DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For one day at least, Sam Alverson of Jacksonville, Fla., could lay claim to being NASCAR’s No. 1 fan. It wasn’t just because of his devotion to the sport; it was because he was first in line.
After a 26-hour campout session, Alverson was the first of thousands of fans through the doors Saturday for the inaugural NASCAR Preview 2012 Presented by Sprint at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center. The fan-friendly event, part of NASCAR’s Acceleration Weekend, followed an overflow crowd for Friday evening’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony of Richie Evans, Dale Inman, former Hendrick Motorsports driver Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough.
Alverson didn’t mind the nearly six-hour drive from Jacksonville. And he didn’t mind the cool, drizzly conditions he and other fans encountered during their wait. Meeting his favorite driver, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, was reward enough.
When the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet jokingly questioned his motives for spending more than a day in line to meet him, Alverson said, “It’s because you are the champ!”
“We have the most amazing fans,” Gordon said. “It blows you away any time you hear something like that. All the fans that came out, some of them traveled long distances, get up early in the morning or stayed up late at night on the sidewalk. That’s pretty amazing, and that’s what makes events like this so successful.”
Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, said the NASCAR Preview event was a direct result of listening to fans – including Alverson – clamoring for more of the sport during the offseason and a revival of the preview held in Winston-Salem, N.C., years ago.
“It’s met or exceeded all the expectations we had, and we think this is the foundation we can just grow on,” Kelley said. “This is just the start to us, and I think we can make it even bigger and better.”