NASCAR honors its more exciting past

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“Congrats on the cool new additions to the house! Now, ahem, about your delinquent mortgage ...” That must be what it felt like yesterday for the honchos of NASCAR and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which manages the NASCAR Hall of Fame. On the day when the Hall announced its next five inductees — drivers David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Lee Petty and car owner Bud Moore — the Hall also revealed that, due to declining attendance, it may have to cut up to $3 million in annual expenses.

It must be a particularly bitter irony for this year’s NASCAR inductees to see their life’s work finally, officially recognized at a time when public interest in NASCAR has been on the wane. And then, double the irony since one of the reasons for the drop in public interest is that races today are generally snoozefests, lacking the hell-for-leather, full-bore style of racing that helped popularize the sport — a racing style exemplified by this year’s honored drivers.

The Hall says its attendance lag (if drawing less than 50 percent of projected crowds is a mere “lag”) is due to the slower-than-anticipated economic recovery, and the fact that “attendance penetration from the local market is less than anticipated,” i.e., Charlotteans are staying away in droves. A couple of things: 1.) How uninformed do you have to be to have honestly thought an economic recovery was going to be quick? (The key word there is “honestly,” as in “the opposite of what it takes to create enough PR buzz to get an obvious money-loser off the ground”). And 2.) the cold fact is that no one outside the usual crew of over-caffeinated Uptown boosters, who seem to be able to make themselves fervently believe whatever they’re told to believe, ever thought the Hall would be a money-maker. Remember, Charlotte signed on to this project at a time when the news was filled with stories of NASCAR fans’ disillusionment over the state of the sport. The real mystery here — one that the city needs to look into, but won’t — is how and why the city went along with building the Hall when nearly everyone except the Uptown wowsers could see the current woes coming a mile away.

David Pearson: made the Hall on the second go-round
  • David Pearson: made the Hall on the second go-round

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