Lake Norman & Mooresville

NC Racing Hall of Fame and Museum gives tour for visually-impaired

Larry Abruzzesa, program director for the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, explains the logistics of a tour for Camp Dogwood residents.
Larry Abruzzesa, program director for the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum, explains the logistics of a tour for Camp Dogwood residents. DEB WILLIAMS

Alvin Ricks slowly walks between a replica of the 1959 Oldsmobile Lee Petty drove to victory in the inaugural Daytona 500 and a 1994 Pontiac Kyle Petty piloted, feeling every inch of the race cars with her white glove-covered hands.

The Fayetteville woman’s right hand carefully examines the 1959 Oldsmobile while her left hand explores the 1994 Pontiac.

“The paint is smoother on this one,” she says, tapping the 1994 Pontiac, “than on this one (the 1959 Oldsmobile).”

Ricks, who is blind, had just discovered one of the key differences between the early stock cars housed in the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum and those raced in NASCAR’s modern era.

For adults at Camp Dogwood – a camp the North Carolina Lions operate in Sherrills Ford for the blind and visually impaired – weekly excursions to the Mooresville museum have been a new adventure. They’ve been so popular that each trip has been filled to capacity, Camp Dogwood Director Susan King said.

“Just because you lose your sight doesn’t mean you lose your interests,” King said. “If you were a race fan before you lost your sight, you’re still a race fan.”

That’s the case for Pam Brule, of Raleigh, who was accompanied by her service dog, Sasha. A Vietnam War veteran, the 64-year-old Brule deals daily with a cornea disease, but her lack of sight hasn’t dampened her love of racing. A Thompson, Conn., native, she has followed the sport since her son, a former modified driver, was a toddler. When she celebrated her 60th birthday, her friends provided her with a NASCAR-themed party.

“Don’t bother me on Saturdays and Sundays because I’m watching the race,” Brule said with a smile.

A seven-year veteran of Camp Dogwood, Brule likes six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson because he’s “skilled at a lot of things as far as his athletic ability; that’s what I key in on.”

“I really have a long list of (drivers I like),” said Brule, who was in military intelligence. “I still like Dale Earnhardt. I would like to see Jeff Gordon do well this year since it’s his retirement year. But I don’t think you can forget some of the old-timers that have paved the way, either.”

The excursions for Camp Dogwood residents were created following conversations that museum founder Don Miller had with Marilyn Green, the first Miss Winston, who has retinitis pigmentosa.

Larry Abruzzesa, the museum’s program director, worked with the camp to develop a special tour for its residents. It was tested about a year ago with a veteran’s group from the camp. It was such a big hit that it was implemented on a weekly basis this summer.

The tour begins with each camper receiving a pair of white gloves upon his or her arrival. They are then escorted to their seats in the museum. Abruzzesa explains the tour’s logistics and then Bob Hissom, the museum’s historian, talks about stock-car racing’s history. Once the tour begins, Hissom explains each race car to the camp’s 14 residents as they explore the car with their hands.

“I think when a lot of people lose their vision or suffer severe vision impairment, they think they can’t do the same things that they used to do, but they can. We just adapt them a little bit,” King said. “Larry, Tiffany (Ryan, museum director) and the folks here came up with the white glove tour so our folks who are totally blind or have real severe vision impairment can actually touch the exhibits and experience the exhibits without their sight. I love the fact that they do a personalized tour for the campers. They make a special effort to make this a very meaningful and rich experience for our guests.

“A lot of these people live in rural areas where there are no museums. We encourage them to get out and try new things. Anthony (Lipscomb, of High Point), who’s here today, isn’t that interested in cars, but he loves to try new stuff.”

Founded in 1967 by the North Carolina Lions, Camp Dogwood serves about 750 adults from ages 18 to 100 each summer. When the 10-week recreational camp concludes, the facility serves as a meeting and retreat center.

Furr leads 2 NHRA classes; Wilkins second

Harrisburg resident Steve Furr led the Super Gas and Top Dragster classes in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Division 2 standings heading into August. In Super Gas, Furr held a 19-point advantage over Mooresville’s Lauren Freer. He possessed a 21-point advantage over Larry Roberts of Laurens, S.C., in Top Dragster. In the national standings, Furr was second to John Labbous Jr. of White House, Tenn., in Super Gas, 33 points behind. Furr was sixth in the Top Dragster national standings.

In Top Sportsman, Mt. Ulla resident Sandy Wilkins was second to Jeffrey Barker of Kathleen, Ga., by 33 points. Wilkins was fifth in the national standings.

Anderson, Line clinch playoff berths

Greg Anderson and Jason Line, both of Mooresville, have clinched berths in this year’s Countdown to the Championship in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock division. Anderson missed the championship battle last year because he had to sit out the season’s first five races while he recovered from heart surgery. Heading to Seattle, Wash., Anderson held a 47-point lead over defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens. Line, Anderson’s teammate at Summit Racing, was third, 194 points behind.

Bohn victorious at Bowman Gray

Mooresville’s Danny Bohn has secured his second modified victory this season at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. Bohn’s most recent victory came on a double-header weekend, July 31-Aug. 1. In the first race, which was won by Jason Myers, Bohn finished 11th. Bohn, Bowman Gray’s defending modified champion, defeated Chris Fleming for his victory in the second race.

Smith takes point lead to South Boston

Mooresville’s Zane Smith takes a 108-point lead in the PASS South Super Late Model standings into the series Aug. 15 race at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. In eight races this year, Smith has secured two victories, six top-five and eight top-10 finishes. Rounding out the top five in the standings, respectively, are Durham’s Tate Fogleman, Sanford’s Jody Measmer, Kannapolis’ Matt Craig and Hendersonville’s Jimmy Doyle.

The PASS South Super Late Model season concludes Nov. 21 at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Cindric atop GRC Lites standings

Mooresville resident Austin Cindric led the GRC Lite standings in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series entering the Aug. 15 event in Washington, D.C. The 16-year-old Cindric is in his rookie season with Mooresville’s Olsbergs MSE. Teammate Oliver Eriksson was fifth in the standings.

In the Supercar standings, Olsbergs MSE driver Sebastian Eriksson was second, while teammate Joni Wiman was fourth. Mt Holly’s Scott Speed was fifth, while Huntersville residents Nelson Piquet Jr., Steve Arpin and Patrik Sandell were fifth through eighth, respectively, in the standings. Arpin drives for Concord-based Chip Ganassi Racing. His teammate, Brian Deegan, was 11th in the standings. This is the first season Ganassi has fielded a Rallycross team.

Deb Williams is a freelance writer: