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Belts tighten for NASCAR

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson takes practice laps on Saturday, September 27, 2008 for Sunday's Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Jim Barcus/Kansas City Star/MCT)
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson takes practice laps on Saturday, September 27, 2008 for Sunday's Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. (Jim Barcus/Kansas City Star/MCT) Jim Barcus / Kansas City Star / MCT

As the NASCAR season ends Sunday, the likelihood of widespread layoffs has sent a shudder through the Charlotte region, home to roughly 90 percent of race teams.

Cuts already have come at some shops, and more could lose jobs in the weeks ahead. While the total number of layoffs is hard to pinpoint, estimates run from 500 to 1,000 or more.

As NASCAR gained prominence and was heralded as America's fastest-growing sport, the Charlotte region proudly touted its strong racing ties. More than 400 motorsports-related companies are based in the area, business recruiters say. A 2005 UNC Charlotte study placed that employment at almost 20,000, and estimated the industry's economic impact at more than $4.5 billion a year.

In recent days, though, the prospect of job cuts has caused anxiety in the region and cast a pall over the season finale in Homestead, Fla., where team owners and drivers say their sport, like many other industries, has been dragged down by the economy.

Read the complete story at the Charlotte Observer's thatsracin.com

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