New museum exhibit takes a left turn into the Chippewa Valley

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Gentlemen, start your engines!

The car that Paul Menard drove to victory in the 2011 Brickyard 400 will be the focal point of a new racing exhibit at the Chippewa Valley Museum.

The Chippewa Valley Museum opened an exhibit Tuesday paying homage to the region's rich racing history.

The exhibit features stock cars, trophies, and a tiny pedal car.

The museum is celebrating the area's close ties with the racing community and the rich history that is represented.

Chippewa Valley museum Director and Curator, Carrie Ronnander, described the new exhibit.

“The new exhibit is called racing in the Chippewa valley”, Ronnander said. “It's an exploration of motorsports here in the region, all kinds of motorsports, from go carts to motorcycles to professional race cars and snowmobiles."

The new exhibit was thought of when two curators approached Ronnander with memorabilia and possessions that belonged to local racing legend, Herm Johnson.

"There's been a lot of racing over the years”, she said. “We've had racetracks here since the 1940s, both in Eau Claire and the greater Chippewa Valley. But it really began, the exhibit, because of Herm Johnson. He was a professional racecar driver from Eau Claire; he raced in the Indy 500 and Indy cars in the 1980s."

If you're not revved up about racing, the exhibit still offers great historical context of the Eau Claire area and a spot to keep the little ones occupied.

"There are lots of cool things to look at”, Ronnander said. “There are some really fun cars to look at; we have a play area for children. So there is a racecar play mat and some other fun activities for kids. Even if you're not a race fan, you can see the local significance of racing in the community. So you can see how this sport is entertaining for this community."

Ronnander highlighted some of the cool cars that are the spotlight of the new exhibit.

"The highlights of the exhibit are the stock car that was raced by Paul Menard in 2011”, she said “We also have a go cart from the 1980s painted by Herm Johnson. We have a motorcycle that was custom painted by Herm Johnson and a 1939 Chevy Coupe that raced at Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie."

Visitors will be able to see these vehicles at the Chippewa Valley Museum through October 26.

Ronnander expects this to be a popular exhibit with community members.