Waltrip, Yarborough to join NASCAR Hall
Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough headlined NASCAR’s third Hall of Fame induction class, which was revealed Tuesday afternoon in Charlotte.
The two drivers were joined by eight-time championship winning crew chief Dale Inman, modified series standout Richie Evans and legendary owner Glen Wood, whose team won the Daytona 500 this February.
Meet the 2012 HOF class
Richie Evans changed racing with his dominance.
Dale Inman's decision-making skills put him atop all crew chiefs.
Waltrip backed his talk with titles, wins.
Wood impacted NASCAR first as an driver, and now as owner.
If there was a finish line, Cale Yarborough was going to win.
Waltrip admitted that he was nervous entering the day. Unlike last year, when he worked as a commentator during the live broadcast of the event, he opted to sit in the audience and await the announcement of the five names. As he put it, he just wanted to be a driver.
During his racing career, Waltrip captured three Cup championships and 84 wins, which ties him for third all-time with Hall of Famer Bobby Allison and active driver Jeff Gordon. He has since moved into a role in the NASCAR on FOX broadcast.
Waltrip said that he was disappointed to be overlooked last year and was nervous about his chances this time.
“When you don’t get in the first go-round, that’s understandable,” he said. “Then the second go-round came along and you said, ‘Man, I don’t know. I felt pretty good about that one.’ Then you get to this point and you start wondering, ‘Maybe there’s something, maybe there’s something that’s going to keep me from getting in for a while.’
“And it was that talk about the pioneers and the guys that have helped build this sport early on and I understood that. I guess I could have accepted that if all the guys sort of in that same era that I was in, if none of us got in that would be one thing, but when you start picking and choosing that made me a little bit nervous. ... I was sick to my stomach, I really was, getting here. I didn’t want to be disappointed again.”
He wasn’t. Waltrip’s name was the second announced as he garnered 82 percent of the ballots cast, including a slot on the fan ballot.
Still, he admitted that it was nerve-racking to wait for his name to be called.
“This could have been a now-or-never moment,” he said. “I think when you get to the point where we are, with 15 people, and the guys that were on the outside still looking in, if they didn’t choose to put us, me and Cale particularly, this year that may have been a message that, ‘You guys are going to have to wait awhile.’”
The pair is statistically similar, down to the fact that both drove for Junior Johnson at one point in their career. Yarborough was the first person to win three consecutive NASCAR Cup championships and was the only one to do so until Jimmie Johnson’s current streak of five titles. He has 83 career wins, sixth most all time, including four Daytona 500's.
Yarborough, who garnered a leading 85 percent of the vote, was not in attendance for the announcement Tuesday, instead watching the telecast with his wife, Betty Jo, and some friends from the shop on his Sardis, S.C., farm.
"I'm glad,” he said. “I'm glad that's over with. Everybody has been asking me, 'Do you think it's this time? Do you think you'll go in this time?'
“I feel honored. I'm in a lot of different motorsports halls of fame, but to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the guys who are already in and the ones who will come later means a lot to me. It's a great group to be a part of."
Inman and Evans shared a distinction of being the first in their respective areas of expertise to make it into the hall.
Inman is best known for his success with Richard Petty. The pair teamed up for seven Cup championships. But Inman has one more title, teaming up with Terry Labonte to win the 1984 crown. Inman is widely regarded as the architect of the crew chief role as it evolved.
Inman is the third person with ties to the Petty success in the hall. Seven-time champion Richard Petty was in the first class and Lee Petty was in the second.
“That’s big and it’s big for our Level Cross community, I think,” he said of the Petty presence in the hall. “When all of this thing started, you wasn’t the coolest cat in the alley if you worked on the race car.”
Evans demonstrated his winning ways with an amazing nine NASCAR national modified championships, including a string of eight in a row from 1978 to '85. His mark is considered one of the tops in racing. He also won the title in 1973.
He is the first modified racer who will be inducted into the hall.
Wood was a founder of the Wood Brothers Racing team, which has competed since 1950. During that time, the team has earned 98 wins with 519 top-10 finishes, 337 of them top fives. It has won a race in each of the seven decades in which it has been fielding teams, including this year’s Daytona 500.
Wood admitted he was surprised to be inducted in the third class of the hall.
“It was unbelievable is the word for that,” he said. “I just didn’t expect it. Maybe sometime in the next 25 years or something, but I did not expect it this soon.”
The five were selected from a pool of 25 finalists in a vote earlier Tuesday. The voting panel consists of 55 members and includes NASCAR officials, track owners, manufacturers, retired drivers, retired crew chiefs and media members. Rick Allen of SPEED, Mike Joy of NASCAR on FOX and Rea White of FOXSports.com were among the voters. All three work for News Corp. properties.
The new Hall of Famers will be enshrined in January, when they officially join NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., seven-time champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt and legends Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and David Pearson.