This is your last chance to see the historic collection at the Winston Cup Museum & Special Event Center. The storied museum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will shut its doors forever on December 16 after a long legal battle with ITG Brands, owner of the Winston brand.
“This is a tough pill to swallow,” executive director Colbert Seagraves said. “You have no idea how I feel — this is killing me. I’ve been involved with this museum since 1972. It’s breaking my heart. This is my father’s legacy.”
His father, the late Ralph Seagraves, worked for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), rising to the position of President of Special Operations. There, he helped bring the Winston sponsorship to NASCAR and NHRA. Those feats earned him induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, among other halls of fame, and a NASCAR Hall of Fame Landmark Award.
The Winston Cup Museum & Special Event Center opened in 2005, two years after Winston last sponsored NASCAR’s top series. In 2014, RJR spun off the Winston brand to ITG Brands. The next year, ITG sued the museum of its use of artifacts and logos involving Winston. In court, museum owner Will Spencer claimed that he purchased all the artifacts in the museum, which were initially on loan from RJR, for $300.
“I’m tired of talking about the lawsuit,” said Seagraves. “It has consumed my life. Everything is public record if people want to know more.”
Yesterday, Mecum catalogued the 50 cars owned by the museum in preparation to auction them off in January in Kissimmee, Florida. The collection includes cars driven by legends such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, the Labonte brothers, Harry Gant, and Wendell Scott. Plus, there’s thousands of other historic items in the collection, including helmets, fire suits, pictures, trophies, and even champagne bottles.
“Everything from the museum will go to the highest bidders,” Seagraves said. “We own everything, and ITG can’t touch it,” Seagraves said. “But we can’t afford to change the museum’s name, as stipulated by the court, or pay our lawyers’ fees. The cars are going to the Mecum auction. I have no idea where the memorabilia will wind up.”
Regardless of the results of the liquidation of the Winston Cup Museum, it won’t touch the impact of Ralph Seagraves had on the sport.
“[My father] was my hero — larger than life — and my best friend,” said Seagraves. “He would give you the shirt off of his back. He was loved by the people who knew him and the people of the NASCAR Winston Cup racing.”
The Winston Cup Museum will be open Thursday-Sunday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through December 16.
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.