Charlotte NC and the Sophistication of “Appalachian Moonshine Runners”


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December 11th 2013
Published: July 31st 2014
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The Campsites Are Adequate But Not ExceptionalThe Campsites Are Adequate But Not ExceptionalThe Campsites Are Adequate But Not Exceptional

Yates Family Camping – Harrisburg NC
The Charlotte NC area is the heart of NASCAR and definitely was in my crosshairs for sometime during The Great Adventure. I had been told the best time to visit the NASCAR team shops was during the off season (the last Cup race is the Sunday before Thanksgiving) when the travelling portion of the team and all the equipment has returned. I decided that this would be a good year to linger in the more northern climate long after the leaf-peeping season had passed and planned accordingly. I also had been told the team souvenir trucks convene at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for a clearance sale of the season’s left-over merchandise on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day.

This fit in perfectly with my Wednesday travel day. I would go to a homeless shelter in Charlotte for Thanksgiving dinner, offer a donation for the continuing efforts of the facility and stop by the speedway for some people-watching and, perhaps, a couple of souvenirs. That might be the only way I would ever get a $400 Matt Kenseth T-shirt! Obviously, an exaggeration; however, sports merchandise is grossly overpriced, and I refuse to overpay for advertising a product whether the product is a
Charlotte Motor Speedway Looms About A Half Mile DistantCharlotte Motor Speedway Looms About A Half Mile DistantCharlotte Motor Speedway Looms About A Half Mile Distant

Yates Family Camping – Harrisburg NC
commodity or an individual.

Since I already had driven most of the Interstate that would have taken me to Yates Family Camping in Harrisburg NC and since about half of the non-Interstate route was designated as scenic in my atlas, I was planning to use US 64 and NC 49 to approach the RV park from the east. When my cousin’s wife invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, I called the RV park to change my arrival date to Friday, November 29, 2013. The owner immediately connected the dots, realized my arrival date would be Black Friday, warned me of the existence of a shopping mall and a plethora of big box stores between I-85 and the campground and suggested an alternate exit from the one Irene (my GPS) probably would have me use. Even though I wasn’t planning to use the Interstate, I thought his prompt warning was telling.

Harrisburg is a suburb north of Charlotte but is very close to most of the NASCAR shops and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. MapQuest determined that by using the non-Interstate route my trip would be 125 miles and would take about 2-3/4 hours. My departure from the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Campground was unhurried so I could avoid the horrific Raleigh morning rush. The trip was relaxing and uneventful. The “non-race-event” sites at Yates Family Camping are unshaded, gravel and provide adequate space; whereas, most of the race sites are unimproved and located in a grassy field. The RV park is very convenient to the freeway, restaurants and shopping.

Even though my primary objective in the Charlotte area was the exploration of the NASCAR team shops, the shop hours basically conform to the traditional workweek – M-F from 8-5. On weekends and as I travelled to the shops during the week, I also scrutinized a wide variety of unrelated attractions. I’ll save the NASCAR shops for last as a sign of compassion for my non-NASCAR readers!

With Saturday, November 30, 2013 my first full day in Charlotte, I found myself heading to the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville NC. Just before my arrival, one of the naturalists had started an educational program. I hurried outside to take part. The naturalist had left to return the first specimen to its enclosure but soon returned with the second specimen. This program was focused on the biography of the specific bird
The Red-Tailed Hawk Is A Sizeable PredatorThe Red-Tailed Hawk Is A Sizeable PredatorThe Red-Tailed Hawk Is A Sizeable Predator

Carolina Raptor Center - Huntersville NC
and on the perils that bring specimens to the raptor center.

After the presentation, I strolled along the shaded walkways and read the well-done informational placards that accompany each exhibit. I encountered one staff member who alerted me to an impending presentation at the “vulture center.” I headed that direction and arrived moments before the naturalist started. In addition to the biography of the bird, the visitor learns about the importance of vultures in maintaining the health of the environment – i.e., they eat dead critters, y’all, so the disease-causing bacteria have fewer vittles. The perils confronting vultures is a double-edged sword that includes the removal of their food source from the roadways as well as that of having traffic speeding across their dinner table.

With over twenty different species of predatory birds on display, the center is the most comprehensive center of its ilk I have ever seen. With the live naturalist presentations, the center is one of the best educational opportunities of its kind I have ever seen. With the informative placards scattered throughout the park that educate the visitor about generic birds subjects (such as the physics of flight), the Carolina Raptor Center is a “must see” for anybody with an interest in nature.

Just down the road a couple of miles one can visit the Historic Latta Plantation also in Huntersville. Normally, tours of the Latta home are guided and tours of the grounds are self-guided. On this holiday weekend, one of 35 special events that are offered each year, no tours were available but costumed interpreters saturated the site offering demonstrations and answering questions. The attraction is a very nicely restored circa 1800 cotton plantation and living history farm and is located within Latta Plantation Nature Preserve; however, interior photography is not allowed and there was no “wow factor” for me so I cannot give the attraction a “must see” recommendation. That having been said, visiting the Latta Plantation is a very nice way to spend a beautiful afternoon – particularly for those with limited experience in similar facilities.

After visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports in Concord NC on Monday, a return trip to Huntersville on Tuesday, December 3 took me to Joe Gibbs Racing and then to the Energy Explorium at McGuire Nuclear Site. The site was about what I expected with an exception that the lake created to supply cooling water for the nuclear reactors doubles as a source of hydroelectric power. Makes sense to me! There are numerous well-done models and placards outlining the various forms of energy with, predictably, the focus on the various methods used to produce electricity. The fauna and flora of the reservoir are also outlined. I would suggest a stop for those interested in an entry level lesson in energy production. Since I was driving past anyway…. My final stop of the day was the Michael Waltrip Racing shop in Cornelius NC.

Thursday, December 5, 2013 found me taking a drive through the south central North Carolina countryside. My first stop was the C. Grier Beam Truck Museum in Cherryville NC. In 1931, at the height of The Great Depression, Charles Grier Beam graduated from North Carolina State University. Unable to find a job, Beam borrowed money to purchase a used 1931 Chevrolet truck and started the Beam Trucking Company. His first contract was for hauling coal for the Lincoln County School System. The first office for the business was a vacant gas station.

In 1937, the company was reorganized as Carolina Freight Carriers Corporation. Over
Good Night, Sleep Tight – Can You Imagine???Good Night, Sleep Tight – Can You Imagine???Good Night, Sleep Tight – Can You Imagine???

C. Grier Beam Truck Museum - Cherryville NC
the ensuing decades; motor freight equipment, regulations and methods changed the industry dramatically and acquisitions by Carolina Freight greatly increased the company’s area of operations. A brief, concise timeline of those generic changes as well as some of the major Carolina Freight milestones is available at the Cherryville NC web site. Through all the changes, Carolina Freight remained a familiar sight on the Interstate Highways System until 1995 when the corporate offices were relocated from Cherryville to Charlotte and the company’s name was changed to WorldWay Corporation.

Today, two vintage gravity gas pumps stand as sentinels outside the old gas station to welcome the visitor. The interior houses many smaller trucking artifacts while the rolling stock occupies an adjacent modern building. The name of the museum, C. Grier Beam Truck Museum, does not imply at all that the museum is almost exclusively a monument to Carolina Freight. I was expecting a museum of vintage trucks, both commercial and privately owned vehicles, as well as variously purposed trucks – dump trucks, garbage trucks, tankers, logging trucks, cranes, articulated booms, etc. That having been said, this Baby Boomer thoroughly enjoyed the resurrected nostalgia of the late 1950s TV Series “Cannonball." The quality
There Is A Tremendous Volume Of Interesting ArtifactsThere Is A Tremendous Volume Of Interesting ArtifactsThere Is A Tremendous Volume Of Interesting Artifacts

International Lineman's Museum - Shelby NC
of the restoration and presentation of the vehicles is superb, and the museum is worth a slight detour when passing near Cherryville.

Continuing my exploration of the outer Charlotte NC area, I stopped at the International Lineman's Museum in Shelby NC. The museum also serves as the Lineman’s Hall of Fame. The museum began when two salesmen for American Safety Utility Corporation noticed that much of the old, worn out or antiquated equipment was being thrown away. They began to amass the trash. Initially, the artifacts fit onto one “hotsticks trailer” and were taken from one lineman rodeo to the next for viewing by the participants. Soon they ran out of room on the trailer, and the museum was born. The museum now contains artifacts from all 50 states and over 15 countries and has grown to encompass two rooms full of artifacts plus a garage with eight vehicles and trailers.

As a firefighter, I developed a BASIC knowledge of many components of the electrical transmission system (Our union had an agreement with the lineman’s union – we won’t mess with your electricity if you don’t fight our fires! LOL); however, the nature of a self-guided tour coupled with the lack of documentation for the very interesting artifacts caused the museum to generate more questions than answers. In that regard, I do understand that the answers would have required a lot more “lineman schooling” than the average visitor would be willing to endure. The museum is an absolute “must see” for linemen or for anybody associated with an allied field but I cannot say the same for the average tourist.

Friday found me heading to nearby Kannapolis NC and the Stewart Hass Racing shops. I mention this only because I must have had an urge to get some proverbial grease under my fingernails before washing my hands and drying them at the Fieldcrest Cannon Textile Museum – ‹loud groan›. As I have noted in an earlier blog, I associate North Carolina with the American textile industry and Cannon, arguably, is one of the leaders in the industry. I arrived at the address provided on a brochure I had acquired at some visitor center only to learn that the facility had been repurposed and that what was left of the museum was now housed in a local school. I could not gain access to the school because of
Few Artifacts Are Included But The Number Of Inductees Is ImpressiveFew Artifacts Are Included But The Number Of Inductees Is ImpressiveFew Artifacts Are Included But The Number Of Inductees Is Impressive

North Carolina Music Hall of Fame - Kannapolis NC
locked doors and unanswered/inoperative doorbells.

My next stop was the Dale Earnhardt Tribute Plaza which also is in Kannapolis. I almost skipped this attraction since most memorials or tribute plazas have little historical or informational value. By the time Dale Earnhardt began his Winston Cup career in 1975, I had become a fan of Harry Gant. Although never a fan of “The Intimidator,” I could never dispute his prowess or his ability. The plaza is pretty much what I had anticipated and would be pointless for those without NASCAR oil running through their veins; however, I happened upon a tantalizing attraction next to the plaza – the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame!

The small storefront museum celebrates the many North Carolinians who have made an impact on the music of any genre. It revived my memories of artists I had, in some cases, long forgotten – Donna Fargo and Ronnie Millsap – and revealed the roots of those who are enshrined –James Taylor (the balladeer), Roberta Flack, George Hamilton IV, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis and Earl Scruggs to name but a few. The displays generally consist of a costume/wardrobe artifact with or without a musical instrument and
Note The Tricycle To The Right CenterNote The Tricycle To The Right CenterNote The Tricycle To The Right Center

North Carolina Transportation Museum - Spencer NC
would be unremarkable to many; however, this is a short but interesting page in the North Carolina chapter of The Great Adventure.

My final stop of the day was at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer NC. The four large exhibit buildings on this 57-acre site are the last remaining structures of the historic Spencer Shops and memorialize what once was Southern Railroad's largest steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast. The buildings include the Back Shop, the Master Mechanic's Office, the Flue Shop and the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse. The greatest period of prosperity and productivity for Spencer Shops was during the first half of the twentieth century when it employed nearly 3,000 people. The conversion from steam to diesel power between the 1950s and the 1970s resulted in the decline of Spencer Shops.

Two donations to the state of North Carolina by Southern Railway concluded in 1979 and development of the museum ensued. The first exhibit area opened in 1983. While housed in a former railroad facility, the artifacts celebrate all modes of transportation from horse-drawn wagons to airplanes. Although much work remains, the volunteers and the museum staff have done a remarkable job
Many Of The Steam Locomotives Are UniqueMany Of The Steam Locomotives Are UniqueMany Of The Steam Locomotives Are Unique

North Carolina Transportation Museum - Spencer NC
in slightly more than a quarter century with, primarily, donated funds. Some restored pieces are mundane whereas others, such as a WW II hospital rail car and a Corvair rampside pickup, served as first-time encounters for me. Some subjects have almost universal coverage whereas others, such as North Carolina’s plank road system, are rarely brought to the fore. Some exhibits, such as the milk delivery wagon and the milk delivery truck, tell the story of a North Carolina business.

Whether the visitor takes a ride on the train (which is nondescript for those looking for a scenic ride or for those with similar experiences elsewhere) or a spin on the turntable (now THAT is unique), there is something of interest for virtually everybody at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. I highly recommended this attraction. It’s no Smithsonian, but…. Consider wearing your walking shoes and bringing a picnic lunch.

Saturday, December 7, 2013 found me taking advantage of a non-school day to visit the Reed Gold Mine in Midland NC and of non-weekday traffic to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte NC. The Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented commercial gold find in the United States – please note that the pair of disclaimers I included (documented and commercial) came from the literature! In 1799, Conrad Reed, the son of farmer and former Hessian soldier John Reed, found a pretty yellow "rock" in Little Meadow Creek on the family farm that weighed 17-pounds. For three years, the rock served the Reed family well – as a DOORSTOP. John Reed obviously did not know what he had. In 1802, a jeweler from Fayetteville realized the rock was a large gold nugget, offered to buy it and told Reed to name his price.

Reed, not knowing what he had or not understanding the true value of gold, asked for what he thought was a pretty hefty price of $3.50, or a week's wages. The true value of the large nugget was around $3,600 in 1802 dollars. I wonder if the jeweler kept a poker face when he, for the lack of a better term, stole the nugget from Reed! Some would argue that’s good old American entrepreneurship at its best. The next year, John Reed organized a small gold mining operation. Soon thereafter, a slave named Peter found a 28-pound nugget. Reed continued with placer mining for a number of years, but, in 1831 he began underground mining. John Reed died a rich man in 1845 from the gold found on his property. History (at least in the literature I read) has forgotten the nameless jeweler!

Some years later, the American Civil War decreased mining activity because of the diversion of labor and other resources to the war effort. The last large nugget uncovered by placer mining was discovered in 1896, and the last underground mining took place at the Reed Mine in 1912. To handle the large amount of gold found in the region during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Charlotte Mint was built. Today, the Reed Mine is a state historic site and is open to the public. The mine guide made an interesting presentation.

A cautionary note to my fellow travelers – do not visit attractions between Thanksgiving and Christmas and expect to be able to access informational placards and artifacts. The museum was brimming with festive craftspeople (or is that craftpersons???) vending sundry Holiday wares. To be fair, the bazaar (I wanted to use the word fair to describe the event soooo badly, but thought better of it) also brought volunteers to the facility for an infrequent living history event. (As a point of clarification, unguided tours of the mine are not ever allowed and guided tours of the mine and its several hundred feet of restored tunnels are provided routinely throughout each operating day).

Tables for the vendors obstructed my path to many of the artifacts as well as many of the informational placards, and many of the pictures required my use of the telephoto feature on my camera where such would not have been required on a normal day, BUT there were no school groups! Alas, such are the trials and tribulations of the professional tourist! In spite of the limitations, I enjoyed the attraction but really cannot make an intelligent assessment of its tourism value.

Now it’s time for N-A-S-C-A-R!!! My final stop for the day was the NASCAR Hall of Fame. When I purchased my ticket I was told a special event was in the offing in about thirty minutes in the Great Hall. What can I say – another crate of lobsters landed on my platter! I decided to hang out in the Great Hall until time for the special event.

Just as are found on the highways and byways of America, race tracks have banking on the curves to assist the drivers with negotiating the directional change. The degree of banking varies from track to track and at some tracks from curve to curve. The Great Hall at the NASCAR Hall of Fame has a “track” (Glory Road) that forms an arc which partially encompasses the gallery. Glory Road has served as one of the most prominent focal points and signature exhibits since the NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in May 2010 and overlays two features of NASCAR in one exhibit. The first component is a section of “racetrack” which begins by demonstrating the 6 degree banking found at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead FL and progressively increases in acuteness until it reaches the steepest banking on the circuit – the 36-degree banking found at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol TN.

Secondly, Glory Road showcases 18 historic cars placed on the track – beginning with a selection of Generation 1 cars (1949-1966) and progressing to the Generation 5 cars (2007-2012). The lobsters that landed on my platter are directly related to NASCAR’s introduction of the Generation 6 car in 2013. To keep Glory Road contemporary, the 18 historic cars on display will be replaced with a complete changing of the guard to be unveiled in early 2014. One of the 18 new “old” cars is a replica of one driven by Bobby Allison and the unveiling was to take place on the day of my visit.

It happened that the unveiling day was Bobby Allison’s birthday. He and several family members, including his brother Donnie Allison (also a former NASCAR driver), had shared a birthday lunch at a nearby restaurant after which one of the grandchildren “wanted to go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.” Pretty much on schedule, the entourage entered the Great Hall. Bobby immediately knew something was amiss but didn’t know what. He was told, the car was unveiled, a Q&A session ensued, all joined in singing “Happy Birthday” and cake was served. Pretty cool!

“Alright, already! Enough frivolous festivity! I came here to see the NASCAR Hall of Fame!” All of the features one expects to find in a racing hall of fame are here – fire suits, helmets, trophies and bios of the inductees; a placard outlining a typical
Video Of Some of the PioneersVideo Of Some of the PioneersVideo Of Some of the Pioneers

NASCAR Hall of Fame - Charlotte NC
day in the life of a NASCAR Cup driver; multimedia presentations outlining the history of NASCAR; the evolution of safety equipment; as well as innovations that have allowed the driver to make the cars go F-A-S-T-E-R!!!

I’ve already noted one thing I wasn’t expecting – Glory Road. Standing on the “track” at selected points gives the visitor an opportunity to experience the severity of the banking on the various NASCAR tracks. That was really cool. Advancing through an historical parade of iconic racing cars was truly a journey down memory lane. I wasn’t expecting so many interactive components to the attraction – acting as a pit crew member, a simulated driving experience and a walkthrough of a transporter. Given that I had allocated only half a day and given that an hour of my allotted time was spent at a birthday party, I didn’t get really involved in the interactive exhibits. That gives me a great excuse to return someday!

I spent a couple of interesting hours taking a tour of the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord NC – about a half mile from the RV park. Charlotte Motor Speedway was designed by current chairman O. Bruton Smith
Pretty Cool – Even if It Was In A Van At 60-70 MPHPretty Cool – Even if It Was In A Van At 60-70 MPHPretty Cool – Even if It Was In A Van At 60-70 MPH

Charlotte Motor Speedway - Concord NC
in 1959 and built by him and Smith's business partner – one of stock car racing's earliest driving stars, the late Curtis Turner. Together, they built their dream of a 1.5-mile superspeedway on the outskirts of the Queen City, and the first World 600 was run at the new facility on June 19, 1960. In 1961, like many superspeedways of the era, the track fell into Chapter 11 reorganization. Smith pursued other business interests in Texas and Illinois after his departure from the speedway in 1962. Working within Ford Motor Company's dealership program, Smith became quite successful and began purchasing shares of stock in Charlotte Motor Speedway. By 1975 Smith had again become the majority stockholder in the speedway and had regained control of its day-to-day operations.

Smith hired H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler as the general manager, and the two began to implement plans for improvements and expansion. In 1984, under the direction of Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway became the only sports facility in America to offer year-round living accommodations when it built 40 condominiums high above turn one. Twelve additional condominium units were added in 1991. Of course, additions and improvements have periodically been made to the garage area, concession stands, sky boxes, camping facilities, media center and other areas of the complex. Today, the speedway's total seating capacity is approximately 135,000.

An innovative $1.7 million, 1,200-fixture lighting system was installed in 1992, allowing Charlotte Motor Speedway to be the first modern superspeedway to host night auto racing. The revolutionary lighting process uses mirrors to simulate daylight without glare, shadows or obtrusive light poles. In 2011, Charlotte Motor Speedway installed (at the time) the world's largest HDTV along the backstretch of the superspeedway – 200 feet wide and 80 feet tall.

In addition to the 1.5-mile quad oval, the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex includes a 2.25-mile road course and a six-tenths-mile karting layout in the speedway's infield; a quarter-mile asphalt oval utilizing part of the speedway's frontstretch and pit road; and a one-fifth-mile oval located outside Turn 3 of the superspeedway. In May 2000, The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Motor Speedway, a state-of-the-art, four-tenths-mile clay oval was completed across the highway from the speedway, and “the Bellagio” of drag strips joined the complex when the zMAX Dragway was completed in 2008. This state-of-the-art facility was the first to offer four abreast drag racing!

The “tour of
I Hope To Someday See The Four-Wide Drag RacingI Hope To Someday See The Four-Wide Drag RacingI Hope To Someday See The Four-Wide Drag Racing

Charlotte Motor Speedway - Concord NC
one” (I got to ride shotgun in the van) began in the main entrance area of the speedway and was conducted by an interesting, knowledgeable guide. He offered some background information and interesting anecdotes about the NASCAR drivers. I found one subject area particularly interesting: Over 95 percent of the Cup drivers have a residence within a few miles of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and most of them arrive/depart the track by helicopter. I knew that several drivers are fixed wing pilots but didn’t know that some also are helicopter pilots and have their own chopper. Many drivers (particularly those who didn’t finish the race well enough positioned to demand an interview) have departed the speedway before the post race interviews are completed. He related many other factoids I found fascinating. This tour is well worth the time and modest fee.

Here’s a summary of the five NASCAR Team Shops I visited during my stay. There are many more! I’ll start with the most interesting (and therefore the most highly recommended):

Without question, the best shop (not museum) I visited was Michael Waltrip Racing in Cornelius NC. The first floor has the standard fare of race cars, trophies and placards with driver information including the car Michael demolished in the 2004 Daytona 500. At the time, Michael did not yet have his own team but was driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Subsequently, the car was crushed and is now housed in a Plexiglas cube. Glass doors provide a glimpse into the strength and conditioning center. Upstairs, the visitor can wander through various hallways and look down from several different vantage points at the “behind the scenes” shop workers in action.

At the appointed time, I went back to the entrance desk to meet my tour guide. Again, I was the only person on the tour. The guide told me that when Waltrip had formed his own team, he insisted that the shop be design with the fan in mind. We proceeded to the transporter “truckport” where the drivers were busily working on the rigs. One of the drivers graciously offered to give me a tour of the rig and offered numerous fascinating explanations of the features build into the custom rig and offered some interesting logistical information relative to the weekly movement of the equipment from track to track.

Outside, we walked past the area where the pit crews
The Catwalks Offer Several Good Vantage PointsThe Catwalks Offer Several Good Vantage PointsThe Catwalks Offer Several Good Vantage Points

Michael Waltrip Racing - Cornelius NC
practice as the guide conveyed information about the background of some of the pit crew members and the complexities of the seemingly simple job. Next, we entered the fabrication shop – where photography is NOT allowed. One feature I noticed generated a question which the guide could not answer; however, he immediately summoned one of the fabricators to solve both of our curiosities. The worker then hung out with us for a few minutes and explained some of the activities in progress. This shop was by far the most fan-friendly.

Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) in Concord NC has a very nice museum that stands apart from the two shops which house the operations for two teams each – one building for the Nos. 48 and 88 and the other building for the Nos. 5 and 24. First, the museum. HMS first presents an extensive collection of various championship cars which are nice (particularly for a newby) but unremarkable for one who has seen similar collections. Two “Tech Walls” have been developed – one for numbered body parts and another for numbered engine parts. Both offer well done numbered explanations of the function of each part.

An interesting, well-done video has the various department foremen describing the function and the features of each department. As I was watching the video, I heard a noise behind me and turned to see the template/car body of a replica car being hoisted to reveal the frame/chassis. This cycled about every five minutes. What a great way to explain many features in a single exhibit. The shops themselves are quite unimpressive; however, a placard shows the shape of each of the Cup tracks and offers some details about the track.

Roush Fenway Racing in Concord NC has a small museum of sorts in the large lobby of the shops building. The winning 2009 Daytona 500 winning entry driven by Matt Kenseth (my guy) and the demolished Ford piloted by Carl Edwards (my Florida aunt’s guy) in his 2009 Crash at Talladega (AL) Superspeedway on the final lap of the Aaron's 499. Edwards' car went airborne and into the "catch fence" in front of the stands before landing back on the track. In spite of what the race commentator says in the video, some debris from the crash made it through the fence and into the crowd. Seven spectators were injured. Trophies and placards round out the displays while a glass wall provides a glimpse of the shop personnel at work.

Another stop I made was at Joe Gibbs Racing in Huntersville NC. In addition to the four Cup replicas and numerous trophies, the lobby holds a limited number of artifacts. The most interesting NASCAR-related exhibit is a cutaway Toyota racing engine. Additionally, there is an extensive display of football artifacts, including a Super Bowl ring, Joe Gibbs won as an NFL head coach. An aside – when I was touring Michael Waltrip Racing a couple of days later, the tour guide told me Joe Gibbs frequently visits the museum in the early morning to distribute free, autographed copies of his book “Game Plan for Life.” The view of shop activities is limited to one glass wall and was quite nondescript during my visit.

Stewart Hass Racing in Kannapolis NC has few artifacts save the showroom racing cars, the view into the shop is paltry and the stop, generally speaking, is a waste of time. I also happened upon the Richard Petty Motorsports facility as I was driving from the Hendrick Motorsports Museum to the Hendrick Shops. There is NOTHING for the visitor at this facility; however,
A Cutaway Toyota Racing Engine Is InterestingA Cutaway Toyota Racing Engine Is InterestingA Cutaway Toyota Racing Engine Is Interesting

Joe Gibbs Racing – Huntersville NC
Richard Petty does have a museum which was in transit from Randleman NC to its new location in Level Cross NC. I hope to visit it down the road a piece.

I must admit that my visits to the team shops were not enriched with a “hustle and bustle” of activity – indeed, there was so little shop activity after the season had ended that I would advise the prospective visitor to ignore the advice I had heeded to “visit during the off-season.” Actually, with the exception of the Michael Waltrip Racing shop in Cornelius NC, I would call the NASCAR shop experience in the Charlotte area a bust.

Some shops have really nice public display areas (I think the descriptor museum might be somewhat of a stretch) that are totally worthwhile for the NASCAR aficionado; whereas, others are reminiscent of a “new car showroom” for the teams’ display vehicles. For those of you who follow my blog, you might remember I had visited the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome NC about a month before my Charlotte stop. THAT truly is a museum and really is worthy of a stop for any racing fan.

The Charlotte area itself has some really interesting, first class attractions that make the area a worthwhile stop for almost any traveler. The people are friendly, the streets are easy to navigate and traffic was never a problem. I will have to plan my next visit to coincide with of one of the many diverse offering of events scattered throughout the year.


Additional photos below
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1st August 2014

pix
The fotos remain superb and well illustrate a great travelog.

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