2012 Hall of Fame Class Inducted
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin on January 20, 2012 | 11:41 P.M. EST
Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Dale Inman, Glen Wood and Lynn Evans join members of the first and second class on stage. (Photo: Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The next five members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame were formally inducted during Friday night’s ceremony as Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Dale Inman, Glen Wood and Richie Evans joined the sport’s elite.
Waltrip, who ended his driving career to become one the sport’s most popular television personalities, was a three time champion who collected 84 victories. He was inducted by long-time crew chief and fellow broadcaster Jeff Hammond.
“I was telling [wife] Stevie earlier this week that I hoped I wouldn’t get emotional tonight, but she reminded me ‘Honey, you always get emotional about the things you are passionate about,’” Waltrip said. “This night, these men, and the people in this room, they're what inspire me."
Waltrip won his three titles with legendary driver/owner, and Hall of Fame member, Junior Johnson.
"I was just some big mouthed driver from Tennessee," Waltrip said. "Junior calmed me down and taught me how to win a lot of races and how to win championships."
Waltrip was quick to point to fellow inductee Yarborough, thanking him for the advice to go run for Johnson.
"This is hard for you to believe, I know, but when Cale said he was going to cut back on his schedule in 1980, he came to me and told me before he told anyone else. He knew that Junior liked my style," Waltrip said. "He liked my style until he hired me, and then he thought maybe I needed to work on it a little bit. Cale has been one of my best friends through the years. He gave me a great tip to go drive for Junior, and how many of you guys in here have had another driver give you a nickname as great as Jaws? I mean, that's a buddy right there."
Waltrip competed from 1972-2000. Another highlight of his career was his 1989 Daytona 500 victory in a Rick Hendrick-owned Chevrolet.
"In 1987 I went with Rick Hendrick in the Tide ride and everybody said, finally a sponsor that will clean up his act, and by golly, they were right," Waltrip said. "And on my 17th try driving car No. 17, and the purse was $1.7 million, and I got 17 letters in my name so on and so on, and in my 17th try I won The Great American Race, the Daytona 500."
Yarborough’s 83 wins and four Daytona 500 victories were just a few of the stellar numbers from his storied career. His string of three consecutive NASCAR premier series championships from 1976-78 was unprecedented – and unmatched until 2008, when Jimmie Johnson was crowned champion for the third straight year. Johnson won his fourth and fifth consecutive titles in 2009-10.
"You know, racing is kind of like a big, tall ladder,” Yarborough said. “When you begin, you start off on the bottom step of that ladder, and it's a long, hard climb to the top. But I feel like tonight I'm finally standing on the top step."
Legendary broadcaster Ken Squire inducted Yarborough into the Hall and recollected many memories including when he opted to carry a CBS camera and audio in his No. 28 Pontiac en route to victory in the 1983 Daytona 500. Donnie Allison, who was involved in a fight with Yarborough after the two banged cars together on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500, delivered a special video congratulations message to Yarborough before he went on stage.
“It's been tough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of hard times, but there are five of us here tonight, and I congratulate each one of them, and thank you, Donnie, for doing the video for me," Yarborough said.
Inman revolutionized the crew chief position and won eight Sprint Cup championships working at Petty Enterprises. Inman won seven of those championships with inaugural Hall of Fame Inductee Richard Petty (1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, and 1979), and another one in 1984 with Terry Labonte.
"When I look back over all this, the wins, the Daytona wins, the championships and all that, I think over the years the people I've met, the places I've seen, the friends I've made, both in and out of racing, that sticks out big,” Inman said. “Now, maybe years ago it wouldn't have, but I know some of us older people respect that."
Petty inducted Inman into the Hall.
"I'm kind of familiar with this ring,” Inman quipped. “For the last two or three years Richard has put it in my face a bunch of times."
Wood was both an accomplished driver and owner helping to establish the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, a founding organization of NASCAR that is still in competition today.
The Wood Brothers team, which dates to 1950 and won last year’s Daytona 500 with young driver Trevor Bayne, has amassed 98 victories in 1,367 races. The team’s all-time roster of drivers is a virtual who’s who of NASCAR and includes David Pearson, A.J. Foyt, Marvin Panch, Dan Gurney, Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett just to name a few.
"We've had so many great drivers, but David and Cale were most successful, so I'm proud to join them in the NASCAR Hall of Fame," Wood said.
"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. And 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, and this is about two families, the Wood family and the Ford family working together, which has resulted in me being here tonight.”
Short track ace Evans was recognized "king" of Modified racing and captured nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-85.
Evans was inducted by crew chief Billy Nacewicz.
"As Richie's crew chief for 11 years, he left me with two lifelong lessons, one, a hard work ethic, and two, to enjoy whatever you're doing, because he would later say, we're all just passing through," Nacewicz said.
Accepting his induction was Richie's wife, Lynn Evans.
"I'd especially like to thank the Hall of Fame voting panel for stepping outside the box and making Rich the first driver inductee not to have raced in NASCAR's top series full time,” she said. “You have now given hope to thousands of NASCAR competitors throughout the country to maybe someday reach their dream."