Daytona-based Motorsports Hall of Fame nabs $2.5 million grant

Daytona One rendering
Daytona One rendering

The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which will soon make its home at Daytona International Speedway, has received a $2.5 million grant to fund the construction of a theater in the facility.

The Margie & Robert E. Petersen Foundation, based in Los Angeles, is providing the grant money to the hall. The museum will be located in the facility which once housed the Daytona 500 Experience, currently called the Ticket and Tours Building.

"This is exciting news for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and their relocation to Daytona International Speedway," Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said.

"The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is going to be a great addition to the Speedway and Daytona Beach community overall. The ‘World Center of Racing' is a fitting home for the MSHFA, which honors all forms of motorsports."

The first phase of construction and development is expected to be completed by June — in time for the 28th annual MSHFA induction ceremony June 29. The first stage of the museum will open to the public June 30.

"This is an ongoing process for us," MSHRA president Ron Watson said in a telephone interview. "We grew incrementally for 27 years, so we will become part of this community and grow as time goes by.

"It will be very impressive in June and become part of the popular Speedway tour. It will be the endpoint for every tour, and people can learn all about our inductees and learn about various types of motorsports."

Watson said the museum will expand and "do some really spectacular things over time."

Hall and Speedway officials have said the museum is a nice fit to the $400 Daytona Rising project which transformed the facility's grandstand into the world's first motorsports stadium, which officially opened in January.

"This is a monumental announcement for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America," said Watson, who initiated the hall's move from Novi, Michigan, to the Speedway more than two years ago.

"Robert E. Petersen had already taken his place as one of the true legends of American motorsports as a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee. Now his vast accomplishments will be further spotlighted in the form of the Robert E. Petersen Theater and Tribute Room."

In addition to the theater, which will hold 250 seats, the grant money will be used to create the Robert E. Petersen Tribute Room, which will greet guests entering the attraction.

Watson said a variety of content is being created for the theater, including a history of racing in Daytona Beach and a video on Petersen and his contributions to motorsports.

"We believe the new Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the Robert E. Petersen Theatre will be vital to preserving the legacy of Mr. Petersen and his love for the motorsports industry," said GiGi Carleton, president of the Petersen Foundation.

"Concurrently, the hall is going to preserve the heritage of all of its former inductees and the Petersen Foundation is proud to support those efforts."

In 1948, Robert E. Petersen founded Hot Rod magazine, followed by many more automotive magazines including Motor Trend, Car Craft, Rod & Custom, Circle Track, Motorcyclist and 4 Wheel & Off Road. The Petersen Publishing Company helped create and promote automotive sports throughout the world.

"We are overwhelmed by the foundation's generosity and now we will go about the task of honoring that generosity as we assemble a first-rate, new Motorsports Hall of Fame of America," Watson said.

On June 29, a seven-person class of 2016 inductees will enter the MSHFA. This gala will mark the first time the ceremony will be held here.

The list of inductees includes AMA motorcycle great Everett Brashear; NASCAR champion team owner Richard Childress; land and water speed-record legend Gary Gabelich; multi-discipline auto racing champion owner Chip Ganassi; NHRA announcer Dave McClelland; competitor and broadcaster Sam Posey; and 1955 Indianapolis 500 champion Bob Sweikert. Godwin Kelly/Daytona Beach news Journal

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