N.C. town is home to majority of race teams

Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2003

MOORESVILLE, N.C. There are more ratchet wrenches and needle-nose pliers per capita in this community of sprawling industrial parks and waterfront homes on Lake Norman than any other place in the world.

Once just a pit stop to fill the gas tank and buy a sack of hamburgers on the ride between the Virginia state line and Charlotte, Mooresville has become the popular choice of many race teams on the NASCAR Busch and Nextel Cup series.

Charlotte might forever be considered the Mecca of stock-car racing, but Mooresville now considers itself as the sport's true home.

The sign at the Interstate 77 exit says it all: ''Race City USA.''

More than half 20 of 39 of the full-time teams on the Nextel Cup Series based their operations within 15 minutes of Mooresville last year. That number grew to 21 last week when Wood Brothers Racing decided after 53 years to move its operation from Stuart, Va.

Thirteen Busch Series teams also park their toolboxes in the Mooresville area.

If that wasn't enough, the NASCAR Technical Institute, a vocational college where many of the sport's mechanics learn their trade, is nestled among the community of race shops.

''It's where the people are at, the engineering, the vendors,'' said car owner Brad Akins. ''It's where everything is at. It's where you have to be if you're going to keep up with what's going on. The cost of having a shop away from there is a lot more because you have to bring everything in.''

Akins is building Dodges for Kasey Kahne to drive next season on the Busch Series. He owns a Ford, Chrysler and Jeep dealership in Winder, Ga., but he knows being six hours away from the Mooresville area would put his team at a disadvantage.

''There's nothing I'd like more than to have the shop out back, but it just won't work,'' he said. ''You have to go where all the people are.''

Some of the Nextel Cup Series teams that now call Mooresville home includes the Woods, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Chip Ganassi Racing, Jasper Motorsports, Brett Bodine Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, Robert Yates Racing, Penske South Racing, Ultra Motorsports and BACE Motorsports.

The Wood Brothers started in NASCAR in 1953, and they've prepared for all of their 1,136 career races in their family shop in Virginia. The team developed a working relationship with Roush Racing which has five Nextel Cup teams based 30 minutes from Mooresville in Concord a couple years ago and the Woods finally realized they weren't close enough to take advantage of Roush's assets.

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