Friday, July 25, 2014

Travel to Charlotte & Become a NASCAR Fan

If I had a not-bucket-list, one of the places on it would be the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Actually, it probably wouldn’t be on it, because it’s not even been in my radar that it existed. But now, I’m convinced, it is a don’t-miss museum if you’re every Charlotte. And you don’t even have to like racing cars.

I was in Charlotte for my sorority’s national conference with two of my friends who are as equally prissy, not-race-car fans as I am. With a couple hours to kill between events, we decided to check out the Hall of Fame, particularly because we heard there were racing car simulators in there.  The website advised that visitors should allot two hours; we figured we’d be in and out in an hour. We were there for almost three.

Tickets are $20 for adults, plus an additional $5 for the simulator drive.  The visit begins with a movie about the history of NASCAR. Did you know that the sport of racing cars began with moonshiners trying to outrun police back in the days of Prohibition?

There’s an exhibit of historical race-cars and information about the many racetracks across the country along Glory Road, a slanting and upwardly sloping path around the lobby, taking you to the second floor.  On the road is the actual Hudson Hornet (exciting in a mom of a Cars! fan kindof way!) On the next floor are exhibits about famous drivers and the stages of getting the race-car ready for race-day.  I’m going to admit that car maintenance is not at all part of my skill set and these info stations may have raised my level of respect for guys in the pit crew. Tire pressure, weather forecasts, measurements, plastics vs. metal, weight, mechanics – it’s a lot to know and understand. And that’s before the driver even gets in the car.
Driving practice
Many of the exhibits have a hands-on activity in which you earn points for how well you complete the tasks.  And here’s where I learned something about my friends – I knew they liked to be really good at what they do (and in their professional lives, they both are) but I never knew how competitive they were until we examined each other’s scores after each activity. 

Two of our favorites were the driving practice and the pit crew simulation.  The driving practice was much like an arcade video game, but with a clutch, brakes and gears, as well as the steering wheel.  In the pit crew, there were three tasks – jack up the car, change the tire, and refuel – to be done as the clock ticks, because in a race, every second counts.  This was much more fun than girls in skirts and pearls could imagine.

The Pink & Green Pit Crew
We were there until the “we are closing in fifteen-minutes” warning and then rushed around to see the last of the exhibits and to check our scorecards.  And I can proudly say, I ranked as the #3 visitor in points scored.  If I had more time, who knows, I think I could’ve been number one. Not that it’s a race or anything.

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