Charlotte Motor Speedway sits without question in the center of the NASCAR universe. It hosts the sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 (The World 600 to traditionalists), one of the NASCAR’s crown jewel events. It’s had a place in NASCAR legend for more than half a century.
This weekend, Charlotte hosts its 500 mile fall race. Conveniently located in the middle of the Chase, it represents a tie to the sports roots but doesn’t play the central role in the season outcome that it could.
That distinction has gone to Homestead Speedway in Florida.
On the schedule since 1999, and host of the season finale since 2002, its position near Miami is far removed from the red clay short tracks of the sports past. Built as part of the revitalization of the area after Hurricane Andrew, the track also plays host to the IndyCar finale in September.
The NASCAR season is a trek that takes the series and its drivers from coast-to-coast satisfying millions of fans by visiting markets that years ago were not even considered viable hosts for a race. It’s time to end the sport’s season by going home.
Four out of every five NASCAR teams in the sports top three touring divisions are run from the 12 counties surrounding downtown Charlotte. According to a 2006 UNC—Charlotte report, more than 10,000 people work directly for the teams in that area.
The automotive supply industry that has built up around the Queen City to support NASCAR employs more than 100,000 people around the area.
For people within the sport, Charlotte is home.
When Bruton Smith and his friend Curtis Turner first built the speedway, they could never have envisioned what Charlotte has become. The business of NASCAR has helped the community in many ways and now it has a chance to help it again by giving the teams the chance to perform in front of their friends and family in the season’s final act.
Charlotte Motor Speedway would be a grand place to host the season finale: a week-long celebration accessible to many fans since the city is the center of the sports fan base and its roots.
Detractors will say Charlotte doesn’t produce the great door-to-door racing worthy of a finale, but then again, neither does Homestead.
Here’s an idea.
Shorten the race at the end of the season in Charlotte to 400 miles. Schedule it for the last event of the season as a Sunday early evening race. The next day, have a parade so people get to see the champ face-to-face through the city that has become so entwined with the sport.
It’ll be just like when the Super Bowl or World Series Champs come back home after their victory. NASCAR is unique, it has the opportunity to crown its champion in its own back yard.
They’ll have to close Charlotte down.
Most fans will never get the chance to see their champion. He’ll get crowned in South Florida and paid in Las Vegas. Neither place has made a dent in the long and colorful history of the sport.
It’s time to take the season finale out of Homestead.