When certain family members visit me in Charlotte, I can be assured we will visit two places:
(1) Ikea (‘Yes, it is amazing that someone can live in a 400/sqft apartment.’)
(2) NASCAR Hall of Fame
I am not a NASCAR super-fan. My father, however, loves NASCAR. I took him to the Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway a few months ago. He loves the cars and the science of racing. I loved that we got to go into the Pits and the Speedway Club for drinks like VIP’s. I love being VIP.
At the NASCAR Hall of Fame (HOF) everyone feels like a VIP even if you don’t often engage with the sport. Here are 5 reasons you should check out the HOF even if you aren’t a fan.
These aren’t driving games. This is like being in a real race car.
Eight cars house 15 driving simulators. I repeat: This is NOT a video game! The simulated tracks change with the NASCAR season. NASCAR drivers have actually come to the HOF to practice in these simulators. Cost $5 or get unlimited rides with certain ticket packages.
(2) Revolving Exhibits
There is no ‘permanent collection’ at the HOF. Kevin Schlesier, Director of Exhibits at the HOF, points out that every artifact in the HOF is handled with the exact same care as those in a fine art museum.
- 90%+ of the artifacts in the museum are on loan.
- HOF never pays for a piece.
- Over 1,000 artifacts to view.
- HOF is constantly adding new artifacts.
The current exhibit in the Grand Hall is ‘From the Garage – Street Rides of NASCAR Stars’. If you even remotely dig cool cars it’s worth checking out.
My favorite is the street legal version of Dale Jr’s Corvette that he once raced.
There are some seriously cool wheels in the exhibit including a London Taxi, a Rat Car, and even a motorcycle. Check it out.
You don’t have to be a NASCAR history buff to enjoy the history housed in the HOF. I was lucky enough to get a guided tour with Buz McKim the Historian of the HOF.
Buz knows more about the history of NASCAR than I’ll ever be able to write, but his favorite story about NASCAR involves a monkey named Jocko Floko.
“A driver named Tim Flock once had a monkey as a co-pilot. True story. The monkey, Jocko Floko, rode in the car with Flock for about 5 races in a specially designed seat. During one race, Jocko got scared and jumped on Flock’s head while he was racing. Flock had to pit (he called it his Monkey Stop) to let Jocko out of the car and it caused him to finish 3rd costing him $600.00 in prize money. That was a lot of money in 1953!”
Even if you don’t know anything about NASCAR – you can find little gems like this:
Here is a picture of the first NASCAR sanctioned race with its winner Red Byron (who also happened to name NASCAR – NASCAR) and his trophy.
Then turn around and there is that actual trophy:
Now that’s cool!
(4) Kid Zone
Got kids? Need an air conditioned place where they can play with cool stuff? Step on into the Kid Zone. There are lots of fun kid-friendly activities. Just let them explore. You can sit back and watch.
(5) Hall of Honor
A reverent honor roll of NASCAR’s elite is housed in a circular room (so no one gets put in a corner). The nomination process for the honorees rivals that of the Oscars. Honorees change every year but their main totem (think: honor plaque) is set to remain in the hall indefinitely.
When you enter the Hall of Honor you feel how important these honorees are to the sport, even if you have no idea who they are.
The Hall of Fame also offers:
- Viewing Parties. See a race on a huge movie screen with all the perks of being there for only $10.
- Event rental space, birthday parties, and private tours of some of the local race team’s garages.
Why the HOF is special to Charlotte:
Charlotte beat out several cities including Atlanta and Daytona Beach as the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The HOF is the crème de la crème of burning rubber. It is very much a living, breathing, evolving museum that represents the history of the sport.
NASCAR in NC by the numbers:
Connect with NASCAR Hall of Fame
They wouldn’t let me sit in any cars. If they let you while you are there, tweet me a picture. I’ll be jealous.
Photo credit: Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and Heidi Casey Photography.