This has been a long time coming. The Motorsports Hall Of Fame started life way back in 1989 in an old building in Novi, Michigan, a few miles west of Detroit, with a handful of old race cars on display.
Its mission was and is to recognize greatness in American racing, in every kind of racing, from Indy to NASCAR to drag racing, aviation, boats, sports cars, and motorcycles, with induction ceremonies of a new class every spring.
Those inductions were presented at various venues in Detroit, starting in 2000 and including the State Theatre and later the Fillmore Detroit ballroom.
Meanwhile, the MSHFA grew out of its original home, moved to temporary quarters at a museum in downtown Detroit and, during 2016, worked out a deal with NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway to create a brand new permanent home and museum outside Turn 4 at the Speedway.
The first induction in Daytona was held last June at The Shores resort. After a soft opening in late summer, the museum, under the leadership of longtime president Ron Watson, held a grand opening last Friday and simultaneously opened the Robert E. Petersen Theater as an adjunct to the museum, a space that celebrates the life and times of automotive publishing giant Bob Petersen and his lifelong love of motorsports.
To help the celebration along, the MSHFA invited a host of previous inductees from all branches of motorsport, a solid gold list that included Tom D’Eath and Bill Seebold from boat racing, five-time motorcycle champion Ricky Carmichael, NASCAR greats Darrell and Michael Waltrip, Bobby and Donnie Allison, Rusty Wallace, Richard Childress, and racing impresario Humpy Wheeler, America’s greatest sports car racer, Hurley Haywood, drag racing great Buddy Martin of Sox & Martin, MSHFA board chairman John Doonan of Mazda Motorsports, and racing safety pioneer Bill Simpson. Broadscaster Mike Joy was the emcee for the evening.
The museum space, created by Jack Rouse Associates of Cincinnati under the direction of David Ferguson, approximates a huge oval room absolutely filled with historic airplanes, boats, motorcycles, race cars and hot rods, including one huge, angled multi-vehicle display in the center of the room, individual displays from each major segment of racing, and still more vehicles hanging from the rafters.
It is all beautifully laid out, beautifully lit, and easy to navigate.
There is a very nice subsection on NASCAR’s early days on the sand, a wonderful diorama featuring Sir Malcolm Campbell’s land speed efforts at Daytona Beach, and yet another featuring Henry Ford’s 999 race car.
There are racing trophies, racing gear, racing memorabilia, and wonderful photographs everywhere.
So, if you’re going to be attending the NASCAR races in February or July, or the Supercross in March or the country music festival in May, or just going to Daytona for the weather, the new motorsports hall of fame is a must-see for any fan of motorsports.
Photos by Jim McCraw