CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 11 (UPI) -- NASCAR opened its new Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday with Richard Petty and Junior Johnson driving race cars onto its ceremonial plaza.
The two inaugural inductees roared up to the gates of the $195 million facility, and after making a few remarks, threw open the doors of the facility amid fireworks and rain, NASCAR.com reported.
The Web site said Petty drove a 1970s-era, STP-sponsored No. 43 race car and Johnson was aboard a replica of a 1949 Ford coupe.
After getting his first look at the facility, Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing and member of the NFL Hall of Fame, said the NASCAR Hall stands up to comparisons with the gridiron memorial in Canton, Ohio.
"This is the kind of thing that kind of brings sports alive," Gibbs told NASCAR.com, adding, "I think we did really need to have this. I think a lot of the artifacts that were collected are important, and I think the real beneficiaries are the fans."
Officials say they expect the new Hall of Fame will draw 800,000 visitors in its first year of operation, or roughly 2,210 per day.