CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NASCAR Hall of Fame welcomed its most diverse class to date Friday night, when Dale Inman opened the ceremony as the first crew chief to be inducted.
Inman was introduced by seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, a member of the first Hall of Fame class. Inman crew chiefed Petty to all his titles, and won an eighth with Terry Labonte.
“Neither one of us was that mechanically inclined. We just sort of learned as we went,” said Petty of his cousin Inman. “Way back when, there wasn’t no such thing as a crew chief. They had mechanics, crew mechanics, whatever they wanted to call them, and Dale was basically the first one.
“He’s the one that basically started the crew chief operation.”
Inman, still active in Richard Petty Motorsports, made a point to wish the unsung heroes of the NASCAR a successful 2012 season – including RPM drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola.
“I want to wish all the luck in the world to all the active crew chiefs now, and especially to the (numbers) 9 and the 43. Get after ’em, boys,” he said.
Also in the third Hall of Fame class was pioneer team owner Glen Wood, modified driver Richie Evans and three-time champions Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough. Evans was killed in a 1985 accident at Martinsville.
NASCAR chairman Brian France presented the four living inductees with Hall of Fame jackets prior to the ceremony, and Waltrip, who had 84 career victories, grew emotional as soon as he got on stage. So excited to be voted into the Hall, Waltrip raced onto the stage the day the class was announced and kissed France.
So when Waltrip went on stage Friday night to receive his jacket, France quickly warned him not to kiss him again. A sheepish Waltrip instead took his place next to Yarborough, then made some exaggerated poses before doing a little dance.
Wood was inducted into the Hall by his younger brother, Leonard. The two were the foundation of an organization that started in 1950 and won 98 races with 75 drivers, and five Daytona 500s, including last season’s with driver Trevor Bayne.
Evans was considered the “king of modified racing,” winning nine titles over 13 years, including eight in a row from 1978 to 1985.