Dale Earnhardt Jr. has always been a fan of Elvis Presley. Could NASCAR's most popular driver one day follow the King's lead and open his 200-acre property to visitors?
Don’t get all shook up, race fans. Earnhardt isn't ready to leave the property -- which includes its own Western town, countless old race cars stashed in the woods, an old Unocal 76 orange ball from Talladega, a dirt go-kart track and even a pair of buffalo named Laverne and Shirley -- quite yet. Elvis may have had Graceland, but Juniorland will have to wait.
"Man, I don’t know if it would be very interesting to anybody. I'm sure people would like to see the Western town. The rest of the property is pretty average," Earnhardt said this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, when he took a spin in a car once owned by Elvis that will be the centerpiece of an automobile fair scheduled for next week at the track.
"But that Western town, it's something that I was very proud of, and we’ve been able to use it in different ways here in the last several years, and yeah -- I mean, if people want to come take a look at it, I'm sure that would be a cool thing to do down the road," he added. "And I don’t think I'll live there forever. I'll live there for the next several years, hopefully. But eventually, certainly as my income changes, I'll be downsizing and changing my way of life and my lifestyle quite a bit. That's hopefully several years down the road."
Indeed, especially as the two-time Daytona 500 champion appears on the verge of one of his best seasons in years. Still, his property outside Mooresville, N.C. -- dubbed "Dirty Mo Acres" -- is quite the curiosity. There are dozens of old race cars stashed in the woods, vehicles that were first used to mark trails or for target practice. Earnhardt started with the shell of a Nationwide Series backup car he had at Daytona in the early 2000s, and then started calling shops to see if anyone had any junkers they wanted to get rid of.
But it's the Western town -- which was named Whisky River well before the bar of the same name opened in downtown Charlotte -- which is the star of the show. There's a barber shop, a jail with real locking cells, a hotel with bunk beds upstairs, even a saloon with a pool table, piano, and real bottles of liquor behind the polished bar. It was all the vision of a driver with a fondness for history, not to mention Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western movies.
The inspiration came from a "60 Minutes" episode on Willie Nelson, who bought property in Texas that contained an old Western film set, and had the building fronts filled out into usable structures. Earnhardt built his with wood from the old Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, N.C., his father's hometown. Although it began as a place to hold parties, these days the imitation Deadwood is used primarily for commercial shoots or projects involving Earnhardt's production company, Hammerhead.
Over in the house, there's no Jungle Room, but there is a room dedicated to Elvis memorabilia. Maybe one day, fans will get a peek into Juniorland, just as they do Graceland today.