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To The Creative Loafing NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum

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Since the clueless Florida legislature decided not to support Daytona's bid to host the official NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum, only three cities are realistically still in the running: Charlotte, Atlanta and Kansas City. Of course, South Carolina legislators could have made a valid case for their state since it's the home of the first stock car superspeedway and the first stock car racing museum, both in Darlington, but they've been too busy making fools of themselves as usual, having a big time joking about battered women. With Daytona out of the picture, Charlotte has the strongest claim on the hall of fame in terms of history. Some of the sport's early heroes learned all about souping up cars during former careers as bootleg whiskey runners in the NC mountains; and nearby Mooresville is home to many NASCAR race teams and businesses, as well as the NASCAR Technical Institute.

Atlanta has a claim on the attraction because, well, umm, there's a lot of people and tourists in Atlanta.

Kansas City wants the hall of fame and museum because. . . .let's see. . . .OK, other than bringing in tourist money, there's no real reason to put it in Kansas City.

Wherever it winds up, the museum will have plenty of history to exhibit and celebrate. NASCAR's roots go back a long way. After the end of World War II, Detroit began producing fast, powerful cars and many young drivers started racing them in competitions, some of them actually legal. A slew of automobile racing groups arose in an effort to organize and profit from the new sport, and in 1948, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) was founded in Daytona by the merger of several of these groups, under the leadership of entrepreneur Bill France, Sr., who had begun his race promotion career by running cars up and down the beach.

After a couple of rough years, the sport started taking off with the building of the Darlington Speedway, which hosted the first 500-mile stock car race. In those days, the drivers were more often than not good ol' Southern wildasses, many of whom struggled to distribute their time among cars, women and booze. Curtis Turner, for example, was a hard-living, hard-charging driver and drinker who was as well known for his partying as for his success on the track. And tales of Tim Flock's eccentric ways are legendary, including taking along a monkey during races. The early years were fueled by an almost reckless love of the sport and a lot of downhome ingenuity. But as it grew, the sport became more sophisticated.

By 1959, the Daytona International Speedway was constructed (which beat the hell out of racing on the beach at low tide), and in 1960 television got in on stock car racing when CBS reported from Daytona. The money got better, the cars got faster and disaster followed along. In 1964, three top drivers — Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, and Jimmy Pardue — were killed in racing accidents. In the aftermath, NASCAR began a new, overdue emphasis on safety with the introduction of the roll cage.

Stock car racing has become a complex, technologically sophisticated sport that, in recent years, has spread its influence into new areas and gained millions of new fans.

It's that nationwide following that makes a NASCAR Hall of Fame viable economically. If Creative Loafing were sponsoring the place, it would look something like this.

THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM GUIDE TO EXHIBITS

1. Dem Golden Bones

A specially commissioned sculpture by world-famous artist Claes Oldenburg, this interwoven pile of solid gold chicken bones is NASCAR's own tribute to generations of stock car racing fans who've chomped on untold millions of pieces of fried chicken while attending their favorite sport.

2. Junior Johnson Shrine

The rags-to-riches legend of Junior Johnson is an inspiring one for children, so the museum has fashioned a kid-friendly shrine to NASCAR's most famous former 'shine-runner — Junior's Bootleg Gumballs, with a unique dispenser in the shape of an authentic corn likker still!

3. Hail to the King

NASCAR pays homage to the King, Richard Petty, with a stunning replica of his famous headgear (actual size). Plans are in the works for the city to replace the crown in the Charlotte logo with Petty's own "country crown."

4. The Jeff Gordon Whine and Cheese Café

When you want a meal, a snack, or just something cool to drink, you'll feel right at home here. Think Gordon's a California-Yankee interloper? You can whine about it here. Think Gordon's a great star who's under-appreciated because he's not Southern? Come on in and whine to your heart's content. The café's weekend special is always Southern-fried crow.

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