Monday, July 12, 2010
What an awesome day. Where to begin...We met part of the group at the Concord Mall. There we boarded a bus and headed out to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Arrived there about 8:45 and stayed there till 12:30. The 1st picture here shows the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the cars on Glory Road....As you walk around Glory Road there are markers that show and explain the various NASCAR tracks and what degree the banking is at that particular track. The steepest banking is at Charlotte...33 degrees. There is an area where you can stand on the track, at 33 degrees and you can hardly stand up. It is incredible ! Since we arrived at the facility prior to normal opening hours, we got to see things before there were any crowds. Linda and I paid to try the simulator cars. I've never done this before but it was really cool. You have to shift and run the brake and gas, just as if you're running on the Charlotte track. My fastest lap was 37 seconds, doing 144 m.p.h. It didn't seem like I was going that fast so I was surprised when it was over and the operator told me how fast I was going. They post the fastest speeds on a board (just like they do during real qualifying times) and I stayed in the top 10 for a quite a while. Linda and I tested our abilities in the pit area to see if our next jobs should point us in that direction. We had a 16 second pit stop jacking up the car, filling car with gas and doing the tire. Yeah, it was only one tire....12-13 seconds is good for four tires and all the other stuff but I don't think we can give up our day job just yet with that time for just one tire. Lots of interactive things to do at the Hall....it is a lot of fun ! So much history, lots of videos, tons of cars and memorabilia.
After we left there we went to the Sam Bass Art Gallery. I didn't think I knew who Sam Bass was until we walked into his gallery and saw all of the art on the walls. He is the first officially licensed NASCAR artist. He has done every paint scheme for Jeff Gordon's cars since 1992. He has done car themes for so many other drivers too....He has done every program cover for the Charlotte Motor Speedway since 1985 and he designs the artwork for the guitars that are given away as the trophy at the Nashville race. As part of the behind the scenes tour we took, you get to go where the public never goes....back to his studios and see all of the artwork from so many years. He has his guitar collection back there too from all of the great rock stars he idolizes and it's just an amazing place. Sam himself came out to talk to us and answer questions....the gallery is typically closed on Mondays. He was so down to earth....so humble. I had purchased a visor at the Hall of Fame and I got him to sign it for me plus we all got an autographed picture of him that he created just for these tours.
While we were at the Bass gallery, the skies opened up and we had torrential rain. They said a tornado watch was posted so when it came time to leave, we ran to the bus in between bolts of lightening and a deluge of rain. We left there and went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. We toured the in-care medical center, where drivers must go if they have wrecked to get checked out. It looks like an ER, at a hospital. There are seven areas where people can be attended to. There is a stop light type of light on the wall so if the caution flag is flown, as in an accident situation, the medical staff goes on alert for possible incoming. The Speedway complex is enormous..2000 acres, they spend $700,000/year in landscaping fees, and there are events going on there 300 days out of the year. Yeah, I found that hard to believe but it's true. We went to the gift shop there, then got back on the bus and went to Hendrick Motorsports. Our tour guide, Jennifer, said that about 85% of all the teams have garages right around the Charlotte area. The Hendrick complex is huge ! 600,000 sq. feet of facilities tucked out a country road. There is one building where they build the engines. She said that any team that buys a Hendrick engine gets their own person to work on that engine. For instance, Tony Stewart buys one of Hendricks engines. A Hendrick mechanic travels with the Stewart team to work on that engine. Wow! One facility is the Jeff Gordon/Jimmie Johnson facility and the neighboring one is for Dale Jr. and Mark Martin. You see the guys working in the shops on the cars and you could eat off the floors....they are so clean ! Tons of trophies all over the place from all of the drivers, their suits, their helmets...anything you could imagine. Our last stop was the Hendrick museum which had tons of previous cars from all of his drivers plus more trophies and memorabilia. Here is also where the gift shop is with all things Jimmie, Jeff, Mark and Jr.
What an interesting day...I think the $99 per person is a great value for what you get. On top of touring all of these places,(some of which the public can't access) and not having to worry about parking or driving, we also got a great lunch that came in an exclusive thermal Hall of Fame lunch sack. It was fun..fun fun...and we'd highly recommend AIM's tour to anyone coming to the Charlotte area. Jennifer also told us that the $5 tour that Charlotte Motor Speedway gives is well worth the price so we might go back for that. Charlotte is a beautiful city and I didn't realize that after NYC, it's the second financial hub in the country. The lady, from the Hall of Fame, who was traveling with us told us that the Hall is trying out some things to bring people in. For Saturday races, people can pay $5 and watch the race on the GIANT IMAX screen in their theater in the Hall of Fame. That would be really cool ! You'd feel like you were right in the middle of the race. Great day....back to work tomorrow.