“You’ll be a NASCAR-lovin’ redneck before you know it.” This is what I heard from a few friends when I was living in Pensacola, FL. in 2006 as the news of my move to Charlotte, NC started getting around. Someone even gave me a NASCAR/redneck influenced t-shirt. Given some 90% of NASCAR teams are headquartered in and around Charlotte, I guess people assumed the dense NASCAR presence here would convert me to fandom. I’ve been in Charlotte since March 2007 and do not consider myself a NASCAR fan, but I have had two NASCAR experiences this year, and I have to say I now have a greater sense of appreciation for the sport.
In May I had the special opportunity to attend the Coca Cola 600. I say special because I was lucky enough to experience the race as a guest in the Bank of America hospitality suite. This is a temporary structure erected on the infield of the track right behind the first two spots on pit row. The structure is two levels; the lower level is enclosed and air conditioned; the upper level is a platform with seating and a great view of most of the track. The day also included a tour of the garages and pit row. For me, this was the perfect way to experience a race.
Just two months later, my son and I visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte. I was not by any means overwhelmed with the experience, but I will say it’s done well. The facility is modern, spacious, and you don’t have to do a lot of walking to get through everything. There’s a 12 minute film covering the history of the sport, a lot of hands on attractions, quite a bit of memorabilia, and of course, a lot of cars. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is struggling financially. The Charlotte community in general is really pulling for it to be a success. If this were some other attraction, like an aquarium perhaps, the community would probably be more critical. But Charlotte is proud of and quick to defend its NASCAR heritage. And for that reason, I’m optimistic the Hall of Fame will find a way to be successful.
I can’t see myself watching an entire NASCAR race on television any time soon, and I have no plans to attend the Bank of America 500 in October. But I’d probably go to the Hall of Fame again. Maybe next time I’ll wear the t-shirt.