Touring the NASCAR Hall of Fame

This past August, my family spent a three-day weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. Pretty much all the activities revolved around NASCAR. I’ve already written about our first three NASCAR stops in the Charlotte area — tours of Michael Waltrip Racing and Hendrick Motorsports and a Rusty Wallace Racing Experience Ride Along for the wife and me. Check those out if you haven’t already. We started our second day in Charlotte by heading downtown to check out the NASCAR Hall of Fame — our only stop actually in Charlotte.

The building is pretty impressive, with its entrance flanked by a large curved glass areas.

Once we purchased our tickets, we were ushered into the theater — with a huge widescreen. This theater as it turns out is also where they show races to Hall of Fame members, along with where they host the Q&A’s with drivers. I found out the latter after watching Kasey Kahne’s recent appearance, and recognizing the facility.

The theater features a good montage of the history and an good overview and introduction to NASCAR and the Hall of Fame.

After exiting the theater, the ground floor consists of a bunch of Hollywood-themed cars including the Days of Thunder Cole Trickle Chevy Lumina No. 46. Sitting next to this year’s Nationwide entry Kurt Busch drove that riffed on that movie car. There were also cars from Herbie Fully Loaded, Talladega Nights and a few other movie-themed vehicles.

NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Glory Road

From the Hollywood exhibit, the coolest visual is the curving slope ascent up to the next floor — with cars from the beginning of NASCAR to present on display for you to check out up closely.

Toward the top of the ascent, there are also several little slopes you can walk/climb to give you an idea of the banked tracks’ pitch on various NASCAR tracks.

After ascending to the second floor, this is where all the fun interactive stuff was including the iRacing simulators, a pit crew challenge, and a whole Lowe’s Racing setup — hauler pit box, etc. There’s also a glass balcony overlooking the ascent from the first floor.

The second floor though is definitely where you get the most bang for your buck at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s definitely where you’ll spend the majority of your time.

When you first ascend to the second floor, there was a recent exhibit addition — Austin Dillon’s winning Eldora trophy and truck from the recent foray of the Truck Series into dirt racing. Directly behind that, was the mocked up cars that housed the individual simulators for the iRacing. The simulators by the way, are an additional fee to the admission into the Hall of Fame, though some of the packages include a free simulator race. AAA members also get a free race in the simulator.

On the right side, there’s an exhibit about the standards in NASCAR with a No. 14 Tony Stewart car, along with showing you a bunch of parts and innards of the Sprint Cup cars.

Then beyond that, the entire Lowe’s sponsored bit, with a hauler you can walk in to get a sense of storage and how much travels with the team week to week. It felt oddly similar to some of the exhibits I’ve seen about the NASA program.

They also had a portion of a no. 48 car that was perfect for getting a photo op behind the wheel. People were lined up at this for a chance to get a picture behind the wheel of the classic blue and white Lowe’s Chevy. Our whole family took turns.

The real fun on the second floor though is the pit crew challenge where you and a few friends or family members can try to get your best time doing a two tire stop, complete with jacking up the car and getting a can of fuel into the car. My father-in-law, brother-in-law and myself had the record for our day — pretty cool.

They also have smaller interactive pieces for jacking up a car and for changing tires with an air gun. My son spent a long time here and could have done it for hours.

After checking out the second floor in its entirety, we got in line for the iRacing simulator. They have practice in the back rear corner of the second floor to get a feel for the simulator — a glorified video game. Sadly, when it actually was our turn to race, it ended up being an exercise in frustration.

The simulation is in fact that — a pretty accurate simulation — so much that I know Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has a setup in his home to run through for both practice and for fun.

Waiting in line, there’s actually a little introduction by Jr. and then a live person also explains it all and assigns car. With my four year old in my lap, we were assigned Carl Edwards’ No. 99. The shells look nice, and it’s funny to open the doors of the simulators like a traditional road car, rather than a Sprint Cup car.

After climbing into the cockpits and slamming the doors behind us, you’re in a little darkened cockpit. You fire up the cars and they’ve got the speakers cranked.

From the pace laps, two things were quite obvious:

1. A lot of people don’t have good control over their vehicles.
2. A lot of people didn’t know the basic rules of NASCAR.

My son and I ended up getting black flagged after a speeding penalty that it wouldn’t register us as successfully doing the pass through on.

With the right group of people, I can see it being fun to do, but with a bunch of miscellaneous people, it was pretty frustrating. I’d do it again, just to better the experience in my memory.

The third and final floor of the hall was a mixture of showing the safety evolution, and the history of the sport. I couldn’t full appreciate everything, as being a fairly new NASCAR fan, a lot of the events and history was lost on me.

But it was still interesting to see the progression of the sport from its beginnings on the Daytona Beach to present day.

The final stop of the Hall was a cruise through their gift shop. The die cast section was impressive, and unmatched from anything I’ve seen online or even track side.

I’d highly recommend any NASCAR fan make it a point to check out the Hall of Fame. It’s definitely though made accessible so that even a casual or non-fan can have fun and enjoy the facility.

I’ve been to both the baseball and football hall of fame facilities, and can definitely say the NASCAR Hall of Fame is the most enjoyable for the entire family, and has enough interactive pieces to make it worthy of a return trip every few years.

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