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NASCAR Hall of Fame to Feature Nearly 1,000 Artifacts

Source: Bob Pockrass, NASCAR Scene  

March 24, 2009

The NASCAR Hall of Fame will feature nearly 1,000 artifacts on display, a theater screen that is 65 feet wide and 15 feet high and a video wall with 64 plasma-screen televisions.

Visitors will carry a card or wristband that has a computer chip in it that they may use to activate certain interactive parts of the museum, such as the racing simulation area.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley revealed some of the exhibit plans Monday at a meeting of the Charlotte City Council. The city of Charlotte owns the museum, which is scheduled to open in April or May 2010. The exhibit budget is $31 million.

The theater where people will get an introduction to the hall of fame will have 270 seats, and races also will be shown in that theater on the 65-by-15 screen.

Kelley hopes the 10,000-square-foot main floor will have a feeling similar to New York’s Times Square, and plans call for different exhibits in May and October so fans coming to the Charlotte races can see something different each time. That area could also be used for private receptions and charity events.

The inductee area will have a spire for each inductee that will include the video of the inductee’s historical background, a photo of the inductee and a quote about the inductee. The current year’s inductees – NASCAR will induct five annually – will be in the middle of the inductee area, while the past inductees will be near the wall and likely eventually encircle the area of current inductees.

The artifacts to be used for each inductee will not be revealed until the induction ceremony for that honoree, Kelley said.

“There will be cases that go with [each inductee],” Kelley said following the meeting. “The cases will have anything from their physical artifacts [such as] their uniforms [and] helmets, but you’d also look to get something that talks about the history of that individual, something behind scenes.

“If you took somebody like [Dale] Earnhardt, you’d like to have something that represents that he’s an outdoorsman, showing the personal aspect of the individual.”

In addition to the area honoring inductees, there will be an area dedicated to a week in the life of a NASCAR team from preparing the car through the race-day experience. Another floor will be dedicated to the history of the sport.

Cars that are on display on the walkway ramp throughout the museum likely will be changed out every two years, Kelley said, while select artifacts will be rotated out every three or six months. Kelley said the hall of fame has a database of 2,500 artifacts that it has talked to people about either being donated or loaned to the hall. All of the donations will be to a foundation set up for the hall of fame.

The chip given to guests will allow them to participate in the interactive portions of the museum and will keep track of the person’s progress and abilities in things such as the racing simulation game, the pit-crew experience area and a possible racing trivia area. Kelley said he hopes that guests can then go to the hall of fame Web site, enter a code and call up their results. And if guests return to the hall, they could resume participation at interactive areas at the point they stopped the previous time.

“The ones who have the fastest lap when they’re first through [the racing] simulator, every so often they can come back and race against other people [at the same level],” Kelley said following the council meeting.

The council will vote April 13 on awarding contracts for exhibit builders, the most well known to race fans being iRacing.com – owned by Roush-Fenway Racing co-owner John Henry (who also owns the Boston Red Sox) – handling the racing simulation software.

Electrosonic Inc., whose projects have included the World of Coke in Atlanta and the National Constitution Center, will handle the video components. Kubik Maltibe, whose work includes the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, will fabricate and install the exhibits. The two companies have worked together on several projects with hall of fame exhibit designer Ralph Applebaum Associates.

One item that could be an issue at the April 13 meeting is the warranty on the exhibit work. The current plan is for a one-year warranty on most of their work, and one council member is asking for a warranty of five years or 1 million visitors.