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NASCAR store to open at Charlotte airport
Even in its offseason, NASCAR never rests in spreading its brand around the Charlotte region.

Friday morning, The NASCAR Shop will open at the Charlotte airport, offering millions of travelers the chance to buy official NASCAR merchandise before, after or between flights.

Saturday night, the Charlotte Bobcats will host NASCAR Night, with players wearing racing-themed jerseys and fans getting a chance to win collectible Bobcats diecast race cars.

Those are just two ways in which the nation's most popular racing association has tried to keep interest high -- and fans buying merchandise -- in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2008 season next month in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"It's really a year-long venture," said Tom Sullivan, NASCAR's manager of business communications.

More than $2 billion in NASCAR merchandise is sold each year -- less than the NFL's more than $3 billion but still a significant amount of spending by race fans.

Although the ribbon cutting is Friday, the seed for the airport store was planted years ago.

Charlotte/Douglas International Airport regularly works with HMSHost, a Maryland-based concessions company, on ways to include local themes in airport concessions, said Haley Gentry, an airport spokeswoman. The airport gets a percentage of vendor sales.

After Charlotte was named as the site of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, she said, the idea of a NASCAR store gained steam. There's also a historical connection: The first NASCAR race was held in 1949 off Little Rock Road -- "practically on airport property," Gentry said.

"This was a natural fit," she said.

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