Atrium Health

Charlotte Motor Speedway complex repurposed for COVID-19 testing

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Charlotte Motor Speedway has become the latest front in North Carolina’s battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Atrium Health announced it was opening a COVID-19 testing center at zMax Dragway, which is adjacent to the 1.5-mile oval that has played host to NASCAR races since 1960 and part of the CMS complex that is owned by Speedway Motorsports.

A release from Atrium Health says CMS “has become the first professional sports venue in the country to serve the community as a remote testing site” during the outbreak.

“At Charlotte Motor Speedway, we work for the fans, salute our military and serve our community,”  Charlotte Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager Greg Walter said in the release. “During these unprecedented times, we want to support our neighbors and the region with what we can do to keep people healthy. Atrium Health has been a longtime partner of ours and we’re happy to work with them to provide a well-known, accessible and safe place to host this remote testing site for as long as there is a need.”

An Atrium Health spokesman said testing “would be dictated by patient volume,” and a physician referral is required for a test, which aren’t available on demand.

Here’s the release from Atrium Health:

For more than 60 years, Charlotte Motor Speedway has been a place for “firsts.” Today, in yet another first, the speedway has become the first professional sports venue in the country to serve the community as a remote testing site during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In partnership with the speedway, Atrium Health has created a Coronavirus Testing Center at zMAX Dragway, part of the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex.

The remote testing site provides a convenient location for residents of northern Mecklenburg and Cabarrus Counties to have their tests performed when ordered by their physician. Atrium Health has several additional sites throughout the Charlotte region, each in locations designed to provide a secure, private environment for patients to be tested.

Testing for COVID-19 is conducted without patients having to get out of their cars, which reduces the possibility of infecting other patients and healthcare workers. Healthcare providers will make appointments and direct patients to designated testing centers where medical professionals will approach the patients at their cars. These tests involve obtaining swabbed samples, which are then tested at Atrium Health’s in-house lab, and patients are typically notified of the results in approximately 24 hours. Atrium Health can test approximately 1,000 samples each day and is one of the
only health systems in the nation to have this capability.

“Having these types of remote locations, away from a hospital or other care locations, yet convenient for people in need of testing, is essential to helping contain the spread of the coronavirus,” said Jim Hunter, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Atrium Health. “It’s important to note that patients still need to meet the established criteria for testing by a healthcare provider, which will keep other patients and healthcare workers safe, as well as protect our testing supplies. We deeply appreciate this partnership opportunity with Charlotte Motor Speedway to make a significant impact on the
health of our community.”

“At Charlotte Motor Speedway, we work for the fans, salute our military and serve our community,” said Greg Walter, Charlotte Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager. “During these unprecedented times, we want to support our neighbors and the region with what we can do to keep people healthy. Atrium Health has been a longtime partner of ours and we’re happy to work with them to provide a well-known, accessible and safe place to host this remote
testing site for as long as there is a need.”

Atrium Health continues to work to keep the communities it serves safe and informed. The latest information including prevention tips, frequently asked questions and care options are found at http://www.AtriumHealth.org/Coronavirus.

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994