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NASCAR Hall of Fame opens in Charlotte

Hall of Fame Opens With a Flourish
Appropriately, it was the unmistakable roar of unmuffled stock car engines that signaled the opening Tuesday of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a $195-million project that will bring race fans and their wallets to Charlotte.

After the politicians, the speeches, the thank-yous, the prayer and the national anthem, the two living members of the Hall's inaugural class of five inductees arrived on the plaza outside the 150,000-square-foot facility driving vintage cars—Petty his legendary 1974 Dodge Charger and Johnson a 1940 Ford with signage touting his new business—legal moonshine.

Petty pulled up first, just as a light rain began to intensify.

"We got in under the flag," quipped the King, a seven-time Sprint Cup champion and the winner of a record 200 events. "I got another one. I won another race."

Petty and Johnson will be inducted into the Hall on May 23, along with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.; his son and successor as NASCAR chairman and CEO, Bill France Jr.; and seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

To Petty, the car he drove to the opening ceremony was emblematic of the progress NASCAR racing has made over the past few decades.

"I get in the car and I look around—and that's what I think the fans need to look at—how simple that car was inside," Petty said of the '74 Charger. "And then look at the cars and all the fancy things and safety features that are in the cars today.

"You probably don't pay that much attention until you look at one that didn't have any safety features. Then you realize what NASCAR's been able to accomplish over the years in making things safer."

If the Petty-blue Dodge is a microcosm of NASCAR history, the Hall itself is replete with it. Far more than merely a car museum, the Hall offers visitors a high-tech, interactive experience.

"Today, I was a fan," said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, who served as honorary chair of the project. "I'm not even a car owner today. I'm a fan looking at some of the history. To walk through here and see cars that I watched race or drivers that I idolized, it's just special to me as a fan.




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HALL OF FAME OPENING DAY
Jeb Burton, driver of the #13 Estes-Carolina Nut Company Toyota, and John Hunter Nemechek, driver of the #8 SWM Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, and Timothy Peters, driver of the #17 Red Horse Racing Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(L-R) Sybil Scott, Janis Davis, Wendell Scott, Cheryl Ashley and Frank Scott pose with Darrell Wallace, Jr. (3rdL), driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, poses with the Keystone Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, sits in his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS qualified for 33rd position after hitting the wall Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS qualified for 9th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Newman, who is in the Chase, is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for 13th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Gordon, who is in the Chase, is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS qualified for 16th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Mcdonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, climbs into his car prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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