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Hot Rod Power Tour

Written by Tom Olsen


Each summer Hot Rod Magazine sponsors the Hot Rod Power Tour, a seven-day rolling car cruise and show. 2019 is the 25th anniversary of the event. Approximately 6,000 cars, trucks, and hot rods participate in HRPT over the course of 7 days and nearly 100,000 spectators take it all in.

Power Tour 2019 kicked off at Z-Max Dragway in Concord (Charlotte), NC on Saturday, June 8. From there, daily stops included Martinsville Speedway, VA; Bristol Motor Speedway, TN; Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, KY; Lucas Oil Speedway, Indianapolis, IN; Allen County War Memorial, Ft. Wayne, IN; and Summit Motorsports Park, Norwalk, OH.

Dakota Digital is a sponsor for the event, and I traveled with them again this year, as I did back in 2015 when I first reported on HRPT for this magazine. This year, however, we had a “bonus” thrown in. Larrie Matthews is a friend of the Dakota Digital staff and an employee of Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports. He offered to give us a tour of the Hendrick Motorsports race car operation and Rick Hendrick’s personal car collection. All we needed to do was show up a day early in Concord, NC, and meet with Larrie at Hendrick Motorsports. Having seen some coverage of Rick Hendrick’s car collection on automotive TV shows, and being a NASCAR fan, this was a fantastic opportunity!

We met up with Larrie at 8AM on Friday. He has been friends with Mr. Hendrick since the second grade, and has worked for him for many years, so he is completely versed on the racing operation, as well as the car collection. We received “behind-the-scene” tours of the 9, 24, 48, and 88 NASCAR race shops. Included were the engine build, chassis, body, and machine shop areas. A couple highlights were watching CNC machines milling aluminum cylinder heads and seeing a chassis and roll cage on jigs being welded together for a new car. The race car shops, as expected, had a strict “No Cameras” policy. Unfortunately, the same applied to the car collection. Due to that, I don’t have any photos of the car collection to share with you, as I normally would.

The car collection was simply amazing! These are many (218) of the finest collectible automobiles you’ll find anywhere. Chevrolet was the strongest influence here by far, since that is Mr. Hendrick’s background. But there were other American brands as well as some high-end foreign exotics on display. There were rows of Corvettes of all years, most of which were specially optioned or limited number builds. (A row of seven 1963 Corvette Sting Ray “split window” coupes made my day!) Big block 1967 Sting Rays of every variety were in abundance. Several of the Corvettes were “first off” or “last off” the assembly line models. I saw rare 1969 COPO and Yenko Camaros. One was a “1 of 69 built” with the all-aluminum ZL1 engine. (How many of those exist today?) It really was sensory overload and without having taken any photos, more specific information on cars present is difficult. Automotive TV shows show the collection on occasion. It’s worth viewing if you get the chance. Or, better yet, they do offer some public tours if you’re ever in the area.

Saturday morning was the kickoff for Hot Rod Power Tour at Z-Max Dragway. Z-Max is an impressive drag racing facility, home of “4-wide” drag racing. Attendance was high on the first day with HRPT participants as well as locals that show up daily to enjoy the huge car show. (Approximately 2,500-3,000 cars are in the shows daily. Many are area people that come to show at just their local event.) Being at a dragstrip, “fun runs” and “grudge matches” went on all day long. This being the first day, the vendor midway was very busy as everyone was checking out the vendors on hand.

The events close at 7PM daily, then we exhibitors head out for the next location. Most of the Power Tour participants travel the suggested routes the following morning. Martinsville, VA, was our next stop.

Being a NASCAR fan, I always enjoy seeing the various NASCAR tracks, and Martinsville was no exception. In Martinsville, all the vendors were set up inside the huge infield area. This gave us a great view of all the track facilities. “Gold” and “Platinum” (extra fee) Power Tour participants had special parking inside the track as well as on the track itself which made for handy access to the vendor midway for those folks. The majority of 2,000+ other participants displayed in parking areas outside the track. Following a pleasant day (not too hot) in Martinsville, we were off to Bristol, TN.

I found the track at Bristol to be very interesting. This is a short, ½ mile track with very high banking. The seating also is very steep and surrounds the small track on all sides. Signage inside the track bills this as “The Last Great Colosseum,” and that is certainly the feel you get. Vendors were set up inside the track at Bristol, which challenged some. Upon entering the track, one drives through a gate, over the banked track surface, through another gate, then makes a hard-left turn into the infield. It’s a little intimidating to a “newbie,” and two of the big tractor-trailer vendor rigs elected to not even navigate it. They displayed outside. (During a NASCAR race I see the infield is packed with all the big rig haulers, so it can be done.) In addition to just being inside this historic track, another highlight was seeing participant cars make laps on the track. HRPT participants had an option of signing up for lap passes, and several took advantage of that. A Sheriff’s Office vehicle acted as somewhat of a pace car to keep things sane but, as car guys will, I heard plenty of hard acceleration as people got more daring with each lap. What a blast that must have been for them! Intermittent rain interrupted the fun, but everyone I talked to seemed to be having a great time. A nearly 300-mile drive after Bristol took us to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY.

At Kentucky Speedway we set up in the much roomier infield. Many vehicles also were displayed inside with the additional couple thousand outside the track. It was now Tuesday, and a crazy-busy day for Dakota Digital. This was the day that we gave out our “Long Hauler” gift. Long Haulers are those participants that sign up for each of the 7 stops on Power Tour. Major sponsors, like Dakota Digital, give out a gift on a designated day. Our gift is a counter mat that people really enjoy and seek out each year. From the time the gates open until the mats run out, we are constantly busy! My car viewing/photography time this day was limited to morning set-up. But the day does go fast!

There were two more stops for Power Tour, but Kentucky was the last stop for us. Time constraints required that we head for home.

Traveling on Power Tour with a vendor company is an exhausting, but amazing experience. Thousands of cool cars, all the great people you interact with, and 3,000 miles traveled makes for quite an adventure.

As an auto enthusiast, participating in Power Tour may be something you’d enjoy. Whether you want to be a Long Hauler, or jump in only for a stop or two, it’s worth looking into. Check it out online or in Hot Rod Magazine for much more information.




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