Easter weekend offered me a chance to get out and take a ride for the first time in more years than I care to count. As we traveled over paved and unpaved roads, and drove by multiple racetracks, my mind thought about the beginnings of stock car racing that very well may have happened on some of the roads we were traveling down that afternoon. Driving through Kannapolis, we passed the Dale Earnhardt memorial, and it occurred to me the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be open in just over a month. I also envisioned all of the wonderful things that I know will be included as well as those I hope to see.
That said, running a Hall of Fame is certainly no easy task. With 40,000 square feet of exhibit space and endless pieces of NASCAR history available, choosing what to include is a huge task in itself. While packing every memento from NASCAR’s storied 62 years into the building sounds like a great idea, Executive Director Winston Kelley would be wise to set aside space for pieces from today’s NASCAR to be added for future generations to enjoy.
Another problem the Hall of Fame faces is the diversity of the fans themselves. Some fans would enjoy seeing racecars from years past, while others are more enamored with helmets and drivers’ suits. And there are likely equal numbers of those fans more interested in the various trophies awarded throughout the years as there are gearheads that will be engrossed in learning about the evolution of the motors and advances in safety devices since NASCAR’s humble beginnings. Because of the variety in fans that will visit the Hall, the staff members have quite a challenge in creating a tasteful and enjoyable experience for everyone.
In anticipation of the May 11th opening, the Hall of Fame is in the middle of a 50-day countdown contest being held on Twitter. Each morning, fans are presented with a trivia question, and the first correct answer submitted scores a special prize pack. Additionally, each day a new feature of the 150,000 square-foot building is revealed. The contest will continue until the building is open for business.
The items already revealed range from trophies to jackets and even cars. One such item is the famous No. 11 Mountain Dew Buick driven by Darrell Waltrip for his back-to-back championships in 1981 and 1982. The classic green and white car is one of 18 that will be included on Glory Road just inside the main entrance. The only other car revealed so far is the familiar orange No. 61 that Richie Evans wheeled in 12 victories during the 1985 Winston Modified Tour season.
In addition to the cars on display, Glory Road will highlight 40 tracks, past and present, along with varied examples of track banking. Fans will have a chance to feel the difference in 14 degrees of banking versus the 33-degree incline of Talladega Superspeedway.
Also included in the exhibit space will be some special items from NASCAR’s beginnings. The very first rulebook, written on a two-sided piece of paper in 1948 joins the first competitor license, issued to Lee Petty in 1949, just two days prior to the first Strictly Stock race. The Hall will also include the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to Richard Petty in 1992 by former president George H.W. Bush.
And if that isn’t enough, fans will also have the opportunity to see Bobby Allison‘s childhood band uniform, Jeff Gordon’s leather jacket from when he was a young driver and Smokey Yunick’s self-made wooden templates used to gauge his cars before taking them to the track.
While that’s an impressive lineup of items available for long-time and new NASCAR fans to learn from, there are plenty of things that should be included.
I would love to see the napkin that was the original canvas for the current point system sans the Chase or maybe the fuel system that Smokey Yunick had in a car that made the six-mile trip from Daytona despite having the tank confiscated by NASCAR following the 1968 Daytona 500. And of course, the NASCAR Hall of Fame wouldn’t be complete without a sampling of the trophies awarded throughout the years.
The history of NASCAR is not all that long when compared to the rest of the world, but it is very storied with plenty of memorabilia to give us all a glimpse into that past. Located in heart of NASCAR, the new Hall of Fame is sure to bring back memories for longtime fans as well as educate newer fans on the history of their favorite sport.