider that their home and take a lot of pride in winning that particular race, plus it's a huge event. It came down to a pretty dramatic ending. Ray Evernham made a great call in the pits to take two tires when Rusty (Wallace) pretty much dominated the race all day. He took four, and we took two and won the race.
That was certainly the start of a lot of history for me in this sport and something I will never forget."
Richard Petty, seven-time Cup Series champion and team owner (On the Coca-Cola 600):
"When we used to run the 600, it was a six-hour race. It took all cotton pickin' day. It still takes a pretty good while, but being it was the longest race you kind of pointed toward it. It might not have been the biggest race, but it was the longest race and you wanted to have your name on that list. It used to be when we ran 600 miles, it was survival. Whoever could build a car and keep it out of the fence, keep the motor from blowing up and be there at the end of the race. It was sort of like running a 24-hour race; if you survived you were going to be pretty good. Now it's like a 600-mile sprint race and gets over in three to four hours."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sprint Cup driver, No. 88 National Guard/ AMP Energy Chevrolet (On the Coca-Cola 600):
"It's a 600-mile race, and you know you feel that extra 100 miles. It's unique because of the length, and having it once a year is a great feather in our cap for our sport. It's a great race track for it to be on. Charlotte does a good job of holding that race. It's a dramatic race and a lot unfolds throughout that 600 miles."
Jimmie Johnson, Sprint Cup driver, No. 48 Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet (On racing and winning at LMS):
"It's been a track I have always loved. I loved it before they reground and resurfaced it. I just found it to be one of the most challenging tracks that we race at, through my (Nationwide) career and then once I got in the Cup car. Luckily, I took to it and had the right equipment underneath me and was able to win a bunch of races there. Lately I have been good for a top five or so, but hopefully we can get that magic back and win at the house that is my sponsor Lowe's house, and win at that track where we have won so much for all the employee owners and fans that come out to watch. Kasey Kahne has kind of taken over here lately, but I look forward to taking that back from him."
Kasey Kahne, Sprint Cup driver, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge (On the Coca-Cola 600):
"I like it because of how much the track changes throughout the race. From starting in the day when it's 95 degrees and ending at night when it has cooled off a little bit, the track changes a ton. The tires change, everything changes a little bit. To be able to be there all day for 600 miles is difficult, and we have done it a couple of times, so to me that's a pretty big accomplishment and it's pretty tough to do."
Dale Jarrett, 1999 Cup Series Champion (On his 1996 Coca-Cola 600 win):
"My memories go back a long way, a lot further than a lot of others, but my memories go back to my dad racing there and me, Kyle Petty and Ricky and Larry Pearson in the infield literally having a great time there. So it started out that I enjoyed that place from the very beginning. Then racing there and winning in what is now the Nationwide Series was the first time that I won on a big race track, and that was a huge thrill. Probably my best memory was in 1996, winning the Coca-Cola 600. It was a race that was delayed by rain. It started late, ran late into the evening and finished just before midnight. It was a very special win. I had watched a lot of very special drivers win that race and to know it was the longest race on our circuit and one of the toughest race tracks that we raced on, to be able to go there and win that 600-mile race ranks near the top for me."
Jeff Burton, Sprint Cup driver, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet (On what makes LMS special):
"When I used to race late models, I would drive to Charlotte and watch the Nationwide races. To me, that's the big track. Going to Lowe's is like the coolest track and it's in our backyard now. All the teams take a lot of pride in winning races. It's a big deal. It's a big deal to me because when I was a kid I would go there and watch people race. I can remember sitting in the grandstands thinking I am going to race there some day, and I really believed I would. It's a special place."
Kurt Busch, Sprint Cup driver, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge (On the Coca-Cola 600):
"It's just a marquee event. I think if each driver had five races to list Charlotte would end up on all of them. You have Daytona, you have Indy, and Charlotte has got to be right there. Just the feeling that you have Memorial Day Weekend starting off a 600-mile race; it's a whole different ballgame when you go into nighttime at that race. But you can't get lapped or get put two laps down during the daytime. It's a tough, tough race. To be there at the end and have a shot at winning is just like running a 26-mile marathon. It's a tough race."
Mark Martin, Sprint Cup driver, No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet (On racing at LMS):
"I have had a lot of success at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I love that race track. It is my favorite race track of all. The first time that I went there I made two laps, and I came on the radio and told my crew, 'This place is so cool.' It's just like running a quarter-mile back home, only bigger. It's just awesome. It's definitely my favorite race track."
Martin (On the Coca-Cola 600):
"To me, in my mind, that was the granddaddy of all races on the circuit. It was a big deal. I wasn't a huge follower of NASCAR when I was a little kid, but once I got involved in NASCAR the World 600, as it was back then, was one of the biggest races of the year and one you wanted to someday participate in."
Kyle Busch, Sprint Cup driver, No. 18 M&M's Toyota (On racing at LMS):
"I have had a lot of success at Charlotte. I have had Truck wins and Nationwide wins, but have yet to win a Cup race there. We have run strong and I feel like this could be the year we could try to win one. It has been fun. I love Charlotte. I love Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's a great race track and one of my favorite race tracks to go to. I am looking forward to this year."
Ray Evernham, former Sprint Cup Series crew chief and team owner (On winning at LMS):
"Charlotte Motor Speedway has given me so many good memories. I have more actual trips to Victory Lane there than I have at any other race track, but I will tell you that the day Jeff Gordon and I won our first-ever Cup race, it was there on a two-tire call. We beat Rusty (Wallace) and that is something I will never forget. I only lived about two miles from the speedway and you never dream of winning. The next day when I drove past that place it just sent chills up and down my spine. That was the place where Jeff and I won both (Nationwide) races in '92. We came back and got our first pole in '93, and we won our first-ever race in '94. Charlotte has been a really, really good place for me. I have more trips to Victory Lane there than I do at any other race track on the circuit."
Carl Edwards, Sprint Cup driver, No. 99 Aflac Ford (On memories at LMS):
"I like Charlotte Motor Speedway. The first time I went there I was standing on the backstretch with Ken Schrader and my dad, and they were putting in the tunnel. Schrader said we had to come over and check it out. We stood up on the race track and I said, 'Man it's real narrow,' and Schrader said, 'You should see it at 200 mph, it really looks narrow then.' It was just a neat experience to see that then and come back and race with all the history that goes on and the intensity of the crowd. The fact that all the crew guys can bring their families and friends to come and see the race close to home makes it a really fun place."
With 100 laps of action-packed racing, the 25th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 16 is the perfect event for first-time fans and tickets start at just $25. The Coca-Cola 600 is a memory-making experience each year, and the 50th running of the 600-mile race on May 24 promises to be a memorable event for all in attendance. Tickets for the Coca-Cola 600 are available for as little as $49. Convenient payment plan options and multi-day ticket packages are also available. Fans can call 1-800-455-FANS or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for more details.