Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: The Best-Kept Secret in NASCAR

Five years ago, I discovered NASCAR’s version of heaven.

Its address: 119 Knob Hill Rd., in Mooresville, N.C.

That’s when I first stepped in the door of the building that holds the best-kept secret in NASCAR: The gift shop at the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

Yes, the gift shop.

The clouds didn’t part, and angels didn’t sing. But that’s the feeling I had when I realized what I had walked into.

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Now, I’ve been in my fair share of gift shops. The shops at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, multiple shops for teams both old and new and your obligatory track shop, all selling the latest run-of-the-mill motorsports merch you can probably easily find online.

None of them, not even the best antique mall, have anything on what you can find at the N.C. Auto Racing HoF, which is hidden away in one of the area’s multiple industrial parks filled with motorsports-related businesses.

Sure, there’s an actual Hall of Fame, complete with numerous racecars and other pieces of history you can pore over beyond the gift shop, and I encourage you to check it out.

But each time I’ve revisited the place, I’ve never given a thought to the actual museum.

Every time I’ve gone back to the Best Little Gift Shop in the Greater Charlotte Area, I’ve discovered some piece of NASCAR memorabilia from days gone by I’ve never seen before.

It’s a sharp contrast to the compound of merchandise tents I poked through Saturday across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway, where aside from a few notable exceptions, each tent seemed to be selling the same stuff.

And in this case, the proceeds go to good causes like Stocks-For-Tots.

On the left wall, you’ll find a magazine rack packed to the rim with old racing programs. That’s where I picked up the program from Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first NASCAR Cup Series win in 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway.

That faces four or five clothing racks devoted to vintage race team uniform shirts and jackets. Last weekend, there were plenty of Rusty Wallace gear as well as jackets once worn by members of the Tide racing team back in the early ’90s.

One of those racks is where I picked up a vintage 1988 Bobby Allison Miller High Life sweater a few years back.

If you’re lucky, you might even find a Wallace tie for that special occasion.

Of course, there are the shelves, racks and display cases full of diecast cars.

And not just cars.

Just because it’s a gift shop, doesn’t mean you can’t learn something there.

On my visit this past weekend, I learned about one of the many excesses of NASCAR’s boom era. When Hot Wheels was busy making NASCAR products — and they were very busy — they didn’t stop at racecars.

When you were a kid, did you ever dream of playing with a diecast replica of a driver’s motorhome?

No?

Oh, well.

If the room where you spend your afternoons watching NASCAR is missing an old cardboard standee of your favorite driver hawking a sponsor product, this is the place for you.

Now, let’s go back to clothes.

Because on Saturday, I briefly experienced the NASCAR Multiverse.

When flipping through one of the clothes racks Saturday, I was taken aback to find out that Jeff Gordon won the 2015 Cup championship. And … so did Kevin Harvick?

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You know how for the Super Bowl, the NFL produces clothing for both teams just in case? You also know how the clothes for the losing team are sent overseas as part of “excess goods distribution”?

Well, NASCAR also tries to cover its bases.

At least they did in 2015, when Kyle Busch actually won the title.

Now tell me, what other gift shop you could find those in?

When you get a chance to visit, tell them I sent you.

2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com. 

The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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4 Comments
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Andy

Yes! Nailed it! This was one of the highlights of my pilgrimage to Charlotte/Mooresville!

Carl D.

I finally enjoyed one of your articles.

Drew Acree

I’ve already went to the North Carolina auto racing hall of fame in Mooresville one time and I’ve already purchased a Jeff Gordon 2015 champion t shirt from the gift shop but I like to call it my t shirt the hopeful shirt.

Renae Downey

Oh yeah! On my second vacation to Moorseville I stumbled into the place. Wow was I ever glad I did. As u mentioned there is NO OTHER gift store like it. I left there with so many goodies. I love the fact that my purchase went towards paying it forward. In fact my family knows to box up all my Dale Jr collection and donate it to them when I pass.

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