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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
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Smoke pours from the Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, and a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Bush’s Grillin Beans Charcoal  Chevrolet SS, races to a seventh place finish Sunday, August 2, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a sixth place finish Sunday, August 2, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Microsoft Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Sunday, August 2, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet SS, races to a third place finish Sunday, August 2, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Suave Men Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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