Want to party like a rock star, err at least a NASCAR driver while in Charlotte for the May races? Well, y'all need to leave the campsites at Lowe's Motor Speedway and check out the NASCarolina night life.
From my post in Indiana, I will serve as your social coordinator and lead you to a few hot spots where one might find Michael Waltrip sipping Chardonnay at a popular NASCAR eatery or perhaps catch Denny Hamlin docking his boat at a well-known watering hole for drivers.
Got Wasabi ...
But if you're up for a road trip and a more entertaining crowd, check in on Joel's Grill in Mooresville, N.C., said to be a NASCAR driver's best kept secret.
Owner Joel Jose said the neighborhood feel of his gourmet sushi eatery and home delivery keeps drivers such as Jeff Burton, Earnhardt and Kahne coming back for more week after week.
"We started in Davidson, N.C., in 2001 and Tony Stewart came all the time but we needed a bigger place," Jose said. "Now we even deliver to the drivers' homes. I used to deliver to Jeff Burton but he moved to Huntersville. I still deliver to Kelley Earnhardt [Elledge]."
Kelley's baby brother loves Joel's hibachi filet, Jose said, and orders it often.
Jose said he didn't set out to become a NASCAR hangout nor does he have a single piece of stock-car memorabilia hanging on his walls.
"I don't know how it became a place for the drivers, it just started and a lot of people tell me, 'Hey that's so and so,' and I sometimes don't know who they are talking about, but I know Kasey Kahne, he comes often and Michael Waltrip's daughter used to work here, really nice girl."
The independently owned Asian establishment, Jose said, allows the drivers to feel comfortable and not in the limelight for a change.
"People don't really bother them, they sign a few autographs but it's no big deal anymore," he said.
At lunch time, he said the crowd resembles a NASCAR garage; dozens of crew members will dine in and create a colorful scene with all their multi-hued uniforms, Jose said.
"We are like family here," he said.
Drum roll please ...
I've saved the best for last: Whisky River!
I'll turn the tour over the NASCAR.COM's resident party animal, Joe Menzer; don't let the white hair fool ya!
He recently took a behind-the-scenes tour of NASCAR's most-talked about night club owned by the sport's most popular driver. Named after the driver's Western-style saloon Junior built on his property just outside of Charlotte, the venue promises the best eight seconds of your life atop the club's signature mechanical bull.
Now, if you've had one too many sake bombs at Joel's, please take a cab or hit Jamie McMurray up for a sober ride; the Crown Royal driver promotes the cause often.
Happy hunting and drive safely back to your campsite. The fuzz is heavy on Speedway Boulevard.
The opinions expressed are solely of the writer.
NOTE FROM JOEL: This article mentions 3 other restaurants in the area (Red Rocks, Rusty Rudder and Sushi at the Lake). which were not included in this page for brevity. You can find the whole article on this link - http://www.nascar.com/2008/news/opinion/05/02/driver.hang.outs.rswan/index.html or by going to NASCAR.COM, click on the NEWS button, then click on OPINIONS, click on NEWS ARCHIVE. Thank you and all the best.