A few years ago, Will Spencer had a vision. Having worked within the
NASCAR family for decades, Spencer had a deep knowledge of how NASCAR
had grown over the years; he had been an integral part of it. Spencer's
company, JKS Motorsports, was responsible for a great deal of the
signage seen at NASCAR races including everything from pre-race stages
to the victory-lane backdrops seen on television when the winning
driver climbs out of his car after the race. JKS also managed show car
programs for sponsors, painted racecars and team trucks and managed
show cars for NASCAR's championship celebration in New York.
For decades, Spencer directed these responsibilities for his
longtime client, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Having seen firsthand
the tremendous contributions RJR had made to the sport, Spencer hoped
to someday create a museum that chronicled NASCAR's formative years.
When RJR began its NASCAR sponsorship, the sanctioning body was
struggling to stay in business. The sponsorship dollars from RJR began
flowing in 1971 and immediately upgraded the sport. Those dollars built
grandstands and media centers, painted the track buildings and walls
red and white, the colors of the Winston cigarette brand and made the
sport more professional. NASCAR didn't have marketing or media
personnel at that time, so RJR managed those responsibilities until
NASCAR took over in those areas in the mid 1990s. The infusion of RJR
dollars and marketing savvy eventually propelled NASCAR into the
American sports mainstream where today, it is the country's No. 1
spectator sport and No. 2 sport on television.
Spencer's vision for a museum quickly turned into a plan when RJR
decided to end its 33-year NASCAR sponsorship following the 2003
season. The city of Winston-Salem, N.C., home to both RJR and JKS
Motorsports, was undergoing a downtown revitalization effort. Spencer's
Winston Cup Museum would become a part of that effort. He purchased an
old car dealership building from the city and began the renovation.
Construction began in November of 2004 and was completed in April. A
VIP Ribbon Cutting ceremony, held on May 10, 2005, commemorated the
opening of the museum.
Upon entering the Winston Cup Museum, a striking wall mural immediately
catches the eye. The mural covers three of the building's four walls
and includes pictures from each of the 33 years in RJR's sponsorship.
There are permanent displays chronicling some of the Winston-sponsored
programs, but the majority of the cars are displayed so they can be
rotated in and out of the Museum on a regular basis. This process is
necessary because Spencer has a great problem.
Through his decades of service to RJR and various other NASCAR
sponsors, the Winston-Salem native had an impressive collection of show
cars and actual racecars. When word of the museum got out, NASCAR teams
began loaning cars to the museum. Former series sponsor RJR loaned the
museum many pictures, posters and other artifacts. Ford, Dodge and
General Motors loaned concept cars and others with special paint
schemes, and there simply wasn't enough room for everything. Race fans
will be able to visit the museum on multiple occasions and see
different parts of NASCAR's Winston Cup history.
The Winston Cup Museum joins several other Motorsports museums in the
Piedmont of North Carolina: The Richard Childress Racing Museum in
Welcome, N.C., The Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, N.C., The
Hendrick Motorsports and the Roush Racing Museums, both in Concord,
N.C. Each of these museums is within a one-hour drive from
Winston-Salem, and for even the most casual of race fans, the Piedmont
area of North Carolina is a perfect NASCAR vacation destination.
Twenty percent of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to three
charities: the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C., Brenner
Children's Hospital and the Wake Forest Baptist University Baptist
Medical Center, both in Winston-Salem.
The Winston Cup Museum is presented by JKS Motorsports and is not
affiliated with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Reynolds American, Inc.
of which R.J. Reynolds is a subsidiary or NASCAR.
Thanks Will, Christy, Bill and Rob.
Photos Courtesy: North Carolina Travel and Tourism