The NASCAR Hall of Fame that officials in Kansas wishfully pursued opened today in Charlotte. Racing fans gathered outside the $200 million attraction under the cover of darkness in order to be the first to gawk at Goody's Headache Power decals and other memorabilia.
In 2005, former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and then Unified Government Mayor Carol Marinovich visited NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida, in an effort to convince the series to locate its hall of fame next to the Kansas Speedway.
The Kansas City Star at one time declared Kansas City, Kansas, to be a "front-runner" in the competition for the hall of fame. KCK was a front-runner only in the sense that NASCAR officials listened politely to a spiel. The series was bound to choose a site in the southeastern U.S., stock-car racing's place of origin.
Charlotte was an obvious choice. Racing legend Junior Johnson, one of the five initial inductees, honed his driving skills running moonshine in western North Carolina. Most NASCAR teams are based in and around Charlotte, the site of a Memorial Day weekend race.
Charlotte is also within a day's drive of a substantial chunk of the U.S. population, another reason NASCAR was unlikely to choose a site west of the Mississippi.
According to a story in The Washington Post, elites in Charlotte once looked down at NASCAR as a redneck sport. Today the city embraces its racing heritage and the economic impact it produces. "It's funny how money changes the way the wealthy perceive an industry," a veteran promoter told the paper.
Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and his son Bill France Jr. will be inducted into the hall along with Johnson.