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NASCAR's NC roots help drive economy

READ MORE: NASCAR's NC roots help drive economy
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WWAY) -- Some of the greatest drivers in the world will converge on Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on WWAY and ABC. The Bank of America 500 is the only NASCAR race on a Saturday in the Sprint Race for the Cup.

"This is the mecca of NASCAR," ESPN analyst and former NASCAR driver Ricky Craven said. "It's the hub. You know that. You are aware of that when you come to this race in May or All-Star weekend, the fall race, and it has a different feel. The drivers appreciate being able to race here, and they recognize the history."

Greats like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhart Jr. will be on the track for the Bank of America 500 Saturday night.

Carl Edwards enters the race with a slim lead in the Sprint Cup standings. With only a handful of series events left, this race could go a long ways in determining NASCAR's champion.

As important as this race is to the drivers, it may mean even more to the Charlotte area and its economy.

"You look at the majority of teams, they are all within 50-100 miles of Charlotte, and so as an industry there is thousands of people employed in this region," said Patrick Perkins, VP of Marketing for Hendrick Motorsports, one of the sports leading ownership teams.

A 2004 study by UNC Charlotte says the total economic impact of the motorsports industry on North Carolina's economy was a little more than $5 billion and generated nearly 25,000 jobs.

Charlotte now features not only the raceway but also the NASCAR Hall of Fame, furthering the relationship between state and sport.

"We've had great response nationally and internationally, and, of course, great response from in the area," NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley said. "We're the second highest attended sports hall of fame in North America in our first year of operation with around 274,000 people who have come to the hall of fame."

Though that number may sound big, it's far less than was hoped for the $200 million, publicly-funded museum that's lost money since it opened last year. Still the state and industry leaders hope the hall and speedway can be an economic engine well into the future.

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