Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle – Racing Fan’s Heaven gets an extra big addition

The two weeks at the end of May in the Charlotte/Concord area are referred to by Marcus Smith as Racer’s Heaven. The top guy at Charlotte Motor Speedway was on hand Tuesday to show off his newest toy on the back straight of the mile-and-a-half oval, the world’s largest HDTV screen. The race track that is known for innovation has done it once again, putting a 200 feet long by 80 feet high television screen within sight of the majority of the seats in the facility.

The new HDTV screen added to Charlotte Motor Speedway is the largest video display screen in the world. It has an impressive number of statistics that reinforce its impressive stature in the gigantic appliance world:

• The 16,000-square-foot screen is 200-feet wide and 80-feet tall.
• There are 158 panels that make up the face of the screen.
• More than nine million LED lamps will illuminate the Panasonic video board.
• The screen weighs 165,000 pounds.
• The steel frame that supports the screen weighs 500,000 pounds.
• The total structure weighs 332-and-a-half tons or 665,000 pounds.
• The structure rises 11 stories tall, or 110 feet above the track.
• Thirteen companies were involved in the construction of the world’s largest HDTV including Panasonic North America of Secaucus, N.J. (board manufacturer/project management); Eastern Sign Tech of Burlington, N.J. (site contractor); Arp Engineering of Monroe, N.C. (structural engineer); and CESI Land Development Services from Concord, N.C. (geotechnical/ surveyor/inspections).
• It took up to 57 workers a day, working more than 11,000 man hours, more than four months to construct the board.
• Crews removed 900 cubic yards of dirt by drilling 12 holes, each 54 inches in diameter, more than 50-feet deep to bedrock level and installed concrete piers in the holes to support the massive steel frame.
• Crews used 108,750 pounds of concrete, 547,000 pounds of steel, 120 pounds of rebar and 216 anchor bolts weighing 22,500 pounds to complete the structure.

Charlotte has always been one of the most innovative race tracks in the world and the new HDTV screen is another addition to the long list of firsts. They were the first to light a race track over a mile in length and the first track to install condominiums for permanent living use at the track. They also upgraded their garage areas to allow greater space and accessibility and still manage to have one of the largest media centers in racing. Additionally, they’re one of the first tracks to put in a parking area of RVs to view the track from the outside, and they’ve always had some of the most innovative pre-race events on the schedule.

And if that isn’t enough, the greater Charlotte area has plenty to keep fans busy during the All-Star / Coca-Cola 600 race weeks. Starting on Wednesday, May 18th there is a Gary Allan and Josh Kelley concert at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The following night the best pit crews in NASCAR will compete to determine which is the fastest at changing tires, dumping gas, jacking a car and pushing it a pre-defined distance.

Friday night the Motor Speedway will host qualifying for the All-Star race and the Camping World Truck Series will run the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. The following night will be the Dierks Bentley Concert, Pennzoil Ultra Victory Challenge, Sprint Showdown and Sprint All-Star race.

But the action doesn’t stop there. Monday, May 23rd the 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place to welcome the next five members to the Hall. Then, Thursday night the pole position and remaining starting positions for the Coca-Cola 600 will be determined during Windstream Pole Night. Friday will see the Coca-Cola Family Cook Out and Track Walk along the World of Outlaws race at the Dirt Track. Saturday, the Nationwide Series hits the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway before the entire experience wraps up on Sunday night when the Cup Series takes to the high banks for the 52nd Annual Coca-Cola 600.

While the organized events are more than enough to keep people who come into town for the races busy for nearly two weeks, the location of Charlotte in relation to the race shops for the majority of the teams in the sport allows fans to visit their operations and tour their facilities, usually for little or no expense. Along with the NASCAR Hall of Fame there is the Victory Lane Museum, the Sam Bass Gallery, the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and multiple racing schools to give fans plenty of different options.

Race fans have hundreds of options over the calendar year to use for their destination, but there’s no question that the two weeks around the races at the end of May every year are truly a race fan’s heaven.

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