NASCAR Hall of Fame Opens in Charlotte
Junior Johnson has said numerous times that successes he enjoyed in auto racing took root by doing farm work in Wilkes and Yadkin counties. Johnson now can savor more fruits from those agricultural roots since NASCAR unveiled its Hall of Fame and the Farm Bureau Member was part of the inaugural class.
Johnson was joined by fellow inductee Richard Petty, NASCAR’s leadership and local and state government officials. They all turned out for May 2010’s official opening ceremony at the Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte. Race fans packed the plaza surrounding this magnificent piece of architecture to soak in racing’s continued transformation from a rural regional sport to the nationwide, technologically advanced circuit it is today.
When it was time for Johnson to address the crowd, he stood humbled by the awing structure of glass and steel full of memorabilia, race cars and interactive displays. Along with Johnson and Petty, NASCAR included Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., and Dale Earnhardt in its inaugural Hall of Fame Class.
“For me to go in with the first bunch, with Richard and the Frances and Earnhardt, was just unbelievable. It still hasn’t soaked in,” Johnson says. “When you’ve got that kind of company in the process of doing a Hall of Fame, you can’t explain it. It’s just the greatest thing to ever happen to me.”
Johnson had a hand in assembling much of the historical content that’s now included in the Hall of Fame. He was one of NASCAR’s most successful drivers, winning 50 races. As a team owner, he assembled cars for Cale Yarborough, who won three consecutive championships in the late 1970s, and then for Darrell Waltrip, who claimed three more titles in the 1980s.
The Hall of Fame includes plenty of notable artifacts highlighting the sport’s greatest performers such as Petty, Johnson, Earnhardt, Yarborough and Waltrip. It also includes plenty of tributes to NASCAR’s recent successes, such as drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
“I want to tell our fans, you have the best Hall of Fame in the world right here in Charlotte,” says current NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.
Hall of Fame visitors can experience firsthand what it’s like to be behind the wheel or in the pits with simulators that use the latest technology. They also can absorb NASCAR’s 60 years of history through one-of-a-kind artifacts and photographs.
Petty was just as excited about taking in all that the Hall of Fame has to offer as anyone.
“Just to see NASCAR grow to where it is today, to see it finally have a Hall of Fame, and then to be inducted into it on top of that,” Petty says, “of all the thousands and thousands of people it took to get NASCAR where it is today, I’m so glad to have been along for the ride.”