The Hall of Fame will be in Charlotte -- as it should be
Posted: Tuesday March 7, 2006 4:43PM; Updated: Tuesday March 7, 2006 4:43PM
Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory took the checkered flag in the race for NASCAR's Hall of Fame.
The most amazing thing about Monday's announcement that Charlotte will be the new home for the future NASCAR Hall of Fame was the shock expressed by those cities that didn't win the race.
Anyone who studies the sport in depth can quickly come to a firm conclusion that though Daytona is the birthplace of NASCAR, Charlotte is the central hub through which the sport has turned its wheels for the better part of four decades.
Don't get me wrong -- Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Richmond, Va., and Kansas City are all fine cities in their own right. But North Carolina is clearly the state where a NASCAR Hall of Fame belongs.
Arguably the two greatest drivers ever to sit behind a NASCAR steering wheel, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, were born here, along with dozen of other famous drivers. Classic short-track bullrings where NASCAR built up its popularity, such as North Wilkesboro and Hickory, are found all over the state. The who's who of race teams -- from Hendrick and Roush to underdogs such as Carl Long and Andy Belmont -- make North Carolina their base of operations.
So, with North Carolina as NASCAR's central hub, it was only natural that Charlotte gets the nod. The city itself is home to one of NASCAR's classic speedways that plays host to one of its most famous races, the Coke 600.
Plus, Charlotte is at the top of the list for just about every TV ratings chart possible when it comes to NASCAR events. Some races have gotten an ungodly 50 share or higher, and it's impossible to go or do anything in Charlotte without running across some sort of NASCAR paraphernalia or encountering a NASCAR fan.
Certainly, Daytona should be recognized as the birthplace of the sport, and the argument can be made that the Hall of Fame should be there, just like Springfield is the Hall of Fame for basketball and Cooperstown for baseball (although the folks in Hoboken, N.J., will tell you that the latter's origins are up for debate).
But Daytona already has the Daytona USA attraction, a wonderful facility that documents the fabulous history of the speedway. To put a second historical building there diminishes the usefulness of Daytona USA, and it would be a shame to see such a great attraction fall to the margins so quickly after opening.
As for the other three cities that were under serious consideration, they all showcase some sort of NASCAR affiliation. But Halls of Fames are about history, and Atlanta, Richmond, and Kansas City don't really have enough of it to merit a solid case for the Hall.
Kansas City, of course, was the most curious case, as it didn't even have a Nextel Cup race until the 2001 season. Yet at one point, even the media was tricked into labeling K.C. as the frontrunner. Everyone should have known better --building a NASCAR Hall of Fame away from the Southeast would be like building the Hockey Hall of Fame in Mexico.
In the end, Charlotte was the city of NASCAR's past, present, and future, the place where NASCAR could build a quality Hall of Fame around a strong, supportive fan base. The only question is why any other city was up for consideration.