Charlotte's PrizeThe NASCAR Hall of Fame won't be up and running before 2009, but Charlotte mayor Patrick McCrory says the NHofF is the talk of the town in the North Carolina city.
"We wish it were up and going today," McCrory says, "but it'll be exciting designing the building and the marketing plans and building relationships with each of the NASCAR teams. We've gotten great support from [car owners] Rick Hendrick and Ray Evernham and many of the others.
"It'll be much more than a museum-it'll be an experience. You won't just look at statues and cars. You'll get to feel and experience NASCAR racing, and you'll want to come back time and time again."
Fans will be able to access NASCAR archives and history, he says. There will be interactive displays, and racing legends will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"NASCAR will help develop that process," McCrory says.Here are some quick facts about the NHofF:· The city of Charlotte will own the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority will operate it.· Design work is being done this year, and groundbreaking should be in spring 2007. It's expected to open in late 2009 or no later than March 31, 2010.· The city of Charlotte will donate the land, worth more than $20 million, for the project and will put up more than $100 million toward construction.· The city of Charlotte will handle construction.· McCrory says there will be a $40 million convention center and an office building for various racing-related businesses.
"It's going to be the finest museum in racing," says Humpy Wheeler, the president of nearby Lowe's Motor Speedway. "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum is no slouch, but this will be the best."
The NHofF started out as a battle among five cities, and a nationwide debate raged. Would Charlotte get it? How about Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Kansas City, Missouri, or Richmond, Virginia? Daytona made a lot of sense since it's the home for NASCAR. But Daytona already has Daytona USA, which may be the current museum most like the NHofF. Kansas City was a possibility because it's centrally located in the United States.
Charlotte made the most sense. NASCAR's first Strictly Stock race was run in Charlotte, and the Queen City has hosted the longest NASCAR race (the Coca-Cola 600) and the most unique race (the Nextel All-Star Challenge, formerly The Winston) for many years. And Charlotte in particular and North Carolina in general boast a huge auto racing industry.
Most of the race teams, crewmen, and drivers live within 100 miles of Charlotte, making it stock car country.
"It's extremely important for the city," McCrory says. "It solidifies Charlotte as the anchor for NASCAR from both a national and international standpoint. It'll mean travel and tourism and jobs for the area. I think it's similar to country music's importance to Nashville."
You wouldn't put a Country Music Hall of Fame anywhere but Nashville, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame ought to be in Charlotte, he points out.
"How could they put it anywhere else other than here? Charlotte's still growing, and it's the epicenter of NASCAR racing," Wheeler adds.
Wheeler says he believes the city helped itself early in the bidding when it showed what it was willing to do to get the Hall of Fame.
"The other cities were put on notice that the price for getting this was not going to be cheap," Wheeler says.
Wheeler points out that while the France family controls both Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR, he believes they intended to be fair and not pick a city just because their flagship racetrack is there.
"I never thought there was any competition for us other than Atlanta," Wheeler says. NASCAR wanted a growing city that was a huge tourist attraction, and both Charlotte and Atlanta fit the criteria, he adds.
Fans will be able to visit the NHofF, Wheeler adds, then spend a few days visiting the dozens of race shops in the area. Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., and others have magnificent buildings that can't be called mere race shops. Then, visitors can venture outside of Charlotte and see the museums at Petty Enterprises in Level Cross and Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, both within two hours of downtown Charlotte.
And, of course, fans can go from the NASCAR Hall of Fame to visit Lowe's Motor Speedway.
McCrory says he doesn't believe Charlotte sewed up the museum early.
"To borrow Yogi Berra's phrase, we didn't believe it was over until it was over," he says with a laugh. "We took nothing for granted. There was tough competition, but we felt this is the right place, and we felt we had the best offer."
Wheeler says he's thrilled Charlotte got the honor of building the NHofF.
"Number one, we [Lowe's Motor Speedway] won't have to build the museum," Wheeler says seriously. "I haven't seen anyone make money off a museum yet. If this had not been done, we probably would have bought the bullet and done it ourselves."
The Other NASCAR MuseumWhile race fans breathlessly await the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, they can visit the Winston Cup Museum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just more than an hour north of Charlotte.
Museum owner Will Spencer, who also owns and operates JKS Motorsports, says he got the idea for the museum when he was talking to car owner Richard Childress about all of the cars that Spencer had in storage. Childress suggested that there should be a museum to commemorate Winston's involvement in racing.
Spencer started forming a plan in 2003, and the site for the museum was bought next to JKS Motorsports in 2004. Renovations started early in 2005, and the museum opened in May 2005.
After the opening ceremonies, Spencer says he was relieved that everything was done. The building was bare just over a month earlier. The parking lot was paved on the Saturday before opening day, and it was striped the next day. The grand opening was that Tuesday.Among the people in attendance were many who had worked for Sports Marketing Enterprises and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which backed stock car racing through the Winston brand.
Spencer expects the museum to change its displays over time. During a recent visit, visitors saw a winged Richard Petty Dodge Daytona and a familiar black-white-and-silver Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet in the lobby.
When a patron goes through the turnstiles into the museum itself, he sees a giant mural that wraps around three walls. He first sees a photo of Richard Petty, the first Winston Cup champion in 1971, and a shot of Donnie Allison in Victory Lane in the 1971 Winston 500 at Talladega, the first race that Winston sponsored. The mural gives viewers a year-by-year history of the series, and fans will go around the wall and finish at the No. 17 car of Matt Kenseth, the final Winston Cup champion in 2003.
There are many cars in the museum, but the most unique may be the flat-bed vehicle that served as the first Winston show car. T. Wayne Robertson, who later headed Sports Marketing Enterprises, drove the show car, and Marilyn Chilton rode in it as the first Miss Winston.
Spencer says the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Winston Cup Museum will not compete. Winston-Salem is about 75 miles from Charlotte, and while the NHofF will be about all things NASCAR, the Winston Cup Museum is solely about the 33 seasons that Winston sponsored NASCAR's top series.
"There is no money to be made here," Spencer says of his museum. "This is about preserving history and helping charities."-Tom Gillispie
The Winston Cup Museum is located at 1355 MLK Jr. Drive. The phone number is 336/724-4557.
Honoring Nascar's First RaceThe state of North Carolina recognized the beginning of one of its largest industries on May 17 by placing a historical marker near the location of the 31/44-mile Charlotte Speedway, where NASCAR held its first Strictly Stock car race on June 19, 1949.
The now-defunct Charlotte Speedway was one of the biggest tracks in the Southeast in 1949, and that's the reason Big Bill France chose it for the launch of his vision of racing cars that the folks in the stands could buy right from their local dealer. It was an immediate success, although the number of people who actually attended the first race is open to interpretation. According to NASCAR records, there were 13,000 fans packing the grandstand, but the officials dedicating the plaque in west Charlotte used the numbers 20,000 and 23,000. No matter how many people were actually there, they were treated to a heck of a race.
Glenn Dunnaway, of nearby Gastonia, crossed the finish line first in the 200-lap race, three laps ahead of Jim Roper from Halstead, Kansas, but there was a problem. It seems that Dunnaway's car had made a moonshine run on the Friday night before the race, and the mechanics had not removed the Smuggler's blocks-pieces of wood placed in the springs to hold up the rear of the car. NASCAR officials spotted the infraction after the race and disqualified Dunnaway's '47 Ford and elevated Roper and his '49 Lincoln to the winning spot.
It was not only the first race of today's Nextel Cup Series, it was the first instance of cheating in a NASCAR race, and it also featured the first woman who ever raced in NASCAR's top series, Sara Christian. Thirty-three cars started the race.-Don Hamilton
Brand Variety in NASCARIn the 21st century, the race car brands in NASCAR are determined by automotive corporate involvement. Today, there are only three brands in Cup racing, the fewest in history. That's less than half of what it was only a few years ago as Oldsmobile, Buick, Plymouth, and Mercury have all since departed.
It was "the more the merrier" back in NASCAR's early Strictly Stock years. It might surprise you to learn that a number of those non-Big Three brands, along with some surprising Big Three models, were quite respectable. Take the low-slung Hudson that showed the way in the early '50s. Completely surpassing the established brands with its step-down design, the Hudson could really handle in the turns and won a number of races and two championships, along with two Seconds and a Third in the points.
Key Hudson drivers included Herb Thomas, Tim Flock, Dick Rathman, Speedy Thompson, and Fonty Flock. Unbelievably, Hudson won the Manufacturers Title from 1952 through 1954. It hung around through the '55 season, and then disappeared from the circuit.
Then, there was a Big-Three corporate entry with the monster luxury Chrysler brand in the mid-'50s. But during its lone 1955-1956 years, it won the points title both times, with Tim Flock and Buck Baker doing the honors. Between the pair, there were 32 wins, a domination which has never been duplicated. Like Hudson, though, the brand vanished.
It must be mentioned that the top models of both General Motors (with its Cadillac) and Ford (with its Lincoln) had first appeared earlier in the '40s. Lincoln was by far the most successful, winning two races in 1949 with Lloyd Moore at the wheel. He also finished Fourth in the points that long-ago season.
Also during the '40s, the unexpected Kaiser of the Kaiser-Frazer Company made some appearances. In the '50s, some drivers would also use the company's compact Henry J model. Even the Nash made its appearance in the '50s and had some success. Its best year was 1953 when it finished Fifth (out of 13 brands). And would you believe that the tank-like Packard also hit the tracks with some success?
In addition, driver Frank Mundy proved that the Studebaker could get it done, driving the bullet-nosed model to two of its four NASCAR wins. Mundy also took poles in four of the five times a Studebaker earned the accomplishment.
Finally, during the '50s, the little Willys model made a few infrequent appearances.
American Motors was in play during the '70s with Roger Penske being heavily involved. With Bobby Allison at the wheel of an unlikely Matador, there were Fourth and Eighth-Place points finishes in 1974 and 1978, respectively.
There has recently been a lot of talk about the inclusion of Toyota into Nextel Cup. Many say there's never been a foreign car in a NASCAR race, but they would be wrong in that observation.
In one race in 1954, there were a number of foreign brands out there tooling with the good old boys. There were Porsches, Jaguars, Austin Healys, Morgans, and MGs on the track. It happened on a 2-mile road course at an airport in Linden, New Jersey, in a race won by Al Keller. By the way, Keller was driving a Jaguar-a brand which also claimed Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Place in the 100-miler.
The race was a unique invitational road coarse event. The size differential between the full-sized NASCAR cars and some of the tiny foreign sports cars must have presented quite a sight. But then again, thinking back to the '40s and '50s, how about comparing the size of a Cadillac or Packard to a Studebaker or Henry J?-Bill Holder
Senate Bill 1955: Why You Should CareEditor's Note: The writer is Senior VP/Group Publisher for Primedia's Performance Automotive Group. He is also a member of the SEMA Board of Directors.
Vic Edelbrock Sr. was working with a couple of guys in his machine shop in Southern California one day in 1949, when a young Robert E. Petersen showed up and pitched Vic on advertising in Hot Rod magazine so that his parts could be discovered beyond the reaches of the local area. The two struck a deal, and, needless to say, the rest is history. Edelbrock is now a major player, not just as a performance company, but as a significant employer that produces thousands of jobs directly and indirectly.
This story is relevant because the U.S. Senate is considering health care legislation (S.1955) that would allow small entrepreneurs to gather together under a trade association banner, like SEMA, and purchase health insurance for their workers at a more competitive rate. More competitive rates mean more jobs and better benefits for workers.
Today, SEMA has approximately 6,500 member companies that employ an estimated one million people worldwide. Many of these companies are small family businesses, just like Vic Edelbrock's company was back in 1949. They are businesses trying to grow and deliver to us great performance, restoration, and customization products at a fair price while providing for the families of their employees. Many are forced to operate with little or no benefits because it is unaffordable to do so. The more they pay out for benefits, the less they can reinvest in their businesses. Fewer jobs means less product and, consequently, less fun and innovation for the consumer.
I recently attended SEMA's Washington, D.C. rally with U.S. Congressional and Senate members. This event is SEMA's largest effort to protect your hobby from legislative threats while promoting pro-hobby laws and regulations. The evening before I arrived, I received a phone call from Steve McDonald, SEMA's vice president of government affairs, delivering the bad news that S.1955 had failed to gather the 60 votes required for passage under Senate rules. The legislation has the majority support of 56 Senators, and there is a continued effort underway to convince 4 more to vote in favor of helping American small businesses and their employees.
I haven't written a column in a very long time but have done so now in hopes of encouraging you readers, millions of you, to let your legislators-federal, state, and local-know where you stand on this issue and hundreds of others that threaten our hobby. From car crusher bills, to muffler laws, to inadequate registration and titling regulations, your government threatens the specialty automotive industry every day. Government can also provide opportunity for the promotion of pro-hobby solutions.
But we need you to get involved, and now. It's easy and won't cost you a dime. Contact Jason Tolleson of the SEMA Action Network (SAN) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202/783-6007, ext. 39. The SAN is a nationwide partnership between vehicle clubs, enthusiasts, and members of the specialty auto parts industry who want to protect their hobby. Jason will explain how you can individually or through your car club put pressure on Congress as well as lawmakers in all 50 states to be positive about our hobby and pass bills like S.1955. Your efforts will ensure that your great-grandchildren can still enjoy the cars and trucks we all love so much today.-Doug Evans
Father-Son Win AwardsStock Car Racing contributor Norm Froscher has been honored with having two of his stories-one of which appeared on SCR's Web site-judged among the best in the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters annual writing competition.
Froscher's son Teague was also a double winner, making the pair one of the first two father-son teams to be honored in the competition, going back to prior to 1970.
The senior Froscher's story was "Rich Pratt is Headed North," a piece on Florida Late Model racer Pratt journeying to Indiana to run the Anderson 400 and other races. He also scored with a piece in his local paper on racers and the cost of fuel. Teague Froscher's stories were on Don "Big Daddy" Garlits and the programs drag racers use to stay in shape for racing. Both appeared on Competitionplus.com.
Joe and Patrick Jennings of Wisconsin and Tallahassee, Florida, respectively, were the other father-son winners. Their stories on the Web dealt with Butch Leitsinger at Mid-Ohio and Indy Car's Buddy Lazier.
Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory celebrates the announcement that his city will be the site of