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Charlotte, NASCAR fans eagerly await Hall of Fame opening

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - The month of May will be unlike any other for the City of Charlotte, as Tuesday's much-anticipated opening of NASCAR's new Hall of Fame kicks off a long list of race activities in the Queen City.

Since its groundbreaking on January 25, 2007, the NASCAR HoF, located in the city's downtown area, has evolved into a 150,000-square-foot entertainment center honoring the history and heritage of the sport.

NASCAR announced in March 2006 that Charlotte was awarded the site of its Hall of Fame, with the city topping Atlanta, Kansas City, Daytona Beach, FL and Richmond, VA in its proposals to construct and fund the HoF.

It makes sense for Charlotte to have the hall, since it is NASCAR's "hub city," and since most NASCAR teams have their race shops located in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

A NASCAR hall was long overdue, since other major professional sports in this country had landmarks constructed many decades ago to house memorial items and honor illustrious athletes in their respective sports.

Jeff Gordon is a four-time NASCAR champion.
"I think it's huge," said Jeff Gordon, a four-time NASCAR champion. "I think it really signifies where our sport is today and its significance and the role that it plays in major sports. I think that's what the NASCAR building as well as the Hall of Fame being in Charlotte, N.C., really means."

Among some of the features in the $195 million NASCAR HoF include a 64-foot- wide curved projection screen inside a 275-seat theater and several floors of interactive exhibits and artifacts, including dozens of historic cars.

"One of our objectives was to have something for everybody, whether you are a diehard NASCAR fan or whether you have never been around the sport, whether or not you're five years old or 85 years old...if you want to see the history or do something hands on," NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley said. "The exhibit design team did a fabulous job, and our team acquiring the artifacts and NASCAR's team helping us with us with all the props and the media videos are absolutely incredible."

The NASCAR HoF will hold its first induction ceremony on May 23. NASCAR founder Bill France and his son, Bill France Jr., a former NASCAR chairman, as well as drivers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson make up the 2010 inaugural induction class.

"It feels good," seven-time NASCAR champion Petty said of his induction. "I felt like this was a race...you feel good finishing in the front five."

The five-member induction class for 2011 will be revealed later this year.

May traditionally has been a busy month for racing in Charlotte, with the running of the all-star race followed by the longest event of the season -- 600 miles -- at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This time, Charlotteans and NASCAR fans have a lot more to roar about.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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