Keep Turning Left at NASCAR Hall of Fame

Eighteen historic racecars are displayed on a banked track in the Glory Road exhibit. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – You might not know the first thing about stock car racing other than the advice to novice drivers – “go as fast as you can and keep turning left” – but a single pit stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte will cure that.

For the millions of fans of the Southern-bred sport, this is a sacred ground. For the uninitiated, it offers clues to why it is so popular and now so widespread across the nation. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is simultaneously entertaining and educational, and it’s in a prime location in downtown Charlotte across the street from the city’s convention center.

It has special appeal every winter for the most dedicated race fans. It fills in the gap after the current year’s races end and the excitement cranks up again in February when the flag drops for the Daytona 500. The $160 million facility has plenty to distract them.

It’s more difficult than you think racing to change a tire. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The 278-seat High Octane Theater offers an immersive experience. Its 12-minute movie tells NASCAR’s story from its start on the beach and asphalt of Daytona. There’s also the backstory of racing’s spirit that grew from certain drivers’ skills running moonshine from the hills of Appalachia to thirsty city folks. 

Here’s a suggestion: Do an online search for “Robert Mitchum and Thunder Road” if you want more background on that bit of history, which explains a banner outside the hall that reads, “In the beginning, there wasn’t just a need for speed, there was a need for shine.” The lyrics of “The Ballad of Thunder Road” resonate particularly strongly with East Tennesseans with a reference to “blazin’ right through Knoxville” toward the moonshiner’s encounter with fate “right outside of Bearden.”

The $160 million NASCAR Hall of Fame is in a strategic location in downtown Charlotte. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Glory Road, the museum’s huge exhibit of 18 historic racecars on a banked track, is another major attraction. Learn about six generations of NASCAR premium series cars, starting with the 1952 No. 2 Hudson Hornet driven by Marshall Teague. Hudson Motor Company was the first manufacturer in NASCAR history to support a racing team. 

Also, read about Wendell Scott, a black pioneer and champion driver in the 1960s. His 1963 win in the 1963 NASCAR premier series event was the first win for a black driver in a NASCAR touring series event.

Moonshine and stock car racing are inextricably tied together in the history of the sport. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Other exhibitions include opportunities to zoom around a track (OK, you’re in racing simulators, but the experience is excitingly real), participate in a pit stop relay race and learn the intricacies of a week’s buildup to a race.

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