From Strictly Stock to High-Tech at AutoFair
Visit the Food Lion AutoFair page.
In the 1990 movie "Days of Thunder," veteran crew chief Harry Hogge tells his young, hotshot driver Cole Trickle, "There's nothing stock about a stock car."
Truer words have never been spoken and the April 12-15 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway will include a special display chronicling the evolution of the NASCAR race car. Starting with a modified 1939 Ford coupe and continuing through the high-tech Car of Tomorrow, the display will showcase how race cars have evolved from stock production automobiles to finely crafted engineering exercises.
"The first car I drove had stock production metal all the way through and the motor was pretty much stock except for a few internal things," said Buddy Baker, who made 688 starts in NASCAR's premier series during a 34-year career that started in 1959. "You weren't allowed to do a lot of things to the car. I'd say it was 70-percent stock and the rest were things we had to modify because of the extreme pressures that were put on the car.
"The cars even had door handles and the windows had to be operable, they had to roll up and down," Baker added.
But by the late 1960s things began to change.
"Somebody finally asked why we needed door handles on a race car since they were just something that could get knocked off," Baker recalled.
"NASCAR finally let the teams remove them. Then they said you didn't have to use the stock dashboard any more. Little by little, NASCAR let the teams change this and change that."
By the mid-1980s, the cars had evolved into purpose-built race cars but their outside sheet metal still closely resembled that of their production cousins.
"Then, aerodynamics came into play," Baker said. "You had to spend as much time as possible in the wind tunnel to make the car really aerodynamic, but with a lot of downforce. Teams learned that a little change to the body configuration would drastically impact the amount of downforce.
"With the early cars, when you came off the truck that's pretty much what you had. They didn't have rear spoilers, front valences or any of the aerodynamic things they have now because they weren't on the production cars," said Baker, who won 19 NASCAR races, including three Coca-Cola 600s at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "But, they're still learning about aerodynamics because of all the comments we hear about ‘dirty air' and ‘aero push.' We didn't even know what that was because our cars didn't drive that well to begin with, so we didn't know we were in trouble when it did take off for the wall."
In addition to featuring cars from NASCAR's past, this special Food Lion AutoFair display will also spotlight the sanctioning body's future with an up-close look at the Car of Tomorrow.
The culmination of a seven-year project undertaken at NASCAR's Research and Development Center, safety was the primary factor in the design and construction of a totally new race car. However, during the development process, NASCAR also discovered ways in which the car could improve competition and allow teams to be more cost efficient.
Attracting over 160,000 visitors, Food Lion AutoFair is the world's largest automotive extravaganza. It includes a car show featuring various makes and models from some 50 clubs; more than 10,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia; and a collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. A car corral, which completely circles the 1.5-mile superspeedway, features nearly 1,500 vehicles of all makes and models that are available for sale or trade.
In addition to the Evolution of a Stock Car display, radical rides to be shown in the featured Food Lion Pavilion include the Cadillac hearse and Lamborghini Murciélago that Will Castro's Unique Autosports customized for two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart; a pair of futuristic bubbletop show cars from the early 1960s; and a collection of 1932 Ford coupes that celebrate the 75th birthday of America's favorite hot rod.
Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults.
Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.
Car corral or vendor spaces can be reserved by contacting the Hornet's Nest Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America at (704) 841-1990. For general event information, click here or contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205.