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May 23, 2010
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
MIKE JOY: Thank you. Good afternoon and welcome. It is a great honor and my great pleasure to welcome you to this landmark day in our sport's history. More than 60 years of dreaming and determined effort have brought us to this moment.
NASCAR now enjoys its own Hall of Fame, Charlotte joins Cooperstown, Canton, Springfield, Toronto, and St. Augustine in hosting the celebrated sidelines of America's major professional sports.
Each of today's inductees set the standard for his era on or off the track and each contributed mightily to the increased popularity of the NASCAR.
Today's NASCAR's Hall of Fame inaugural class will stand for all times as the Mount Rushmore of our sport.
Let us begin by honoring, welcoming our most honored guests, our inductees.
Representing Dale Earnhardt, the members of the Earnhardt family.
Representing Bill France Sr., his son Jim France.
Representing Bill France Jr., his daughter Lesa France Kennedy, and his son Brian France.
Would you please welcome the last American hero, Junior Johnson.
And here is NASCAR's royalty. It's all-time winner, the King, Richard Petty.
Earlier today in a special reception, each of our living inductees was presented with their Hall of Fame blazer made by the same company who makes the green jackets for the Masters, and this particular shade of cloth, NASCAR Hall of Fame blue, is now retired from their inventory from other uses.
Each of our five inductees today will receive a unique inductee ring, crafted of 14 carat white gold, centered by a blue sapphire, surrounded by diamonds in a design that recalls the ribbon outside the Hall of Fame.
These five inductees were elected from a field of 25 NASCAR greats, who are all profiled in today's program. We are pleased to welcome many of our nominees and their families to today's ceremony.
Thanks, too, to the hard work of the nominating committee, the voting panel, and especially the fans who cast your votes for today's inaugural class.
Now, let's take a look at how the grand concept of a NASCAR Hall of Fame became a reality right here in Charlotte.
MIKE JOY: We all share a great sense of pride in seeing our sport reach this important milestone. No one is more proud than our first speaker. Please welcome the president of NASCAR, Mike Helton.
MIKE HELTON: Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. One of our guideposts, the way we do business at NASCAR, is that while we're always looking toward the future, we're also very mindful and proud of our past.
You see we like the old adage that says, You can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been.
We now have this tremendous facility that houses our heritage and memorializes those who blazed the trails on our behalf.
It also energizes the excitement that we have about our future. Our five inaugural inductees remind us today why we're fans. Five unique individuals with a common interest: NASCAR. Five very special men that we cheered for, we laughed with, we cried with, and we learned from.
On behalf of all of NASCAR, thanks to those that made today's ceremony and this hall possible. Thanks and congratulations to the inductees and their families. Thanks to each of you for joining us this historic afternoon as we honor our history and begin a wonderful new tradition.
MIKE JOY: Bill France legitimized stock car racing, created the sport's first national championship and built our fastest superspeedways.
MIKE JOY: These beautiful spire, five of them, will be installed in the hall of honor in the NASCAR Hall of Fame following today's ceremony. Each includes the Hall of Fame logo, the likeness, signature, name, dates of birth, a video screen and handset so that visitors can learn more about the inductee, their accomplishments, a few paragraphs about what they meant for the sport.
And then a great feature for our younger visitors, there's a different image here near the bottom of the spire that kids will be encouraged to take a piece of paper and make a rubbing on to take home as a souvenir as their visit to the Hall of Fame.
To begin today's inductions, please welcome me in welcoming one of our sport's most beloved administrators, he's been a track president and is now a NASCAR executive. Here is one of the sport's true ambassadors, NASCAR's vice president of corporate communications, Jim Hunter.
JIM HUNTER: Good afternoon, everyone. You know, it's not often that anyone gets to introduce a video like this one. This is a video about a man who created a sport. This video is about a great man, Bill France Sr.
JIM HUNTER: You know, it was a pretty tall order to determine who should formally induct William HG Big Bill France into NASCAR's Hall of Fame. It turned out to be a lawyer. In this particular instance, he received a unanimous verdict from France family members. John Cassidy has been an insider at NASCAR for more than 50 years, a true family confidant and a close family friend.
He was NASCAR's first legal counsel and remains an advisor today. Back when Don was beginning his legal career, he worked with some pretty big guns. He worked with special assistant to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy during the Kennedy administration. In fact, he'll tell you Bill France, Sr. helped him start his own firm.
Don has provided three generations of France family members advice on legal matters ranging from drafting rules for competition, substance abuse problems. Most importantly, he is simply a long time friend of our sport and the sport's founding family. A man who drank a little Scotch with Big Bill over the years.
Please welcome John Cassidy.
DON CASSIDY: Thank you very much and good afternoon, everyone. No one, absolutely no one, deserves to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame more than Bill France, Sr., since there would not have been a NASCAR without Bill. Bill France, Sr., first became a part of my life almost 50 years ago when I was working in Washington as a special assistant to another great man, Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General of the United States.
Kennedy called me on the telephone one day and he gave me what you might call a warning. He said a man named Bill France was coming down the hall to my office. This fellow has something to do with automobile racing, said Kennedy, who obviously knew very little about motorsports.
He went on to say Jimmy Hoffa is giving him and NASCAR a hard time, and we must help them.
Shortly after Kennedy's call, the door to my office opened up, and there stood one of the biggest men I had ever seen. He literally filled the doorway. I'm looking up at him, and he looks at me, and his very first words were, Son, we have a problem, and Mr. Kennedy says you have the answer.
Bill pulled up a chair beside my desk and proceeded to educate me for several hours on the history of motorsports, on racing on the beach, on stock car racing, on NASCAR. He explained to me that NASCAR was created to bring order to the sport, to guarantee that prize money would be paid, and to adopt and enforce rules of competition.
He emphasized to me that there would come a day when NASCAR and stock car racing in the NASCAR tradition would become a nationally recognized professional sport.
Little did I know then how much that first encounter with Bill France would change my life's work, for it led to a career in the practice of law focused in large part on motorsports.
I witnessed firsthand the growth of NASCAR and stock car racing to a level of public acceptance well beyond Bill, Sr.'s wildest dreams. My experience was not unlike that which many of you all here today have enjoyed, whether you're a fan, a competitor, a sponsor, a car owner, a track owner, or promoter, we all have experienced the joy of being associated with NASCAR because NASCAR stands for excellence in motorsports.
Bill frequently was described as a visionary. I don't dispute that. It might be because of his Irish heritage, I prefer to call him a dreamer who was a man of action, someone who turns dreams into reality. Not only did Bill follow his dreams, Bill expected each and every one of us to follow our dreams.
Bill, Sr., relished the challenge. The bigger the better. He once quoted George Bernard Shaw, saying, Some look at things that are and ask, Why? I dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? The key to Bill France, Sr.
When I left the department to start a law firm, Bill, Sr. and his wonderful wife Annie B. , saw to it that NASCAR and ISC were our very first clients. I soon found myself in Daytona working with both of them on many NASCAR projects. I lived with them while in Daytona and was involved in many breakfast discussions that were primarily focused on how to expand the sport, make it bigger, whether to build Talladega, an immense debate.
It was during those discussions that frequently included their oldest son Bill, Jim at that time was in the service, that the significance of Annie B.'s role of NASCAR and ISC became apparent to me. Annie B. , had a fine sense of business and finance. She was, in fact, a full-fledged partner with Bill, Sr., on every significant business issue that confronted NASCAR and ISC.
While Bill, Sr., created NASCAR and built two superspeedways, he did far more. Sr. championed the effort to gain national and worldwide recognition for NASCAR's brand of stock car racing. His efforts attracted some of the finest competitors and corporate sponsors, many of whom are substantial supporters of this Hall of Fame.
Sr.'s efforts led to the creation of a NASCAR fan base which is second to none in professional sports. To attract this type of attention, Bill, Sr., knew his sport needed a national champion if it was going to be recognized on the same level as other professional sports in this country. Needless to say, the NASCAR champion of today is mentioned in the same breath as World Series champions and the champions in other professional sports.
In fact, four-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was named male athlete of the year in 2009 by the Associated Press. This was a seminal event. It was a recognition of NASCAR's sports prominence.
Bill, Sr., not only nurtured a major professional sport from infancy to adulthood, but he and Annie B. , raised a family, a wonderful family, who have followed in their footsteps with the help of an extremely talented NASCAR family. All of this taking NASCAR to the next plateau, a plateau of great popularity, not only in this country but worldwide.
Bill France, Sr., never forgot the humble beginnings from which NASCAR and he himself sprung. And while he walked with ease in the corridors of power in Washington and elsewhere, he walked with equal grace through the infields and garages of NASCAR events. I've done the walk with Bill, Sr. through an infield, it was truly, truly a walk among good friends, most of whom greeted him simply as 'Bill'.
While he could be tough as nails, especially dealing with race competition issues, Sr. was always fair and compassionate to those faced with adversity. And when a racecar driver or owner was down on his luck, it was not unusual for Bill, Sr., to be there to help him out.
Bill was loyal and especially interested in those that shared the very early days of the sport with him. He could be a consummate diplomat and politician when the occasion demanded. He had a forceful personality combined with a reputation for integrity.
The word 'big' was never that far from Bill France, Sr.'s mind. I remember a lot of nights many years ago Bill, Sr., and I were in one of those big Pontiacs that GM used to have down at Daytona. We were driving up Daytona Beach. And over the ocean rose a harvest moon. It was gigantic. It looked like molten gold. It's one of the biggest moons I've ever seen. And Bill, Sr., who was somewhat of a poet, he looked at me and he said, Son, that's a pretty big moon for a small town like this. I loved that.
Bill's dreams of growth for NASCAR were only exceeded by his desire that stock car racing become a recognized and respected professional sport in America. And if he were here today, he would be the very first one to acknowledge that NASCAR has exceeded his dreams.
I can think of no better way to close than to quote the last verse of one of Bill, Sr.'s favorite songs. I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Suffice it to say that Bill France, Sr., indeed, did it his way.
Please join me now in welcoming to the stage Bill France's son, vice chairman of NASCAR, Jim France.
On this, the 23rd day of May, 2010, it's my honor to formally induct Bill France, Sr., into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and present this Hall of Fame ring to you on his behalf.
JIM FRANCE: On behalf of everyone in our family, thank you, John, for that introduction and great tribute to my father.
Let me begin by saying that our family is very proud to be involved in this memorable afternoon for the induction of my father and my brother Bill. We would like to thank the Hall of Fame voting panel for including them in this inaugural class with Junior, Richard, and Dale, truly the iconic heroes of NASCAR.
If Dad were here today, he would be proud, as well, but in a different way. He would be proud mostly for NASCAR. He would be proud of this Hall of Fame, a commitment made to honor our past and to recognize the individuals who are responsible for making NASCAR what it is today, for their great accomplishments.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame in many ways is the ultimate tribute to my father, the hopes and dreams that he had for our sport.
In closing, I would like to offer the donation of this ring back to the hall for display wherever they would choose to place it. Thank you.
WINSTON KELLEY: It's been an incredible two weeks here in Charlotte, beginning with our grand opening ceremonies where 44 legends and current members of the NASCAR community joined hundreds of local celebrities and several thousands of our guests to officially open the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
It may be an equally remarkable five years from the point this community began the quest to become the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Over the last two weeks, the consistent theme we have received about the hall is there's far more to experience than anyone expected, from the more than 50 interactive exhibits, incredible array of highlighting the 62-year history of NASCAR and what has been often described to me as perhaps the most remarkable collection of used cars anywhere.
We've had many very special days these past five years, and it is my belief that May 23rd, 2010, will stand out as easily one of the most memorable. In the years ahead, this day will be equal in stature to June 12th, 1939. You see, that was the day the baseball world first gathered in Cooperstown, New York, to induct their first Hall of Fame class, including greats like Ruth, Cobb, Magnussen, Wagner, and Johnson. Now ours will have a place to call home.
Look around, take a moment, soak it all in as you are a part of history. Charlotte is proud to be the home to honor all those who built this great sport and business into what it is today.
So on behalf of the entire team and the thousands involved in developing the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we want to welcome you to Charlotte, North Carolina, and enjoy the rest of the program.
MIKE JOY: We are joined by a man who engineered nearly all of Richard Petty's 200 victories as Petty Enterprises, is truly a family success story. Would you welcome, please, the King's cousin, long time crew chief, Dale Inman.
DALE INMAN: Thank you. My education in racing goes back to three-time national champion Lee Petty. He taught us and taught us well. Me and Richard and Maurice.
Richard started his driving 10 days after he was 21 years old. Of course, you know, a lot of history goes behind that. His brother Maurice some years later, he tried his hand at driving. That didn't work out very good. He found out right early that he needed to do something else. So he took over the engine room at Petty Enterprises. That left me and Richard to take care of the racecars, and of course a lot of history after that, too.
From day one, Richard understood what it was to be good to the fans, the sponsors, and to love a good family. And to this day, he carries that through, even with his family, the trials they've been through, the lows, the highs that this family has endured. Of course, we can talk about the 200 wins, the seven champions, the Daytona 500 wins. Some of you young drivers out there, including Jeff, Jim, a lot of others, Richard, he's all in. Let's not try to beat all of them, I know you're going to get some of them.
We have two ladies sitting over here, too, my wife Mary, Linda, they've been through a lot. Richard, with this new Hall of Fame here in Charlotte, it will make sure that you're always remembered. Thank you so much.
DALE INMAN: I've been threatened on this one and I have to be careful, bringing Kyle up. You have to be careful with this. Kyle, it was rough on us trying to race you. I got you this far with your dad, so you're going to have to bring him home now. Please welcome Kyle Petty.
KYLE PETTY: I threatened Dale. I told him, Watch what he said.
All right. I'm here obviously to induct my father Richard Petty into the Hall of Fame. What a huge honor for our entire family, for everybody that's ever worked at Petty Enterprises. Richard Petty is the tip of the iceberg. But to have this honor for him and for our family is truly amazing.
I can stand here and throw out numbers that we've all heard our entire life. If we wanted to be a Cup driver, we knew who Richard Petty was and we knew what the mark was on the wall that we had to reach. And it's truly amazing to me, just like you saw the video there, that Dale Jr. said he's been racing 50 years. A whole new generation of fans know him as Mr. The King in the movie Cars. That pretty much defined his career right there, okay?
What amazes me about my father is this. I told this story a little bit one time before. As a driver, everything he did. But when I was growing up, our house was right next door to the race shop. He would come home for lunch, go to work in the morning 7 or 8:00. You would hear him beating on the roof of that car because he was a fabricator. Everybody worked on the car, drivers and everybody.
He would come home for lunch when I was young, have lunch. Then he would lay down in the middle of the living room floor, sleep still 3 or 4:00 in the afternoon, get up and go back to work.
I never found that strange until you look at his career and you think the man won 200 races, seven Daytona 500s, seven championships working hard days, okay? I just want you to think about that (laughter). That may be the greatest statistic of all time to me.
I think for us, you know, Richard Petty is multifaceted. I think you have to look at that. We all know who he is as a driver. Everybody does. Everybody. But Richard Petty was also a teacher. I think he taught the sport a lot. As he came along, as the sport grew and changed, he was one of the first to embrace the media and understand what the media meant to the sport and to him and to sponsors as sponsors came into the sport. He taught that to the other drivers and he's taught that to generations of drivers since then, to the Earnhardts, Labontes, Tony Stewarts of the day.
He was also the teacher that taught you when you did something wrong, he didn't mind coming to your truck and talking to you.
Doing some things with SPEED now, I have a chance to spend time with Darrel Waltrip. Darrell will attest, Richard has the longest finger in the world when he's talking to you. I knew that a long time, but it was nice to know that somebody else got that finger in the chest with the point explained to that. You may have an opinion on that, but you're not allowed to voice it at that time (laughter).
The other thing I think my father taught to the drivers and to this sport was how to win but also how to lose. That's an important part and an important thing to be. Richard Petty was the same win, lose, or draw. Richard Petty was the same Monday, Thursday, Sunday afternoon, whether he was standing in Victory Lane with a check and trophy or whether he was riding home with a beat-up racecar. He was the same. I think that even-keeled, that even temperament is something that we've all aspired to do as we came along in his footsteps and shadows to be the driver that he was.
The last thing from me that Richard Petty is, and I'll let you in on the biggest secret in the world that probably no one knows is this: he is the biggest fan of the sport that ever lived. I think that's what made him a great racecar driver. He loves the sport. He carries a passion for this sport. He loves to drive. He loves to work on it. He loves the guys he raced against. He loved the fans. He loved everything about the sport.
On a Sunday afternoon in 2010, you can still find Richard Petty walking through the garage area, standing on top of a truck, watching the race. He doesn't have to be there. He wants to be there, just like all of you people out here, the people watching at home, he is a fan first and foremost. Bringing that passion to this sport has made him the legend that he is.
It's incredible to see the fan reaction. We talk about signing autographs. We talk about all that. He does that because he expects that from the drivers that he pulls for, the people that he chose to watch. He gives back because he takes so much. He feeds off the fans because he is a fan.
For me, that's who he is as a racecar driver. That's who he is for the sport. That's what he's meant to the sport.
For my sister Sharon, Lisa, Rebecca, he's our father. He's always been our father. We love him more than anything in the world. Today he goes into the Hall of Fame as Richard Petty, the racecar driver. But for us, always will be, the man that we call daddy and the man that we love.
I'd like to bring my father, Richard Petty, up to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Just so y'all know. You won Daytona, what, '71? I stole that Rolex from him somewhere in the 1991 Daytona 500 Rolex. This may be on my finger before too much longer (laughter). Okay, so I got to read this.
On this day, the 23rd day of May, 2010, it's my honor to induct my father, Mr. The King Richard Petty into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and present you with this Hall of Fame ring.
RICHARD PETTY: Thank you. I guess it's my turn to thank everybody and everything.
I want to start off with thanking the two most important people in Richard Petty's life, Lee and Elizabeth Petty for bringing me into the world, okay? You know, Linda has been trying to put up with me, Kyle, all the girls now for like 51 years. So, you know, without her looking after things at home when I was out wandering around with a racecar having a good time, I wouldn't be here, a lot of my kids wouldn't be here, too.
I would like to have my kids and grandkids stand up over here and see what I got to put up with, okay? All right. Thank you, guys.
I want to say thank you to Big Bill France. As you've seen before, he was the one that sort of got everything started, had all the people follow him around. He didn't demand as much as he commanded, I think. He was able to advance people whether it was right, wrong, or indifferent to get the job done.
Then we were fortunate enough to have Bill Jr. to come along, Jim, all the people behind him that made it work, not only on the NASCAR deal, but the motors, car owners, all the people that dropped behind and made it work.
You know, I know y'all have heard me say this a lot of times. NASCAR would make a rule, might not be that good a rule, but the participants made the rule look good. Everybody was doing their own thing, but we all came together at the end because we wanted racing to really work.
You know, there's nobody probably in a better situation, was more a racer, grew up around racing, had a brother, my cousin Dale, to make the nucleus of one of the best racing teams that's ever been on the face of the planet. You know, to have all the people that surrounded those people, I've never done anything. We as a group did a lot. We as a group here do a lot.
You know, the deal of having the manufacturers work with us, to have sponsors now to work with us, to make things work, is just phenomenal. As we grow, we started as a Southern sport. Got more interesting. We were able to go out and progress as far as getting TV, getting RJ Reynolds to become involved in the thing to make a bigger show, bigger races.
You know, I guess we go back and say that's all well and good, but without the press and the TV, we'd still be a Southern sport. It took those people to sell us all over the country, to be able to bring in our big TV contracts and bring everything else in perspective. They were the ones then that went out and really told everybody about all of my races. They were the ones that brought the fans in.
The fans then is what it's all about, guys. We wouldn't be here without the fans. There wouldn't be a Richard Petty. There wouldn't be a NASCAR. But the press was telling the fans about NASCAR. The fans came. The fans developed a love, a real love, for it.
So, you know, I appreciate being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I appreciate the guys that voted for me. You know, look forward to what's coming down the road. I guess I'm going to do like Gomer Pyle, I'm just going to say, Thank you, thank you, thank you.
MIKE JOY: NASCAR's first generation built the sport. But NASCAR's second generation of leadership brought our sport to America's supermarket aisles and to our living rooms on live television.
Coming up next, the induction of Bill France, Jr.
Bill France, Sr., and Richard Petty are now inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The former director of NASCAR's West Series has also held the long time unofficial title of NASCAR's West Coast ambassador. He was also the long time loyal friend of Bill France, Jr. Would you please welcome Ken Clapp.
KEN CLAPP: Thank you, Mike.
Ladies and gentlemen, what a wonderful day for so many hundreds of thousands of people. As Mike mentioned, Bill, Jr., and I indeed were friends and we spent a lot of time together on the West Coast through the years.
When NASCAR was first getting started, Bill France, Sr., Big Bill, had a motto for his vision: NASCAR being a nationwide sport. He called it "Sea to Shining Sea," which meant of course coast-to-coast stock car racing under the NASCAR banner.
Bill, Jr., made that happen. Of course, he made many, many other things happen.
KEN CLAPP: Bill France, Jr., as we all know, was a car guy, a real car guy. He could take engines apart, put them back together again. He loved cars, particularly fast cars. He also loved fishing, deep sea fishing. It's only natural that with someone who loves fast cars as well as deep sea fishing officially inducts Bill France, Jr., into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Rick Hendrick obviously loves cars. He has a tremendous number of dealerships all over the country. By the way, he started with one small dealership in Bennettsville, South Carolina, and made it the most successful, profitable dealership in the region. The rest is history.
Rick Hendrick has won more NASCAR championships than any other car owner. He also won a national championship in drag boat racing. There are probably a few folks in the NASCAR garage who wish he had stuck with boats. His name is synonymous with NASCAR, especially in most recent years.
One of his drivers, Jimmie Johnson, has won four Sprint Cup championships in a row. Both Bill France, Jr., and Rick Hendrick shared a bond that many successful businessmen share: hard work, surround yourself with good people, and don't worry about the things you can't do anything about. The hard work part really impressed Bill because Rick put in as many hours as Bill did.
We all know that was a lot.
Please welcome Mr. Rick Hendrick.
RICK HENDRICK: Thank you. First I'd like to congratulate all the inductees and their families, the Earnhardt family in the front row, the France family, Junior Johnson, his family, and Richard Petty and your family. Congratulations to you folks. You made this sport what it is. Without you we wouldn't be here today. So let's give them another hand. Thank you.
I am proud and honored and humbled today to induct my friend Bill France, Jr., into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I was honored when Betty asked me to do this. I knew that I couldn't do it justice, but I'm going to try.
Bill lived an astonishing life. He didn't have anything handed to him. If you know the France family, you've got to work for what you get. So Bill sold snow cones, chased people that got into the racetrack without paying, and escorted them off the track. He actually helped build Talladega with his own hands with a bulldozer, both Talladega and Daytona. So he grew up the hard way.
He served our country in the Navy. When he came back and took the helm at NASCAR, that was about the time that I got involved. Harry Hyde gave me some really good advice. He said, Don't ask Mr. France anything. If you see Bill France coming into the garage area, you go the other way. If he wants to talk to you, he'll find you. But other than that, you best just leave him alone.
Well, I had this tremendous fear of this guy. I didn't know how anybody that was so successful could be that tough. I found out years later. I went to the trailer. I had some of the worst thrashings I ever had. I would rather he beat me with a stick than sit there and get it by the tongue.
But Bill did some phenomenal things. If you think back to the Winston sponsorship, bringing RJ Reynolds and Winston into the sport, you think about the TV deal that we celebrate today, which really catapulted us from a regional sport to a national sport, then to an international sport. Bill had this unique way of separating his professional feelings and his personal feelings.
I'll tell you a couple stories about his professional feelings. Richard Childress is sitting down here in the front. If you saw The Days of Thunder, that movie was created a lot after a meeting Bill France had with Richard Childress, myself, and Jeff Bodine. I got a call and said, How does your calendar look for the next two or three days, are you busy for the next few weeks? He said, You get Bodine and you be in my office in Daytona next Thursday at 5:00.
Richard and I, we had spent a lot of money on racecars at that point. So we ended up in Daytona. I thought we were going to watch movies, try to figure out who did what to who.
So Richard and I sat there. Bill started off with the speech he's given me many times. This sport is bigger than you, it's bigger than me, and it's going to be here when we're all gone. That's the way he ran the ship. He told Richard, he said, Richard, I don't know what you can do if you don't do this. I guess, Rick, you can go back and sell used cars in Charlotte. He looked at Dale and said, Dale, you can make a pretty good living at this. I don't know what you could go if you're not driving a racecar. He looked at Jeff and said, You may go back to doing what you were doing before you got here and don't care. He said, Now we're going to go and eat dinner.
Dale said, I have an appointment, I can't make it. Bill said, There's a phone over there, you change your appointment.
So Richard and I rode in the car together. Dale and Bodine rode in the car together. The rest is history.
If you saw those two on the track, you could drive another car between them, you'd have no problems.
The second story that was probably one that Jeff Gordon got me in the middle of this one. Drivers always get me in trouble. If it's not the crew chiefs, it's the drivers. But we won Indy, which was a huge race. There's a lot of celebrations. So we were taking pictures, getting rings, drinking champagne, doing all the things you need to do. One of the NASCAR officials said, Mike Helton wants to see you in the trailer. I thought he wanted to congratulate me on the race. About 20 minutes later, I had another NASCAR official say, Mr. Helton wants to see you now. Then I thought, Uh-oh, we're too low, we're too high, we're too short, we're too something, so I better get down to the trailer.
So I walk in. Mike is sitting there. Let me kind of set it up for you. Before that week, drivers were getting out of their cars and knocking the NASCAR sponsors off the roof. When I got to the trailer, I found out how uncool that was.
Mike said, Your problem is not with me. You need to call Bill. I said, I don't really need to call Bill. What's the problem? He said, No, your problem is not with me, you need to call Bill. So he said, There's the phone right over there.
So I go over there and I said, I don't know his number. He said, I'll dial it for you. So I take the phone and I'm going to say, Hey, Bill. But when the phone rang and he knew that it was this number calling in, he started cussing me. I mean, for 15 minutes I got it. You have that little blank, blank, blank Jeff Gordon down here in my office in the morning at 9:00. If you can't make it and he can't make it, don't you even think about carrying your car to Watkins Glen, you're done.
He said, But, it doesn't affect your fishing trip (laughter).
So I immediately called Jeff. I said, Jeff, do not answer your cell phone. So immediately Jeff is on the defensive. He said, Well, now... I said, Jeff, he's the maddest I've ever seen him. Do not answer your cell phone. Turn your cell phone off. Let's give it a couple of days. Maybe we can talk to Brian, see what we can do.
When you think about Bill, you think about a guy that was feared, a guy that was respected, and a guy that could be the best friend a man ever had. And when I look, Richard, at this podium right here, you can pick it up and you can get the history, I know that Bill was not alive when he designed that, because it's free. You would have to put a quarter in it if you wanted to listen to any story about Bill.
Now, I got to tell you, too, there was a real soft side of Bill. He's really going to be upset with me for telling you this. We shared something common to both of us, and it was called cancer. I actually went down after two years of chemotherapy, and Bill met me. I could hardly walk to get off the plane. The treatment killed me, just getting up, getting dressed, getting to the airport wore me out. Just getting down there was even worse.
He said when I got in the car, had to help me get in the car, he said, Man, you don't look too good. He grabbed my hand. I saw a tear running down his eye. I was so touched that he felt that way.
Then we had the crash in '04. I know Bill France was going through cancer, so he didn't need to come to Charlotte. He said, I want to come have lunch with you, I'm going to be in town. After lunch, he said, I just wanted to see that you were okay. That's the soft side of Bill France. He was compassionate, but he was a hammer when he needed to be and our sport needed that.
But above all else, Bill France was a family man. He loved his family. He loved Lesa, Brian, Kim, Betty Jane. He bragged on you guys all the time.
You know, in closing, I'd like to now bring to the stage, please join me welcoming the CEO of International Speedway Corporation, NASCAR's vice chairman, Lesa France Kennedy, and chairman and CEO, Brian France.
LESA FRANCE KENNEDY: Thank you, Rick.
I have to tell you, this is a huge honor today for me, Brian, and our entire France family. We are so humbled to be here. I know my dad would have been so touched to be a part of this inaugural class.
He had great respect for Junior, for Richard, and of course Dale was one of his own. He always felt that way. Dad did say that the sport was always bigger than any one person. He always said that. But it also applied to himself. He didn't mind reminding other people of that, as well. But he applied it to himself.
Dad was tough. There's no doubt about it. He was a tough, tough man. He was demanding. He had every single right to be because he expected more from himself. He always did.
He loved this sport. He was passionate about it. He built it literally from the ground up. When I say 'the ground up,' I'm talking about a backhoe at Daytona International Speedway.
On the personal side, I just had a couple of quick stories. For vacations, Talladega. Our summer vacations were definitely Talladega. And Brian and I were afforded the right to work. That's what our summer vacation was all about. He instilled that work ethic in everything that he did.
I could also tell you that holidays, that was an opportunity to plan for the next season. So he'd have a chance to get everybody together. Loved fishing with Rick. Absolutely loved it. Was one of his great passions with you and all the boys, was always so much fun for him. He was a guy that loved a great French restaurant. There's no doubt about that. But his favorite place was a hot dog stand at any one of his NASCAR tracks, absolutely.
And I have to tell you, too, that my mom, she deserves a medal, too. This woman is absolutely amazing. In the 50-year partnership they had together, has every bit as much to do with who Bill France was and how this sport was built.
So my dad liked the term 'straight shooter.' That referred to a good business person. My dad was a straight shooter. And I have to tell you, too, if you were his friend, he would do anything in the world for you. But for me, I was just lucky to call him Dad. Thank you.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thank you very much. You know, in my world, I wear a lot of hats. Today I've only got one on: I'm a very proud son of my father, certainly of my grandfather, and these other three champions.
But of my father, he was this incredible combination of being, as we've heard from Rick and others, incredibly tough guy, yet had the compassion and certainly the pragmatism and smarts to keep the sport rolling with 30-plus years under his watch. Pretty incredible.
Of all the people that worked with him, I have one distinction besides being his son that no one else has, I was fired more by my father than anybody. He was very tough on me in that respect.
You know what, I always knew with my dad that he was also my greatest champion. Sometimes he had a tough time expressing it, all that, but you always knew with my dad, if he believed in you, and you shot straight, he was going to be there when it got tough or when you needed somebody to lean on, and he was going to be fair.
You know, I want to say just a couple of other quick remarks.
You know, this business, when you're in our family, all the families that represent this industry, it's tough. It's tough. It's a weekend sport. Puts strains on the best of marriages. We work together, that's not an easy thing, our family in some cases. But it all works because somebody has the vision at the time to look out for the sport and what's good for everyone. That was my father.
Frankly, my mother, who doesn't get nearly enough credit for being an amazing champion of his throughout everything. So with that, I'll leave you on one last note. One of the great quotes that I ever saw was a headline, when I was a teenager at Talladega, said about my father mowing the grass, painting the fences, running auto sport's biggest show, I'm very, very proud of my father.
DARRELL WALTRIP: First of all, I'd just like to congratulate all of the inductees today, their families, Linda Petty, especially you, nice to see you here today.
This room is full of NASCAR royalty today. This truly has become and will become the Mount Rushmore of our sport. I don't think we can give Winston Kelley, all the people that have put this thing together in a very short period of time, done an amazing job, I don't think we can give them a big enough hand often enough. I would love to give Winston, everyone that worked on this thing, a hand.
So many people have dreamed about someday that NASCAR would have their own Hall of Fame. There are a lot of great Hall of Fames around the country, but none that was NASCAR's Hall of Fame. So it's an honor to be here today. It's an honor to induct Junior Johnson into the Hall of Fame.
I'd be a little remiss if I didn't tell a few Junior stories. I had some really good ones. I spoke to Junior a little bit ago. He said, Darrell, don't forget I get the last word. So with that, thought I might ought to get rid of those and basically just tell you about the man that I have admired, respected, and truly was my childhood hero.
When I think about Junior, when I was growing up, the mystique around this guy. I mean, he was from the moonshine capital of the world in Wilkes County. He got caught stoking a still. I didn't know what that meant at the time, but it sounded interesting to me. But he got caught and he went to prison and he served a little time.
He came back out. When he did, he really dedicated himself to racing. Junior became 'The Last American Hero'. Everybody in this sport, we got a lot of nicknames, The Intimidator, The King, but Junior was 'The Last American Hero'. That always in and of itself told me a lot about Junior Johnson.
The first time I went to his shop to meet Junior, to talk about possibly me driving for him, we went downtown north Wilkesboro, a little office, he and his attorney, I had my attorney with me. I was coming out of a deal I had about a 150-page contract that I had been involved in. When I sit down with Junior, I was expecting a long, drawn out affair. In five minutes, he and his attorney wrote them out on a piece of paper, slipped them over, said, There's your deal. Basically Ed and I looked at each other like, Wow, this is weird. No negotiation, no anything.
Junior says, I'll pay you this much money, you'll drive my car, we'll win races. It was just that simple.
As my attorney was sitting there, we had been in some pretty heavy negotiations with some others at the time, my attorney looked over and Junior and said, One last thing, I need to ask you something. What are you going to do for DW if he wins the championship? Junior never batted an eye. Had on a little pair of half glasses. He looked over the top of them, I'll tell you what I'm going to do to him if he don't (laughter).
That was part of the big deal about driving for Junior. Of course, everybody knew he had the best car in the sport. Cale had won three consecutive championships in it. I was chomping at the bit to get in that car. Can you imagine that one of your biggest rivals would come to you and say that, Junior wants to hire you. That's what Cale Yarborough did for me.
He came to me in 1980. He said, I'm going to leave Junior. He wants to hire you. If you're smart, you'll find out a way to get in that car because you'll win a lot of races and a lot of money. I wasn't that smart, but I did figure out how to get that done. The rest is pretty much history.
I go to the shop for the first time out behind his house. I have this vision that it would be a factory, like 'garage-mahal,' like what some of the shops are today. It's not. Just a little shop behind Junior's house. I had a vision of hundreds of employees. But it wasn't. Only 10 or 15. I walked through the shop. I looked around and I said, Hammond was with me, I said, Who built that? Hammond, where did that come from? Who thought of that? Who is the mastermind behind all this stuff? Hammond said, Junior Johnson.
I looked out down the hill. There was a man with a pair of bib overalls on, a mule and a plow, plowing his garden. I said, Hammond, is that Junior Johnson?
That was Junior Johnson.
I said, Why would he plow his garden with a mule when he has a brand-new tractor over here? But that's who Junior was. Junior was a simple man, but he had an amazing mind. He was a genius. He could look at something, take something, feel it, could watch it work, and he could make it better.
Junior, he could improvise. He created the bootleg turn. Now, I didn't have any idea that he was the first guy that ever did that. Do you know what a bootleg turn is? Oh, c'mon. A bootleg turn is when you're flying down the highway with a load of shine in the back and the road is blocked and you got to get going the other direction in a pretty big hurry.
So Junior learned when he saw that happen, he locked that thing down, turned it around 180 degrees, head back the other way. That became known as the bootleg turn.
Junior also, when he went to Daytona, he had a car that was not as fast as everybody else's. Junior didn't like that. Junior never liked to have a car that was not faster than everybody else's. On this particular occasion, had to figure out a way to hang with the guys that were faster than him.
He learned about the draft. Junior Johnson, the thing that we all use today to huge advantages, Junior Johnson discovered the draft at Daytona.
Junior was an innovator. He always thought outside of the box. The things that he did were first. Let me tell you, if you want to make Junior Johnson happy, just do something first before anybody else does.
Junior was not a follower. Junior was a leader. When NASCAR said they were going to have the awards banquet in New York. It wasn't a matter of if we win the championship, we will win the championship and we will sit at that head table in 1981.
So many other things that Junior did. He has a highway named after him. He's not in this hall just because he's a great driver with 50 wins, but he's also a great car owner. Most of us probably know him best as a car owner. But he's also an intelligent, great businessman.
Junior Johnson is a humble man. I don't think I ever heard him brag on himself. Just always telling other people what they should do and how they should do it. If they did it his way, they'd be successful like him.
He's been a great friend of mine. I can't imagine, my six years of driving for Junior define my career.
I'll tell you a quick story. This is kind of like after the fact. But I left up there and I went to drive for Rick. Somebody asked me what it was like to get out of Junior's car and get in Rick's car. I said, Shucks, that's like getting off a mule and getting on a thoroughbred. They went back and told Junior what I said. Junior said, I don't know nothing about that. Had a jackass up here and I ran him off. That was Junior Johnson.
The other thing, after I started my own team, and this is why when he tells you I get the last word you have to be really careful, but when I had my own team, somebody asked Junior how he thought I'd do. He said, Well, he finally got an owner as smart as a driver.
The Junior Johnson stories go on and on and on. The man is quick-witted, lots of one-liners. I don't know if this is appropriate or not, but he looks better to me today than he did when I was driving for him. He really looks in great shape. He's got his young son over here, Robert. He says he wants to get back in racing. Brian, sorry, brother, but if he does, you got your hands full. That's all I can tell you.
Lisa, Meredith, Robert, what do you say we take a look at a video about Junior.
DARRELL WALTRIP: Before I bring Winston up. This is priceless. I got to share it with you. I'm sitting by Robert. He said, DW, You hear about the 20 million they are offering to the SOB that can win Indy and Charlotte. What do you think about that?
He said, I'd run everybody out there for that 20 million dollars. Apples don't roll too far from the tree.
It's my privilege to bring up the executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Winston Kelley.
WINSTON KELLEY: Got to be somewhere to put a dollar bill changer.
Good afternoon, thank you very much for that kind introduction. Since taking this position nearly four years ago, I've had so many incredible experiences getting to work with and honor my childhood heroes like Petty, Johnson, Pearson, Allison, Jarrett and many more. Those of you who know me know I'm very seldom speechless. Those of you who work with me wish I were a bit more often.
I was completely speechless, however, but incredibly humbled and honored the day that Lisa and Junior Johnson asked me to do the induction of the next honoree. There may be many of you who worked more closely with Junior over the years than I, there are none that have any more admiration for Junior than I do.
I'm not here today as the executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But I'm here as one of you, one of the fans, and someone from within the industry who has an incredible appreciation for all that Junior Johnson has done for the sport of NASCAR.
Following the selection of this year's class, the debates over who got in and who did not permeated all forms of the media, debates that will no doubt occur and continue each and every year. There was clearly no right or no wrong in selecting from so many deserving nominees.
Following the selections, one person's perspective on this class was that this class is about what these people did for NASCAR as well as what they did in NASCAR. And Junior's contributions both for and in NASCAR are literally staggering.
In this position, I'm will not publicly discuss who I voted for out of respect for all of the nominees as each is clearly deserving and each, in my humble opinion, will eventually be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I must say from the beginning, I believe that Junior should be in our inaugural class.
As you've seen from the video and heard from DW and others, not for one reason, but for a whole host of reasons. His prowess as a driver, as an owner, as an innovator, a selfless contributor to NASCAR is well-documented. Although Junior admittedly redirected R.J. Reynolds to NASCAR when they came to him to talk to him about sponsoring his team, it didn't stop from the good-natured needling of him stealing the sponsor, deferring to sponsor Junior's team for a few years later. While I've known and been around Junior for over 25 years, I've come to really appreciate him and his insights over the last four years.
When we wanted to provide an exhibit design team, a NASCAR 101 course, among the first we sought out were Junior and The King. He not only openly welcomed us, he actually invited us up to have breakfast. If you can picture the faces of these New York exhibit designers, in an Armani suit, that we walked into this old shop that DW talked about, Junior standing there in the overalls personally scrambling the eggs. He spent the next three hours listening, but more importantly learning. If we were learning about the piano, we clearly would have been siting with Beethoven.
Among Junior's trademarks as an owner were innovation and attention to details. Early in the project we asked him if he could provide us a small replica of a moonshine still to make the connection between moonshine runners, fast cars in the early years of racing.
Well, he proceeded to build us a full-sized still, then he personally delivered it. In January of this year, we were a bit confounded with how to connect some of the pipes. So we called Junior and requested that he perhaps talk us through it by telephone. That wasn't good enough. Instead, less than three hours later, JR shows up to connect it himself.
Again, the looks on the faces of the construction crew, if you can just imagine, they were priceless as Junior walks through this construction site with hard hat, safety vest and glasses like you may have seen earlier, a pipe wrench in hand, steps inside the exhibit to install it himself. With apologies to our great partners, these tools were not clearly ones recently purchased down the road at Lowe's. They have been around the block a time or two.
I must admit that I mistakenly told people that this still doesn't work. I must clarify that. It's just not currently operational. I have been advised by the master itself that it would work with a little bit of fire and maybe a little bit of mash.
I follow up about how to describe Junior Johnson. There's so many words: champion, winner, innovator, leader. If I had to start with a couple, I would start with genuine. Webster's describes genuine as free from pretense or hypocrisy. Then I would go to authentic, which Webster's says is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character. I can think of no better way to describe our next inductee than genuine, authentic, and sincere.
At this time I would like to ask a very special person to join me on stage who will introduce his father as our next NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. If you would please join me in welcoming to the stage Junior's son Robert Glenn Johnson, III.
ROBERT GLENN JOHNSON, III: Thank you. It is an honor to be here with my dad, celebrating his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It's great to see him being recognized for all of his accomplishments in racing.
And to all of you racers out there that have raced for or with my dad, you know there are two rules to follow when around him. Rule number one, he's always right. Rule number two, if he's ever wrong, just refer back to rule number one.
I would just like to finish by saying that although my father may be going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame today, he's always been a Hall of Fame dad in my heart. Please join me in welcoming our next inductee, my father, Junior Johnson.
On this day, May 23rd, 2010, it is my honor and privilege to induct my dad, Junior Johnson, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and present this Hall of Fame inductee ring.
I love you, Dad.
JUNIOR JOHNSON: Well, I was up here with two, and now I'm by myself.
You know, I've come along with a lot of people that I had things that didn't go right between us and stuff like that. But talking about Bill, Jr., we were in a clash, but then it was the best friends you ever been with anybody. He would invite you to go get a sandwich.
I have to say that what he meant to the sport and what he brought to the table, it didn't make no difference if he was right or wrong, it was his way. And he didn't try to make you believe what he thought. He would just tell you what he thought. He wasn't going to do this, he wasn't going to do that, he would do it, stuff like that.
Big Bill, I always had a good relationship with him also. In fact, you know, I've had relationships where I would hear somebody was wanting to get into racing, stuff of that nature, sponsor the races and stuff. I'd tell him about it. He'd go get 'em.
He needed the motor companies in the sport. If I got an in to them where I could do the stuff I needed to do to race, I'd tell him, he would need to go court them a little bit and bring the whole thing in. We did that on several people: Ford, General Motors. I never did work with Chrysler. That was Richard Petty's stuff. I didn't fool with it.
You know, I had Oldsmobile, Pontiac, all those people I could go talk to, get them to do stuff for the sport. When I was first starting to drive, I run a race or two, I'd get back into my whiskey business, making money I need to run another race or two (laughter).
One time I was down at Atlanta. I was at the Holiday Inn. I hadn't raced in three or four races. Big Bill came down and sat at the table. I sat down and ordered my breakfast. He come over and sit down and said, Junior, I want to talk to you. I want you to run all the races, and you're committed to run all the races. I sit there and thought a minute. I looked down at my plate. I had bacon and eggs on my plate. I said, No, Bill, I ain't committed to racing. For instance, I'll tell you how it works. Look at my plate when I'm telling you. I said the hen that laid that egg was involved. The hog that that bacon come off from was committed (laughter).
Every time I'd see them from then on, he said, Are you committed or are you involved? Sometimes he would catch me cheating. I said, Now, I'm just involved, I ain't committed. He would burn me up, let me go. I'd take off and do something else. I had a great relationship with both of them. I wasn't trying to fight them for what they were doing. I tried to help them. I think I got more out of it, telling you the honest to God's truth.
Talking about the race like you ran last night. Me and Jerry, we would meet once a week out at the steakhouse. Jerry, he's kind of a gung-ho type of person that wanted to do something special for racing. He would get me and Roush out there. Both of them would get about two-thirds high. I would sit there and argue with them. He wanted us to come in with something that would excite racing. Me and Roush figured out, we just kept talking and talking about it, then we come back. That's how that race was put in gear with me and Roush and Jerry.
Like going to New York. We was down at Daytona. The air-conditioning went out wherever we were at. Jerry was sitting there. He pulled his coat off. He was sweating, he was hot really when the air-conditioning went off. I said, Let's move this place somewhere where they got air-conditioning. He said, Y'all come up with a place and we'll move it. That's how we got to New York. That's a true story also.
But I thought it helped racing. It took us a lot farther in the sport to be in New York. You want to promote anything, you really need to go to New York to do it.
In all respect, my family is over here, Lisa, Meredith, Robert is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Being inducted into this Hall of Fame, it could never, never do anything I appreciate anymore. With that I'll just thank you. Glad to be a part of this Hall of Fame. Thank you.
MIKE JOY: The only thing bigger than Dale Earnhardt's legend was his heart and his legions of fans. Earnhardt scrapped and scrambled to reach NASCAR's top tour, but once there he became the biggest star of his era.
It's been a great race here this afternoon with Bill France, Sr., Richard Petty, Bill France, Jr., Junior Johnson, all inducted into the Hall of Fame, white flags in the air, one lap to go.
To begin our final ceremony, please welcome back to the stage, the president of NASCAR, Mike Helton.
MIKE HELTON: One of the NASCAR's greatest strengths is its character. We've already inducted four men who contributed immensely to that aspect of our sport.
This next inductee added probably the most character to our sport at the right time. He did that by being the working man's hero on the racetrack and off.
MIKE HELTON: Famous successful duos in their fields are remembered by their chemistry that seemed to make the two of them one. There's no better person to induct Dale Earnhardt today than the man who was the other half of one of our most recognizable dynasties, he also happened to be Dale's best friend. Welcome to the stage, Richard Childress.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Good afternoon. It's an honor to be part of this historic event. Winston Kelley, congratulations to you and everyone with the NASCAR Hall of Fame for making this dream come true. Let's give him a hand, the whole group.
I would also like to congratulate all of the inductees and their families. The voting panel made the right choices for this first class of inductees.
I'm very proud and honored to be part of inducting Dale Earnhardt into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His mother Martha and all the family are here this afternoon. I know how very proud they all are. I know that Ralph Earnhardt and others are looking down, proud as well.
Martha, would you and the whole family please stand and be recognized. Great people. I'm already standing. I think I'm part of the family.
I can remember the first time I heard Dale Earnhardt's name. My brother was a chief steward at Caraway Speedway in the mid '70s. He called me one Sunday morning and said, If you ever want a driver, you got to look at this kid Dale Earnhardt. He told me Dale was racing Butch Lindley. They were going for the win, and Dale never checked up. He came across the finish line with two wheels on the fence and still won the race. Because of that, Dale Earnhardt became his own legend.
You probably remember the pass in the grass. Coming from 17th to win Talladega in 2000, his last win. Winning the pole at Watkins Glen despite being hurt. There's so many, many more we all can remember.
Dale Earnhardt was a champion's champion.
I'm often asked what type of driver Dale was. Dale was determined to win. He was the most competitive person in or out of a racecar. He could do more with a racecar than anyone I've ever seen. But the biggest thing he once told me was, When it gets down to those last 50 laps, I want it more than anyone else.
He had a drive to win. And it was in those last 50 laps that you saw the real Dale Earnhardt.
I'll give you another quick story about Dale. It was something he actually said at Talladega. There were some drivers complaining and grumbling about going too fast. He said, If you're afraid to go fast, stay the hell home. Don't come here and grumble about going too fast. Drag kerosene around your ankles so the ants won't jump up and bite your candy ass. That was a classic Dale Earnhardt.
Dale also was a competitor away from the racetrack. If you were on a hunting trip with Dale and you shot a bigger elk, boy, it was going to be a long, long ride home. If you were headed to an airport after a race, you better hold on because he was going to try to get there first.
Dale was a family man. He loved Teresa, his children, his parents, and his brothers and sisters. They meant more to him than anything else.
Dale also had a great appreciation for his fans. He knew they were hard-working people that spent their hard-earned money to come and watch him race. He wanted to give them their money's worth. If he was on the track, or if they bought merchandise with his name and likeness on it, he wanted to be the best.
As a friend, Dale and I had spent many hunting trips together, had thousands of conversations. I look back now on them as very, very fond memories.
Dale carved out his own piece of NASCAR history. He took the sport to another level. In that process, he brought millions of fans along for the ride.
I'd like to welcome to the stage the Earnhardt family, Dale's wife Teresa, his sons Kerry and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and his daughters Kelley and Taylor.
On this day, the 23rd of May, 2010, it is truly my honor and privilege to induct Dale Earnhardt into the Hall of Fame, and to present this ring, this Hall of Fame ring, to Dale's family.
TERESA EARNHARDT: When Dale Earnhardt had his hands on the steering wheel, he felt and saw things that you and I will never see. He could see the wind. Moving at 200 miles an hour, he could see things more clearly than most of us could ever fathom, and thrill us all while doing it. Some call him legend. Some call him hero. Some simply call him Dad. Or son.
Dale Earnhardt was a man who personified the American dream. He worked hard. He earned everything he had and he enjoyed it. This is an achievement of a lifetime. To be able to celebrate it, for me this is a moment of pride for Dale that I just can't put into words.
As I thought about the importance of today, I thought about the people, I thought about what people recognize and remembered about Dale's attributes. They called him the bravest, the toughest, the greatest, the most unselfish, the most generous, the most authentic, just to summarize a few. But there's so much that we could say about Dale.
But the people who believed in him, steered him to victory, held him up to greatness, have said it best. Former president George Bush quoted, Dale, he was an American legend. Senator Jesse Helms said Dale was an authentic American, he was a hero to millions. Secretary of State Colin Powell called him an American icon. Another quote, he was the greatest racecar driver that ever lived. Also, There's Earnhardt, and there's everybody else. But local school children put it best when they simply called him a real hero.
Dale Earnhardt was definitely a hero to his family. No one can say more about that than his children. Through them, his friends and fans, through this Hall of Fame, through you, Dale Earnhardt, the legend, lives on.
KERRY EARNHARDT: You know, Dad, as we grew up, he sacrificed a lot in life. There was a lot of times when Dad wasn't around and I wondered what was so important to him that he had to be gone all the time. Things called autograph sessions, appearances. Fans meant the most to Dad. Dad once taught me things about what fans were. He always taught me that no matter who it is in life, your bosses, coworkers you work with, the ones that come out to support you in whatever you do in life, are your fans, the ones that believe in you and believe in everything you do.
You know, Dad was just tremendous with his fans. Learned a lot from Richard. I can't say enough about what the fans meant to Dad. Dad would always take the last minute and plus some to be associated with the fans, young ones up to older ones. There's a lot of times Dad would give back to fans for what they did to him.
I remember times he met children with handicaps. They ended up having a van built for a wheelchair access and giving it to the family, to many other things. Just a proud moment to be here and be part of this induction to the Hall of Fame. As a son, I thank everyone, the fans out there, that supported him.
KELLEY EARNHARDT: My dad was a very giving person. Though he was an incredible driver and a businessman, that was very important to him. But it was also important to give back. Whether he did that to the local farmers on Highway 3 or racers just getting, started like Jeff Gordon, or the men and women serving our military in the public service, it was about doing business the right way and using his successes to give back to others.
Giving back was important, but what was not important was telling people about it. Most of his acts of kindness went without anyone knowing. Other times his help and his advice was a little more public, right, Dale?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I guess you could say there were a few times where I got some public advice from him. We were in Japan racing. I was racing for the first time against the Cup competitors and my father. It was late in the race. I got some new tires. Only had a few laps to make those work for me. I got up underneath him on turn three and four, I just needed two inches to clear him. I didn't have him cleared. I slid across his nose, up to the wall. He carried me all the way down the front straightaway with my back tires in the air all the way off into one. That was the day I met The Intimidator (laughter).
That same grit and competitive spirit, he carried that with his racing, but he carried it with everything else in life, too. When he wasn't in the racecar, he was always outdoors. He was an avid outdoorsman, right, Taylor?
TAYLOR EARNHARDT: I think that it's a big nod that me and Kerry, Kelley and Dale all grew up with different aspects of Dad. Dale was always at the track with him. I got some more outdoorsy, the real man he was behind the scenes, away from the racetrack. I always grew up not wanting to clean my room. I'd call Dad, we'd go ride around the farm. He taught me to hunt. Aside from that, he taught me how to take care of animals, conserve animals, which is something he was very passionate about. He taught me that. That's something I took from him.
I think with us all having different experiences, we all look like Dad, everyone always tells us that we all look a little bit like Dad. I think we all act like him, too. We're determined, driven, stubborn as a fence post. But Dad gave all four of us something. He gave all his fans something. I think that's what makes him a true champion in everybody's eyes.
TERESA EARNHARDT: I'd like to give you one more quote from Dale. A racer wants to race and win. Imagine having the opportunity to do that for a living, and then to be successful, and then to be considered one of the greatest drivers that ever raced, especially by a group of peers. It's one of the greatest honors a driver could ever receive. I've had a great career. If it ended tomorrow, I'd have no regrets. Dale Earnhardt.
MIKE JOY: What a wonderful day of celebration, stories, and a tremendous range of emotion as we have now inducted the first five inductees into NASCAR's Hall of Fame.
Like Henry Ford more than a century ago winning his only auto race, NASCAR's pioneers covered themselves with dust and glory, raced their ways onto the paved tracks, early superspeedways, paving the way for today's heroes to race their way into your living rooms. They were common men who accomplished uncommon deeds.
Today we span all of the eras of NASCAR history in celebrating the first five inductees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Thank you for joining us. Good afternoon.
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