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Food At The Speedway 

Fans need to fuel up, too

People who have not yet gotten on track with the NASCAR phenomenon tend to imagine a day at those races as an ear-splitting experience replete with sweaty grandstand denizens spewing tobacco juice and smoke, tossing out chicken bones and tossing back beers. Sure, there may be some of that going on (it's not the Kentucky Derby, after all), but at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Certified Angus Beef is outpacing Southern fried chicken as the grub du jour.

Our very own Speedway Club is the largest restaurant consumer of Certified Angus Beef in the US — to prepare for a race week like this, the Club will receive a semi full of CAB prime rib. Prepared with a special herb/spice rub, their prime rib has been called the best in the US.

The Speedway Club's executive chef, Matthew Beard, spent a lot of years at the famous Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, which has the oldest apprenticeship program for chefs in the country. He maintains a "natural" kitchen at the Speedway Club, using no MSG and no hydrogenated oils, and he has a policy of never cooking in water, using broths instead to impart flavor to the foods without any artificial enhancers. Besides the beef, the Club's menu includes salmon smoked on cedar planks, shrimp, crab and the gamut of gourmet offerings.

On race day, the Club will feed about 250 people an hour — that's a lot of hungry race fans. But Lowe's Motor Speedway doesn't cater just to those people who dine at the somewhat exclusive Speedway Club.

On Coca-Cola 600 race day this Sunday, nearly 180,000 people will be at Lowe's Motor Speedway, making it the fourth largest city in North Carolina behind Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro. They've all gotta eat. The Club Café serves sandwiches made with the Speedway Club's famous prime rib, along with other upscale fare. Levy Restaurants takes care of catering to the rest of the racing crowd. The company operates 107 suites at the track, with an extensive menu that includes shrimp, beef brisket and crab cakes. This week, they'll also host parties in the Hospitality Village, with guest lists that include the Black Crowes (along with Crowe wife Kate Hudson) and Pamela Anderson, among the other celebs who'll be up in Concord for the festivities. The drivers aren't the only ones who'll be racing at the track this week. Levy's staff will be zooming around, too, as they'll be catering as many as 50 private parties attended by groups ranging from 8 to 4,000 — most with custom meals.

But the stands are filled with regular people who just want to fuel up on the hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ sandwiches, nachos, pizza and roasted turkey legs from the 155 concession stands at the Speedway. During race week, close to 50,000 jumbo hot dogs and 35,000 burgers will be scoffed down, along with rivers of Miller Lite, Coke, bottled water and other liquid refreshments meant to slake thirst and wash away the taste of motor fuel from all those exhaust fumes.

Watching the hours-long races can build up an appetite and a thirst — whether you're watching from the Speedway Club, a private suite or the stands. If you're there at Lowe's Motor Speedway this week, you may go away disappointed that your favorite driver wasn't the winner, but you won't go away hungry.

linda.vespa@creativeloafing.com

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