Day 2 of NASCAR Acceleration Weekend, the kickoff event for the 2012 season, concluded yesterday in the Charlotte Convention Centre, adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame which inducted Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood, Dale Inman and Richie Evans on Friday. The event saw fans get unprecedented access to the stars of NASCAR, such as 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001 champion Jeff Gordon, who was on hand to unveil a new livery to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his sponsorship deal with Du Pont.
“If [team owner] Rick Hendrick and DuPont didn’t take that chance on me almost 20 years ago, I honestly don’t know if I’d be where I am today,” he gushed. “To stick with one driver and one team through all the highs and lows, and to still be here with us today celebrating our 20th full season, is really incredible.”
The 40 year old Californian enjoyed meeting the fans, and was touched by the dedication of those who had queued for over a day to be among the first in line.
“It’s very cool. You’re getting a chance to interact with the fans. Especially as avid as these fans are, coming here from all over the country, if not further, and standing all night out on the sidewalk or getting up early to be the first to get in, it’s impressive. The weather’s not great, either,” Gordon said.
“One lady came through and she’s crying because of the experience. And you’re blown away, when you see and hear that kind of commitment. I mean, you see people with tattoos [to be signed] and everything else. It’s incredible and I think this is a great way to kick off the 2012 season.”
Fans also got a chance to see for themselves the famous exhibits in the Hall of Fame, including Richard Petty's iconic #43 Plymouth, and meet over 60 of the top names in NASCAR, including 2011 champion Tony Stewart and 5-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who were out in force to greet fans, sign autographs, and participate in fan Q&A sessions. On stage, Joie Chitwood, President of the Daytona International Speedway, shared the humorous story of Trevor Bayne struggling to lift the Daytona 500 trophy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted to having racked up 230 hours of game time on the Battlefield 3 computer game over the off season, and Ryan Newman ribbed Clint Bowyer for his flying hobby.
“We’re thrilled with the turnout and the passion our fans continue to express,” said Steve Sweeney, NASCAR’s director of consumer marketing. “The NASCAR Preview 2012 Presented By Sprint offered a perfect lead-in for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26 and will only grow in the upcoming years.”
Head across to our Facebook page to see more images from the fan preview and Hall Of Fame Inductions.