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Museum works to preserve racing history

Memory Lane also inducts 2nd Hall of Fame class

- Special Correspondent - Mooresville News
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

Memory Lane Museum works to preserve the history of auto racing, especially collecting memorabilia from stock car racing's early years.

The museum, which opened in 2001 in Mooresville, also sponsors auto shows and has loaned out its cars for Hollywood movies like "Leatherheads" and "Talladega Nights."

The Museum paired with Racers Reunion to induct its second class of drivers into the Hall of Fame. 2010 inductees included Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Johnny Allen, "Tiger" Tom Pistone, Joe Thurman, Charlie Glotzback, Jody Ridley, Jabe Thomas, Paul Radford, Rex White, Curtis Crider, Earl Brooks, Hank Thomas, Louise Smith and Jimmy Lewallen.

Memory Lane Museum owner Alex Beam and Racers Reunion founder Jeff Gilder organized the Oct. 17 event.

"It's my whole family's museum and welcomes everyone," said Beam.

Beam said the museum started out doing Legends events to raise money to help injured or older drivers like Jake Elder and Sam Ard.

"Jeff Gilder came to one of the events and asked about having a wall at the back of the museum to recognize inductees," said Beam.

Gilder, of Racer's Reunion, said Paul Lewis - a member of the class's first Hall of Fame - had started gathering racer friends together in Tennessee about 18 years ago after being concerned that the only time they saw each other was at funerals. In 2008 they brought it to the "other side of the mountain" and have used the Internet to build a racing family online.

"It's amazing to see what's happened in a short time to connect fans with history," said Gilder.

Names to remember

Perry Allen Wood, author of "Silent Speedways of the Carolinas" and "Declarations of Stock Car Independents" took part in the induction ceremony. The Spartanburg, S.C., native grew up watching many of the pioneers race and said that Memory Lane Museum and Racer's Reunion Hall of Fame give much-deserved recognition to racers.

Wood said that many of the inductees would probably not be remembered. "Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Rex White, and Sam Ard are national champions and will always be recognized as such throughout the sport," said Perry.

"However, Jabe Thomas, Crawfish Crider, Herman Beam, and Earl Brooks might fade from memory or never have been heard of at all by the public. This Hall of Fame serves a vital function in preserving the history of stock car racing and the men and women that made it possible."

NASCAR driver David Ragan was on hand to induct Tiger "Tom" Pistone.

"Tiger has been a good friend to our family and helped me when I moved here in 2004," said Ragan.

Ragan said he appreciated being at the event and seeing all the artifacts in the museum.

"It was good to have David Ragan here," said Beam. "He is a good guy and one of a few in racing today who are interested in preserving racing history. Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman are two others who have shown their interest."

The 1961 and 1965 NASCAR Grand National champion Ned Jarrett was inducted into the Hall by his son Glenn.

"This place is truly 'memory lane,'" said Glenn Jarrett. "I've seen quite a few people here today whom I watched race and raced against growing up."

Jarrett said his dad got started at Hickory Motor Speedway and was the promoter there back in the 1960's and 1970's. Ned Jarrett is known for taking the Dale Carnegie course and getting the message out to promote the sport.

"I want to congratulate all the racers here and all who have put on this event at this beautiful place," said Ned Jarrett. Jarrett and Bobby Allison were also elected to the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame the previous week.

Allison brothers

Donnie Allison inducted his brother Bobby Allison, the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion. He also talked about getting Bobby moved to third in the NASCAR record books for all-time wins. Allison is currently listed as tied for third with Darryl Waltrip with 84 wins.

"I've heard this thing about the Cup and Grand Nationals wins for many years. I know how many he won. He won 85. And we'll get that changed around one of these days," said Donnie Allison.

"Donnie and I really had a great time together and helped each other side by side for years. I've had a great career and appreciate everyone here," said Bobby Allison.

Grateful for time

Jabe Thomas, like many of his fellow inductees, showed gratefulness for his years in the sport.

"I'll guarantee you at this point right now if I had to lay down right there and call it quits, I can't complain. I've enjoyed my life in racing and have enjoyed all these people," said Thomas.

The museum is planning to have another Legends event early in 2011.

Want to go?

The museum is located at 769 River Highway, Mooresville. Admission: Adults, $10; children 6-12, $6; children under 6 are free. Details: www.memorylaneautomuseum.com or 704-662-3673. Racers Reunion can be found at www.racersreunion.com.

Own a classic car?

Do you own a neat car or know someone who does? E-mail their contact information to stories@newsofmooresville.com.

For more coverage from our Mooresville News community newspaper, go to www.newsofmooresville.com.

Rhonda Beck is a freelance writer for Mooresville News. Have a story idea for Rhonda? E-mail her at rhondarbeck@yahoo.com.

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