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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
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place racing with Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS who finishes in eleventh place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 TaxAct Chevrolet SS, finishes in 7th place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in sixth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Ortho Ford, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Crew members work on the #25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, driven by Chase Elliott, after being involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, poses in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident in front of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, as Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, drives away during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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