INSIGHT: Inside NASCAR’s $160m Hall of Fame
NASCAR is not an organisation known for doing things half-heartedly, so when it decided to join its United States sporting brethren in building a Hall of Fame, the result was typically spectacular.
Visited by Speedcafe.com ahead of this weekend’s IRWIN Tools Night Race in Tennessee, the Hall of Fame sits in the neighbouring state of North Carolina, which is home to almost every current Sprint Cup Series team.
The city of Charlotte beat four other bidders – Daytona, Richmond, Atlanta and Kansas – for the right to build the facility, which was confirmed in 2006 and opened just four years later.
Although audience numbers have not been spectacular since launch, it’s hard to believe that anybody who has entered the Hall’s doors could have walked away underwhelmed. Catering for both the hardcore and the casual fan, the four-tier layout includes more than 50 interactive displays, with audio, video and hands-on activities bringing both the sport’s history and modern day complexities to life.
A tour of the HOF begins with ‘Glory Road’ – a line-up of 18 cars (16 of them originals) representing the full spectrum of the sport’s past. From Red Byron’s 1939 Ford Coupe (which won the first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1948) to Jimmie Johnson’s 2008 Chevrolet Impala (which was used by Johnson on the way to the title), the line-up twists around the facility on a road that begins flat and ends in Talladega-spec 33 degree banking. Guests are invited to stand on a section of the ‘high bank’ – a task that’s easier said than done.
As much as the cars impress, the story of NASCAR’s history is largely one of people, not machinery. The HOF is an exclusive club as much as it is a building, with five new members inducted annually. Nominated and voted on by a team of experts within the industry, the new members are announced each February and enjoy a year of prominence in the ‘Hall of Honour’.
Each inductee, which in 2012 were Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Inman, Richie Evans and Glen Wood, is invited to select a car from their history and an array of memorabilia to be displayed in the circular room. As is the case throughout, the artefacts are not limited to trophies and race helmets with Waltrip, for example, donating the metal plate that spent several weeks inside his broken leg during 1990 after a testing crash at Daytona.
As one would expect, permanent shrines have been dedicated to the France, Petty, Earnhardt, Allison families whose histories are so closely intertwined with that of the championship. Elsewhere, the work of another of NASCAR’s most famous names, Junior Johnson, is displayed in the form of a ‘moonshine’ distillery, paying homage to the sport’s outlaw roots. Adding to the authenticity, the man himself helped recreate the set-up.
The section of the museum explaining the details of the modern game is where fans can truly immerse themselves in all facets of NASCAR, from driving (via iRacing simulators) and pit crewing to commenting and scrutineering. The area devoted to technical inspections features a wall highlighting some of the more creative interpretations of the rule book found in recent years. Ways that teams have fudged dimensions, mountings and materials are all detailed, although the lack of names attached to the infractions prevents it from being a true ‘Hall of Shame’.
Nevertheless, the HOF’s attention to detail is something to behold, and a truly fitting tribute to one of the world’s most colourful sports.
See below for Speedcafe.com’s gallery from the NASCAR Hall of Fame