NASCAR

Give this HOF class an A+ grade

Darrell Waltrip reacts after being voted into the 2012 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Darrell Waltrip was voted into the 2012 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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I am proud of Darrell Waltrip for his selection to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2012 because he was a great driver and is one of my best friends.

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.

 

But outside of DW, the guy I’m happiest for and proudest of is Dale Inman, a man I competed against.

I know the drivers are the stars of our sport, and they really do lay it all out on the line every time they strap into their cars — they are the ones that risk it all to put on a show every weekend. But it takes a lot of people to make those drivers shine, and crew chiefs are a vital part of the team. Without Inman, I’m not sure Richard Petty wins seven championships, or that Terry Labonte wins the first of his two championships.

Inman was an all-around good mechanic, and back in the day he won races and championships. Those were the days when crew chiefs had to be jacks of all trades — crew chief, chief mechanic, chassis specialist, car chief, team manager and even travel coordinator.

He’s the winningest crew chief in NASCAR history with eight championships, and I’m not sure that anybody will come close to reaching his numbers, just like nobody will come close to matching the numbers of Petty as a driver.

I really like this Hall of Fame class, particularly because I know there are 20 other very deserving men who are worthy of being picked — and they one day will be, no question. But the fact that this class includes DW and Cale Yarborough — the two biggest stars of our sport outside of Richard Petty, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt (all Hall of Famers already) — as well as Inman, modified standout Richie Evans — which shows this is a NASCAR Hall, not just a Cup one — and crew chief and owner Glen Wood, shows how complete this class is.

I like the fact that the voters are looking outside the box of Cup drivers and are embracing a lot of other walks of people that made NASCAR what it is today.

There are a lot of people who missed out on the vote today whose worthiness can be debated, just like there were last year and just like there always will be. But I really like this class.

Speaking of Evans, I was thrilled to death to hear his name. I’m convinced that if he ever got the right break in the top series of NASCAR, we’d probably be talking about him having earned a Hall of Fame spot for his Cup achievements, as well. He was one of the most awesome, hard-core, winningest modified drivers ever.

Yarborough has not been the ambassador to the sport the last 10-12 years like DW has, but the two are linked; if you put one in you had to put the other in because their numbers almost mirror one another: wins (Waltrip has 84, Yarborough has 83), championships (each has three), poles (Waltrip has 59, Yarborough has 69). And both won the Daytona 500.

The thing I remember the most about Cale is that he was tenacious. It didn’t matter if it was Martinsville or Talladega, he didn’t just drive; he manhandled a race car 110 percent for every lap.

With Yarborough, if the car wasn’t running, well, you’d have to look everywhere but in the seat because I promise you it wasn’t the driver. He didn’t know a lot about a race car to my knowledge, but he drove the living hell out of anything that you gave him.

I didn’t really compete against him that much in his heyday in the late ’70 when he won his championships, but the only issue I know of involving Yarborough was one of the most famous stories in our sport — the fight between him and Donnie and Bobby Allison in the Daytona infield. Aside from that, I never really heard anybody have an issue with Cale.

You knew he was going to race you as hard as anybody else on that racetrack. It didn’t matter if it was for the win or for 10th. But you also knew he would race you pretty darn clean, too.

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