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Carolinas: The race is always on

Courtesy Charlotte Motor Speedway

Fueled by more than 50 interactive exhibits, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., is a race fan’s paradise. Picture tire-changing stations, race simulators and a broadcast studio.

“It’s good family fun — an indoor Disney World,” said Kimberly Meesters, external relations manager for the facility, which opened in May 2010.

Yet it’s equally appealing to meeting planners. The hall of fame was designed with events in mind, with a theater, a ballroom and gallery space that used in tandem can handle 2,500 guests.

Holding an event at the hall of fame is one way planners can add NASCAR’s high-octane excitement to a meeting.

“With NASCAR and motorsports, the sky is the limit,” said Laura Hall, marketing communications manager for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

A trip to the racetrack is another. Entertaining employees or customers is always an option on race days, but even when the cars aren’t on the track, groups can rally there.

At the Charlotte Motor Speedway, on Charlotte’s edge in Concord, N.C., two 22,000-square-foot event spaces — the Sprint Cup Garage and the Nationwide Garage — are available, as well as a 100-person theater and the 150-person media room. The media room’s television screens make it well-suited for training or sales meetings.

At Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C., the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum can accommodate 200 people at a seated event. The President’s Suite holds 30; the media center accommodates 100.

Even the racetrack is a possibility.

“We do have a close relationship with several driving schools and can coordinate a team-building event,” said Jeff Taylor, director of sales and marketing for Darlington.

Back in Concord, the NASCAR Racing Experience is an attraction that can put attendees behind the wheel of a racecar or organize pit stop challenges. Teams of two race against the clock to remove a racecar’s tires and put them on again.

“Whether it’s strictly employees or customers with sales reps, we’ll put together a program to meet their goals and objectives,” said owner Bob Lutz.

More than 80 percent of NASCAR racing teams have a presence in the Charlotte area, so it is easy to plan a visit to a team’s headquarters, called a “race shop.”

“Many of them will customize itineraries for groups,” Hill said. “They also have special-event space.”

At the Great Wolf Lodge Charlotte/Concord, sales staff help planners arrange driver experiences, trips to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and tours of race shops. The 402-room property, which opened in 2009, has an 18,000-square-foot conference center. “We focus on the corporate business by offering a custom experience,” said John Poole, director of sales.

More on the Carolinas:

Synergy at the seashore
College towns are smart
The race is always on