CUP: Hall Induction Highlights Big Week In Charlotte

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The Super Bowl is over.

It’s time to get serious.

NASCAR Acceleration Weekend, with the annual NASCAR Hall of Fame induction as the highlight, is scheduled Friday to Sunday in Charlotte, NC as the sport moves closer to the SpeedWeeks opening splash at Daytona International Speedway in mid-month.

Always one of the biggest events of the year, Friday night’s Hall of Fame ceremony at the Charlotte Convention Center will honor Rusty Wallace, Leonard Wood and the late Buck Baker, Cotton Owens and Herb Thomas as the hall’s fourth class.

The class includes four successful drivers and Wood, recognized as one of the leading crew chief/mechanics of all time.

Wallace scored 55 Sprint Cup wins and won the 1989 Cup championship. Owens had nine Cup wins but became better known as a first-rate team owner and innovator. Baker won two Cup titles and 46 races. Thomas was the first driver to win two (1951 and 1953) Cup championships.

After Friday night’s induction event, the focus will move to the new season at NASCAR Preview 2013, also at the Convention Center. Many of the year’s new race cars will be on display, and most of NASCAR’s major-series drivers will be on hand to sign autographs and participate in question-and-answer questions. Numerous team and sponsor displays will be scattered throughout the convention center’s exhibit hall C.

More than 60 drivers are scheduled to participate. Autograph lines for the most popular drivers will be limited to those who pick up wristbands Saturday morning at the convention center.

Preview activities are scheduled from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The weekend will conclude Sunday with the unveiling of the granite markers for the five new hall inductees. Wallace, Wood and representatives of Owens, Baker and Thomas are scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Driver autograph sessions Saturday:

9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (autographs begin at 9:30 a.m.) – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, Eric McClure, Brian Scott, Timothy Peters, Miguel Paludo, Todd Peck.

10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (autographs begin at 11 a.m.) – Tony Stewart , Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Hal Martin, Elliott Sadler , Sam Hornish Jr., Jamie Dick, Sean Corr, Brennan Newberry, Ross Chastain, Ron Hornaday Jr.

Noon – 2 p.m. (autographs begin at 12:30 p.m.) – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.., David Ragan, David Gilliland , Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Johanna Long, Austin Dillon, Michael Annett, Nelson Piquet Jr., Ty Dillon, Joey Coulter, Trevor Bayne, Todd Bodine.

1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (autographs begin at 2 p.m.) – Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Bobby Labonte, Justin Lofton, John Wes Townley, Regan Smith, Parker Kligerman, Max Gresham, Jeb Burton, Dakoda Armstrong, James Buescher, Michael McDowell, Alex Bowman.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.