NASCAR Hall of Fame: On Track for Thrills
Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Fireball Roberts, Bill France, Sr.: NASCAR.
They’re all enshrined at the 150,000-square-foot NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., –– center city of one of America’s favorite sports.
NASCAR’s founder, Bill France, Sr., would have been 105 years old this past Sept. 9, and he would have been proud that this automotive landmark honors him, those who followed him to extend the heritage of NASCAR and the great cars we have all thrilled to.
For race and nonrace fans, the interactive, entertainment attraction includes more than 1,000 artifacts, 50 interactive exhibits and an always changing collection of historic racecars and other cars connected with NASCAR. Opened May 11, 2010, the site is owned by the city of Charlotte, licensed by NASCAR and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Outside the facility is the Ceremonial Plaza where the annual Hall of Fame induction is held. Inside is the actual Hall of Honor. Past inductees also include Bill France, Jr., Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett.
Inside too, is the 278-person High Octane Theater; the Great Hall, featuring rotating exhibits and “Fan Billboard” with large screens, lively graphics and interactive video content; Racing Simulators, giving visitors a driver’s experience and perspective on race day; Heritage Speedway, with galleries telling the story of more than 60 years of NASCAR history; an Honoring Our Legacy Theater, a memorial theater celebrating deceased racing heroes; a restaurant and retail outlet; and more.
The five-plus-acre site also includes a privately-developed, 19-story office tower and 102,000-square-foot expansion to the Charlotte Convention Center highlighted by a 40,000-square-foot ballroom.
“At any given time there are at least two dozen amazing historic cars on site,” says Buz McKim, historian for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “The Hall does not have its own collection of cars, but we borrow vehicles from private owners for a term of six months to three years. The cars are then given back to the lenders.”
The signature car exhibit is Glory Road 2.0, with a banked ramp leading to the second floor of the facility showcasing historic cars through six generations of NASCAR, and highlighting 40 current and historic tracks. Fans can walk up and experience racetrack inclines at 14 and 33 degrees. The “2.0” indicates that this is the current updated version of the feature.
“Right now, we have 18 cars in our Glory Road display, five cars in the Hall of Honor honoring the five current Hall of Fame inductees, seven cars in our Great Hall and an additional car in the Race Week area,” McKim says.
He notes that, in addition to NASCAR race cars, a new display salutes NASCAR and the music industry, with many not-for-competition vehicles but important to NASCAR history.
Here are a few of these famous cars from all six generations on Glory Road:
1952 Hudson Hornet (Gen 1: 1949−Mid-1966) –– Following his famous 1951 victory at Daytona, Marshall Teague built and drove No. 6, sponsored by Hudson Motor Company, the first manufacturer to support a NASCAR race team. Teague signed a second driver to his team: 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Herb Thomas.
Teague won at Daytona Beach in 1952, and Teague and Thomas won 10 races throughout the season. The car’s “step-down” frame design lowered the center of gravity for handling, and the ‘Twin H Power’ carburetion system used two carburetors to power its six-cylinder flathead.
These cars dominated NASCAR in the early 1950s, winning three consecutive championships: 1951, 1952 and 1953.
1969 Ford Torino Cobra Talladega (Gen 2: Mid−1966-1980) –– No. 17 was driven by David Pearson, a 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, to his third NASCAR championship. Named for the famed superspeedway that opened that year, the Cobra Talladega featured a sloped nose, smooth rear deck, rolled rocker panels and a specially mounted front bumper that helped the car slice through the air.
During the 1969 season, Pearson won 11 times, with 42 top-five finishes. That year the “Aerowars,” between Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation began for the most aerodynamic car for NASCAR. Ford won the championship in 1969, Chrysler in 1970.
1990 Chevrolet Lumina (Gen 3: 1981−1991) –– The 2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, Dale Earnhardt, drove the No. 3 Goodwrench car to his fourth NASCAR championship. His Lumina featured a smaller frontal area than previous models, helping it cut the air better than the previous, although very successful, Monte Carlos of Generations 2 and 3.
Luminas also had V-8s and rear wheel drive, while showroom versions had V-6s and front wheel drive, so this was the first race car that differed from the street versions. In 1990, roof strips were added to NASCAR race cars, including the Lumina, to help keep them on the ground in the event of a spin.
In that great year of 1990, “The Intimidator” won nine times and four poles, and from 1981 to 1991, Earnhardt was the most successful driver with four championships and 46 wins. For his great career, he had seven championships, tying with another legend, Richard Petty, for the most NASCAR titles.
2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T (Gen 4: 1992−Mid-2007) –– No. 9 was in the command of Bill Elliott, as Chrysler Corporation returned to NASCAR competition after nearly 25 years.
Extensively tested in the wind tunnel for aerodynamic efficiency, the Intrepid set the pole speed at 183.565 mph, and the first win in a points-paying race came at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November 2001. During the 2001 season, Elliott won once and notched two poles, four top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes. Beginning in 1976, Elliott has captured 44 wins and 55 poles in his more than 700 NASCAR premier series starts.
2011 Chevrolet Impala (Gen 5: Mid-2007−2012) –– Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 won at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
For the 267-lap Ford 400, he battled Carl Edwards for the season title, and Stewart beat Edwards to the line by 1.3 seconds for his 44th career victory. The two men were tied with 2,403 points for the season, the first time this had happened in NASCAR, but Stewart was awarded his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with his five wins for 2011 to Edwards one.
2013 Toyota Camry (Gen 6: 2013−Now) –– In his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing, Matt Kenseth drove No. 20 Dollar General, earning most wins with seven, including 12 top-five finishes.
Gen-6 cars had stock-appearing bodies to put “stock” back in stock car. The body panels came from the manufacturer as they did in past generations, but the hood and rear deck lid were made from carbon fiber for strength and a lighter weight.
Extra interior bars added to safety, with one bar running from the floor to the top of the windshield and another along the top of the windshield, helping support the roll cage and frame.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily. For more info, see www.nascarhall.com/explore/glory-road.
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