Guest Post: Megan Leben is a Middle School student from Georgia and an avid NASCAR fan. She's also contributed to SBNATION and you can read Megan's other article here.
During summer vacation most kids choose to go to the beach or Disney, but one year I chose to go to NASCAR country! I spent weeks researching and planning our visit. I thought the day would never arrive, but eventually we were in Charlotte! There’s so much to do and see for NASCAR fans that we couldn’t fit it all in. We did our best, driving around from dawn to dusk and it will always be one of my favorite summer vacations!
Victory Junction was one of the top places on my list! When we got there, it looked deserted. The gift shop was closed and the camp was behind a big set of locked gates. I was so disappointed. My mom called to see if they would be open another day, but I would never guessed what happened next. Instead of coming back another day, one of the volunteers met us to take us the gift shop inside the gates! On the way in, I got to see the different sections of the camp – many donated by some of my favorite drivers. When we were visiting the Gift Shop, I told the volunteers that I had donated some money to the Camp as part of a school project and my project had even made it in the Victory Junction newsletter! He picked up the phone and next things I knew I was riding back to the parking lot in the pink truck that Taylor Swift gave to Victory Junction!
Our visit to Charlotte couldn’t be complete without a trip to Hendrick Motorsports! When I was there, Dale Jr and Mark Martin shared one shop while Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon shared the other. When I say shop I don’t mean the kind people have in their backyards! These buildings were clean and shiny with car after car lined up with people preparing them for the racetrack! Each building also showcased trophies that the teams had won and each driver’s show car. The gift shop had everything NASCAR you could imagine! We got lucky and got to watch one of the pit crew practices. We were the only people out there so when they finished practicing they let me get in the car! They even started the car for me and the roar of the engine was music to my ears! The racecar they were practicing with was one of Mark Martin’s that he actually drove in a race!
We took our trip in 2010 which was the same year Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500. (I was at that race!) When we went to Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, Jamie McMurray’s show car greeted us as we entered the lobby and right beside it was a Daytona 500 trophy! It was neat to be able to stand next to car that took the checkered at my first Daytona 500 race!
Charlotte Motor Speedway didn’t look anything like it does during race weekend! We signed up to ride in a van through the infield and around the track! While our speed wasn’t anywhere close to 200 miles per hour, it was so cool to feel what the drivers feel like while they are on the track during a race. I felt like I was sitting sideways in the seat! We even got to go in Victory Lane!
Where else but Roush-Fenway Racing can you see the Cat in the Hat himself? We were looking through the glass at the guys working on Greg Biffle’s car and next thing I knew Jack Roush walked up and started looking at the car and talking to the crew! We went in the museum at the complex which had everything from trophies from wins to part of the plane from one of Jack Roush’s plane crashes. We saw Matt Kenseth’s pit crew practicing their stops.
We went to Penske Racing, Kevin Harvick Inc., Michael Waltrip Racing, and JR Motorsports too! They had a cool viewing deck at Penske above the floor where they worked on the cars! It was towards the end of the week so the cars for the race that weekend had already left for the track, but many people were still hard at work! At Michael Waltrip Racing, we took a tour that went around the outside of the building to show us where the pit crew trained and the haulers. The tour also went inside and we saw where they work on the cars. After the tour ended, we spent a lot of time in the museum. They had racecar seats you could sit in, part of Michael McDowell’s car that he crashed in 2008 at Texas qualifying, and you could see into many of the different sections of the raceshop where people were working. When we walked in the door at Kevin Harvick Inc. a giant vase of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups was sitting on the front desk! We asked the receptionist about it and she told us that every time a Kevin Harvick car won a race, their sponsor sent candy! At JR Motorsports you could only go in the gift shop, but there was a window where you could see in the shop and right behind the window was the #3 Wrangler car that Dale Jr. won in at Daytona that year….Victory Lane confetti and Gatorade included!
We went to Richard Childress Racing and toured their racing museum and saw their shop. This was my dad’s favorite shop. Dale Earnhardt was-and always will be- his favorite driver! I liked this shop a lot too! It really told the story of Richard Childress Racing and the famous #3 car! In the museum they had lots of cars and pictures from past years. There was also a wildlife section that had things from hunts Richard Childress has been on. They even had the car Dale Earnhardt won the 1998 Daytona 500 in!
Our last stop was the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was AWESOME! There were lots of old racing things and it was really interesting! I liked the interactive section the best! You could change a tire, hold a gas can (it’s heavier than it looks!), call a race, and even wave flags from a flag stand!
Whether you’re a NASCAR newbie who knows only a little about racing or a veteran fan that knows every track, every owner, and every driver (and their numbers!), a visit to NASCAR land is a trip you must take! Every time a driver wins a race he thanks his team, but he’s not just thanking his pit crew. Going to the shops made me realize how many people it takes to run a race team. Receptionists, engine builders, decal experts, PR staff, and so many people that I didn’t even see are essential parts of a successful race team!
I’m already planning my next trip to Charlotte! Hope I see you there!
You can follow all of Megan's Nascar adventures on twitter at
As well as her new blog at : http://flagtoflag.blogspot.com/