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Cotton Owens, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame's fourth class, didn't live to experience his own induction, but to his friend and fellow Hall of Famer David Pearson, being selected for the hall was the culmination of a dream for his former car owner.
Owens, 88, died at his Spartanburg, S.C., home Thursday morning after battling lung cancer for more than seven years. On May 23, two days after his 88th birthday, Owens learned he had been voted into the Hall of Fame. Because of his illness, he was unable to attend the announcement, but Pearson said the selection was not lost on his friend.
"He was aware of everything," Pearson told the NASCAR Wire Service during a phone call Thursday afternoon. "It really meant a lot to him. I just wish he could have been there for the ceremony."
The induction ceremony for the five members of the 2013 Hall of Fame class will take place on Feb. 8, 2013.
"This is a sad day for the NASCAR industry, but we are all consoled by the fact that Cotton was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame before his death," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "Today we have lost a portion of our past. But people like Cotton Owens are the reason our sport thrives today -- and can look forward to a promising future."
Pearson won the first of his three championships in NASCAR's foremost series driving Owens' No. 6 Dodge. All told, Pearson won 27 races in 170 starts driving Owens' equipment.
Owens began his racing career as a driver. In what is now called NASCAR's Whelen Modified Tour, he won more than 100 features and division championships in 1953 and 1954, earning him the nickname "King of the Modifieds."
Owens also collected nine victories in NASCAR's top division (now called Sprint Cup), the last coming at Richmond in 1964, when he beat Pearson to the checkered flag.
As an owner, Owens won 38 times in 405 starts in the Cup series. Owens fielded cars for a list of luminaries that included Pearson, Junior Johnson, Bobby Isaac, Ralph Earnhardt, Benny Parsons, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, Mario Andretti, Jim Paschal, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzbach and Al Unser.
Rusty Wallace was in his first year of eligibility for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but that didn't stop voters from putting him into the 2013 class right away.
Wallace, the 1989 Cup champion and 55-time race winner, earned a surprising but deserved invitation to the Hall on Wednesday along with two-time Cup champions Herb Thomas and Buck Baker, former crew chief Leonard Wood and driver/owner Cotton Owens.
Many observers didn't expect Wallace to be included on his first try, but he earned 52 percent of the vote. Wood and Thomas got 57 percent apiece, followed by Owens (50 percent) and Baker (39 percent).
Baker actually tied with Fireball Roberts for the final Hall of Fame spot, which required a tiebreaking vote from the 53-member voting panel.
Though some fans might not understand why Wallace was included ahead of many NASCAR pioneers, the inclusion of a recent driver should help boost the Hall's struggling attendance numbers.
The debate about the NASCAR Hall of Fame today concerns which five people should become part of the 2013 class.
But what about the people who actually vote on the class? One-third of the 54 total votes will be cast by current or former media members, a list which startlingly leaves out some of the longest-serving NASCAR journalists.
Autoweek's Al Pearce covered his first NASCAR race in 1969 (the first-ever Dover race) and has personally witnessed somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 Cup races. But he is a not a Hall of Fame voter.
Mike Hembree of Speed.com has covered NASCAR for 30 years and is one of the most knowledgeable journalists about NASCAR history. He is not a Hall of Fame voter, either.
Steve Waid, a longtime NASCAR Scene writer who now runs his own site (MotorsportsUnplugged.com), has been writing about NASCAR since 1972. Like the others, he is not a Hall of Fame voter.
And that's just a sampling of the institutional knowledge which is locked out of the room on Voting Day.
I don't get it. Why wouldn't NASCAR want people who have been around the sport the longest – the ones who actually saw the nominees race – to help decide who is worthy of Hall selection and who is not?
I'm not going to pick apart the current group of voters and say certain people aren't worthy of being there, because all of them were chosen by NASCAR for what was likely a valid reason.
My complaint is with the quality of media members who haven't yet been recognized with a Hall vote. Adding a few more seats to the room for these esteemed and deeply knowledgeable journalists would not water down the current group; it would strengthen it.
Here are the members of the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel:
NASCAR Hall of Fame
A legendary engine builder and car owner. The matriarch of a sport. A trail blazer who broke NASCAR's color barrier. An influential sponsorship official who helped usher in the sport's modern era. A champion and bonafide star driver for more than two decades.
For such a wide-ranging array of people, all have two things in common: their impact on stock-car racing and their addition to the list of nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2013.
Ray Fox, Anne B. France, Wendell Scott, Ralph Seagraves and Rusty Wallace were announced Wednesday as the latest names to join the 25 nominees for Hall of Fame induction. Voting day is scheduled May 23, when an appointed panel will select the five newest members for enshrinement in early 2013.
The five new nominees were revealed on "Race Hub" on the SPEED network.
The most familiar names among the quintet belong to Scott and Wallace.
Scott remains the only African-American driver to win a race at NASCAR's top level, which he accomplished on Dec. 1, 1963 in Jacksonville, Fla. In his 13-year career, the longtime privateer made 495 starts, tying him for 33rd on the all-time list. NASCAR continues to honor his legacy by awarding 12 scholarships per year in his name for minorities.
Wallace won 55 races in NASCAR's premier series, good for eighth place in the history books. The former Rookie of the Year was crowned Cup champion in 1989 and won at least one race each season over a 16-year span that reached into the turn of the century. He remains visible in the sport as a NASCAR analyst for ESPN.
Fox's influence on the sport was felt for more than 40 years as one of NASCAR's brightest mechanics and car owners. The World War II veteran built engines and fielded cars for legends such as Junior Johnson, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough. Fox's mechanical know-how served him well in his second career as a NASCAR engine inspector, a position he held until retiring at age 80 in 1996.
The former Anne Bledsoe married Bill France Sr. in 1931, and the family put down roots three years later in Daytona Beach, Fla. Anne France took an active role in the family business, primarily in managing its finances as NASCAR secretary and treasurer, but also in organizing and promoting the competition.
Seagraves' lasting mark on NASCAR hit its peak in 1971, when the R.J. Reynolds official helped forge a relationship that gave the sport major sponsorship support for more than three decades. The birth of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series -- now the Sprint Cup Series -- helped stock-car racing grow exponentially from a regional pastime to a national spectacle.
The other 20 nominees remain on the ballot from past years. They are:
-- Buck Baker, a two-time champion in the sport's earliest days and winner of 46 races in NASCAR's top series.
-- Red Byron, a pioneer with many firsts: winner of the first race under NASCAR sanction, first NASCAR Modified champion in 1948 and first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) champ in 1949.
-- Richard Childress, an hard-nosed independent driver who later achieved six Cup championships as a team owner for Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt.
-- Jerry Cook, a dominant Modified driver from the Northeast with six championships and longtime foil to Hall of Famer Richie Evans; now a NASCAR competition administrator.
-- H. Clay Earles, founding father of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a charter track which held its first race in 1947 and endures with two dates on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar today.
-- Tim Flock, a two-champion in NASCAR's premier series and an early star in the sport's formative years with 39 wins in just 187 starts.
-- Rick Hendrick, a Charlotte businessman who built a modern motorsports empire that has won 10 championships at NASCAR's highest level, an all-time record.
-- Jack Ingram, a short-track specialist and legendary force in the NASCAR Nationwide Series' earlier incarnations in the 1970s and '80s with five division crowns.
-- Bobby Isaac, the 1970 Cup champion and 37-time winner in NASCAR's top series; won 49 poles in his career, including 19 in 1969 -- a single-season record that still stands.
-- Fred Lorenzen, "Golden Boy" of the 1960s who counts the Daytona 500 and World 600 of 1965 among his 26 wins in NASCAR's highest division.
-- Cotton Owens, a longtime competitor who enjoyed 24 years of success as a pioneering driver and car owner, winning a title with Pearson as his star driver in 1966.
-- Raymond Parks, an Atlanta businessman and team owner whose racing success predates the birth of NASCAR; owned the car driven by Red Byron to the first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) title.
-- Benny Parsons, the charismatic 1973 Cup champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner who remained prominent in the sport as a popular broadcaster after his retirement from driving.
-- Les Richter, a Hall of Famer already for his defensive efforts in college and pro football whose second career as a speedway manager and NASCAR executive official for more than 50 years.
-- Fireball Roberts, regarded as perhaps the greatest NASCAR driver never to win a title, but who made his mark on superspeedways as the 1962 Daytona 500 champ and a two-time Southern 500 winner.
-- T. Wayne Robertson, an R.J. Reynolds executive and promoter who helped to expand the sport's reach during a period of immense growth, including the creation of NASCAR's All-Star Race in 1985.
-- Herb Thomas, the first two-time champion (1951 and '53) in NASCAR's premier series who piloted the legendary Fabulous Hudson Hornet to the majority of his 48 wins.
-- Curtis Turner, who built his star power as much on his fun-loving personality as he did on his driving ability; won 17 races in NASCAR's top series and 22 in the convertible division.
-- Joe Weatherly, known as much for his practical joking off the track as his fierce determination on it; won championships in 1962 and '63, a decade removed from scoring back-to-back titles in the Modified class.
-- Leonard Wood, one of the sport's most innovative and longest-serving mechanics, whose team invented the modern pit stop; currently in his seventh decade of involvement with NASCAR with the Wood Brothers organization.
Darrell Waltrip's speech was the highlight of Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Because the event doesn't air on Speed until Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern, you probably haven't heard what Waltrip said yet.
Here's a partial transcript of Waltrip's 24-minute speech:
I've got to straighten something out before we can get to any of this other stuff: It wasn't that I talked that much. Those other guys didn't talk at all. So it just looked like I was talking a lot. I had to fill in the blanks. If there is something that needed to be explained, DW had to explain it. So it looked like that I talked a lot, but I honestly didn't. I just want you to know that, for you new fans that have listened to all this stuff tonight.
This is a red letter night. You have to admit. Bobby Allison said I deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. Does anybody in here know how big that is? That's big. And he swore to me that they weren't holding a gun to him or anything, he did it right out of the goodness of his heart. So thank you, Bobby.
You know, this night, these men and the people in this room, they're what inspire me. They are what inspired me to be a race car driver. They are what inspired me to...Cale said he climbed a ladder. I feel like I climbed a lot of mountains, and the climbing was rough. But these men in this room inspired me to be successful and to be good, and they gave me great examples of how to do that for every one of them from all the inductees from the prior hall classes, Richard, Bobby, David, thank you very much for being patient with me and helping me when I needed it.
And then it's been the most important people in my life are right here on the front row. This has been a big week for DW. Not just tonight. I mean, this is huge for my career, but in my family life, we found out that Fausto and Jessica, my oldest daughter and her husband, are expecting their first child. So I'll be a grandfather. And if you ever want to see DW speechless, my Sarah, who was on a mission trip in the Philippines, as early as Wednesday, we talked to her earlier in the week: 'Dad, I wish I could be there, I know it's a big night, I'm sorry I can't make it.' When I checked into the hotel room last night and I opened the door, my Sarah was there. She flew 25 hours to be here tonight, and she's got to turn around Sunday and fly 25 hours back to the Philippines. That's sweet. That means a lot to an old dad, trust me.
And then there's the redhead. If there was a Hall of Fame for drivers' wives, Stevie would be in the first class. We've been married 42 years, and like a lot of drivers and people in racing, it was tough back in the day. I mean, it was just one week to the next. What you won one week, you paid enough bills so you could make it to the next week.
But the funny thing about Stevie is when she came to the sport in 1972, I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but there could be no women in the pits. You could have no women in the pits, in the garage. It was men only.
I didn't like that, Stevie didn't like that. So I talked to I think the competition director was Bill Gazaway. I said, 'What do I got to do?' He said, you can have car owners and crew members, and that's it. The next week, Stevie was the car owner and she was a crew member.
Now, to say it went smooth would be an understatement. My very first race in the Daytona 500, we had only run short tracks all over the country, a lot of short tracks. Hundred lappers were about as long a race as we'd ever run. We get in the Daytona 500 and it's not going very well. I'm getting slower and slower, and Jake Elder was there, and Jake said, 'What's wrong with him?' and Stevie said, 'I think he's hungry,' and Jake said, 'He's hungry?' She said, 'Yeah, he's never driven a race this long, I'm pretty sure he's hungry.'
So Jake kind of blew that off and went about his business, and Stevie figured she'd better run to the truck and make me a sandwich. So she ran to the truck, got some ham and cheese, made a sandwich, ran back out to the pit, and when I came in the pit to make my green flag pit stop, guess who came over the wall? Stevie Waltrip handed me a ham and cheese sandwich.
Now, can anybody in here top that? Handed me a ham and cheese sandwich. Jake and them are changing tires and I take this sandwich, and I look at her, and about that time the jack dropped and I knew I had to go, so I just threw the thing out the window, and as I drove away they said Stevie was standing there shaking her head going, 'I thought he liked ham and cheese!'
You know, Stevie says this all the time, not so much anymore, but she likes to say she's been married to two men with the same name. For you folks who are maybe new to the sport, I hope you feel the same way. I have had two lives, and I've had two careers. When I came onto the scene, I was not a nice guy. I was an antagonist. It just seemed to work for me. I always thought that a lot of people say they take the path of least resistance. I took the path I couldn't resist. You know why? There ain't nobody on it. So a lot of times I was off on my own.
But through a lot of hard work, and Richard Petty, you may never remember this, but he put his arm around me one day and he wasn't even mad at me, and he said, 'Boy, keep going like you are, you're going to have a hard time finding a sponsor.' Does any of this sound familiar? Antagonist, hard time to find a sponsor, a little trouble on the track? If it doesn't, it should. And I took that to heart, because Richard Petty, he gave you good advice. When he told you something, you take it to the bank.
So I worked hard on changing my image, and by golly, in 1989 and 1990 I was able to win the most popular driver of this sport, and that's one of the biggest awards in my whole career.
But one of (Junior Johnson's) favorite things to do to me, he inspired me a lot, he called me 'Cale' a lot. When I first started driving for him, he'd come on the radio and he'd say, 'Pit next time by, Cale.' I'd say, "Dadgummit, Junior, my name ain't Cale.' '10‑4, Cale.'
They always told me, if you're going to dream, dream as big as you possibly can because you know what, it might just come true. And tonight, I'm living proof of that.
I wanted to mention my grandmother who took me to races when I was a little boy, seven years old. I got bit by the bug. G.C. Spencer was her hero, he became my hero, and I told granny one Sunday when we were standing in victory circle with G.C. Spencer, I said, 'Granny, someday I'm going to do that,' and she said, 'Boy, that's impossible.' I took that word and I broke it down: 'I'm possible, I'm possible,' and I took that with me everywhere I ever went.
It all comes down to this, folks: I've had a marvelous career. My faith is important to me. One of my biggest accomplishments that I never get a chance to talk about is Motor Racing Outreach. Our president is here tonight, Billy Mauldin. I had a lot of things out of order, and my priorities were one of them. I loved racing. It's all I cared about. I didn't care about anything else, and it bit me. After a while it got me, and I finally realized that I had my priorities wrong. It was God, family and racing, and when I got that straight, I became a much better man, and I actually ended up being NASCAR's most popular driver. I was blessed; I was given a second chance.
In closing I'll say this: It's not about me. It's not about what I've done. It's not about wins, statistics or anything else. Tonight it's about family, thank the good Lord that they're all here. It's about all my friends who came from miles away to be here, and it's about all the fans that are back there that have supported me all through the years, and it's about NASCAR and what they've been able to do with it sport, and I'm just glad I was able to be a part of it.
I'm probably running a little bit long but I've got to tell you this quick story. Just one more story, I promise. You see this ring right here? In '81 I won the championship and they gave me a ring and it was a little rinky‑dink ring. I didn't think it was very pretty and it wasn't very big, and I thought, 'Man, that's really not very indicative of how hard you have to work to get this thing. So in '82 Bill France called me up and he said, 'If you win the championship again this year, you can pick the ring.' So I picked this ring, and if any of the champions here have got their ring on tonight, it started in 1982.
I've worn it every day since I got it, but tonight I'm taking it off and I'm putting on the Hall of Fame ring because this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.
Thank you very much.
The membership of NASCAR's Hall of Fame now stands at 15 people after five more legends were inducted into the uptown Charlotte shrine on Friday night.
Dale Inman, Glen Wood, Richie Evans, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip officially became members of the Class of 2012. Speed will air the ceremony via tape delay on Sunday night (6 p.m. Eastern), but if you're anxious to read about it beforehand, here are a few highlights from each inductee:
Known for: Winning eight Cup championships – seven as Richard Petty's crew chief.
Introduced by: Richard Petty, driver and cousin.
Petty: "I always looked at the way that Dale approached things – with attitude, confidence and focus. That's what he did with his people, and that's the reason he was able to be a winner like he is."
Inman: "I'm kind of familiar with this (Hall of Fame) ring. For the last two or three years, Richard has put it in my face a bunch of times."
Known for: Being one of NASCAR's greatest drivers and helping build the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team.
Introduced by: Leonard Wood, brother.
Leonard Wood: "Glen started racing 61 years ago. Glen and his partner, Chris Williams, and I were riding down the road. Chris says, 'What we've got to do is get some fame.' I'll have to say, this is as good as it gets."
Glen Wood: "This is not just about me being inducted in the Hall of Fame. It's also about the Wood Brothers. And it's about NASCAR. I'm proud to have been a NASCAR driver and car owner for the past 60 years, and I'm proud of this great honor."
Known for: Winning nine NASCAR Modified championships, including eight in a row.
Introduced by: Billy Nacewicz, crew chief.
Nacewicz: "He left me with two lifelong lessons. One – a hard word ethic and two – to enjoy whatever you're doing. Because as he would later say, 'We're all just passing through.'"
Lynn Evans, widow: "I'd like to say thanks to all of his fans who have kept his memory alive."
Known for: Three straight NASCAR Cup championships and winning 83 career races.
Introduced by: Ken Squier, broadcaster.
Squier: "He was – and still is today – the real deal."
Yarborough: "Racing is like a big, tall ladder. When you begin, you start off on the bottom of that ladder. And it's a long, hard climb. But I feel like tonight, I'm finally standing on the top step."
Known for: Winning three Cup titles and 84 races, and later gaining notoriety as a NASCAR TV broadcaster.
Introduced by: Jeff Hammond, former crew chief.
Hammond: "I would venture to say our sport will never see the likes of Darrell Waltrip ever again. He is truly one to a box."
Waltrip: "If you're going to dream, dream big – because it might just come true. I'm living proof of that."
Five more NASCAR legends will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in a ceremony tonight in Charlotte, bringing the total number of people enshrined in the still-young Hall to 15.
The 2012 class is highlighted by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough, who between them have six championships (three apiece) and 167 wins (84 for Waltrip, 83 for Yarborough).
Both are among the greatest drivers in the sport's history, but it's been widely speculated they were excluded from the 2011 class because they had ruffled many feathers over the years.
Waltrip and Yarborough will be joined by Richard Petty's longtime crew chief Dale Inman, Wood Brothers Racing pioneer Glen Wood and driver Richie Evans, who won nine NASCAR Modified titles out of the spotlight.
Last year, the class included David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Bud Moore and Ned Jarrett. The inaugural class was Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., and Junior Johnson.
Check back here tonight for some memorable moments from the induction speeches (SPOILER ALERT: Speed is not broadcasting the ceremony until Sunday at 6 p.m. due to its coverage of the Barrett-Jackson car auction).
The wait for three-time NASCAR champions Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip is over.
Yarborough and Waltrip, who each won three championships but were left out of the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame class, made the cut on Tuesday when the five inductees for the 2012 class were announced.
NASCAR's first three-time consecutive champion, Yarborough received the most votes, followed by Waltrip.
They were joined by Dale Inman – Richard Petty's former crew chief who many believe is the greatest of all time; Richie Evans – a Modified champion whose inclusion makes it clear voters believe the NASCAR Hall of Fame is not just the Sprint Cup Series Hall of Fame; and Glen Wood, who is half of the famed Wood Brothers Racing team.
Waltrip, upon hearing the news, jumped up on stage to hug and nearly kiss NASCAR Chairman Brian France. Both he and Yarborough had been slighted in 2011, many believe, because they've rubbed people the wrong way over the years.
The induction ceremony for the new class will be held in January 2012.
Let's be honest: While the first two classes of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees have contained some very worthy names, it's silly that Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough aren't in the Hall yet.
Many people were certain Waltrip and Yarborough would make the cut for the second class; because of politics in the voting process – both drivers have rubbed people the wrong way over the years – they didn't make it.
When the third class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame is announced Tuesday in Charlotte (4 p.m. Eastern, live on SPEED), Waltrip and Yarborough will be in it this time.
We think. ... Maybe. ... Right?
If they don't, NASCAR needs to look at the makeup of the voting panels and ask why a pair of three-time champions is being left out.
Who else aside from Waltrip and Yarborough should make the cut? Here are the picks of SB Nation Motorsports Editor Jeff Gluck and SB Nation contributor Jay Pennell.
The 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame class was made up of some of NASCAR’s biggest names. Lee Petty, Bud Moore, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison and David Pearson. Each left their own mark on the sport of NASCAR that has lasted decades and will continue to leave its impression for years to come. Unique in their own way, these five NASCAR legends were forever bound together by their common bond – racing stock cars.
A pioneer professional turned family patriarch to a racing dynasty. A war hero turned innovative mechanic and champion team owner. A championship driver turned broadcaster and ambassador. A do-it-yourself racer turned NASCAR champion. A tough-nosed mill town boy turned NASCAR legend.
These were not only great racers; they are great men and great inspirations for generations to come.
Lee Petty grew up as poor as poor could get, moving from house to house when rent was due, surviving the Great Depression and raising a family in rural North Carolina. When NASCAR began, Petty saw an opportunity. Borrowing a car, Petty loaded up his family and drove to the very first NASCAR race, held in Charlotte, N.C. in 1949.
Despite flipping that rented car, Petty was hooked. Converting an old barn at his home in Randleman, N.C., Petty started a family tradition that would span four generations and create one of the greatest family dynasties in all of sports.
“Lee Petty was the first professional race car driver NASCAR ever had,” Richard Petty said in a video tribute. “He was the first professional mechanic they had. He was the first professional owner. So, he was the staple that Bill France could build off of. If they were going to have a race, Lee Petty was going to be there.”
After winning the inaugural Daytona 500, becoming the first three time series champion and scoring 56 victories, a vicious wreck in the 1961 Daytona 500 ended his driving career. Out of the car, Lee Petty led Petty Enterprises with one goal, do the best you can to help the family.
His grandsons recalled not the highlights of the racing legend, instead the private lunches they had together nearly every day and life lessons he bestowed on them.
“He would tell us how he grew up as a child, and they were poor,” grandson Mark Petty recalled. “He remembered every time that the rent come due, they had to move. But he survived it. He told stories about how he survived the Great Depression as a 20 year old man. He also told us how whether it was the right way or wrong way, he put food on his table for his wife and two sons. He told us stories about when he started racing, hundreds of racing stories. I wish I could tell you all of them, but how he survived the early years of NASCAR.
"That's what he taught us all, my brothers, cousins, everybody. He taught us how to survive, how to survive tough times,” he added. “As you all know, last 10 years have been really tough times for the whole Petty family. But thanks to him, we're surviving.”
Bud Moore had his own ordeals he had to survive before his racing career, namely the D-Day invasion that took the 19-year-old South Carolinian to the shores of France, fighting to liberate the continent of Europe. Storming the beaches that day, Moore recalled jumping from his landing craft and struggling to get ashore in the neck-deep water, running across the beach to the safety of the dunes.
Safely making it through World War II, Moore became one of the best and brightest in the early days of NASCAR. Building motors and running teams out of his Spartanburg, S.C. shop, Moore developed some of the most innovative advances in technology, while molding some of the sport’s brightest stars.
“Me and Cotton Owens and Joe Eubanks, we all run around together before the war,” he recalled. “We were always out racing people at night with our little cars we had back then. I had a '36 Ford Roadster, Owens had a '39 Ford, Eubanks had a '39 Ford. Anybody that wanted to bet a little money, we would go out on the highway and run. Most of the time we wouldn't have more than three or four dollars, had to buy gas. After going to the war, coming back out, the biggest thing that got us interested (in racing).”
Among the list of drivers that drove for Bud Moore were Buck Baker, Speedy Thompson, Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt Sr., the list goes on and on.
Moore ran a tight ship in which things were done his way, but legendary radio personality Barney Hall recalled he knew how to have a good time, too.
“I'll be quite frank with you,” Hall said. “The first time I met Bud Moore and kind of hung around the pits with he and his boys, I thought he worked for Colonel Sanders. The reason was all they talked about was breasts, legs and thighs. They still do today.”
Celebrating his 86th birthday on May 25, Moore said being enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame was the biggest honor he had received.
“Looking back, I feel like I had a hand in a lot of contribution to our sport, whether it was running the first small block motor, the first two way radio, tire testing in Atlanta, or just trying to build a safe racecar,” he said. “Tonight, being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, those contributions are being honored.
“My daughter in law Carol Lee asked me how I remembered to be remembered,” he added. “The answer is simple: one who made many contributions to building the sport, whose handshake was as good as any contract who always gave a straight answer.
“Most of all, to be a remembered as a man who loved his family, country and the sport of racing.”
“Gentleman” Ned Jarrett was a force to be reckoned with on the track, but a generous family man off of it. Winning 50 races and two championships, Jarrett became one of the sport’s top drivers. Hanging up the helmet in 1966 shortly after his second championship, Jarrett would go on to promote Hickory Motor Speedway, the track that helped him get his start, and eventually became one of the most recognizable broadcasters in all of motorsports.
His Christian family values were something of a rarity in the earliest days of NASCAR, and they helped define Jarrett’s career moving forward. Raising three children with his wife Martha, Jarrett made an effort to provide as normal a family life as a traveling race car driver could. The effort paid off, as all three children – sons Dale and Glen, along with daughter Patti, all followed their father into NASCAR.
Later in his career, out from behind the wheel and away from the duties of promoting the race track, Jarrett moved into a career in broadcasting. First making inroads on the radio, Jarrett would eventually contribute to NASCAR broadcasts both in the pits and in the booth for CBS, ESPN and TNN. Perhaps his most memorable broadcast came in the 1993 Daytona 500 when he called the final lap for his son Dale’s first Daytona 500 victory.
“I'm humbled by this huge honor,” he said. “I don't take it lightly. I am so pleased the voting panel looked at all the various things I was privileged to do in this sport. I'm proud of my driving career, what we were able to accomplish on the racetrack in a relatively short period of time.
“I'm equally as proud to have been able to get on the ground floor of broadcasting races and cherish my time as a promoter at the Hickory Motor Speedway for nine years. I am thankful for all three of those distinct careers.”
At a very young age, Bobby Allison’s grandfather took him to a local car race in Hialeah, Fla. Watching from the grandstands, Allison knew he wanted to race from that day forward. Attempting to make his first ever race, Allison was forced to get written permission from his mother as he was only 17 years old.
“I said, ‘Mom, if you'll give me that written permission, I will improve my grades.’ Done deal,” he recalled. “But she thought she was giving me permission for one week, and I thought it was for a hundred years, and I won.”
Winning was something Bobby Allison became known for. Racing the local tracks in Florida, he eventually made the trip to Alabama and the state’s numerous short tracks. With the Alabama races more abundant and better paying, Allison eventually moved to the state for good.
Traveling to places such as Maine, New York and New Jersey – “Yankee land” as his brother Donnie called it – Allison and his group that included his brother and fellow race Red Farmer became forever known as “the Alabama Gang.”
Racing for a number of teams and in numerous makes of cars, Allison became of the fiercest competitors on the NASCAR circuit. Battling throughout the years with Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and others, Allison would officially win 84 career victories and the 1983 championship.
“I was just really determined to give it a hundred percent,” he said. “I kept running into people. Some of them weren't the key people, but at least some people in any one of these situations, and I know it's out there in the other businesses and professions in the world, but some of the people just weren't as committed. You know, if they didn't want to do it a hundred percent, I went down the road.
“I think about it. I did win 85 times. Scout's honor, 85 times. But just to try to put that into perspective a little bit, that was in nine different brands the cars for 14 different race teams. Now, the way I look at it now, I did drive pretty good most of the time. But, boy, I couldn't keep a job.”
The Scout’s honor touches on the hot topic of how many wins Allison truly has. Despite winning a 1971 race at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., NASCAR does not officially credit Allison with the victory – something that draws contention from the now Hall of Famer to this day.
The story of Bobby Allison and the entire Allison family is certainly not without its tragedy. After winning the 1988 Daytona 500 with his son Davey finishing second, a wreck in Pocono nearly ended his life and ended his career. Lucky to be alive, Allison lost much of his memory, including the historic race just months before.
Unfortunately, the story does not end there. The Allison’s lost their son Clifford in a practice accident at the Michigan International Speedway in 1992. Eleven months to the day later, their other son Davey was killed after crashing a helicopter at the Talladega Superspeedway.
“We lost Clifford, we lost Davey. That was just so hard on me and (wife) Judy,” he said. “You know, the world I hope never is that cruel to any other family again. But it happened. We survived it. People helped us and supported us. I just really appreciate that.”
There are many out there in the world of NASCAR – fans, media, drivers, etc. – that believe David Pearson, not Richard Petty, was the greatest driver in NASCAR history. Winning 105 races in only 574 races, a winning percentage of 18.29, Pearson became of the sport’s most successful drivers despite never running a full season.
Still, the Silver Fox – as he became known – recorded three championships and one Daytona 500 victory. That win will forever be shown on the highlight reel, as he and rival Richard Petty wrecked on the final lap coming to the checkered flag.
That wreck epitomized the rivalry that brewed between the Silver Fox and the King. Pushing each other to their best, Pearson and Petty battled on the track and in the record book, while fans reaped the benefits.
“I want to thank Richard Petty, too,” Pearson said in his acceptance speech. “He's probably the one that made me win as many as I did. I run hard because he'd make me run hard. Sometimes he would make a mistake and I'd pass him. Of course, I didn't never make no mistakes. Always accused him of having big engines when he passed me.
“Like I say, I've had more fun running with him than anybody I ever run with 'cause I know if I ever went to a racetrack and he was there, if I could beat him, I'd win the race.”
Partnering with the Wood Brothers, Pearson and the famed No. 21 set their sights on victory lane each and every time they showed up to the track. Earning the nickname the Silver Fox, Pearson would take care of his equipment for the majority of the race and capitalize when it matter most – the closing laps.
“First race he drove for the Wood Brothers, he sat on pole, won the race, then went on to win six out of a total of 17 that year,” Leonard Wood said. “1973, he won 11 out of 18 starts. 1976, he won 10 out of 22 starts, including the famous Daytona 500, plus the Triple Crown that year. He won a total of 43 races. Nice number,” he said as he smiled and looked toward Petty.
“If I would have stayed with the Wood Brothers and they was running for the championship, I would like to run for the championship with them,” Pearson said. “They were good. They had good cars. No telling how many championships I could have won if I'd have been with somebody like that.”
Pearson was a tough-nosed racer that intimidated drivers long before the days of the Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt Sr. Story goes Buddy Baker was dog-tired during one of the more grueling races. Working himself to the bone to run up front, Baker looked over as Pearson passed him with ease and could not believe his eyes. There was Pearson, lighting a cigarette as he passed.
He walked with a swagger, wore big sunglasses, was never lacking in confidence and enjoyed the trophy queens in victory lane.
“I kissed her pretty good at the end of the race and my wife got all over me,” Pearson said in the video tribute. “I said, ‘Lookey here, that’s part of winning. They want me to do that for the cameras.”
Still to this day, Pearson walks with confidence and does so justly. One of the sport’s fiercest competitors, he is now officially enshrined as one of the sport’s finest.
One of the most engaging debates in all of NASCAR is who should be included in the next class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Each year, the debate is lively with names like Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough and Dale Inman mentioned often, but at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Monday night, the 2011 inductees made their case for many of the pioneers that paved the way allowing others to make a name in NASCAR.
2011 inductee David Pearson said with those that built the sport growing older, they should be honored before it is too late.
"It would tickle me to death to see Cotton Owens to go in there because he's 86 years old and he's got cancer, his wife has cancer," he said. "I feel like you need to get him and Ray Fox, as old as he is, they need to get those two guys in there at least before it's too late. I thought they ought to have (Raymond) Parks in there the first time. But now it's too late for him (Parks died June 20, 2010)."
Some felt Pearson should have been included in last year’s inaugural class, but the ‘Silver Fox’ said the first class was the right class and reiterated the pioneers of the sport deserved to be honored sooner rather than later.
"The first class, as far as that goes, they deserve to be in there," Pearson said. "I'm being honest. I think none of us ought to be in at this time, even the first ones. I felt like Raymond Parks, people like him. I know he had some cars that started the race back when it first started. I understand he paid the purse, helped pay the purse to get it going. People like that that really got it going I feel like ought to be in it first."
For inductee Bobby Allison, it was a bit more personal.
"Donnie Allison. Maybe Red Farmer," he said with a smile talking about his brother and fellow Alabama Gang member.
Admitting he had not given much thought to the question, he suggested drivers Buck Baker and Herb Thomas.
"I worked for Karl Kiekhaefer in 1956, Buck Baker was the number one driver on the team at the time," he said. "Really liked Buck. Won a lot of races. Was a great contributor to the growth of NASCAR.
"I liked Herb Thomas. Herb Thomas was really the old school. He ran a car for a one-car team. He won a lot of races, won a couple championships. There are a lot more people that fit in that category."
Echoing the thoughts of his fellow inductees, Bud Moore endorsed Raymond Parks and Cotton Owens, adding Joe Eubanks and his former driver Joe Weatherly.
"One of them I have to bring up, real close, drove for me for three or four years, won two championships, we don't want to overlook Joe Weatherly," he said. "He was always the clown of NASCAR with all of the stunts he pulled on everybody. The biggest stunt he pulled them on was (Curtis) Turner. Anyway, he was a heck of a race driver. I really enjoyed having him, all the stuff he did do, winning the championships, all the races we won. It was great. I'm hoping he has a good shot going in on the next round."
Ned Jarrett agreed that Waltrip, Yarborough and Inman had a good shot at making the next class, while also mentioning Herb Thomas. However, Jarrett also suggested stars of NASCAR’s other divisions be considered as well.
"I think we need to start looking, too, at guys like Richie Evans and Jack Ingram who have done so much in their divisions that they raced in," Jarrett said. "It's going to be a tough assignment when we get together next month to vote for the next class. It's going to be tough. There's no doubt about that."
After honoring his father, Richard Petty, last year and this year his grandfather, Lee Petty, third-generation driver Kyle Petty made a public endorsement of completing the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s recognition of Petty Enterprises by including his uncle and team mechanic/engine builder Maurice Petty.
"Now as I stand here tonight, my grandfather is in the Hall of Fame, my father is in the Hall of Fame, and there's one man left in our family to be in the Hall of Fame, and that's Maurice Petty," he said to the crowd. "Just as many wins, just as many victories, just as many championships. We'll be back in the near future with one more."
"That would be great," Maurice said afterward. "That would be a pretty good group, I hope, with Lee and Richard and myself in it. I'm looking forward to it happening. I think it will happen. It's just a matter of time. I hope I'm still alive when it does happen."
There is no question the decision to honor five of NASCAR’s finest each year is one that causes great debate and often great controversy. Over 60 years of history has built the sport of NASCAR and hundreds of drivers, owners, mechanics, journalists and track promoters deserve to be enshrined in the great Hall of Honor. The true task is determining which five make the cut each year.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony has concluded, and here are a couple highlights from the evening. We'll update this with post-ceremony reaction as the inductees make their way through the media center.
Words from those who introduced the inductees:
"I never heard anyone say anything bad about Bud Moore. Of course, I'm hard of hearing..." – MRN's Barney Hall, who later had plenty of praise for his longtime friend Bud Moore.
"He raced to put the food on the table. That's what it was all about. It was not about the trophies, it was about keeping the family together." – Kyle Petty, on his grandfather Lee Petty.
"Most of our favorite memories are the times we spent with our dad. And tonight is the ultimate memory." – Glenn Jarrett, on his father Ned Jarrett.
"I'm here to tell you, friends – he wouldn't let his mother win." – Donnie Allison, on his why his brother, Bobby, wouldn't let son Davey win.
"Although we know David as an icon, he doesn't understand what all the hoopla is about, why someone wants his autograph. That's what makes him special." – Russell Branham, former PR director at Darlington Raceway.
Words from the inductees' speeches:
"The answer is simple: One who made many contributions to building the sport, whose handshake was as good as any contract (and) who always gave a straight answer. Most of all, to be remembered as a man who loved his family, country and the sport of racing." – Bud Moore, on how he wanted to be remembered.
"Always felt like he was the leader. He should have been up here (in the Hall) way before I was. The way it ends up, I'm pushing him now; he pushed me all of his life." – Richard Petty, accepting on behalf of his father, Lee Petty.
"Thank" and "Thankful" – Ned Jarrett said one of those words a total of 30 times during his speech.
"All four of our kids were just really, really special kids. I just enjoyed all four of them. We lost Clifford, we lost Davey. That was just so hard on me and Judy. You know, the world I hope never is that cruel to any other family again. But it happened. We survived it. People helped us and supported us. I just really appreciate that." – Bobby Allison, on his family's personal tragedies.
"He's probably the one that made me win as many as I did. I'd run hard because he'd make me run hard. ... I've had more fun running with him than anyone I've ever run with." – David Pearson, thanking his longtime rival Richard Petty.
In a couple hours, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will induct its second class: Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore.
If you're new to NASCAR or just want a refresher on who exactly each of the Hall inductees are, check out some of the selected links below.
On Lee Petty: Champion and team patriarch ... By Mike Hembree, Speed.com
On Ned Jarrett: Dad gets deserving Hall of Fame nod ... By Dale Jarrett, ESPN.com
On Bud Moore: World War II hero, car owner Bud Moore won races with some of NASCAR's biggest stars ... By Kenny Bruce, SceneDaily.com
On David Pearson: Pearson's driving told his story ... By Mike Hembree, Speed.com
On Bobby Allison: Hall of Fame profile – Bobby Allison ... By Pete Pistone, CBSSports.com
For more reading on Allison, Jarrett and Moore, check out the rest of Hembree's profiles. They're all good (Hembree has won a half-dozen NMPA Writer of the Year awards).
The NASCAR Hall of Fame will induct its second class tonight in uptown Charlotte with five more of the sport's legends set to be rewarded with a permanent place in stock car racing's shrine.
Among them will be David Pearson, who some consider to be the greatest driver of all time; Bobby Allison, the leader of the "Alabama Gang" who persevered through tragedy; Lee Petty, the patriarch of one of NASCAR's most famous families; Bud Moore, the car owner who also served in World War II; and Ned Jarrett, the classy two-time champion and broadcaster who earned the moniker "Gentleman Ned."
They'll join previous inductees Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bill France Jr., Bill France Sr. and Junior Johnson as NASCAR Hall of Famers during a ceremony in the Hall's Crown Ballroom.
We'll be in attendance tonight and will pass along a full report from the Hall ceremonies. You can watch the events as they unfold on SPEED (8 p.m.).
On Wednesday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame announced its second class of inductees. They were: David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore. The following is the opinion of SB Nation's Jeff Gluck on the outcome of the vote:
What happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday isn't right. It isn't fair. In fact, it stinks.
Instead of looking at accomplishments and records, the Hall of Fame voters looked at their own personal biases and feelings. Instead of voting with their heads, they voted with their hearts.
As a result, the Hall voted ended with two snubs that cannot be interpreted as anything but based on politics.
How else do you explain that Darrell Waltrip (84 wins, three championships) and Cale Yarborough (83 wins, three championships) were left out of the Hall of Fame, while Bobby Allison (84 wins, one championship) got in?
Based on numbers, former track promoter Humpy Wheeler said, "It's almost an impossibility."
Said Waltrip: "I can't go to the statistics, because I've got good numbers. So there's other things involved, I reckon."
Damn right there were.
The conventional wisdom (including the NASCAR.com fan vote, which counted as one collective ballot) had Waltrip and Yarborough getting in, along with David Pearson, Allison and Lee Petty.
Allison should have gotten in on Wednesday, but Waltrip and Yarborough should have been right with him. They have almost identical win totals, except the two drivers who were snubbed have two more championships each.
Bud Moore came out of nowhere – a favorite of the old guard voters. And Ned Jarrett, the ultimate gentleman and class act, got in based on both his driving career (50 wins, two championships) and broadcasting contributions.
But the first two classes of the NASCAR Hall of Fame should have included the 10 greatest legends in the sport's history. It's hard to argue that Moore and Jarrett are among them – though they could have been in the top 15 – if Yarborough and Waltrip are not.
After all, this is the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Not the Hall of Founders. Not the Hall of Contributors.
It's also not an opportunity to try and get some people in ahead of others based on age or declining health. It should be based on accomplishments, not sentiments.
And by the way, it matters who gets in what class. Oh, it matters.
It matters because this is still a race – to get in the Hall, to be recognized as one of the greats. It matters for historical purposes and for pride.
So why isn't Waltrip among the top 10 greats of all time, despite being tied for third on the all-time wins list and tied for fifth on the all-time championships list? And what of Yarborough, who is fifth on the wins and championships list but not among the first 10 in the Hall?
Politics, personal preference, bias.
Waltrip politely suggested it was his relatively young age (63) that led him to miss out, but he also hinted there was more at play.
"I gotta tell you the honest truth – I didn't think I'd get in," he said. "I just knew what was out there and I kind of know the group and I didn't have a good feeling about getting in at this time."
Asked why he didn't have a good feeling, Waltrip replied, "Just the fabric of the group, the 50 that vote."
What did they have against him?
The theory here is that Waltrip, nicknamed "Jaws" for infamously flapping his gums, rubbed many people the wrong way over the years.
And there's no doubt that in the years since he retired, Yarborough has refused to show up for NASCAR events (like the banquet where he paid tribute to Jimmie Johnson matching his three straight titles) unless he was compensated.
"Cale don't go anywhere he don't really have to go – he wants to get paid everywhere he does go," Pearson said matter-of-factly.
Well, Yarborough paid for it at the ballot box. So did Waltrip.
The lowest vote-getter who made it in was Moore, at 45 percent. That means less than 45 percent voted for Waltrip and Yarborough.
That's just wrong.
This isn't about which driver has kissed the most rear ends or which one is your best buddy. This is about the best of the best. Isn't that what the Hall of Fame is?
A Hall of Fame should be about actions and results and contributions to the sport – and no one can refute that Waltrip and Yarborough have among the top credentials of anyone, ever.
Instead, it was based on personal feelings.
You want proof? Three ballots left off David Pearson. Who the heck wouldn't vote for Pearson, the most obvious choice, unless they had an agenda?
"There's not a vote where personal feelings aren't involved," Wheeler said. "It's human nature."
Maybe. But this feels like an extreme case.
To give you a hypothetical example, it's not a secret I personally think Tony Stewart is a jerk. Yet if I'm someday on the voting panel when Stewart is eligible for the Hall, I'd vote for him without hesitation.
My personal feelings about Stewart wouldn't change my opinion of what he's done on the track – his qualifications speak for themselves regardless of what comes out of his mouth.
But if I were Stewart or Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick, I'd now be worried. The panel has sent a message that if you haven't treated people the right way, you might be left twisting in the wind.
Will Waltrip and Yarborough get in next year? After today's vote, that's in question.
"You know, at this point, I wouldn't make a prediction," Waltrip said.
That's a shame. For all of Waltrip's accomplishments – no matter how you feel about him personally – he deserves better.
Jarrett, who was also on the voting committee, said the panel decided it was about more than on-track accomplishments.
"They have the numbers, no question about it," he said. "They're great race car drivers. They're Hall of Fame material."
But Jarrett added: "There was a lot of discussion about things people have done other than their driving career. ... They looked at it other than just driving race cars."
The big question is: Why?
This is embarrassing to admit as someone who makes their living covering NASCAR, but the first race I ever saw was the 2004 Daytona 500.
My editor at the small newspaper where I worked in North Carolina had assigned me to cover the Rockingham race the following week, so I figured I had better study up by watching the Daytona 500 on TV.
I didn't have much of an idea what was going on, but figured it out fairly quickly by seeing the cars in action every week from that point on. But since I never paid any attention to NASCAR until I started covering it, I've been playing catch-up on the history of the sport ever since.
Ask me about anything in the Chase Era, and I'm confident I can give you a solid opinion. But before 2004? My knowledge is based on stats, a few books, occasional stories from old-timers and YouTube clips.
That's part of the reason why I eagerly anticipated the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame – and the induction ceremony for the inaugural class.
Inside the Hall's Crown Ballroom on Sunday afternoon, there was a tangible sense of history, pride and respect for the sport.
Whether it was the past and present drivers toward the front of the room or the fans who purchased seats in the back, the induction of the inaugural class turned into a celebration of the NASCAR community.
"Today, everybody was on the same team," Rick Hendrick said later. "Everybody was here celebrating our sport. ... We all won today."
There was laughter and tears and smiles and sobs. There were stories and tributes and touching moments that stirred emotions within everybody who witnessed the event, both at home and in person.
Tidbits such as the France family's debate over whether to build Talladega and Junior Johnson's hand in taking the NASCAR banquet to New York City educated relative newbies like me but also longtime followers of the sport as well.
"I've learned a lot in the last couple of days that I really didn't know when I watched the videos, listened to people tell stories," Hendrick said. "It's been like a history lesson for me."
And there were a noticeable lack of robotic sponsor mentions, replaced by real, heartfelt words. The videos and speeches highlighted the characters who built the sport and had longtime fans recalling why they grew to love NASCAR so much in the first place.
Even NASCAR chairman Brian France, who so often speaks the language of corporations and politicians, said he was surprised by the feelings in the room.
"Everybody didn't worry about the commercial side of things," he said afterward. "They worried about the achievements and the personalities. ... It was an emotional day, and I didn't anticipate that. This was different today."
Because those emotions were so real, so honest, it made for some truly memorable moments.
Kyle Petty offering a funny but heartfelt tribute to his father, The King. Hendrick delighting the crowd with stories about Bill France Jr. The "Last American Hero" Junior Johnson sharing a tender moment with his son, Robert.
And then there were the Earnhardts.
There was a nervous energy in the room just before it came time for Richard Childress to induct Dale Earnhardt into the Hall.
As The Intimidator's video was about to be shown on the screen, a man seated behind me dressed in 3 gear let out a Ric Flair-esque "WOOOOOO!!!!!!"
When it was over, the man was in tears and a couple fans seated a row behind him could be heard openly sobbing. Their eyeglasses were in one hand and tissues were in another, and they continued to cry even after each of the four Earnhardt children had finished their speeches to the crowd.
At the end, as all of the inductees and their families came onstage for one last tribute, flashbulbs popped and reflected off the ballroom stage.
People walked out of the room with smiles, knowing they'd been part of something special.
This may only be my seventh season covering NASCAR, but I knew it, too.
Richard Petty still comes to the racetrack every week.
Likely NASCAR's greatest ambassador, The King spends his days smiling at fans, signing endless autographs, shaking hands like a politician, posing for pictures with fans who want to be near greatness.
But when a guy is around that much, people tend to take him for granted.
So today, as Petty enters the NASCAR Hall of Fame, along with Junior Johnson and three other legends who have passed away – Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. – let's pause for a moment and try to grasp how important this day is.
Imagine, if you will, the first class of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
What it would have been like to witness those legends being enshrined?
This is what the NASCAR Hall has today. Yes, it's hard to look so far into the future right now, but think about it: This ceremony may be attended by the greatest bunch of names ever collected in one place.
Thirty or 40 or 50 years from now, if you remember this day, you'll be able to tell people: I remember watching when The King, Richard Petty, was inducted into the Hall of Fame – and future legends like Jimmie Johnson were sitting in the audience.
Again, that might not sound like a huge deal today. But as the decades pass, our appreciation for this day will only grow.
So soak it all in. You'll be glad you did.
The first five members of NASCAR's Hall of Fame will be inducted in a live televised ceremony today at 1 p.m. Eastern (Speed).
Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. will each be honored in an event attended by NASCAR legends and current drivers.
SB Nation is on the scene at the event and will have a full report and comments from the participants following the ceremony.
Check back here this afternoon for more.
Richard Petty and Junior Johnson drove their old racecars up to the front of the shrine where they will soon be immortalized.
Fireworks exploded, streamers flew in the air and a giant white curtain dropped, signifying that the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. was officially open.
Legends and current drivers alike were among the first people to officially enter the Hall, along with fans who had traveled from across the country to see the shining tribute to NASCAR's past and present.
The Hall claims to be the "largest and most technologically advanced sports hall of fame in the world," and it may be that and more.
"I want to tell our fans you have the best Hall of Fame in the world, right here in Charlotte," NASCAR chairman Brian France said at the opening ceremony. "This sport deserves that."
North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue called it a "fabulous, spectacular Hall," and honorary chairman Rick Hendrick told fans, "When you walk in it and see it, you'll be so proud."
Having taken a tour of it myself, I can tell you all the hype is true: The Hall is an incredible place. But don't take my word for it. Here are some selected comments from those involved with the sport on opening day:
Kurt Busch (2004 Cup champion): "It's overwhelming. It is 100 percent exactly what NASCAR needed, whether it's past, present, future – it blows you away. Whether it's technology, the history portion of it, the excitement value. It's really neat. ... It gives any young driver aspirations to come by and see what NASCAR means to Charlotte and what Charlotte means to NASCAR. This is our Cooperstown."
Rick Hendrick (nine-time Cup champion car owner): "I'm not even a car owner today, I'm a fan looking at the history. To walk through here and be able to see cars that I watched race or drivers that I idolized, it's just special to me as a fan. I was kind of overwhelmed when I walked in this morning."
Rusty Wallace (1989 Cup champion: "To see all these pieces and parts that were spread out all over the country in basements and old garages finally displayed properly under the NASCAR banner makes me really feel good. We're all grateful that these people had the vision to do this."
Junior Johnson (inaugural Hall of Fame class inductee): "I'm in several halls of fame across the country. But they're nowhere close to what this is. This is so awesome, you'll never ever see anything better, I don't think. ... If you go home (after seeing it) and think there's anything bad about stock-car racing, there's something a little wound up in your head. You're twisted somewhere."
Brian France (NASCAR chairman): "If you're going to be a top-five sports league in this country, you need to have a world-class Hall of Fame. It's going to be a place where our fans can come and celebrate and look back at the history of the sport. We haven't really had that in a formal way all these years, and this is going to change that overnight."
Richard Petty (inaugural Hall of Fame class inductee): "I think it's got a little something for everybody. You go through the first floor and the second floor, it's more what people know today. You go to the third floor, then it gives the fans the history. I walked through there and it jogs my memory on this or that, or getting caught with that piece over there. It rejuvenates me from that standpoint. It gives our new fans and would-be fans a sense of where we've started and what they've been able to accomplish."
Bobby Allison (1983 Cup champion): "I'm real proud of (the Allison family display). It's something that meant a lot to us along the way. We don't have (son) Davey anymore, but the world has his memory and he was loved around the world. (Brother) Donnie and I raced hard and we had a lot of fans. We won some races and met some people along the way. For all of us to be identified here is really special."
Richard Childress (car owner of inaugural Hall of Fame class inductee Dale Earnhardt): "I'm a big NASCAR fan and some of the heroes I had when I was a kid – Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Junior Johnson – to be able to see (their legacies on display), it's just going to be a real special day."
Ned Jarrett (two-time Cup champion): "I thought that if I ever get inducted into the Hall of Fame, that's when they would come for artifacts. But they didn't. They came a year ago. And the first thing they asked for was the CBS jacket I was wearing when I called (son) Dale's first Daytona 500 win in 1993. When you walk in and see all of those cars on that racetrack, that's very special as far as I'm concerned."
Ron Hornaday (Truck Series champion): "The history here, it's pretty cool. They said a couple weeks ago, they didn't even think it was going to be done. I'm sure there are more things they want to do to it, but it looks pretty darn good right now."
Winston Kelly (executive director): "To see when people come through who are in (the Hall of Fame), to watch them see their relatives...Richard (Petty) was not that impressed with his things. He wanted to see the Petty Enterprises story, the Lee Petty story, the other people he grew up racing with. When (Wendell Scott's widow and daughter) Mary and Sybil saw some of Wendell's stuff, they literally came to tears."
Tim Newman (Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO, the man who first had the vision for the Hall), on his favorite thing in the Hall of Fame: Junior Johnson's whisky still. "I mean, growing up in Rockingham County, Junior was one of my heroes. Of course, we've got to keep it behind glass, but we have in my opinion, taken a true view of the history of the sport. It's very tasteful, but it's unvarnished, and that's a neat thing because whether you're a fan or not, the history of this sport in our region is a huge thing. Junior's involvement is very special. As Winston has said many times, it's like having Babe Ruth come help us open the Baseball Hall of Fame."
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