CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR honored members of its royal families with inductions into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Past champion Dale Jarrett joined father Ned in the hall while master mechanic Maurice “Chief” Petty became the fourth member of one of NASCAR’s most successful families to be honored.
Maurice joins older brother, Richard Petty; their father, championship driver Lee Petty; and cousin Dale Inman, Richard’s longtime crew chief in the hall.
Others named to the hall Wednesday were Tim Flock, a two-time premier series champion; Jack Ingram, who drove to success on what became NASCAR’s Nationwide Series; and Fireball Roberts, the flashy showman from the 1950s who raced to 33 victories before his death in 1964.
The group will be inducted into the hall during ceremonies here next January.
Ned Jarrett jumped out of his seat and hugged Dale when his name was announced.
Dale Jarrett said he was dressed for his son’s graduation party and expected to bolt out once the announcements were made. He was humbled to join the hall.
“I’ve always felt like it was an honor and a privilege to drive for NASCAR, and this sport has been such a huge part of the Jarrett life,” Dale said. “Now to be part of something that my father is a part of, it just means the world to me.”
Dale, the 1999 Sprint Cup champion, was a three-time winner of the Daytona 500 and is 21st all-time with 32 career victories. He and Ned become the third father-son combo in the hall, following Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. and Lee and Richard Petty.
HELP DOWN THE LINE: By winning earlier this month at Talladega, Ala., David Ragan is the only driver to complete the most difficult step toward winning one of two wild card entries into the Chase for the Championship.
What could keep him out of the playoffs is a special requirement that wild card entries be ranked in the top 20.
With 15 races remaining in stock car’s regular season, the race to get one of the two exemptions into the Chase remain wide open. The sanctioning body will hold two additional spots for drivers with the most victories who aren’t already qualified as a top-10 driver – provided they finish no worse than 20th in the Sprint Cup Series points.
Heading into Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Ragan is 26th in points – 61 points from 20th. He knows his chances to make the playoffs aren’t good.
“We can’t make the wild card on our own. We have to have some help from people around us,” he said. “You have to have some help from guys like Tony Stewart or an issue like Denny Hamlin has had. You see the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) struggling with a lot of bad luck. I don’t think we can just out-race these guys for a top-20 finish.”
Ragan drives for Front Row Motorsports, a team that admittedly races on a small budget. Team owner Bob Jenkins doesn’t
have the kind of sponsorship support to keep pace with bigger teams, and it’s a shortcoming that sometimes leads him to buying
There are so many higher-budget teams fighting to remain or get into the top 20, it diminishes Ragan’s chances to be
part of the championship picture.
Jeff Burton currently is ranked 20th. Stewart is 21st. Montoya is 22nd and Marcus Ambrose is 23rd.
Nonetheless, Ragan holds hope.
“Crazy things do happen,” he said. “Some of these larger teams they underachieve sometimes and sometimes the smaller
teams overachieve, and you’ve got to be prepared for anything. But that’s not something I’m going to hold my crew and my owner
and my guys to.”
Compounding the playoff possibilities is Denny Hamlin. He missed four races while recovering from a broken back. He can
still get into the playoffs if can manage to get in the top 20 and win a race or two.
He’s 27th in the standings.
“I love the challenge,” Hamlin said. “I mean, really for me the less realistic it is the bigger challenge that it is
for me, so I actually don’t mind. If we put ourselves in position and win a race here and there, more than likely if we win
a couple of races then we’re going to be top-20 in points I would think. It’s just you’ve got to have things go your way.
That’s the bottom line to it. A lot of this sport is based on luck and we’re going to need some.”
Drivers still want consistency with NASCAR fines, sanctions
A lot of drivers were surprised - and many relieved - when NASCAR decided not to penalize Ryan Newman following his harsh
criticism of the sanctioning body.
Newman has been outspoken on his dislike for the rules package for races at the Daytona International Speedway and the
Talladega Superspeedway. After being involved in a late-race crash there earlier this month that ended with Kurt Busch’s car
landing on top of Newman’s car, he lashed out at NASCAR - again.
He not only was mad about restrictor-plate races, he was upset the race ended in darkness and rain.
A month earlier Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 for saying the new Generation-6 cars weren’t as good as they cars they
“Oh, well we all want consistency,” Jeff Gordon said. “That’s what we always ask for. I don’t know. I do feel like I’ve
known that ever since the [Car of Tomorrow] came along, that product of that car, and the racing that relates to that car
on the track is something very sacred to NASCAR.
“It obviously seems like as it relates to how you talk about NASCAR and their decision-making that seems to be OK.”
Jimmie Johnson said it’s not easy to carefully choose words after a race, especially for drivers who’ve just spent hours
pushing their cars to the edge.
“I think drivers are going to say what they want regardless of the fine,” Johnson said. “It’s a chance to sound off.
Some guys may have the composure to navigate what they say when the camera comes out, when they are good and mad in those
moments. I applaud them for that. I would say the majority of us don’t have that filter. There are certainly some that come
to mind quickly that don’t have that filter. We do have a format to speak our mind.”
Gordon and Johnson both agree NASCAR needs to draw the line when someone challenges the integrity of the sport.
“I never want to do anything that’s going to damage the sport or damage my team or my sponsors or put a negative light
on things,” Gordon said.
“I think the question at the end of the day really is in the responsibility falls on the drivers shoulders,” Johnson
said. “Is this going to help our sport? Me taking this microphone right now and saying what is one my mind, is it going to
help our sport? Some can call it a cop out, they can call it whatever they want, but at the end of the day we need to protect
our sport and grow our sport.”