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at Glory Road unveiling, the cars were the stars

January 08, 2014, Zack Albert,

Waltrip's 1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Aerocoupe among the many Glory Road additions

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It didn't take much to get Darrell Waltrip going Wednesday morning at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. As he helped peel back the car cover on his 1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Aerocoupe, his face lit up.

Then the stories started.

Waltrip marveled as the former Junior Johnson-owned No. 11, a gleaming representative of the third generation of cars in NASCAR's premier series, claimed its rightful place in the Hall's trademark exhibit, Glory Road. Waltrip was among a select few to take an exclusive sneak peek Wednesday at the display's first major overhaul, which will make its public debut with a new rotation of 18 historic cars when the Hall re-opens Saturday morning.

Breathing new life into the striking display of NASCAR's evolving history hinted at the potential for new stories to be told. As Waltrip gave his former car an inspection -- inside, outside and under the hood -- he spun yarns along the way before giving it his stamp of authenticity. 


"When I look at this car and I see little details that we did to the cars at Junior's that nobody else did -- all legal, by the way," Waltrip said, "I see things that let me know that this is one of our cars." 


Waltrip pointed along the still-growing collection of Glory Road 2.0 cars to a 1969 Holman-Moody Ford Torino once driven by David Pearson, saying that the car was the inspiring reason many of his own rides carried No. 17. He popped the hood of his No. 11 and noted certain tricks of the trade employed by his car owner, Johnson, one of the sport's greatest technical minds. 

The impromptu storytelling session from one of the sport's legends was enough to prompt Winston Kelley, the Hall's executive director, to make Waltrip -- enshrined in the Class of 2012 -- a standing job offer as a tour guide.

"That's good to know," Waltrip quipped. "One of these days, I'm going to need another job." 


Wednesday's preview came in the midst of a five-day closure for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, primarily to allow room for the cranes and rigging equipment needed to complete the dramatic, logistically demanding changeover. Shortly after Waltrip's unveil, workers began the slow hoisting process to remove a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series vehicle from the steeper portions of the banked display.

Kevin Schlesier, exhibits manager at the Hall of Fame, said that the overhaul was on schedule, with all but two cars in the building and ready to take their places. The other two -- the 1961 Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford Starliner and the 1990 Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet Lumina, a championship-winning car for Dale Earnhardt -- were scheduled to arrive later Wednesday.


While the new batch of cars offers a fresh look to one of the facility's trademark displays, it also means having to say goodbye to the original 18 cars from the NASCAR Hall of Fame's opening in 2010. It's bittersweet, since those historic vehicles were in place from the beginning and will likely never be assembled in the same location again.

"Each one of them was so iconic and had great stories," said Buz McKim, the NASCAR Hall of Fame historian who helped select the next group of Glory Road cars from a "wish list" binder of about 50. "People would come in and it would kind of take their breath away to see all these actual cars. That's what we were shooting for in version two, to have that same sort of effect on people, to get that iconic status and the drivers and to still tell the story of the six generations of NASCAR." 

Guests will also notice other changes at the grand re-opening:

A display of stock-car racing dashboards through the years, allowing fans hands-on access to the wheel.

A move toward new Gen-6 bodies for the NASCAR racing simulators.

A new layout to the Race Week exhibit

A Memorable Moments exhibit, which will serve to capture NASCAR's historic events as they happen through the race season.

But on Wednesday, the cars -- with three-time champion Waltrip acting as primary narrator -- were the stars.

"It's so fun to come here and to look at these cars to bring back so many memories, and I hope they do for you fans as well," Waltrip said. "If you don't know the history of some of these cars, I'm sure somewhere here you'll be able to find out about them because they're all pretty special cars."

Glory Road 2.0 cars
1 Generation 1 Marshall Teague's 1952 Hudson Hornet
2 Generation 1 Buck Baker's 1957 Chevrolet 150 "Black Widow"
3 Generation 1 Wood Brothers' 1961 Ford Starliner
4 Generation 1 Fred Lorenzen's 1966 Ford Galaxie "Banana Car"
5 Generation 2 Ned Jarrett's 1966 Ford Fairlane
6 Generation 2 David Pearson's 1969 Ford Torino Cobra Talladega
7 Generation 2 Bobby Allison's 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle
8 Generation 2 Cale Yarborough's 1976 Chevrolet Laguna S-3
9 Generation 2 Richard Petty's 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
10 Generation 3 Darrell Waltrip's 1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Aerocoupe
11 Generation 3 Dale Earnhardt's 1990 Chevrolet Lumina
12 Generation 4 Jeff Gordon's 1994 Chevrolet Lumina
13 Generation 4 Rusty Wallace's 2000 Ford Taurus
14 Generation 4 Bill Elliot's 2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T
15 Generation 4 Jimmie Johnson's 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
16 Generation 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 2008 Chevrolet Impala SS
17 Generation 5 Tony Stewart's 2011 Chevrolet Impala
18 Generation 6 Matt Kenseth's 2013 Toyota Camry


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