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Fans Can Help NASCAR Build Its Hall of Fame, One Brick at a Time

Source: David Newton, ESPN.com  

October 02, 2008

Jimmy Spencer seemingly always dealt with claims that he had bricks in his head.

On Wednesday evening, he had bricks on his mind.

Spencer was invited to the Charlotte Convention Center to help introduce the commemorative brick program for NASCAR's Hall of Fame, which is being built less than 100 yards from the convention center.

His passion and humor brought life to a fundraiser that will allow everyone from the casual fan to the top driver to be part of the shrine that is scheduled to open in 2010.

"I look over [at the display of bricks] and I see, 'To the best wife ever. Thanks for all your sport,'" the former Cup driver known as "Mr. Excitement" said. "I never thought of making a brick for your wife. You'd think it was a tombstone."

The crowd laughed, but Spencer continued to make his point.

"The point of the story -- I'm racing at Riverhead [Speedway] and Thompson [Speedway], and you know who was running my business?" Spencer asked. "My wife. And I'm going to buy a brick saluting my wife. That's a great idea.

"Now, that's a helluva idea. Put your wife, your father … how about some of the great owners you drove for? So many people will stop and think about people to put on these bricks."

Here's the way it works. A 4-by-8-inch brick costs $150, and an 8-by-8 brick costs $300. The prices include customized text, anything from your name to your favorite driver's name to what you had for lunch. A duplicate 4-by-4 brick to showcase at home or the office can be purchased for $65, with the 8-by-8 replica running $125.

If you want an 8-by-8 with a driver's logo, that will be $325, with the replica running $150.

The bricks will be used to pave the plaza in front of the Hall. Depending on how many of each size are purchased, it will take 50,000 to 100,000 bricks to complete the plaza. Should more be purchased, they will be displayed at other areas around the $195 million project.

Spencer plans to buy several bricks. He suggested one for each of the owners he drove for, which could become quite expensive. He drove for 11 owners in Cup alone.

"Buddy Baker, Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison … it goes on and on," Spencer said.

And so did Spencer on this night.

But he went on and on with a purpose, promoting a Hall he believes is long overdue to educate the Charlotte community and the rest of the country on the history and importance of stock car racing.

"I don't think the community realizes how strong NASCAR is," he said. "When we're at New Hampshire, San Francisco … all the way to Miami in a few weeks, we don't get the credit for being a nationalized sport."

The project hasn't gone without a few bumps in the road. Organizers recently had to ask the Charlotte City Council for an additional $32 million to build more interactive exhibits, increase the building's energy efficiency and pay for unexpected construction costs.

Winston Kelley, the Hall's executive director, said that the situation caused some concern under a tough economic climate and that it could have been handled differently. He also said most of the feedback he has received has been positive, with people saying, "Get it right the first time."

Kelley said the brick program will be used to help pay off bank loans and sponsor costs, and "additional dollars will help supplement the exhibit funds."

"That's been a part of the concept since before Charlotte was awarded the Hall of Fame," he said.

The program officially kicks off Oct. 10. Bricks can be purchased at www.NASCARHall.com/brick or by calling 888-643-2757.

Spencer is so excited he might purchase a brick for Kelley, a longtime member of the MRM Radio broadcast team for Cup races.

"I could put, 'That dumb broadcaster didn't see what happened in Turn 3 at Martinsville, 'cause he said I spun a guy out one day,'" Spencer said. "When I said, 'Winston, that is not true,' he said, 'Duh, that's what I saw.'"

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

Photo Caption: Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, shows off an example of a commemorative brick that will be sold to raise funds. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Victory Management Group/Jason Miczek