Race festival opens 3-day run at noon Thursday

Charlotte’s racing fever heats up Thursday – both on the city’s uptown streets and at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Pole Night activities are scheduled at the Speedway, with NASCAR’s Sprint Cup drivers qualifying for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 race.

But in uptown, a party that is expected to attract 400,000 people gets under way at noon. Coca-Cola Speed Street is a three-day festival of live music, food, and a host of other NASCAR-themed events.

Festival hours are noon-11 p.m., and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police will have a presence, said Capt. Mike Campagna, commander of the Central Division.

“We’ll have two to three times the number of officers we usually have uptown,” Campagna said. “We ask people to be aware there will be a lot of pedestrian traffic and changed traffic patterns.”

Road closures began Wednesday. Basically, Tryon Street is closed from Trade to Stonewall streets, and parts of Brevard, Third and Fourth streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard also will be closed.

The City of Charlotte has declared this an Extraordinary Event, which limits the items that people can bring uptown. That includes anything that could be used as a weapon.

Thursday night’s entertainment: It’s tribute band night, with a Billy Joel tribute band at 5:30 p.m., a Beatles tribute band at 7:45 p.m., and a Michael Jackson tribute band at 9:15 p.m.

Driver appearances: An autograph session is set for 7 p.m. at the Creative Loafing booth, featuring Donnie Allison, Justin Allison, Ross Chastain, Jamie Dick, Grant Enfinger and Robert Yates.

NASCAR open houses: At least three NASCAR teams will have open house events Thursday. Richard Petty Motorsports, 7065 Zephyr Place NW in Concord, will feature Richard Petty, Dale Inman, Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola, Dakoda Armstrong and Corey LaJoie at 10 a.m. About 200 wristbands will be distributed at 8 a.m.

Roush Fenway Racing, 4600 Roush Place in Concord, has autograph sessions, with lines opening at 5 a.m. and tickets handed out at 8 a.m. Appearing at 10 a.m. will be Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, Ryan Reed and Jack Roush. At 11 a.m. will be Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle. Carl Edwards appears at noon.

Kasey Kahne Racing will feature Kahne at its open house, 265 Cayuga Drive in Mooresville. It begins at 10 a.m.

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