Charlotte Motor Speedway is launching changes aimed at easing traffic and boosting the experience of fans at this weekend's Bank of America 500 race.
Local and state authorities also are urging motorists to arrive early and pay attention to troopers. The N.C. Highway Patrol will have 160 troopers from across the state directing traffic.
The race is expected to bring about 100,000 fans to areas in and around the speedway during the weekend.
Visitors will find, among other things, a new spot to buy souvenirs and see trackside displays. Both used to be along Bruton Smith Boulevard across from the track but have been moved to a newly created Fan Zone near the main entrance and outside of Turns 1 and 2.
The goal is to reduce how often pedestrians must cross U.S. 29 and allow for more vehicles to use the road, said Doug Cremer, the speedway's executive director of events.
The relocation of the souvenir and display areas means the speedway is moving most of its handicapped parking to Lot U, with an entrance off Bruton Smith Boulevard. Other handicapped parking is available at the back entrance of the track and off Morehead Road.
Also new this year is a Tailgating Zone where people can rent a 25-by-50-foot area for $50 a day to grill food or hang out. Cremer said track staff saw people had created a tailgating-like area at the May race, so officials wanted to create an official space for fans. The Tailgating Zone will also be in the area just outside of Turns 1 and 2 and on property the speedway picked up through the realignment of Morehead Road.
This weekend's race is the first with the Morehead Road project compete. The road was widened, with a median added, and moved away from the speedway.
First Sgt. Glenn Stokes of the N.C. Highway Patrol encouraged drivers to use U.S. 29 or N.C. 49 to get to the speedway, adding that both are accessible from Interstate 485. Stokes said that will relieve traffic on Bruton Smith Boulevard.
Another alternative, he said, is to take I-85 to Poplar Tent Road, turn onto Pitt School Road and then go south on U.S. 29 toward the speedway.
As in past years, traffic flow will be reversed on the main roads after both the Dollar General 300 Miles of Courage and Bank of America 500 races to help drivers leave the speedway.