Charlotte Motor Speedway’s illustrious history includes an unrivaled collection of famous “firsts,” with one of the most prominent being zMAX Dragway’s status as the first four-lane drag strip on the NHRA schedule. Since its revolutionary first race in 2008, “the Bellagio of drag strips” has celebrated a decade of unforgettable, nitro-fueled racing action. With the April 27-29 NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals rapidly approaching, here’s a timeline of memorable moments at zMAX Dragway.
- Ground Breaking – Feb. 5, 2008
The ground breaking for construction of zMAX Dragway took place on Feb. 5, 2008. Bruton Smith, founder and chief executive officer of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and several local politicians were the first to break dirt before an excavator took over.
A total of 1,876 workers were involved in the construction of zMAX Dragway, representing 57 companies that included contractors, subcontractors and suppliers. Together they worked 636,000 combined man hours, averaging 300 workers on site daily with each man or woman averaging an 11.78-hour workday.
Through this tremendous effort, the 13-month construction project was completed in only six.
- First Race – May 24, 2008
On Saturday, May 24, 2008, the day before the Coca-Cola 600, several NHRA drivers visited the Dragway’s construction site. To no one’s surprise, a race broke out and when the dust settled Funny Car driver Mike Neff edged out a victory over teammate and 16-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force in the first unofficial race at zMAX Dragway.
- Ribbon Cutting – Aug. 20, 2008
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock drivers Jeg Coughlin and his Cagnazzi Racing teammate, Dave Connolly, used their race cars to officially open zMAX Dragway in Concord with a unique ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 20, 2008.
- NHRA Nationals – Sept. 11-14, 2008
zMAX Dragway’s first major event was held Sept. 11-14 with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series breaking in the immaculate facility.
The inaugural NHRA Nationals was not only a huge success for zMAX Dragway, setting a three-day NHRA event attendance record, but was also a historic weekend on the track as well.
Tony Schumacher recorded his 53rd career victory to pass Joe Amato as the NHRA’s all-time Top Fuel wins leader. The other national category winners were Jack Beckman in Funny Car, Justin Humphreys in Pro Stock and Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
- Four Wide at PINKS All Out – April 25, 2009
zMAX Dragway made history once again on April 25 by hosting the first-ever nationally televised four-wide drag race as part of the popular television show PINKS All Out. The atmosphere was electric as the capacity crowd, sensing history, were brought to their feet to witness the first competitive four-wide drag racing in over 30 years.
- First NHRA sanctioned Four-Wide race – March 26-29, 2010
For the first time in NHRA national event history, qualifying and eliminations for Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle at an NHRA event were conducted four-wide instead of two. Cory McClenathan, John Force, Mike Edwards and Matt Smith were victorious in the four-wide spectacle.
- First Sub Four-Second Run in a Funny Car – Sept. 16, 2011
NHRA Funny Car driver Matt Hagan ran the first sub-four second 1,000-ft. lap in Funny Car history during qualifying for the 2011 NHRA Carolina Nationals.
Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T posted a 3.995-second pass at 316.23 mph.
- First African American Wins at zMAX Dragway – Sept. 18, 2011
NHRA Top Fuel driver Antron Brown became the first African American to win a NHRA event at zMAX Dragway, holding off teammate Spencer Massey in the final round to secure his third race win in a row of the 2011 season.
Brown powered to a 3.784 at 325.14 to secure his fifth win of the season.
- First European Wins at zMAX Dragway – April 13, 2014
Jimmy Alund became the first European winner at zMAX Dragway and only the fourth non-American winner in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Appearing in his first career Pro Stock final, Alund took advantage and drove to victory in his second NHRA Four-Wide Nationals appearance. The Swede was substituting for four-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson, who was sidelined for heart surgery, and ran a 6.562 pass at 211.59 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro.
- First Woman Wins at zMAX Dragway – Sept. 20, 2015
Pro Stock driver Erica Enders scored the first victory at zMAX Dragway by a woman, the first victory at zMAX for Enders and 19th of her career.
Enders’ historic win allowed her to pass former female competitor and NHRA legend Shirley Muldowney on the NHRA’s all-time win list.
- Pro Mods Race Four-Wide for the First Time – April 28, 2017
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series raced four-wide for the first time at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway during the April 28 – 30 race weekend in 2017.
Mike Castellana closed out the first four-wide event in the NHRA when he made Pro Mod history with his 5.807-second, 249.35-mph run to win the Pro Mod class’ first-ever four-wide race.
More history will be made when cars are staged for the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in just two weeks.
To purchase ticket packages, camping and race-day upgrades to the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or shop online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
CMS PR/Photo zMAX Dragway opened with a unique ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 20, 2008, in Concord, North Carolina. (CMS Archives)