Signs of a race weekend in Charlotte

Charlotte, The Mid-Season Shakedown
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CONCORD, N.C. — Exit the baggage claim at Charlotte/Douglass International Airport and head to the car rental section. In the center of the room, adjacent to a line for National Car Rental (seriously, none of the others were open), was an American Airlines Richard Childress Racing car.

Unlike Indianapolis International Airport, however, there’s no signage at Douglass to indicate a race weekend is happening at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Nor was any sign visible in the Queen City.

Across the United States, on a normal weekend, there are signs that the NASCAR circus has come to town; both figuratively and literally. Charlotte is normally no exception.

On Sunday, however, you’d never guess that one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events was running as planned.

Signs of a race weekend in Charlotte

Drive through Uptown Charlotte, no Coca-Cola 600 banners hung from the poles. No fans decked in gaudy driver shirts walked the streets.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NASCAR Hall of Fame stood silent, with the occasional onlooker walking by the main entrance and peering into the main hall.

Head east on Interstate 85 towards Concord, you’ll see some “Welcome Race Fans” banners outside of gas stations that line Bruton Smith Boulevard. Missing, however, are the All-Star Race/Coca-Cola 600 banners that hang from the street poles.

The campgrounds were empty, with some RVs belonging to dealerships lining the drive towards the track. No merchandise haulers, no fans, no over-the-top performance acts one expects from the Smith family.

On the backside of the speedway’s property rested the Speedway Motorsports, Inc. merchandise haulers.

The only sounds disturbing the crowd-less area were the cars driving by the track and cars hitting the track for qualifying.

But just as with Darlington, last Sunday, the 61st running of the Coca-Cola 600 ran on.

Brad Keselowski stayed out on the final caution, while Chase Elliott pitted, to take the lead on the final restart in overtime and win at Charlotte.