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Cars 3 Rolls Into NASCAR Hall of Fame

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte has a new and very exciting exhibit entitled “Cars 3: Inspired by NASCAR.”

The exhibit, which will run through May 31, 2018, is a collaboration among the Hall, NASCAR and Disney Pixar, creators of the Cars franchise.

Fans of Cars 3 know how closely Disney Pixar paid attention to NASCAR’s history in selecting characters both young and old, ranging from Junior “Midnight” Moon, based on Junior Johnson, and Richard Petty’s character Strip “The King” Weathers to newcomers like Chase Racelott (Chase Elliott) and Bubba Wheelhouse (Bubba Wallace).

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Cars 3 exhibit features meticulously crafted storyboards of all the film’s major characters, complete with artifacts of the actual drivers those characters represent. The Junior “Midnight” Moon storyboard, for example, features a Darlington trophy topped by a vintage Ford coupe that looks just like the character in the film.

The project was a long time in coming and the results are impressive.

“It’s the culmination of a little over a year’s work with Disney Pixar, NASCAR and our exhibits team,” Winston Kelley, the Hall’s executive director, told in an exclusive interview Thursday.

The exhibit should help attract younger fans to the Hall.

“Having an actual Lightning McQueen here (is big),” said Kelley. “We’re one of only two non-Disney properties in the entire world that have an actual Lightning McQueen. The Petersen Museum in California and ourselves are the only two properties. We were able to work with Disney to get a Lightning McQueen that becomes a magnet.”

Kelley said the connection between kids who love the Cars franchise and NASCAR goes way back.

In the Hall’s first version of Glory Road, Richard Petty’s 1967 Plymouth Belvedere was featured. “Kids would gravitate toward that particular car and say, ‘There’s Mr. The King,’” Kelley said, referring to Petty’s character in the Cars films. “They recognized it. They gravitated to the first Hudson Hornet we had and said, ‘There’s Doc Hudson.’

“So kids recognized it from the start,” Kelley said. “It just wasn’t a formal relationship like now.”

Ray Evernham, a NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee who played the character “Ray Reverham” in the film, told that the filmmakers paid close attention to get the NASCAR connection right.

“Really impressive that the people from Pixar took so much time to get people like me and Kyle (Petty) and Richard (Petty) and Shannon (Spake) — everybody involved, not just as characters, but behind the scenes for information,” said Evernham. “To make things as realistic as they could possibly make them and then tell accurate stories about our history.

“Whether you knew about NASCAR before the movie or you’re finding out about NASCAR after the movie, you’re not going to find anything conflicting,” Evernham said, “Because they’ve done a really good job with our history.”

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.