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Having recently changed our motto to “expanding our horizons locally” we’ve taken it to heart. To us it means not only exploring more locally, but also trying new experiences that are typical to a particular locale. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate embodiment of this motto than our weekend in Concord and attendance at the 12th World of Outlaws World Finals. Concord embodies the phrase “where racing lives.”
The most prestigious dirt racing event in the country, the World of Outlaws World Finals is held in Concord every year. This three-day heart-pounding, clay slinging action takes place on a four-tenths mile oval. This competition brings together the top series in the sport, the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and the Big-Block Modifieds of the Super DIRTcar Series. The three-day weekend ends with the crowning of all three Series champions.
Having attended a NASCAR race before (next door at the Charlotte Motor Speedway), I thought I knew what we were getting into, but I was wrong. Dirt racing is very different from NASCAR (or other racing events). Now that I know better, I’ve put together this guide to explain what to expect at the races and to help you have the best experience if this is your first time attending the World of Outlaws World finals.
Races occur throughout the three-day event. We watched two types of cars racing: sprint cars and late models. The sprint cars are weirdly shaped vehicles (the photo above is an example). So lightweight that as they go around the track, almost half of it loses contact with the surface. We saw one of them catch on fire which was a bit terrifying. The emergency crews quickly put out the fire and rescued the driver. The late model cars look closer to the types of cars we’re used to seeing on other tracks like NASCAR.
With such a short track at only four-tenths of a mile, most of the races lasted only a few minutes. We mostly watched races lasting eight to ten laps, so assuming that there were no incidents, they were over pretty quickly. We watched a few fifty lap races and those seemed to take so much longer in comparison. But then again, there was also more opportunity for a breakdown or slowdowns as cars had issues.
The races stop occasionally for track maintenance. Most of the time golf carts circled the track and picked up pieces of debris. Occasionally bigger trucks came onto the track to resurface it. Water trucks assisted in keeping the dirt to a minimal level (which was still a lot!).
An important aspect of the races are the flag wavers. Standing in a very small elevated tower, two to three flag wavers ensure the drivers know the driving conditions. The green flag tells the drivers to go. And go they do at very fast speeds! A yellow warning flag means that there is a problem on the track and drivers should drive cautiously and hold their spots in the race. A red warning flag means that the racetrack has become dangerous and all drivers need to exit the track. The white flag lets drivers know that they’re on their last lap. The checkered flag declares the end of the race for each driver.
The Rest of the Event
Skip the lines by purchasing your tickets online ahead of time. You’ll find options for individual days or the entire event. The tickets you purchase correspond to a metal bleacher seat in the Grandstand. When considering your seat, remember that the closer you are to the track, the more dirt that will come at you. The track is so short, that you can see the race from any angle. I would recommend going a bit higher and near the middle so that you can see the entire track. A large screen located in the infield shows more detailed views.
We recommend you spend the extra money for a pit pass so you can get up close and personal with the cars. The pit area is where the teams work on the cars. Upon arrival, exchange your pit pass at the ticket window for a wristband. The wristband is good for the entire event. Do not remove the wristband after you exchange your ticket because it’s used for admission all weekend long. While the pit pass is an additional cost, it is so worth it!
I was fascinated by the flag wavers. Our seats allowed for a great view of both turns with the flag waver tower at a great angle. I admired the artistry displayed in how the flags were waved. The flag wavers had to keep an eye on what was going on during the race to raise the yellow flag to warn the other drivers. They also kept track of how many loops each driver had made to give them the signal when the last loop was starting.
Food and Drinks
Unlike concerts and other public events I’ve attended, guests at the World of Outlaws World Finals are welcome to bring their own food and drink. Feel free to tailgate in the parking area with friends and family or to bring your cooler into the Grandstand.
Prefer to buy food? A large variety of foods were available. Food trucks sold food before even entering the Grandstand. Once inside, regular concessions were available (hot dogs and pizza) as well as a few fair food trucks (large corn dogs and funnel cakes).
I recommend eating before you get back to your seats, unless your seats are well up and away from the dirt track. Dirt will end up in your food no matter where you are! I saw people walking around with either tops or plastic covers with straws. Realizing how much dirt floated in the air, I can’t help but feel like this was a perfect solution! You’ll want to keep the dirt out of your drink.
Getting The Most Out of Your Experience:
- Tailgate! Bring your food and drink and hang out in the parking area.
- Bring your RV or camper and camp near the track, spending the weekend with other fans.
- Purchase merchandise at your favorite racing team’s shop.
- Visit various vendors demonstrating both items for the racing fan and for the mechanic in the group.
- Bring your family – this is a child-friendly event.
- Watch teams working on their cars in the pit. (Don’t get in the way though.)
Walk around the track during your visit. Sit on the hill behind curve one for a different view from the grandstand (don’t forget a blanket to sit on). Walking on the back side of the track we got to see the drivers waiting for their turns. I found this a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the dirt track. We saw team members standing on barricades encouraging their drivers and remarking to each other issues they saw with vehicles. Eavesdropping on these conversations was the best!
Know Before You Go:
- You will get dirty so dress appropriately – this is a dirt track! The benches are covered in dirt.
- Wear safety glasses or something to protect your eyes from the flying debris.
- Bring something to sit on to soften the feel of the metal bleachers.
- Wear layers – if you’re in the sun it may be warm but the temperature drops as the sun sets.
- Bring a cup with a lid – it will keep your drink free of dirt.
- Wear ear protection – it is LOUD!
- Have FUN!
Parking is free at the World of Outlaws World Finals but the lot doesn’t have a lot of markers. Make sure you remember where you parked as it will look completely different when you come out and it is dark. (We may or may not have walked around the parking lot trying to find our own car!) Industrious individuals with golf carts offered rides from the parking areas to the front gate for a nominal fee.
PRO TIP: If you need assistance (wheelchair bound or have mobility issues), ask to use the elevator in the Grandstand. Unless you request handicapped seating, your seats might be far from the elevator. Also consider this option if you’re using crutches or have other ailments making it hard for you to move on metal bleachers and steep stairs.
Check out this itinerary that complements your race watching experience with other activities to do in Concord and our Race to Taste exploration of local craft breweries.
The 2019 schedule of races begins again in February. Find out all about the World of Outlaws races for yourself and enjoy a dirt track racing event near you. And go ahead and plan on attending next year’s 13th Annual World of Outlaws Finals in Concord, North Carolina, on November 7-9, 2019! I hope to see you there!
Our visit to Cabarrus County was sponsored by Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All opinions are our own.
Annick, The Common Traveler