Class of '14 inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame
January 29, 2014, Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Completing the circle for two families; honoring one of the most charismatic drivers NASCAR racing has ever known; recognizing one of the true pioneers of motorsports; and enshrining one of the great short-track racers of all time … that was the crux of Wednesday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Charlotte Convention Center Crown Ballroom.
Engine builder Maurice Petty joined father Lee Petty, brother Richard Petty and cousin and Petty Enterprises crew chief Dale Inman as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s, as part of the fifth class of five inductees.
"It’s the only hall of fame that has a full team," Richard Petty quipped during a media session with reporters Wednesday morning.
Dale Jarrett, 1999 Cup champion, joined his father, two-time champion Ned Jarrett in the hall, comprising the second father-son combination to be enshrined.
Coincidentally, Ned Jarrett called 2014 inductee Glenn "Fireball" Roberts "the first real superstar" in NASCAR racing. Roberts won 33 races at NASCAR’s highest level, including at least one per year from 1956 through 1964 before his life was cut short as a result of injuries suffered in a crash at Charlotte in May 1964.
The late Tim Flock was a two-time champion from the early days of NASCAR racing. Flock, who posted 39 career victories, won his first title in 1952, driving the No. 91 Hudson owned by Ted Chester. In 1955, he earned his second title behind the wheel of owner/crew chief Carl Kiekhaefer’s Chrysler.
Jack Ingram was the king of the short tracks. In 1982, at age 45, after considerable success in NASCAR’s Late Model Sportsman division, Ingram won the first NASCAR Nationwide Series (then Busch Series) championship and followed that with another title in 1985. His 31 victories stood as a record for the series until Mark Martin surpassed it.
Richard Petty provided an emotional induction of his brother Maurice.
"I'm so excited to be able to put my brother in the Hall of Fame with my father and with my cousin," Petty said. "I mean, that's a full team. Very few hall of famers can brag about that."
"It's an honor and a privilege for me to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame," said Maurice Petty, whose engines powered the winners of more than 200 races in NASCAR’s foremost series.
"Who would have thought growing up that there would be guys, four of us, out of a small, rural country community (Level Cross, N.C.) that would be in a North Carolina Hall of Fame?"
After an introduction from four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, veteran crew chief Waddell Wilson inducted Roberts, with grandson Matt McDaniel accepting the ring awarded to each member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
"The King, The Intimidator, The Rapid Roman," Gordon said in introducing Roberts. "There have been many great nicknames in the history of NASCAR, and tonight we honor another: Fireball.
"This lightning quick legend dominated the high banks of Daytona with seven victories, including the 1962 Daytona 500. Tonight Fireball Roberts takes his place among the pantheon of NASCAR greats in the NASCAR Hall of Fame."
McDaniel gave the audience a different view of his illustrious grandfather, pointing to Roberts’ pursuits outside of racing: classical music, duck hunting and the sport of jai alai. But racing was truly in Roberts’ blood.
"We are proud that our grandfather … is being honored by NASCAR, the organization that set the scene for a life well-lived," McDaniel said.
"Thank you to all of those on the nominating committee and voting panel. I'm sure our grandfather would be pleased to know that he was part of such a wonderful class of inductees."
Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson introduced Ingram, the "Iron Man" who won three Late Model Sportsman championships before the advent of the Busch Series.
"I paid attention to what he did, because he was one of the masters," Martin said in a video highlighting Ingram’s accomplishments.
Eighteen-time Sprint Cup winner Harry Gant handled the induction of his friend and former rival.
"I'm honored to be here tonight beyond words," Ingram said. "This is a major lifetime achievement for me. While I've won driving the car, I had plenty of help and support along the way – otherwise I wouldn't be here tonight.
"First, I would like to thank my family, my dear wife Aline. She was my rock, always there in late nights, early mornings, throughout the good and bad, and I cannot express how thankful I am to her."
Former Charlotte Motor Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler inducted Tim Flock, with Flock’s widow, Frances Flock accepting the honor.
"Boy, this is like being at the Super Bowl of racing tonight," she said, before recounting that Flock raced with a "co-driver," a Rhesus monkey named "Jocko Flocko."
"Everyone loved Jocko," Frances Flock said. "But one day in 1953, at Raleigh, North Carolina, Jocko got loose, and Tim had to pull in the pits to put Jocko out of the car. He came in third that day, and the extra pit stop to remove Jocko from the car cost him a big sum of money that day."
Tony Stewart, sidelined last year with a broken leg, the result of a Sprint Car accident Aug. 5 in Iowa, walked to the stage to introduce Jarrett, a "big-race" driver who won 32 times during his career, three times in the Daytona 500 and twice in the Brickyard 400.
The induction honors were performed by Jarrett’s friend, country music superstar Blake Shelton, who recalled his own father’s passion for the sport.
"I watched him shove old women and children aside at Talladega to shake the hands of his favorite drivers: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, and this man right here, Dale Jarrett," Shelton said. "As years went on, Dale and I crossed paths many times, and although my dad's health began to keep him from traveling, he loved hearing all the stories about the time I spent with Dale.
"I didn't tell him everything."
Jarrett recognized his champion father as his primary source of inspiration.
"My father ... and now fellow hall of famer," Jarrett said. "That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it, Dad? My dad has been everything a son would want his father to be: successful, a leader by example, a teacher you can believe in, and always there to support me.
"My Dad was and still is today my hero. That's what really makes this night so very special. I'm joining my father in the NASCAR Hall of Fame."
At the induction dinner that preceded the ceremony, legendary broadcaster Chris Economaki was named the third Squier-Hall Award recipient for NASCAR media excellence.
The long-time editor, publisher and columnist for National Speed Sport News died in 2012 at age 91.
"Chris Economaki dedicated his life to covering motorsports, and his exceptional talent for storytelling brought NASCAR to millions of readers and viewers for more than 60 years," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said.
"Though we all miss seeing him at the race track every week, we’re proud that Chris’ legacy will continue to live through this well-deserved award."