Panther Tracks

AAA offers road-trip tips for Panthers fans heading to the Super Bowl

Ted Ginn Jr. returns a punt during the first quarter of the NFC Championship game on Jan. 24 in Charlotte.
Ted Ginn Jr. returns a punt during the first quarter of the NFC Championship game on Jan. 24 in Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer

Football fans in the Carolinas may do just about anything it takes to see the Panthers play in the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history.

There are some Carolina Panthers devotees who plan to make the 39-hour, nearly 2,700-mile roadtrip from Charlotte to Santa Clara, Calif., to watch the Panthers versus the Denver Broncos in the final matchup.

For those dedicated drivers, auto group AAA has put out “special driving routes” to get to the Feb. 7 game that includes stops at several locations along the way that are relevant to the team. With the below stops, the trip is over 3,100 miles.

▪ Bank of America Stadium: Of course, the Panthers’ home field in uptown Charlotte is the starting point. Be sure, AAA says, to take a selfie in front of one of the iconic panther statues out front.

▪ Auburn University: A 5-hour, 20-minute drive from Charlotte is where Panthers’ quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton won a national championship. From there, he would be drafted No. 1 overall by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft.

▪ New Orleans: It is “highly recommended” to take the 5-hour and 7-minute drive to the Big Easy since it will be Mardis Gras, AAA says. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome there is where the Panthers defeated the Saints Dec. 6 41-38.

▪ Houston: Perhaps a less joyous pitstop that’s 5 hours and 12 minutes from New Orleans, Houston is where the Panthers lost to the New England Patriots in their first Super Bowl trip Feb. 1, 2004.

▪ University of Texas in Austin: A 2-hour, 44 minute-drive from Houston, UT was where Panthers running back Foswhitt Jer’ald “Fozzy” Whittaker played in college. Whittaker carried the ball twice and had a 19-yard kickoff return against the Arizona Cardinals Jan. 24.

▪ Odessa, Texas: Ratcliff Stadium in Odessa is 5 hours and 24 minutes from Austin and it’s the stadium featured in the movie Friday Night Lights. Coincidentally, it’s also home to the Odessa Bronchos and Permian Panthers, AAA notes.

▪ University of Phoenix Stadium: 10 hours and 23 minutes away in Glendale, Ariz., is home to the Cardinals, whom the Panthers defeated 49-14 in Charlotte, their first NFC Championship title at home.

▪ University of California Berkeley: A 10-hour, 47-minute drive from Glendale where Panthers head coach played in college as an All-American linebacker. From there he was selected in the second-round of the 1984 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.

▪ Levi Stadium: An hour-long drive from Berkeley is the site of Super Bowl 50, where the Panthers face the Broncos at 3:30 PST (6:30 EST.)

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta