Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Revved Up for the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Now that Brett and Heather are New Yorkers, we figure it's high time to start acting like Yankees. Who knew they were so much like Southerners?  Turns out, they might as well be whistling Dixie and callin' the Hogs.

BG & Tony's car
NASCAR and New York sound like they mix about as well as Cubs and Cardinals fans do.  But we were shocked to learn that Yankees think rubbin' is racin' too!  In a 2010 Nielson Media report, New York City ranked as the second largest market for broadcasts of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Races, only behind Atlanta.  Forget Godzilla, the Joker or the Blob taking on New York City...this battle is between Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Choo.  There's a huge push going on by investors to build a track in NYC, so looks like there may be a chance they'll get to indulge their need for speed in person.
Heather & Mark
Fortunately, we have a little bit of history in our quest to be more like our Northern NASCAR counterparts.  Back in our T.V. reporting days, Brett interviewed Tony Stewart and Mark Martin at an event at Mark's Ford dealership in Batesville, Arkansas.  Heather got to lob out the tough questions to Mark, Jack Roush and Matt Kenseth. Most folks don't know that Heather was also in Pit Row at the 2001 Daytona 500 when Dale Earnhardt died.

NASCAR Hall of Fame
While we were in Charlotte visiting Brett's parents for the holidays, we knew we could expand our NASCAR education with a pit stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  The marketing department gave us the green flag to go (thanks y'all!) and we were off!  Opened just in May, the HoF is brand spank'n new and huge!  Housed inside a 390,000 square foot building, the Hall sort of looks like the side of a giant tire from the street.  Can you see the tread?
Glory, Glory NASCAR!
We got up to speed with our NASCAR history on Glory Road.  One of the first exhibits you'll see at the HoF, it's a amazing collection of 18 historic cars set on a strip of track.  Here's what makes it worth taking a black flag: The cars show how automobiles used to race in NASCAR have developed and advanced over the years and the track mimics the various degrees of banking found in NASCAR.  

Glory Road starts out flat,  much like the beaches the cars raced on, and ends at an impressive 33 degree incline, just like 'dega baby!  The exhibit also features information on 46 historic and current tracks, so Brett had a lot to absorb!

In the middle of traffic of Glory Road!
Petty's property
Just around the curve from Glory Road is the actual Hall of Fame. The Inaugural Class of 2010 honored Bill France Jr., Bill France Sr.,Junior Johnson,Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Each person has tons of memorabilia in the Hall and there are movie screens above each inductee that show highlights of their careers.

We learned that every year the Hall selects five inductees chosen from a list of 25 candidates.  To be eligible you must be a former driver that has competed for 10 years in NASCAR and be retired from racing at least three years, or a non-driver that has worked at least a decade in the industry. The 2011 Inductees are slated to be David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore.

NASCAR outfits!
The second floor of the Hall of Fame is where you can let your kids and husband run loose.  Really.  Nearly all of it is interactive, so it's a great place to get a hand's on experience.  We got an up close look at how NASCAR operates during a race week...from getting cars ready to race to even walking through a car hauler (haven't you always wanted to know what the inside of one of those looked like?)  

Fill 'er up too please!
Brett got a chance to practice his tire changing skills when he became a "One-Man" pit crew.  He could jack up a car, change a tire, refuel and send his driver off is about 29 seconds!  Somehow he's never that fast in real life?  Heather had the good sense not to participate in this exhibit.  She believes that if people know you can do it on your own, then they'll expect it all the time.

Rubbin' is racin' Brett!
We got a huge kick out of honing our broadcasting skills while 'calling' a NASCAR race!  The Hall of Fame has several displays showcasing media in the sport and of course, we found the interactive one.  By putting on headsets and watching a recorded race, suddenly we were experts at auto racing...and between the yells of "Shake 'n Bake" and "Hit the Pace Care, Cole!" we thought we were super impressive. Yup, folks. We are those adults.  

Once Heather was able to drag Brett away from all the NASCAR toys exhibits, they made their way up to the third floor.  This is where many of the artifacts and history of NASCAR's 60+ years is housed.  Tons of great stuff spanning the years of the sport!  
NASCAR in the 70's
Tony Stewart's tuxedo from 2003 Sprint Cup Awards Banquet
2008 Daytona 500 Trophy, won by Ryan Newman
Start/Finish of the Bristol Motor Speedway
The Tide Ride
It takes around three hours to check out everything in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and if you're anything like Brett and insist on reading every word printed, plan on a little longer.  Luckily, they're open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., so you can spend all day there. 

Tickets are $12.95 for kids 5-12 and run $19.95 for adults and they offer discounts for seniors and military personal.  The Hall also has driving simulator experiences and tickets run $5.  You can cash in on unlimited admission through membership's a good deal if you think you might go more than once.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is just under 800 miles (that's like driving a Daytona 500 and part of the Coke Zero 400) from our house in New York, but every mile was worth our new found education in racing!  We learned a lot more about racing than we thought we would and took the checkered flag in "New Yorker" NASCAR!

*Special thanks to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for generously providing admission.  Thanks y'all...we loved it!  

Photography image credits:  Heather Flanigan, Brett Garrett.  Graphic image credit:  NASCAR Hall of Fame.