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Mike Helton (Pres. NASCAR), Richard Petty, Rick Hendrick & others break the ground

Article by Jeff Kluss/Sports Image Times

Charlotte, NC 01/25/2007 3:00PM Eastern: What a great day for NASCAR with the groundbreaking for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum Complex. The weather actually cooperated with a beautiful sunshiny day for all there.

The pre-event gathering was awesome with the likes of Rusty Wallace, Buddy Baker, and many of the NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) Hall of Famers in attendance with of course our Contributing Editor Jack Ingram on the stage.

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Jack Ingram and Rusty Wallace prior to ceremony

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
The dapper Buddy Baker in VIP Tent

The commotion in the VIP tent was filled with old stories of how Buddy Baker and Jack Ingram swapped paint. How Jack Sprague and Ernie Irvine were major rivals, and the laughter never ceased. It was the best of the best, and everyone had a story to tell.

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Jack Ingram and Ernie Irvine.

As usual it was a wonderful time seeing all the gang once again since getting this many great names in one location is a rare occurrence in NASCAR.

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Geoffrey Bodine and Jack Ingram

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Jack Roush outside the Big Top tent.

According to our Contributing Editor Jack Ingram, “This was one of the best events of it’s type that NASCAR has ever put on for the folks.”

After the meet and great in the VIP tent, then the festivities began inside the Big Top tent. Mike Joy who is the anchor and speed analyst for Fox Network was the MC with the introductions of the Hall of Famers and others that were there. The tent was filled with what appeared to be well over a thousand in attendance. The news media was there in force and it seemed as if there were more there than what shows up for most of the races.

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
To the left of Rusty Wallace is Darrel Waltrip, Humpy Wheeler and to the right is Bruton Smith and Jack Roush with Mike Joy at the podium.

After the VIP’s cleared the stage then came the moment we have all been waiting for which was the introduction of all the fine folks that helped to make this Hall of Fame and Museum a reality. Winston Kelley the Executive Director of the new NASCAR HALL OF FAME is the driving force in organizing the effort for NASCAR gave an incredible speech as to the great cooperation that they received from Governor Mike Easley, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, The Charlotte City Council, Richard Petty, Rick Hendrick, and Mark Dyer who is the VP of Licensing for NASCAR.

When I asked Winston Kelley what this day meant for him personally he responded with a trembling voice due to the great emotion of the realization of his dream coming true. “I’m just so proud for the fans and all the participants that helped us put this together. This is a great day for all of us, but for me personally it is my dream come true. This is for all the Busch guys, the Cup guys, the Truck guys, and all those that have helped to make NASCAR the greatest sport in the world. I thought we would be lucky to get 20 people here to help us promote this event, and we have over 40 great legends in racing here. These are the ones that helped build this sport and it is incredible that so many turned out. Richard Petty was a great help and he as well as Richard Childress loaned us their Championship cars as part of our show. We have had great support from so many. It shows how many of the NASCAR community have supported us in this great effort, and I just want to thank them all.”

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Winston Kelley at the podium

Well Winston, we at Sports Image Times want to thank you, your staff, NASCAR, the State of North Carolina, and the City of Charlotte, and all the legends of NASCAR that have helped you bring this dream to reality. My only question is…..what took you guys so long? This was a great day and we definitely plan to cover the opening of this “soon to be great” facility two years from now when it opens.

We will be keeping our readers up to date with Winston’s reports as to the progress of the construction and any of the announcements that will be made.

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Mike Helton President of NASCAR at the podium

Just a quick footnote, it was a real media frenzy as evidenced by the following photo!

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Photo by: Jeff Kluss Copyright Sports Image Times 2007
Richard Petty and Mike Helton, President of NASCAR in the center with his back toward the camera meeting the Press.

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