Racing Month ... $230 million of pancakes and more

The $5 all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast Saturday at the Cannon Memorial YMCA is part of what might be the biggest money-producing sports events of the year in North Carolina.

Between this weekend’s Village Jiggy Jam in Kannapolis and the waving of the checkered flag at the end of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, motor-sports-related activities will generate an estimated $230 million, according to tourist officials.

That’s a lot of pancakes ... and race tickets ... and Coca-Cola Speed Street hot dogs.

The 600 Festival Association’s series of events begins Friday and Saturday in Kannapolis, then continues with the “Haulers on Union” event May 15 in Concord, the “Little 600 Race” karting event May 20 in Mooresville, and Coca-Cola Speed Street from May 22-24 in Charlotte’s uptown.

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series will put Charlotte Motor Speedway in the motor-sports spotlight on the third and fourth weekends of May.

Numerous other motor-sports-related events across the region will generate jobs and money over the next few weeks.

“Jobs are coming back to North Carolina, and motor sports and tourism are leading the way,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said last week in a visit to the speedway. “Racing and motor sports have helped define our state and drive our economy.”

McCrory said motor sports provide 4,200 people with jobs and produce $6 billion annually.

It could be argued that auto racing, which annually dominates the Carolinas sports scene through much of May, will have an even bigger footprint this year. The addition of events in Kannapolis, Concord and Mooresville is designed to involve more people.

“Big events are measured by ancillary events in the market,” said Jay Howard, president of the 600 Festival Association. “These new events will take us back to the core purpose of the festival – into the smaller cities of the Piedmont.”

“There really is a regional ownership,” Howard said of the speedway’s races and the other motor-sports-related events. “And it works better when you have community involvement.”

Related stories from Charlotte Observer