When Armand “Bubba” Carter and his wife, Cathy, moved to Mechanicsville a few years ago, they hardly looked at the home they eventually bought. Carter saw the two garage spaces and decided it was the place for him.
There was a good reason why Carter was pleased with the garage space. He is a man of many passions and hobbies. He builds and races go-karts. He hand paints cars and etches the windows with themed designs that have won multiple awards at car shows. But no passion requires more space than his NASCAR collection. At roughly 4,200 unique pieces, it is a sight to behold. Carter has a goal in sight for his collection: a spot in the Guinness World Records.
The Carters have been in contact with Guinness and have learned that there is no record for such a collection in existence. In order to set the initial record, Carter will need to officially have 5,000 pieces of unique memorabilia in his collection. In a way, the collecting is perhaps the easiest portion of the ordeal.
“You can’t just be in the Guinness book of records; they make you work for it,” Carter said. “There is writing and taking a picture of everything and documenting it. Everything’s got be different.”
There are many different pieces to the collection, both big and small. Some are things you might find in a toy store, such as small matchbox-sized cars. Others are things you might find on the shelf of a grocery store, such as a box of cookies or crackers with a NASCAR driver’s face on it. There is even a limited edition NASCAR Barbie doll that was thought to be lost in their move. No matter the item, it is recorded: Each piece has a numbered picture that corresponds to a notebook containing descriptions of each item, all written by Cathy.
“[Cathy] sits down and writes it — everything — in the book,” Carter said.
Carter’s love for NASCAR began in the late 1970s when his older brother took him to a race at Richmond. He ended up following the late Dale Earnhardt’s Wrangler car that day and got hooked. His collection began when he found a Ricky Rudd car in a sandbox. The car was missing a tire, and it became the very first piece of his collection.
“I got that, and from there, every time I saw something and it had ‘NASCAR,’ I had to have it,” Carter said.
As his collection grew, Carter’s parents allowed their home to be his museum. And, as time has gone on, the items have become more complex. Carter owns one of the Heilig-Meyers driving suits worn by the late Dick Trickle. It was a gift from the late Junie Donlavey, who was a Richmond native and team owner.
After Carter and Cathy bought their home in Mechanicsville, they moved the collection to the his garage space bit by bit. There are still items in the old home’s attic and a stash of several NASCAR trading cards — all still undocumented in Cathy’s notebook at this time.
But one piece, well- documented and at the collection’s center, is recognizable to many fans and drivers. It is the couple’s favorite piece: Parked in the middle of the garage is a van, painted by Carter in the design of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 Budweiser ride. On one side are murals of personal favorites Tim Richmond and Davey Allison, who have passed on. The other side features the late Adam Petty — son of Kyle Petty — while the back doors have the driver that first caught Carter’s eye — Dale Earnhardt Sr.
On the inside of the van, the dashboard has been signed by several drivers and other NASCAR personalities. Most of them have been collected at Richmond. However, the first signature came from the Earnhardt family.
“When we first built this, we took it to Dale Earnhardt’s mother. She was the very first person to sign,” Carter said. “She was impressed. From that day, we’ve never had someone say that they didn’t want to sign.”
The Carters rarely miss a Richmond race, and the van has become such a staple among drivers and fans that their rare miss has actually caused concern.
“People wonder where we are if we’re not there,” Cathy said. “We’ve missed one [race] in 15 years, and they were looking for us.”