Monday, December 13, 2010

NASCAR Hall of Fame

One of the nicest surprises on this trip was finding the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, just a few blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena. I thought it had been there for years, but in fact, it just opened in May, 2010. Given the popularity of the sport, I'm surprised they didn't have one much earlier, but it is certainly worth the wait.

Adult admission is $19.95 and there are other combo deals you can consider that include a simulator ride. I know only the basics of NASCAR but I was very impressed with the museum and spent over 3 hours there. I don't want to describe it in detail, but they've done a great job in explaining how stock car racing got started (moonshiners needed fast cars to outrun the law), how the sport developed over the years, as well as honoring the drivers, owners, mechanics, and others that were instrumental in making it the second most popular sport in the U.S. today. There are also lots of interactive exhibits such as timing yourself in pit lane and a video game in which you try to qualify for a race, so kids can enjoy it too.

Right after you enter there is an exhibit called Glory Road, a banked ramp that contains the actual cars that were raced, from the early days, such as Red Byron's car from 1949 (above) to Dale Earnhardt's #3 below. As you move up the ramp, the track that holds the cars banks more and more to give you an idea just how steep some of the actual racetracks are.

Perhaps the most famous incident in the history of NASCAR is highlighted on the second floor, with both cars involved in the fracas on display as well an explanatory video of the fight between Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough (you can see the video between the two cars below).

There's also a Hall of Honor which has detailed displays on the five 2010 inductees, who were only announced back in October. The 2011 inductees have also been announced and I'm not sure how they are going to modify the room to add 5 more exhibits because it was so full of memorabilia already.

I'm not a huge NASCAR fan and have never seen the sport live, but after spending time at the HOF, I definitely want to go to a race. It's not a good sport for my type of roadtripping (i.e. trying to see one sports event per day), because there are only 36 races per year and it takes up the whole weekend, but I'll be checking the schedule for 2011 to see if I can work a race into one of the two roadtrips I hope to take. And if you find yourself in Charlotte, take the time to check this place out, it's a great sports experience.



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