Since 2010, when the NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its doors in Charlotte, it has enticed fans of the sport from around the world to view classic race cars, celebrate drivers and get an inside look at the mechanics behind the wheel.
In a recent visit to the Queen City, I had the chance to visit the 150,000 square-foot facility and explore the world of Quicken Loans-sponsored driver Ryan Newman and his fellow racing stars.
At first impression, the multi-level building is architecturally different from the towering skyscrapers in the city, with a street-visible circular track in the Great Hall showcasing the evolution of race car designs. I noticed quickly that the facility is intentionally interactive, modern and fan-focused. “This is our sport. This is our house,” is a mantra that’s emblazoned on the walls, almost like a rally cry for the sport’s biggest enthusiasts to feel welcomed immediately. Social media engagement is encouraged, with special stations suggesting great angles for selfies so you can share your experience on your favorite social platforms.
When you enter, you’re given a Hard Card, which is a personalized pass to behind-the-scenes information about the racing industry. Visitors can register their card, pick a driver to be their digital host and compete against other guests in eight challenges throughout the facility. The stations allow guests to swipe their card, learn information, test their knowledge and even conduct a pit challenge, which I passed! In the simulation, a giant clock gauged how fast I could change a tire and add more fuel – talk about pressure – I dropped my purse, donned some gloves and got to work!
The High Octane Theater kicks things off with a film that starts with the beginning of NASCAR in Daytona and walks visitors through years of change to present day. Next, visitors get a more physical sense of this history in the Great Hall, where the Glory Road exhibit features 18 cars reflecting six generations of design, starting in 1949 through today. There was also a display of vehicles that NASCAR drivers own in their personal collections. One-of-a-kind automobiles and vintage cars like Barney Fife’s Mayberry Police car from the Andy Griffith Show rounded out the Great Hall offerings during my visit.
The Hall of Honor has more of a museum feel – it’s a circular room where inductees are celebrated on the walls, on screen, in showcases of memorabilia and on platforms with cars. The Race Week area is a more hands-on experience with the aforementioned pit crew challenge, an inside look at a race car transporter that goes from race to race, and even a virtual demonstration where you can race with other guests.
Next, you’ll get up close and personal with a couple hundred artifacts from the sport’s storied past. Driving uniforms, helmets, trophies, banners and more fill showcases along with memorabilia from famous races and career-ending moments.
Visitors can refuel by grabbing a bite to eat at the Pit Stop Café or Buffalo Wild Wings. Take a keepsake home by purchasing souvenir photos (of course I did), or exclusive and autographed memorabilia in the Gear Shop. I recommend bringing a friend or two and taking public transportation – you might be inspired to have a bit of a lead foot when you leave!
Tickets to the NASCAR Hall of Fame are available online for purchase or in person at the box office. Stay in the know about new exhibits, special events and updates via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Have you visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame? What were some of your favorite exhibits or experiences? Let us know in the comments!
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