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Eric Estepp’s Tour of the Moonshine & Motorsports Trail (Ep. 1)

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What is the Moonshine and Motorsports Trail?

Eric Estepp is beginning a brand new series on the Moonshine and Motorsports Trail. The trail is officially listed on the State of North Carolina’s website, and features stops at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Rockingham Speedway, the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the Albermarle, Occoneeche Speedway, Stone Mountain State Park, and North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Eric will be visiting sites along the trail specifically mentioning all four of the race tracks, the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, and Stone Mountain State Park. Episode one features a tour of the NASCAR Hall of Fame with former MRN pit reporter and current NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelly.

Pit Stops at RFK Racing and the Lionel Store

If you know Eric, you know he loves two things, Matt Kenseth and Lionel die-casts. It was only natural to start this journey off at the RFK Racing shop, one of multiple NASCAR shops in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

After gawking at Matt Kenseth’s 2012 Daytona 500 winning car alongside looking at a Mark Martin show car, Eric got a behind the scenes look at RFK Racing. Specifically, he got a behind the scenes look at the pit crew preparation including the indoor weight room and the outdoor practice pit stop facility.

From there, it was on to the Concord Mills Mall, not far from Charlotte Motor Speedway. In the mall is the Lionel store, where multiple NASCAR die-casts can be found on display and ready to buy.

It was even mentioned that Lionel intends to celebrate the fifth anniversary of this store for the upcoming ROVAL weekend this fall. On top of that, Lionel will be hosting a poker run during the Coca-Cola 600 race weekend.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame

These stops were merely warm-up act for the big show, The NASCAR Hall of Fame. While Eric has been to the Hall of Fame and done content there before, this one is special because of the new pieces added to it, along with the additional expertise of Executive Director Winston Kelly.

Immediately, Glory Road meets those who enter the Hall of Fame. The cars on display change every three years, with the current cars on display honoring the 75 years of history that NASCAR has.

It was also not only Winston Kelly that would guide Eric on this tour today either. Kelly was joined by the Sr. Director of Museum and Industry Affairs Kevin Schleiser to give background on the pieces around the place.

In the Great Hall, Schlesier explains some of the cars on display that are meant to show the evolution of stock car racing, while also telling the story of family heritage in the sport along with the greats of the sport. The highlight of the cars on the floor of the Great Hall is Tony Stewart’s 2011 championship winning car straight from the track at Homestead-Miami.

Kelly went on to explain the specifics of this edition Glory Road. He described this edition as “Probably the most eclectic we have ever had.” It is there to show more about the span of NASCAR cars through the years.

Kelly went on to explain some of his favorite cars in this collection. These cars ranged from Adam Petty, to Darrell Waltrip’s 1 car he drove for Dale Earnhardt in 1998, Richard Petty’s iconic 1970s STP Dodge, Dale Earnhardt’s 1981 Pontiac (yes Pontiac), a Jimmie Johnson All-Star winning car, highlight his relationship with Chad Knaus, a late model, a Goody’s Dash Series car, and a Canadian Series car amongst others.

Every car within the display had a story. Every car had something to show for how stock car racing has evolved, and, coincidentally, how it impacted the industry that has impacted the state of North Carolina so much.

From there, it was on to the Hall of Honor, which recognizes the most recent NASCAR Hall of Famers. This years’ Hall of Famers being Matt Kenseth, Herschel McGriff and Kirk Shelmerdine. Eric particularly focused on the Kenseth exhibit because…you know.

The highlight of the Kenseth portion of the exhibit being maybe a surprising one. The car on display was not a Daytona 500 win or his championship car, but his first Busch Series win car. Kelly said that Kenseth insisted on having this car in the display.

To finish off the visit, an appropriate artifact. A full-operational moonshine still constructed by Junior Johnson. Famously pardoned by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, Johnson was one of the most well-known moonshiners of his day. Kelly and Schleiser went on to describe more about Johnson’s moonshining and how Johnson turned it into a working business.

As for whether the moonshine still would still work today? Kelly said that Johnson claimed that the still would work if he was allowed to get it rolling.

For more in-depth analysis on these pieces, check out Eric’s full video on his YouTube channel! More is to come from this series on Moonshine and Motorsports, and this is a trip that anyone can take throughout North Carolina.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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