CONCORD, N.C. -- Charlotte Motor Speedway, which measures its Christmas lights by the millions and the miles, flicked the switch Monday evening for the third annual Speedway Christmas display.
Featuring more than 3 million lights over a 3.5-mile course, Speedway Christmas once again provides visitors with a chance to see the lights, enjoy the sights and sounds of a Bethlehem-themed village and even drive for a mile on the racing surface.
Speedway Christmas has been expanded this year with the new Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink, a 5,100-square-foot outdoor rink near the zMAX Dragway tower, a short distance from the light show route.
Track officials recruited the services of a southeast Charlotte resident whose home displays attracted thousands of visitors for more than a decade.
We are really excited to have the Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink as part of this year s Speedway Christmas, said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Brothers Darrell and Michael Waltrip were part of the opening ceremonies Monday evening. The speedway s light show will be open nightly through Dec. 30, except for Christmas Day. The ice rink will be open through Jan. 21, except for Christmas Day.
Once again this year, visitors enter the display on Bruton Smith Boulevard, then follow a course past the dragway and dirt race track, under U.S. 29, around the outside of the main speedway, and then eventually enter the track racing surface near Turn 3. The infield includes the Bethlehem village, the Festival of Trees, and other attractions.
Track officials say there are more than 800 light displays this year a 33 percent increase from 2011. Speedway officials went to a real pro this year to beef up their lights.
Mike Stanford, whose home Christmas light displays in southeast Charlotte attracted thousands of visitors every year, has brought his personal favorites such as Frigid Flyer, Polar Plunge, and Mega-Tree to the speedway.
Stanford had to stop the displays at his home on Mammoth Oaks Drive in 2010 because the large crowds were causing traffic problems in the community off Sardis and Providence roads.