By DAVID BORAKS
Saturday’s AmeriCarna Live Car Show at the Ingersoll Rand corporate campus in Davidson had to be one of the most spectacular events of its kind ever in the Lake Norman area. There were vintage cars in a high state of shine, cars from the early days of stock car racing, and custom rides from the collections of NASCAR drivers and other celebrities. Fans collected autographs from stock car legend Bobby Allison and shook hands with NASCAR star Rusty Wallace.
The show was the work of innovator and racing car owner Ray Evernham and raised thousands of dollars for one of Evernham’s current pet projects: Ignite, a training center and clubhouse in Davidson for people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. The center, in the Davidson Cotton Mill, is coming up on its first anniversary. And Evernham planned Saturday’s show not only as a day of fun for car lovers, but as a way to help fund Ignite.
Evernham told DavidsonNews.net that more than 300 car owners brought their babies to the show, which organizers said brought several thousand people through the gates. Lead sponsors were Davidson’s two largest corporate residents, Ingersoll Rand and MSC Industrial Supply Co. The event was at Ingersoll Rand in part because of Evernham’s long relationship with the company as a NASCAR team owner.
We saw 1940s-era moonshine runners, dragsters and Indy cars, and even VW campers outfitted for the most die-hard Hippies. Celebrity cars came from the collections of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr., Rusty Wallace, Rick Hendrick, and Evernham himself.
“This is a celebration of cars,” Evernham said.
Fans were charged a $5 admission at the gate, while car owners paid a $25 fee to enter. Evernham said several of the celebrities wrote big checks for their entries, to help fund the center.
IT’S ALL ABOUT IGNITE
Evernham’s son, 22-year-old Ray J, was the inspiration for Ignite. (See Oct. 11, 2012, “Evernham gift helps found autism community center”)
Ignite Director Stacey Hultgren joined staff, volunteers, members and representatives from the Autism Society of North Carolina at a booth at Saturday’s show. She was grateful for the show of support from the racing and car community.
“The NASCAR community has been very supportive, and Ray (Everhham), obviously we wouldn’t be here without him,” Hultgren said. She said the car show would be one of the major fundraisers of the year for Ignite.
“We do plan on doing this every year. We’re just surprised in our first year that it’s this big,” she said.
The Ignite Center now has a full enrollment of 30 members, with about eight people on a waiting list. Many come 4 days a week to socialize, get help with resumes and job interview skills. Enrollment turns over as some find jobs.
Evernham said that was his goal . “As they get older and past the high school age, there’s not a lot of opportunity for them,” he said. He credited the Autism Society with helping him bring his idea to fruition last year.
The car show also gave Evernham a chance to promote his new TV series, “AmeriCarna Live,” which premieres Jan. 14 on the Velocity channel. Evernham described it last week as “a show about cars and American culture,” telling stories about cars and people.
More about AmeriCarna LIVE, at www.AmeriCarnaTV.com/LIVE.
Nov. 26, 2013, “AmeriCarna show Sat. will bring car lovers, help Ignite”
Oct. 11, 2012, “Evernham gift helps found autism community center”