By Eric C. Deines
CONCORD — Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith unveiled detailed plans for a $60 million, state-of-the-art drag strip he is calling the “Bellagio of all drag strips.”
“When fans come to this drag strip, they will be treated to everything we can think to give them,” Smith said.
And just as he did at a November new conference, Smith said the dragway — with grandstand construction to begin in early February— would be complete for a National Hot Rod Association in September.
But this time, Smith was joined by NHRA President Tom Compton to announce that the drag strip will play host to the first event of the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series scheduled for Sept. 11-14.
“It’s going to be well worth the wait,” Compton said. “I can’t tell you how excited everyone is.”
While the new facility was called “The Dragway at Lowe’s Motor Speedway” during Thursday’s news conference, track officials announced a contest would be held for the public in which a race fan will select the new name for the dragway.
At the news conference, Smith made light of the controversy surrounding the 46.5-acre drag strip facility that started in September.
“This drag strip we’re building has gotten an awful lot of publicity,” Smith said.
As Smith began grading for project, nearby residents expressed much concern about noise generated by the track, which sits less than a half-mile from some neighborhoods. Then, in October, Concord City Council made a zoning amendment to block the drag strip.
When Smith said he would relocate all of the speedway outside of Concord, City Council reversed its decision, asking that noise attenuation structures be included.
Wes Harris, vice president of operations for the speedway, pointed to walls drawn into renderings of the drag strip as state-of-the-art noise abatement structures designed by an outside consultant.
“If you have lived around here and you’re used to the drone of our race cars, that’s all it’s going to be,” said Harris, also noting that a drag race is much shorter than a NASCAR race at the speedway.
Wes Jones, an architect with a.i. Design Group who designed the drag strip, said the racing strip itself would be about 4,000 feet long.
When asked exactly when the drag strip would be completed, Jones looked to Smith.
“I understand we’re going to be ready for the race,” Jones said.
The dragway will feature a 34,000-square-foot starting line tower housing offices and 16 luxury suits. An additional 4,000 square feet of the roof will be accessible to guests.
Jones said suites in the grandstand will be on par with suites at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Smith’s skirmish with Concord ended in $80 million in infrastructure improvements surrounding the speedway being offered by the city and Cabarrus County, with some assistance from the state.
Along with that, Smith said he would spend $200 million of his own money on upgrades at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
At the time, it was said those upgrades would make the speedway the “world’s racing destination,” of which officials said the drag strip would play an important part.
The Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates that a national, weekend-long event would bring $9 million-10 million in tourism into the community.
Tickets for the September NHRA event went on sale Thursday at $99 for an adult, four-day pass.
• Contact Eric C. Deines: 704-789-9141.