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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
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, talks with the media following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished in 5th position and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS finished in 12th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Newman, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Kahne, who was also in the Chase, did not advance. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finished in 26th position and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet SS finished in 13th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Gordon, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished in 9th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Harvick, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Cessna Chevrolet, spin out into the grass during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The crew of Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Crew members work on the Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, in the garage area during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, leads the field near the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, races Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates with an American flag after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Terry Labonte. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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