When one thinks of racing in North Carolina, they think of Cabarrus County.  Whether they know it or not, that’s where their mind is headed.  It’s the home of Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Z-Max Dragway, the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and even our Speed51.com headquarters.  It is the hub of American Motorsports.  It truly is “Where Racing Lives.”


MVPR cabarrus dining 2015But Cabarrus County is so much more than just racing, even though that’s a big part of it.  There is so much to see, so much to do and so many great places to eat in Cabarrus County, and that’s why we at Speed51.com love being based out of this beautiful area.


For more information on Cabarrus County, click here.


With that in mind, we wanted to let you know what some of our favorite places to see and eat and things to do are in Cabarrus County.  If you’re coming to the area for Spring Break, there’s plenty of things to do and see during the day before you check out the nightlife later on.


Bob Dillner, Speed51.com Executive Editor:

There is so much to do in Cabarrus County; I visited here once and then began living here two months later.


tracks charlotte motor speedway dirt track 2014

The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Speed51.com photo)

Of course, so much of Cabarrus County involves racing, hence “Where Racing Lives.” The Stewart-Haas Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Roush-Fenway shops are cool and so is Charlotte Motor Speedway, but I love the stuff not as prominent. Concord Speedway is one of the most unique tracks in America. The Dirt Track at Charlotte is a state-of-the-art facility and I love when NHRA comes to town at ZMax Dragway. And if you’re in town, you gotta visit the Backing Up Classics racing museum or the Sam Bass Art Gallery.


Normally our family does a lot away from racing while in the area we call home.  Angie, myself and the kids love going to the minor league games for the Kannapolis Intimidators, going to some of the great parks in the area or hitting the links at the Rocky River Golf Course, which has great views of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Reed Gold Mine is cool too; especially if you can strike it rich!


As far as food, well, I’d have to say you need to break it down into four groups. For breakfast, there is no finer place than the Concord Diner with Gus and the boys. The omelettes and pancakes are supreme. Lunch is a slice of pizza at Rosarios or Giovanni’s pizzeria or a burger with an egg on top at Three Monkeys Tavern. Dinner is a toss up between Smoke Pit (BBQ), Afton Tavern or Tsunami Japanese Steakhouse (Hibachi Grill). And let’s not forget about the final category, dessert. A li’l ice cream at Papa Robb’s (you can sit outside) in the spring or summer or Freddy’s frozen custard will do the trick.


Can you tell I love Cabarrus County? It’s great in any season, but the perfect time to visit is spring or fall; it’s beautiful.


Angie Dillner, Speed51.com Vice President:

We enjoy doing things as a family and in Cabarrus County (NC) there are so many things to do.


One of my favorite places to shop and sometimes just peruse is The Depot at Gibson Mill. I’ve been there with a lot of my family members and we look forward to each trip. They have a lot of antiques and also plenty of unique pieces and crafts; you never know what you will find.


Bob, the kids and I also enjoy going to the Kannapolis Intimidators baseball games in the spring and summer.  We are also home to one of the best Great Wolf Lodge resorts in the country.  It’s huge and in a beautiful setting, but also in close proximity to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord Mills Mall and tons of restaurants.  It truly is a place where racing and non-racing families alike can enjoy themselves.


I love Mexican food and two of my favorite places are Andele, which is just down the road from the Carolina Mall, and Cinco de Mayo, which is very close to the Concord Mills mall. There are so many good options no matter what you are looking for.


Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director:

A Kannapolis Intimidators is a cheap, but fun night out. (MILB.com photo)

A Kannapolis Intimidators is a cheap, but fun night out. (MILB.com photo)

There’s so much to do here in Cabarrus County, but my favorite part about living and working here are the same things I enjoyed when I was just a visitor to the area.  There’s so many mom-n-pop stores and restaurants around Concord, Midland, Harrisburg and more that my family loves to visit.  Moving here from Connecticut, one of the things I missed most was my home state’s style of pizza, but I can get that right in Harrisburg at Dino’s Pizza and Pasta.  Some great barbecue can be found at the Smoke Pit and the Brickhouse Grill in Concord.  You can always get a darn good cheeseburger before the main course – a big ice cream cone – at the Sundae Shop in Midland.  Of course, a trip to the area isn’t the same without a trip to a Kannapolis Intimidators baseball game, where you’ll probably see me, my wife and our kids enjoying some peanuts and popcorn on a nice Cabarrus County summertime night.


Mark Keeler, Speed51.com Operations Manager:

I have been in Cabarrus county for a little over six months and still haven’t even scratched the surface with all there is to do here.  Whether I’m looking for a quick bite to eat at a chain restaurant or a mom and pops style eatery, I have yet to be disappointed with all the choices.  And of course regardless of what you get for a meal, there is no better way to finish one than with a Cookie Skillet at the Afton Tavern.


Being able to drive with ease to the different race shops or even the Sam Bass gallery makes it a great destination for even a casual race fan. And being centrally located, staying right in Cabarrus County means you are literally minutes away from other area attractions to the south in Charlotte or just north in Mooresville.


Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor:

I have visited Cabarrus County on three different occasions and it’s clear that it truly is “Where Racing Lives.” I’ve tried to take advantage of some down time in the area by visiting some of the great attractions like the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as well as the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. If my schedule ever worked out to be able to enjoy every night of the World Finals, I would certainly take advantage of that. It is a truly spectacular event that features the best dirt racers from three different disciples.


The Smoke Pit in Concord offers the best BBQ in the area according to our staffers. (SmokePit.com Photo)

The Smoke Pit in Concord offers the best BBQ in the area according to our staffers. (SmokePit.com Photo)

The wide variety of places to eat make it very difficult to choose where to go whether it be for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I specifically remember having debates in the Speed51.com office a few times on where we all wanted to go. I’d have to say one of my personal favorites is The Smoke Pit. Being from Maine we’re known for our great seafood, but not particularly known for great BBQ. The Smoke Pit certainly offers some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had and I hope to enjoy one of the famous burnt ends sandwiches during my next trip.


Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor:

As a racing person, Cabarrus County is as good as it gets.  There’s plenty of race shops to see and visit, but I love just driving around the Charlotte Motor Speedway property with the windows down on a nice day.  Being from Long Island there’s basically no race tracks around, so now living just a couple minutes away from one is really cool.  On top of that, when cars are on the race track I can hear them from my house, and that never gets old.


And usually after I drive around the Speedway area I take a quick trip up 29 to The Smoke Pit barbecue joint.  The Smoke Pit is by far my favorite restaurant in the area.  Whether you’re getting the pulled pork or the burnt ends or anything else, it’s guaranteed to be awesome.



Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY and PA Editor:

I have been fortunate to check out almost all of the race tracks and shops throughout Cabarrus County, and while I would not hesitate to go back again, with all of my travels I always like to add a little outdoor exploring to the agenda.  Whether it is seeing the beauty of the Memorial Gardens in downtown Concord or touring the Dale Trail throughout Kannapolis, there is a touch of history everywhere.  I do not have an exact place to recommend to stay because I have always had a positive experience at each of the destinations I decided to spend the night.  One item I always enjoy when I come south is the delicious BBQ, and Cabarrus certainly has its share.  Places like The Smoke Pit are so popular that they can sometimes have a line out the door, but with the exceptional service and impressive food portions it is well worth the visit.


Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Long Island, CT and MA Editor:

For me and the rest of Connecticut’s racing faithful, the racing facilities of Cabarrus County are a must when taking a road trip to the south, whether it’s the Z-Max Dragway, Dirt Track, or the big oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the tight confines of Concord Speedway, and all the home bases for the NASCAR’s top teams there is amazingly long list. With the Shops at Concord Mills there are plenty of choices of where to get a bite to eat, including places that Northerners never get a chance to visit at home.


Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Client Services Manager:

Concord Mills is the premier shopping destination in the area. (Concord Mills photo)

Concord Mills is the premiere shopping destination in the area. (Concord Mills photo)

Cabarrus County has so much to offer and has become a common place for my husband and I to visit now that we live in North Carolina I’m always up for a shopping trip to Concord Mills, where I can hit the stores, grab some Starbucks, or find ‘necessary’ items for our new house at Home Goods.  Afton Tavern has become a lunch favorite for me and Chris and we look forward to making some trips to Frank Liske park with our daughter.


Patrick Hahe, Speed51.com IN, MI, and Ohio Editor:

Nothing beats a trip south to take in the NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  I have been to the track before for the Coca-Cola 600, and wanted to cross another race off the list.  Nothing beats spending a day at the track cooking burgers and brats in the parking lot, then heading in to the track for a fun night of racing.  If you’re not in town for a race weekend, the shops are a great way to get up close and personal with your favorite driver’s cars.  I’ve been to Hendrick Motorsports a few times, and it’s cool to see all the trophies in the lobbies.


I have also been to Concord Mills, one of the nicest malls I’ve been to.  It’s a fun place to hang out and shop at stores I don’t get to usually poke around in, like Bass Pro Shops.  The next time I’m in town, I definitely plan to check out High Branch brewing company.  I love checking out local breweries in every city I visit.  I’ll also likely stay close to the action by staying at the Hilton Hampton Inn and Suites at Concord Mills.


For more information on Cabarrus County, click here.


-Speed51 Staff.

Best Things to Do Where Racing Lives in North Carolina