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Icons do spadework for NASCAR's Hall

Source: USA Today  

January 26, 2007

Rather than putting their feet to the floor, NASCAR icons Richard Petty, Rick Hendrick and Mike Helton joined city officials on Thursday in putting their feet to the shovel in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the downtown NASCAR Hall of Fame and Plaza.

More than 40 NASCAR stars, from Junior Johnson and Rex White to Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte, gathered on stage for the ceremony.

"I want some autographs," Hendrick said. "I've never seen an assembling of history like we have here today."

All of which prompted the question: Who will be in the Hall of Fame's first group of inductees? NASCAR retains control over the nomination and election process but has not announced specifics.

"I certainly don't think that first class will be all drivers," said Hall of Fame candidate Ned Jarrett. "(NASCAR founder) Bill France should be the first man inducted because if it had not been for him, we wouldn't be here today and the sport where it is today."

The project, which includes a 19-story office tower, some 40,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 100,000-square-foot convention center expansion, is expected to open early in 2010.

Helton said the Hall's mission will be to "preserve, protect and present" the complete history of the sport. NASCAR decided to put its Hall of Fame in the heart of stock car country last March when it selected Charlotte over Atlanta; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Richmond, Va.; and Kansas City, Kan.