Thursday, July 1, 2010
Visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame
I will tell you a bit about our experience. Now, the weeks before we went to Charlotte, Cal started watching some NASCAR events on TV and I looked in. I memorized a few drivers names like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Jimmie Johnson just so I was a little in the “know”.
We did not attend the ceremonies the morning of opening day in an attempt to miss the crowds. Not sure how crowded it actually was that morning because when we arrived about two there was only a modest crowd which thinned down later in the afternoon. For us, it made the visit more enjoyable as we do not like crowds. We only saw 1 or 2 drivers and I cannot remember who – sorry fans!
The building in downtown Charlotte is gorgeous! Lots of glass in front. A square in front out to the street with a complex to the right with a restaurant that has suitable NASCAR themed décor. It’s a Buffalo Wild Wings chain. I imagine it’s good for folks to know there is predictable food. We had a good lunch there after our visit to the building. The building itself does have a café.
I used my I-phone for the photos you can see on the LO below. I wish I’d brought my Canon but in situations where I’m not sure of how easy it will be to rest I avoid the heavy stuff.
We walked right in to the HOF on arrival and saw lots of happy faces. We were directed to get our photo taken and have a commemorative pic of us against a raceway background of a stand full of cheering fans that we picked up at the end of our visit. Next, down to the theater level where we got our little card (looked like a credit card) registered in a machine that we typed in our i.d. We chose a NASCAR driver as our tour host. The fun part of this is that when you put your card in the slot at the interactive exhibits your host will discuss what you are seeing or what you can do at the site. Makes it personal in a funny computerized way.
We then went into the theater with a large curved screen where we saw an inspiring brief film on the origins of NASCAR. From there we went back up to the car exhibit area. I believe it is referred to as “Glory Road”. That is really cool! The cars are arranged by chronological age around the periphery of the museum. They sit on an angled track that increases acutely to mimic the tilt of the various raceways. As you reach the specific angle of a specific raceway there is a small exhibit with a brief history of the track, and a sample piece of the actual track surface. The cars chosen for this display are of historic significance. It’s fun to see the change in design over the years and see the advertising logos on the cars and some interior features.
As we made our way up the ramp we reached a floor where large white wooden rocking chairs are thoughtfully placed. I’m not sure of the significance of the chairs. I did see that the top 25 eligible owners have guaranteed starting positions each week where the 25th spot is known as the “rocking chair” so that may be the reference.
The second floor features a lot of interactive exhibits with video and touch screens. There are race simulators which are popular. One station is a video screen pit stop where you try to referee any errors. I tried this one, I’m NOT good at spotting problems. An important part of this floor is a round hall with that features Hall of Fame inductees. There was a continuous loop film about the featured first five running on a screen at the top of the rooms wall. Cars are set around the room to symbolize the inductees. At the time of our visit, those remained under wraps, since the HOF induction ceremony had not yet happened.
The third floor covers NASCAR's past. The historical exhibits are displayed here. I liked this part best. There are trophies, uniforms, race paraphernalia like timers, items like a box of cereal with a driver on it, and personal items that belonged to the historic figures of NASCAR or their families. One of my favorite parts of this was reading the letters, especially the ones that put the drivers on notice for their breaking the rules. Many exhibits detail how cars were checked for cheating and showed the various ways that cheating has been done. Very suitable that Junior Johnson’s homemade still features so perfectly in this environment.
When we returned to the first floor we visited the gift shop which had an impressive array of merchandise. I got a cute commemorative t-shirt. I’m sure fans would find just the right memento there.
Opening day had a lot of events to keep folk entertained. There were commemorative items, folks on stilts doing balloon tricks and some great bands. I enjoyed seeing Bomshel. Alas, the sound system did not work well for them. The crowd at that point was small so we got in close. However, we did not stay for the entire show, as the sound quality was lacking.
All in all, I, as a non-NASCAR fan was delighted with the museum and would encourage anyone, NASCAR fan or no, to visit when in Charlotte, NC.