Thinking about a visit to ZMAX Dragway in Charlotte, NC? When is the last time you stood up to watch something go 300 mph? Been a long time or maybe never? Then you should plan a trip to the ZMAX Dragway for an NHRA National Event. We got a chance to visit in September for the NHRA Carolina Nationals and couldn’t believe all the things we got to experience. And the best part? Kids are FREE. So your 300 mph family adventure just got a lot more budget-friendly. Here’s everything you need to know.
Thank you to Explore Cabarrus County for providing tickets so we could bring our readers this review!
NHRA Drag Racing
All car racing is not the same. If you’ve ever been to a multi-lap kind of stock car race, that is NOT what you’ll find here at ZMAX Dragway. These cars all compete on a side-by-side completely straight track launching with very quick bursts of speed propelling them to the finish line. NHRA National events bring a huge variety of cars in different classes all to the track at the same time. As a spectator, you’ll get to see a wide range of cars, some capable of speeds well over 300 miles per hour.
ZMAX Dragway in Charlotte, NC
ZMAX is one component of Charlotte Motor Speedway, which also includes a large venue with a paved speedway and a smaller dirt track. The sport of auto racing has a deep history in the Charlotte area. Many of the teams are based here, some drivers live in this area, and these facilities are arguably some of the best in the sport. ZMAX Dragway is considered the Taj Mahal of drag racing tracks.
Watching a Race at ZMAX Dragway
Don’t know much about the classes of cars or the rules for each division? Me neither. And you know what? Watching the cars launch down the track was still spectacular fun. On the day we visited the track, the cars were attempting to qualify for the race the next day by completing a pass with a quick enough time. The following day those that qualified competed in elimination rounds within each class to determine a winner.
There’s a lot to know about the sport, but even if you’re like me and know very little, you’ll still have a good time. And of course, if you’re a long-time fan of the sport like my husband, you’ll be able to explain all those cool facts and rules and sports history stuff about the drivers and teams to your family. Our four kids had a blast for several hours because of the variety of things to watch at the track.
One of the most unique things about attending an NHRA event is fan mobility. Getting tired of sitting in your seats? Guess what? Every single ticket is a pit pass. So, go take a walk and check out the pits. Got seats towards the finish line and wonder what things look like at the starting line? You can walk anywhere along the fence beside the track. So walk on down to the starting line and stand there to watch for a while. You are not limited by the location of your seats!
Every Ticket is a Pit Pass
Every team’s pit can be viewed by fans, you can walk right up to teams working on their cars under awnings and get within just a few feet. Sometimes crew members will be able to stop and answer questions, and very often you’ll see drivers signing autographs and meeting fans. This is a sport where the stars are very accessible to fans.
Also, in the pit area you’ll find souvenir haulers and tents, live music, and food vendors which makes a very festival-type feel. And it was a spot we all enjoyed exploring. It’s really cool to be that close to the cars and see how much goes into them.
Another thing you’ll get to see in the pits are teams moving cars from their pit to the track. They do this by towing the car with a tow vehicle. This is another excellent opportunity to wave to the racecar drivers, who are often hanging out in the passenger seat of the tow vehicle as they are driving through the pit area.
Tips for Visiting ZMAX Dragway
- You can bring food in a soft-sided cooler to the track. While there are plenty of vendors selling everything from soft pretzels and hot dogs, to funnel cakes and frozen beverages, if you’re looking to save some money, bringing food to eat is where it’s at. I highly recommend the Lunchable type of thing tossed in a cooler. It’s easy to buy, easy to bring, easy to hand out when you’re in stadium seats, and easy to throw in the trash when you’re done. When you’re bringing kids anywhere simple and easy is good- even when they’re teenagers.
- Bring water. The stadium seats are not covered and with the sun beating down on them they are hot. Its was ony in the upper 70s when we were at the track and we were hot. We brought in water bottles (no glass) and just continued to refill them at a drinking fountain so we didn’t have to purchase beverages at the track.
- Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
- You really need to bring ear protection. Some of the cars are VERY loud.
Can I bring young kids to an NHRA Event?
Do you know a little kid who wouldn’t enjoy seeing real-life race cars zoom down a track? I don’t. And these events are definitely family-friendly. The one thing I would consider is whether or not your tot will keep ear protection on. If the answer is no, you may want to hold off on your visit. That said you could spend most of your time in the pits where you won’t need the ear protection as much. It is worth mentioning that this is not a stroller or wagon-friendly type of event.
Restrooms, picnic tables, and food vendors are available trackside and under the stands so you won’t have to far for any of these things.
Parking at ZMX Dragway
Parking is available at lots adjacent to the track for a small fee. It was $5 for the day when we visited. There are trams available that will bring you to the track or you can walk.
The Next NHRA National Event
Plan ahead and get your tickets now for the next NHRA National Event coming to ZMAX Dragway. This event will be even cooler because cars will be racing down all 4 lanes at one time, as opposed to the standard two-lane races.
The NHRA Four-Wide Nationals will take place April 28th- 30th, 2023 at ZMAX and tickets are on sale now! Kids 12 and under get in free with a paying adult!
You have options to attend for one day or the entire weekend, and you can even make reservations to camp trackside.
Charlotte Motor Speedway, ZMAX Dragway
6570 Bruton Smith Boulevard, Concord, NC