Girl Meets World: Fast Track
Danger is ubiquitous at NASCAR races — 43 cars zipping around Charlotte Motor Speedway at nearly 200 miles per hour have that effect.
The speedway accommodates 134,000 fans and makes for a supersized tailgate party. Rows of parked cars loop around the track and flaring grills, stuffed coolers and a sun-drenched horde fills any empty asphalt.
As my two friends and I — newbies to this scene — walk the rows, a de facto receiving line forms and offers us homemade moonshine. We sip to a soundtrack of country music and the reverberating thud of beanbags smacking cornhole boards. I even spot a child doing cannonballs into the bed of a pickup truck jerry-rigged into a pool.
Inside the track, we solicit more moonshine from neighbors and talk smack about their favorite drivers. Allegiances vary, but one man is king at this track: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Eventually my friends and I finagle our way into the infield and to the top of a hospitable stranger's recreational vehicle. As Earnhardt begins to pull away on the last lap, the crowd roars — and our tank top-clad host wraps me and my friend, Will, in a double headlock. Like a mother summoning the strength to lift a car and save her child, our captor's grip intensifies with each turn as he crescendoes, "He's going to do it! He's going to do it!"
Little E flies down the backstretch. With victory a near certainty, Will and I escape our impromptu spinal adjustments as our host climbs atop a table for a better view. But cheers turn to shrieks as Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevy rounds the final turn and runs out of gas.
Our host takes it the worst. He kicks everything off the table — and a bowl of orange cheese puffs comes right at us. Even with our senses dulled by the long day and, yes, moonshine, we avoid harm. The lone casualty is Will's white shirt.
Steer your way through Charlotte, N.C., with a trip that includes everything you and your best bros need: beers, cars and baseball.
4 p.m. Get into the racing spirit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Don't waste cash or time on the disappointing driving simulator.
6:15 p.m. Grab a bite at the Diamond Restaurant, a pub located in the happening Plaza-Midwood neighborhood. We recommend the hot pimento cheese dip ($5.75).
7 p.m. Catch the city's minor league baseball team, the Charlotte Knights, in action during the inaugural season at their downtown ballpark.
10 p.m. End the evening at Whisky River, which is owned by driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and features a mechanical bull.
10 a.m. You can't go wrong with Southern fast-food staple Bojangle's Cajun filet chicken biscuit ($5.23). 1407 E. Third St., 704-372-2670, bojangles.com
Noon Stroll through Speed Street for the free 600 Festival, where NASCAR team challenges provide a firsthand view of what it takes to be a part of a pit crew. Tryon Street, 704-455-5555
1:30 p.m. Check out two of the city's best microbreweries and neighbors, NoDa Brewing Co. and Birdsong Brewing Co. 2229 N. Davidson St., 704-900-6851, nodabrewing.com; 2315 N. Davidson St., 704-332-1810, birdsongbrewing.com
3:30 p.m. Amelie's may not sound like a traditional guys' destination, but after you put down a salted caramel brownie ($1.79) from this bakery you won't care. 2424-102 N. Davidson St., 704-376-1781, ameliesfrenchbakery.com
Noon On your way to the weekend's main event, stop at Bobbee O's BBQ, which Parade named one of the 10 best barbecue joints in the country. 8432 Old Statesville Road, Suite 500B, 704-509-6902, bobbeeosbbq.com
6 p.m. The Coca-Cola 600 officially starts once the sun begins to set, but it's impossible to begin tailgating too early. If you're going to drink, consider taking the public shuttles. Round-trip fare is less than $10.
If NASCAR doesn't make your heart race, here are three other guys' getaways tailored to your interests.
For imbibers: Tour and sample spirits from nine bourbon distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
For gamblers: Place a bet on your favorite sports teams — legally — at Caesars Windsor Casino.
For outdoorsmen: Fish for trout you can cook over a campfire at Blackwater Falls State Park.
12:00 AM EST
February 24, 2014