News & Media

Notebook: Hall's impact a weekly occurrence

June 23, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Tryson consults with JTG Daugherty; Busch still remains a 'fiery individual'

The image of a giddy Darrell Waltrip prancing up on stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame -- punctuated as it was by a hug and a kiss on the cheek for NASCAR chairman Brian France -- would've been worth a trip on foot from Daytona Beach last week.

At Michigan International Speedway, just how special the sport of NASCAR racing is -- and how atypical it is from the stick and ball genres that everyone's always wrongly trying to compare it to -- came in the Cup garage, where NASCAR Hall of Famers were sprinkled everywhere.

Class of 2012

Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Inman, Richie Evans and Glen Wood honored with enshrinement.

Video highlights

Relive the moments as Brian France reveals the third five voted to the Hall of Fame.

My experience with any other professional sport is the same as any of the millions of fans who attend them every year. Virtually the entirety of my professional career has been in motorsports -- so that's my frame of reference.

So to arrive in Michigan and share a wave and a nod with Richard Petty atop one of his haulers, to ask Dale Inman how his first week as a Hall of Famer had been, or to see Bud and Greg Moore standing behind a hauler -- well, it just doesn't match anything you'd get at any other major league venue.

I can be just as ignorant of what they're all about as I know I am -- and be just as confident I'm 100 percent correct.

And one week after the fact, knowing I'd had a small part -- one vote in 55 -- in making Waltrip's glee or Inman and Glen Wood's quietly graceful appreciation reality, quite simply, has been phenomenal.

The first trip to Charlotte, N.C., as a member of the 55-member panel that would vote on the 2012 class of inductees to the NASCAR Hall was a unique roller coaster ride of sights, sounds and emotions.

The ultimate low? The failure of 86-year-old Cotton Owens, who's been battling illness for more than five years but who at lunch that day was as sharp, and as appreciative a man as you'd ever want to see; to get one of the five voted spots.

To me, induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame is an eternal honor, and we have a long time to induct dead people. But the opportunity to induct living legends is priceless -- but not without the limits of age and health.

Owens was there, with lifelong pal Moore, but as the last cited name was announced, attention was everywhere else. We can only pray Cotton'll last until the 2013 vote.

In the end, nothing topped Waltrip's unmitigated jubilation at receiving the honor; one could argue this was a little overdue. And after sitting through the process for four hours, suddenly things became a lot more understandable. Waltrip's feelings were profoundly emphasized by a long, firm handshake and a shakily spoken "thanks for the honor."

It was equaled by the emotion displayed, in their typically proud, graceful Virginia way, by the Wood family on the induction of the legendary Wood Brothers Racing's patriarch, 85-year-old Glen Wood.

And Inman? Let me just say this -- Inman is the type of guy you'd love to go out on the town with because, if confronted by a band of thugs intent on mayhem, he'd either disarm them with humor or, if need be, by pinching their heads off their necks between one thumb and forefinger. There's no questioning how he survived and thrived in some of NASCAR's roughest days.

Bottom line, the Hall's a better place for having all of them, and after getting into the facility to see it for the first time, I can tell you this -- you gotta put it on the list, and plan on spending more than a day taking it all in. It's that good.

Edwards, McDowell low-key on double-duty

If such a thing is possible, Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Michael McDowell -- the two drivers pulling double duty between Sonoma and Road America this weekend -- are playing it more low-key than is sometimes done.

Edwards will leave his No. 60 Nationwide Mustang to Roush performance Continental Tire Challenge Series driver Billy Johnson on Friday for all its Road America practice, while Edwards practices and qualifies his No. 99 at Infineon Raceway. Edwards' Cup car will sit silent on Saturday and he's told his team no one else can drive it while he goes to Wisconsin for his qualifying, sponsor appearances and the Bucyrus 200.

McDowell will first go to Road America for the opportunity to win the Nationwide race driving JGR's No. 18 typically wielded by Kyle Busch. While he's there, Cupowner Phil Parsons said K&N Pro Series West driver David Mayhew -- who's had some opportunities with Kevin Harvick Inc., will practice and qualify Parsons' No. 66, which McDowell will race on Sunday.

Paul Menard was initially entered for double-duty at Road America, his home track, but Harvick named Max Papis to drive the No. 33 Nationwide car. And Joe Nemechek, who fields cars in both series, has Kevin Conway wheeling his No. 87 at Road America.

* Entry Lists: Infineon | Road America

Tryson consults with JTG Daugherty

It was neat to see Pat Tryson, the recently disconnected Michael Waltrip Racing crew chief, wearing JTG Daugherty Racing garb at Michigan and working closely with crew chief Frank Kerr and driver Bobby Labonte.

Tryson said he was contractually protected beyond this season, but he was also keeping all his options open. But Kerr and team owner Tad Geschickter appreciated the chance to have an "in-house consultant" on-call to walk out to the turns and closely observe Labonte's car at work. Tryson remained with the team through Sunday's race and anticipates continuing along with the organization as he seeks a full-time gig.

Summing-up Kurt Busch

Love him or hate him, there's no question Kurt Busch will always be a show. He might be misunderstood more than any other competitor in the Cup garage, but you have to love his passion, which he tried to explain last weekend at Michigan when he said he's adapting better all the time to what what goes on outside the race car.

" I'm not going to go down without a fight [and] I want to put on a good show."


"Inside the car, I'm still that same fiery individual who has that desire to win and go after that trophy," Busch said. "Sometimes it rubs people the wrong way and that wouldn't be the most methodical approach. But for me, that's what I know and that's now I want to go out and do it -- just like I did Ricky Craven-style at Darlington that year [2003, one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history] -- I'm not going to go down without a fight [and] I want to put on a good show."

History has shown that very few competitors are more committed to winning -- or more passionate about it -- than Busch, who can break down his car's average running position in each and every race of the season. Now, that's commitment.

Wimmer trades on connections for home event

A life spent in racing, led Scott Wimmer and his dad, Ron last year to purchase their hometown track, the quarter-mile asphalt State Park Speedway.

Thursday night, Wimmer's Nationwide Series buddy Kenny Wallace will race with him in an ASA Midwest Tour special event that will also feature a bunch of names familiar to NASCAR's national series fans, including ASAMT regulars such as Scott Wimmer's younger brother Chris, former Cup champion Matt Kenseth's son Ross Kenseth and guys with national series starts on their resumes including Steve Carlson, Nathan Haseleu and Tim Schendel.

Schrader getting closer

There is no one who more epitomizes the classic old-school racer than Ken Schrader. So it's pretty cool that Schrader, who revealed Wednesday he's on an unofficial quest to race at each and every one of the some-1,000 race tracks in the United States before he's through, gets a chance to knock another one off this weekend.

And, given Schrader's early career, it's a little surprising it'll come at Road America in Friday's Continental Tire Challenge Series event, driving of all things -- a Mini Cooper.

Everything about it is classic Schrader, who in the early 1960s recalled seeing Austin Minis raising their rear wheels while making corners on three wheels at the old Mid-America Raceway in Wentzville, Mo. I remember 'em doing the same thing at Thompson (Conn.) Raceway in the same time frame.

With no dirt racing scheduled this weekend and the opportunity to watch his ARCA Racing Series team with Tom Hessert Jr. driving compete Saturday at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway; Schrader said "yes" to a text message from team principal Dicky Riegel, group president of Thor Industries, to be Riegel's co-driver in the No. 195 Mini.

Asked about the production-based car being front-wheel-drive, Schrader said from watching front-wheel-drive Mini Stocks compete on dirt, "they're tougher to turn around [spin out], so that's a good thing."

Interestingly enough, Schrader said his initial impression of Road America was a "place to stay away from" due to near career-ending injuries suffered there by A.J. Foyt in an Indy car crash.

"But that's nothing to really do with the race track," Schrader said. "That's just how I feel about A.J. [Road America] has so much history involved with it, I'm really looking forward to racing there.

"We'll see how this goes [before I consider doing any more Continental Series races]. We'll see if Dicky asks me again [laughing]."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.