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February 8, 2013
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR:Â He's a 19‑time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, please welcome Carl Edwards.
CARL EDWARDS:Â It's an honor to be here.Â With the highest winning percentage in NASCAR history, Herb Thomas receives my utmost admiration for all he accomplished in such a short time.Â He recorded 48 wins in only 228 starts and captured two championships in NASCAR's Premier Series, becoming the series' first two‑time champion.Â As an owner, Herb's drivers won 44 times and he became the first of only six individuals to win the series championship driving a car that he owned.Â Tonight Herb Thomas takes his rightful place among NASCAR's legends.
THE MODERATOR:Â Keep in mind that $3,000 or $4,000 would have bought a small house in 1951, the first of Herb's two championship years.Â Herb had a string of four years in a row there that saw him place first or second in the final standings each of those four straight seasons.Â At the age of 77, Herb Thomas passed away from 2000, so accepting his father's induction, please welcome Herb's son Joel Thomas.
NED JARRETT:Â What a talent Herb Thomas was.Â It is now my distinct honor on this 8th day of February, 2013, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ring.Â Joel, on behalf of everyone in NASCAR, we present this ring to you, making it official for your dad to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Â Congratulations.
JOEL THOMAS:Â Thank you very much.
Good evening, everyone.Â This is such a wonderful night.Â I'm honored to be here on my father's behalf to accept his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2013.Â I truly believe this is the greatest honor a driver could receive.Â I would like to congratulate all the other inductees and their families.Â You are all so deserving.
I would like to thank NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, both the nominating and voting committees and the fans for selecting my father for this prestigious honor.Â My father would have been very honored and humbled in receiving this recognition.
On behalf of the Thomas family, I would like to thank all of the NASCAR Hall of Fame staff.Â You have been so kind and helpful keeping everything organized.Â We appreciate all your time and efforts.
I would also like to thank Ray Fox and Bill Tatum, dad's brothers, Donald, Floyd, Acey and Lacey, Uncle Cecil, and all those to helped support him.Â Thank you all for helping him reach his dreams, and thank you to all of his fans for cheering him on and keeping his memories alive.Â He was a loving husband to my mother Helen, a wonderful father to me and my brothers, Jerry and Victor.Â Dad loved being with his family.Â His eyes would light up when grandchildren Scott and Chris were nearby.Â He was always kind and fair to everyone and wasn't afraid of hard work.
Before he started racing, dad successfully operated his own sawmill.Â Almost 50 years later, he was excited to teach me how to run it.Â My father was a champion race car driver, and it is true that behind every champion driver there's a successful team.Â After joining Marshall Teague and Hudson in 1951, his career really took off, winning the championship that season and again in 1953.Â Otherwise on track success continued with the Chevy small block, winning the 1955 Southern 500, which was his third and final victory in the iconic Labor Day event.
Dad also had one of the mechanics in Smokey Yunick, who he worked with for most of his career.Â He considered himself fortunate to race against Buck Baker, Lee Petty, Cotton Owens, Tim and Fonty Flock as well as many NASCAR greats.Â He also valued the friendship and bonding that came with racing on NASCAR's Premier Series.
When dad finally retired from racing in 1962, he returned to the farm where he worked with his family for many years.Â Those were wonderful times.Â I often rode with him to the market when it was time to sell.Â When his crops brought top dollar at auction, I could see his satisfaction and contentment.Â I wish he were here right here so we could see the expression on his face.
Although you're not here with us tonight, I know you're watching the festivities.Â Dad, this is for you.Â You made it to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Â Thank you for honoring my father, Herb Thomas, by inducting him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Â I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the evening.
THE MODERATOR:Â 40 times this driver has been to victory lane and five times he was the runner‑up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.Â Please welcome Mark Martin.
MARK MARTIN:Â Cotton Owens did so much for NASCAR in the early days, both on and off the racetrack.Â He dominated the Modified Series, winning countless times before jumping to the Premier Series, where he won nine times.Â However, it was his mechanical prowess and tenure as an owner that catapulted him to the annals of NASCAR victory.Â His drivers made it to victory lane 30 times with David Pearson capturing the championship in 1966.Â Cotton Owens will forever be remembered as a NASCAR legend that succeeded at everything he did.
THE MODERATOR:Â Cotton Owens was one of NASCAR's first major stars.Â He first drove in the Modified Tour before moving up to the Premier Series, where he also had a very successful tour as the owner of that fast No.6.Â Sadly, we lost Cotton last summer at age 88, but as you've seen, his passing came a number of weeks after he learned that he would be a member of this hall's class of 2013.Â Accepting Cotton's induction, please welcome his grandson, Kyle Davis.
DAVID PEARSON:Â Have a seat.Â (Laughter.)
It is my honor on this date, February 8th, the year 2013, to appreciate the Owens family putting Cotton into the Hall of Fame.Â He was not only a good guy to drive for but he was a good guy, he was a friend, and one of the best friends I guess I had as far as running with.Â Every Sunday after church I'd go by and pick him up and take him and his daughter out to eat, and it's been that way for years, I guess.Â Everybody thought when we split up we would be mad at each other or something, but we were both happy.
Anyway, I was glad to come out to do this, and the one that's going to receive the ring, Hall of Fame ring, is old Kyle here.Â Kyle, I'll give you the ring now.Â Thank you very much.Â I've said enough.
KYLE OWENS:Â I'm honored to be here tonight on behalf of my grandfather and my hero, Cotton Owens.Â This has truly been just a remarkable weekend, and I know it's one that I know my family will never forget.Â One of the things I've learned through this entire process is that the NASCAR Hall of Fame isn't so much about race cars or exhibits, it's truly about people, and I just want to thank NASCAR and everyone associated with this Hall of Fame for just this incredible experience that we all got to experience.
On behalf of my family, I want to congratulate the other inductees and their families.Â My grandfather would have been honored to go in with Herb Thomas, Leonard Wood, Buck Baker and Rusty Wallace.Â So we're glad to share this special night with you.
I truly wish my grandfather was here, and I wish my grandmother was out there watching.Â But that's not the plan God had for them.Â Now, this is a biased opinion, but in our family's book, there was no greater racer than Cotton Owens.Â My grandfather was one of the most humble, most loyal, hardest working men I've ever met.Â He took great pride in the fact that he could build a race car from the ground up, the engine, chassis, transmission, didn't matter, you name it, he could build it, then he could drive it to the track and drive it at the track straight to victory lane.Â There's not a whole lot of people that can say that.Â He was a wizard, truly, turning wrenches and behind the wheel.
It didn't matter if he was at Daytona or Darlington or at a Carolina dirt track with his grandkids.Â He was going to have some of the most reliable, best looking, safest, best handling cars on the track, and when you combine that type of mechanical ability with just his diligent work ethic, that he never stopped working, it's no surprise that we're here tonight.
I think my brother Brandon said it best at my grandfather's funeral:Â That Pop lived his life by four unwavering principles that he helped savor, and that was God, family, country and the 426 Hemi.Â I know first and foremost, Pop would want me to thank God just for blessing him with the talent and the ability to do what he did while providing for his family.Â He truly loved racing.Â Secondly Pop would want to thank his family, his son Leo, my daddy, for all the love and support.Â He would have wanted to thank his grandkids, in‑laws, extended family, everybody that helped him so much in his career.
Next he would have wanted to thank his long‑time friends Bud Moore and David Pearson.Â I can't tell you how much these guys meant to them throughout the years, and especially when their health took a turn for the worse because those guys came by and saw them weekly, and it meant so much to Pop.
Pop would have wanted to thank Dodge, and in particular his contacts at Dodge, Bob McDaniel and Frank Wylie.Â These guys were instrumental in his success with Dodge, and for that he always had loyalty to Dodge.Â I mean, ever since I've been alive, my grandfather has only owned Chrysler products.
Finally, Pop would have wanted to thank Dot for standing beside him and supporting him for 66 years.Â Dot Owens was as much a part of my grandfather's racing success as anyone, my grandfather included.Â She was truly the love of his life and just a pillar of stability in my family, and we miss her.
My cousin Ryan used a quote from Erma Bombeck to describe my grandfather.Â I think it's very appropriate.Â And what it says, it says, when I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have one single bit of talent left, and I can say that I used everything you gave me.Â Pop, you certainly used every bit of talent God gave you.
Thank you for being the grandfather that you were to me.Â Thank you for always being our hero.Â Thank you.
THE MODERATOR:Â The NASCAR Hall of Fame has created its first annual award.Â It recognizes career media excellence covering NASCAR, and the award's two namesakes are also its first honorees.Â Earlier this evening at the Hall of Fame induction dinner, Motor Racing Network co‑founder and long‑time CBS Motorsports editor and anchor Ken Squier, and the most trusted voice in NASCAR, MRN anchor Barney Hall, were presented the first Squier/Hall Award for NASCAR media excellence.
THE MODERATOR:Â They have each brought our sport into America's living rooms for more than 50 years.Â This duo has set high standards of broadcast excellence, so much so that those of us who follow can only dream of achieving.Â Please join me in congratulating Ken Squier and Barney Hall.
TREVOR BAYNE:Â I'm honored to drive the No.21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, which has fielded a car since 1950.Â Their longevity and success partially owed to one man, Leonard Wood.Â As a crew chief, Leonard was the first to realize that his team could gain on‑track positions through quick pit stops.Â His drivers won 94 races and captured 117 poles.Â Leonard worked on all parts of the car, often inventing parts or tools when none existed that were just like that.Â Leonard's contributions to NASCAR helped elevate the competition on track to higher levels.
THE MODERATOR:Â Please welcome 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, Leonard Wood.Â
EDDIE WOOD:Â It is my honor on this day, February 8, 2013, to induct you, Leonard Wood, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
LEONARD WOOD:Â How am I supposed to handle that?Â My nephews Ed and Len are just awesome.Â They went out of their way, and just can't thank them enough.Â It's a good thing I did the ring size and not the hat size.Â Wouldn't have been able to get it on.
But I want to thank the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel.Â Congratulations to all of the inductees.Â And I can't say enough about the Hall of Fame personnel.Â They have made it so much fun and all the activities leading up to this induction.Â And it's certainly a high honor to go into the Hall of Fame, NASCAR Hall of Fame, especially behind brother Glen and two of our former drivers David and Cale.Â Glen and I always did things together.Â We learned together and we won together.Â Glen told me one time he thought he needed a bigger spoon on the right front of his modified, and I thought being on asphalt, it's smooth, I didn't see as it needed it.Â So I climbed in the car at Martinsville with him, we went into the turn, and I thought I was going to throw him out the window.Â So I had enough on the first lap, and I'm trying to tell him that I've had enough, and he can't hear me.
So finally stopped, and I got out, and I said, Glen, you definitely need a bigger spoon on the right front.
I would like to thank NASCAR, all the France family, Bill Sr., Bill Jr., both in the Hall of Fame, Betty Jane, Lesa, Jim and Brian, and I'd also like to thank Mike Helton, John Darby and all the officials.
I want to thank Ford Motor Company, Edsel Ford, Alan Mulally, Mark Fields, Jim Farley and Jamie Allison, and if it wasn't for Ford Motor Company and brother Glen I wouldn't be up here.Â Jack Roush, Robert Yates, Doug Yates, thank you for all you have done for the Wood Brothers.Â Dale Inman, you're a great crew chief and a great friend.
Wood Brothers certainly enjoyed competing against you and the Pettys, Lee, Richard, Maurice and Kyle.Â Racing is about competition, and you guys sure had plenty of that.
I'm proud to go into the Hall of Fame with the legends Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas and Rusty Wallace.Â Glad to see all the people from Patrick County here.Â Chris Williams, it's great to see you, as well.
I can't thank Glen's family enough for all they've done for me, Glen, wife Bernice, Eddie, Carol, son John, daughter Jordan, Len, Nancy's son Kevin, Glen's daughter Kim and her husband Terry.Â I could look the world over and not find a better two young men to help me when I was chief mechanic than my two nephews Eddie and Len.Â They helped me so much.
I want to thank all my brothers, Clay, Glen, Ray, Delano and sister Crystal for all their support, and Delano was the best jack man in racing.
I want to thank my daughter Beth, husband Kelly Witt, and my precious granddaughters Carlyn and Grayson.Â They all are very special to me.
I want to thank my late wife Betty May.Â She was a special lady, great mother, loved people, never met a stranger, and my best friend.Â She would be so proud.
When I started racing, I never dreamed I would get to work with so many great drivers, the ones that won races in our cars are Glen Wood, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett, Marvin Panch, Dan Gurney, AJ Foyt, Speedy Thompson, Kyle Petty, Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, Curtis Turner, Parnelli Jones, Donnie Allison, Buddy Baker, Dale Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd, Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler, now Trevor Bayne.Â And other drivers we've worked with include Junior Johnson, Fred Lorenzen, Fireball Roberts, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, Bill Elliott, Boris Said, my nephew John Wood, Marcos Ambrose, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
David, you were with us the longest.Â You always kept your competitors guessing.Â They never knew how much you had left until the race was over.
I would like to say to Eddie, Len, Kim, along with Donnie Wingo, thank you for doing an awesome job running the operation.Â I was especially proud of you winning the 2011 Daytona 500, and I can't wait to see you do it again.Â Thanks to all the fans, and we can't thank our armed forces enough, and thank the good Lord above.Â Thank you very much.Â Have a safe trip home.
JEFF GORDON:Â In 26 seasons, Buck Baker established himself as one of NASCAR's first superstars, winning 46 races and back‑to‑back championships.Â Buck's natural ability and aggressive driving style earned him the respect of the competitors on race day.Â After his racing days were over, Buck wanted to give back to the sport, so he created the Buck Baker Racing School, where aspiring racers could learn the art of stock car driving, of which I'm proud to be one of those graduates.
His on‑track success and off‑track contributions are just two of many reasons why he's being honored here tonight.
THE MODERATOR:Â Buck Baker was a take‑no‑prisoners winning kind of driver, but he also amassed enough points to become NASCAR's first consecutive series champion in 1956 and '7.Â He was known for his great versatility, winning 46 times in the Cup Series and also in GRAND‑AM.Â He's 15th on the all‑time winner list.Â Buck Baker was 83 when he passed away from 2002.Â Accepting his induction, please welcome Buck's wife, Susan Baker.Â
BUDDY BAKER:Â It's now my honor on this the 8th day of February, 2013, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring to his lovely wife Sue, and I think I'd better give it to you, now officially inducting Buck Baker into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
SUSAN BAKER:Â I'm proud and deeply honored to accept this award on behalf of my husband.Â I only wish Buck was here tonight as he would have something very witty to say.Â However, I know that he is here in spirit.Â I would like to thank the nominating committee, the voting panel and all of the NASCAR fans that contributed to Buck's selection for the induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
I would also like to thank NASCAR and the NASCAR Hall of Fame staff, who were all so very pleasant to work with.Â There were so many people who touched Buck's life, most notably John Wiley, Buck's grandfather; Bill France Sr.; Carl Kiekhaefer; Bill France Jr.; Jim Hunter and Mike Helton.Â Buck loved and admired and respected all of these men as well as others.
Buck always made an impression on people, whether it was good or bad.Â If you ever met him, you never forgot him.Â It was never boring being married to Buck, either.Â He could make me laugh like no one else could and had that same effect on others.Â He was very handsome in a rugged kind of way.
We had a wonderful life together, going to NASCAR races, visiting family and friends, and later meeting the thousands of people through our racing school.Â He was very proud of his family and of the racing school, and at some point or another, every member of his family worked in the school.
A funny story about the racing school:Â Jeff Gordon had done everything he could in sprint cars, and it was time for him to move up.Â The story that I heard was AJ Foyt recommended that Jeff come down to Buck's school for some training.Â So a gentleman by the name of Larry Nuber of ESPN called me and asked if Jeff could come down free of charge so we could always say that Jeff Gordon went to our school.
I told him to call Buck at Rockingham but to wait until 12:20 after he had had his sandwich, because I knew what he was like if he didn't get his lunch first.Â So Larry called and got a hold of Buck, telling him Jeff was the next up‑and‑coming driver, they'd bring camera crews to film his training, and he went on and on.Â Buck's only response was:Â "I don't want you to bring some SOB down here and he tear all my damn cars up."
We had some difficult times, as well.Â The worst was the death of his oldest daughter Tina.Â Buck, however, was never one to sit around and feel sorry for himself.Â He faced life head on.Â He was so grateful for everything that was given to him, and he would always remind me of how blessed we were.
There has never been anyone quite like Buck.Â He was an amazing man and the love of my life.Â And everyone in our family is overjoyed by his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Thank you for honoring him tonight.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â Thank you.Â What an honor to be here at the Hall of Fame and to see all you guys and to get an applause.Â I really have no idea how I got invited to do this.Â It took me a while, but after talking to some of the guys backstage I figured out I might be the only one in this room without a Rusty story to tell, so I feel very lucky.
Before I won the championship this year and before I sat behind the wheel for the first time of any stock car, Rusty Wallace had already spent the last 15 seasons of his 25‑year career, from years 1991 to 2005, he is responsible for elevating Roger Penske and the Blue Deuce to his iconic status.Â In all he captured 55 checkered flags in the Premier Series and the Sprint Cup championship in 1989.Â Tonight I salute Rusty Wallace and the original Blue Deuce and Miller Lite in his honor.Â Congratulations, Rusty, and I encourage everyone here, cheers to Rusty.Â This one's for you, Rusty.Â Congratulations.
GREG WALLACE:Â I'll tell you what, Dad.Â When we moved to North Carolina in 1983 I don't think anyone could have ever dreamed that this kid in a nuclear hairdo would be standing right here today at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Â You've told a story that we started in NASCAR and aspired to be a part of the club, guys like David Pearson and Richard Petty.Â I think it's safe to say, you've made it.
So with that said, it is now my honor on this the 8th day of February, 2013, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring and officially induct you, Rusty Wallace, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
RUSTY WALLACE:Â I'll tell you, this is pretty emotional.Â I watched all these videos and it just blows me away.Â I'll tell you one thing, I look out in this crowd and I see some of the biggest stars in history.Â I look at Robert Yates, one of the best engine builders in the world, Ricky Rudd, Jack Roush, Michael Waltrip, big winner at Daytona, Darrell, everybody.Â It's something.Â I am humbled that I've made it here, I'm humbled that I'm standing up here, and I can't thank everybody enough for selecting me to be in the Hall of Fame.
Before I really continue on, I want to congratulate the other inductees.Â One of my buddies Leonard Wood, sitting right down there.Â I've got to tell a Leonard Wood story.
When I finally got out of those ASA cars, winning that championship and getting there and finally made it down to NASCAR land driving for my good buddy Raymond Beadle.Â I won that race in 1986 at Bristol and I won that thing and I was just completely blown away.Â I came down pit road, I'm like, I can't believe I just won this race, I can't believe it.Â But what I really couldn't believe is when I come down pit road, I look over and here's Leonard Wood running across the racetrack and he takes his right hand and he sticks in right in that window, and he said, kid, congratulations.Â I could hear his voice over the car running.Â He said, he you drove that race just perfect, you drove that line on that racetrack the way I wanted people to do it, and you did it.Â Congratulations.
And what I think is so incredible, Leonard was the first guy to congratulate me for winning at Bristol, and I'm going in the Hall of Fame with you, Buddy.Â That's pretty neat.
And Buck Baker, those stories are incredible, and Susan, the job you did was amazing up there.Â I'm still crying.Â Herb Thomas, Cotton Owens, I learned stories tonight I didn't know about those two and it was just incredible seeing what they've done.
To me, family is everything.Â These kids, my wife Patty has stood behind me through all this stuff, thick and thin, ups and downs, it's just been a fantastic ride.Â I can't thank them enough.Â Steven and Greg and Katie, what you guys did helping them get this Hall of Fame going, all the logistical stuff, our big party tonight, everything you've done is just really great.
Mom, I see you sitting down there, and Dad would have really loved to have been here tonight.Â This would have been so big for my father.Â He passed away last year and we miss him really, really bad, we do.Â But it would have been something really big for him.
There's a lot of people from all over the United States that have traveled here to see me get inducted here tonight, and I'm sure the other inductees have the same thing.Â I look around and I see big names, I look over here and see my buddy, world champion drag racer Donny "the Snake" Prudhomme and his wife came in from California.Â Thanks a lot, Buddy.
My friend Fred Wagenhals, he come from in Phoenix, he made me a lot of money.Â I'm glad you're here.
All my guys any the car dealership up in east Tennessee which I'm so proud of, they all came down from Tennessee and they're here supporting me tonight.
All my buddies from Iowa Speedway, Stan and Conrad are here tonight.
Walt Czarnecki has been one of my biggest supporters for a long time.Â When I was having problems with my ties, Walt would take his tie right off and give it to me and say, kid, this is the way you've got to look.Â I would say, Walt, I love your ties, dude.Â You always stuck up for me.
My Uncle Gary is here from St.Louis.Â Gary, I can't thank you enough because I used to work at a vacuum cleaner store, and Gary ran the vacuum cleaner store, and I wanted to go down to Springfield, Missouri, to go to a race so bad with my buddy Larry Phillips one time I couldn't see straight.Â And man, he said, you've go to stay late and I need you to deliver some materials to this place down the road, and I'm going, I can't do that, man, there's no way; I've got to get to Springfield, Missouri, to race.Â He said, no, you're going to do that or else I'm going to fire you.Â I'm like, what?Â He said, you asked for it.Â He loaded a 55‑gallon drum up in the back of a step van, and I pulled out of that vacuum cleaner store at 300 miles an hour and I drove 100 miles an hour over to Anheuser Busch to drop that thing off.Â I got there, I slammed that baby in reverse and I backed up and I said, here's a sign for this, and the guy said, a sign for what.Â I said, that drum.Â He said, there's no drum back there.Â I forgot to tie that drum down, and that drum flew out of the back of that car and it landed on Interstate 70, and when I was turned around going back I said my butt is going to get fired.Â I walked in there, and Monday morning Gary said, you're fired.Â Just like Donald Trump, you're fired.Â I said, thank you.
And my career started.
And it's all because of Gary.Â Gary, thank you for making the trip from St.Louis.
I want to give a shout‑out to my long‑time friend, a guy that's drove me all over the country for years and years and years safely, it's my pilot Billy Brooks.Â Everybody knows Billy Brooks.Â Amazing guy back there.
All the guys at RWI, Rob Williams, Joyce Gerland, Krista and Lynn Southern, they're here.
And all the guys from ESPN made it here tonight, really excited about that, Jed Drake and Rich Feinberg couldn't be here tonight because they're back in the Northeast because of the snowstorm, but our brand new producer for ESPN is here, Jimmy Gallardo.Â Thanks a lot.Â Kate Jackson is here, Jim Bowden I've work with a lot, and my great friends from NASCAR Countdown show, led by Nicole Briscoe.Â Nicole is here along with Ray Evernham.Â Ray, thanks a lot.Â And Brad Daugherty, he's out racing so he couldn't make it tonight, but he's watching, I know he is.
This whole thing for me started back in the '70s in St.Louis, Missouri.Â Out there running those tracks and just really wanting to be somebody.Â My dad said‑‑ Dad was just winning everything back there, and he wrecked a car really bad.Â He said, if you guys can put this car back together, if you can get this thing fixed, I'm going to let you race it.Â I said, all right, we can do that.Â We got that car put back together, and I made it into the semi‑feature event.Â If I won that event right there, it put me in the state race.Â I won that semi‑feature event, and I was so excited that I won that race, I got the big race, and Don knows what I'm about to say, don't you.Â I got about 15 laps into that 30 lap race and that baby run out of gas.Â I got so excited I forgot to put gas in the car.
But it was something.Â I always wanted to be like my dad.Â Dad just won everything.Â I think Dad even had a Bobby Allison car at one time.
But you know, there was a couple guys back there that I've really got to thank, and it had to be Charlie Case and John Childs, and John is in the room tonight, and those two guys gave me first break, got me going, and John paid all that money like a lot of young short track drivers around the country, he bought my tires, he bought my gas, paid for a hotel every now and then, got us going, and he's here tonight to support me.
But this thing really took off by accident.Â I was on that paper route, I was delivering papers and I'm delivering papers all over the place, and I keep riding by this guy's house, and he had this red trailer parked out front.Â I said, man, I wonder who that guy is; that's a cool looking trailer.Â It had Penske written down the side, Sunoco, it had all this stuff, and I said, we've got to find out who that guy is because that's a cool looking trailer.Â Come to find out it was Don Miller.Â He was operating Roger's show cars at that time out of St.Louis, Missouri.Â I said, we've got to meet him.
So Don started going to some of my races, and we started winning a lot of races, and he went to Roger and said, Roger, I've got this punk back in St.Louis that's really pretty good and he wants to drive really bad, and Roger says dust him off, give him a shot.Â He said, but I want to make sure you can do it right.Â Take him to Atlanta, let's test, so Rick Mears is down there running and I'm down there running these IROC cars, and in my very first race I finished second.Â I'm going, wow, this is something else.Â This can't be this hard.Â I mean, this NASCAR stuff, I jumped out of my ASA car, ran good, get in these cars and finish second.Â How about that?
Well, I got in a second race, an ARCA race up in Michigan, the drive shaft flies out.Â I go to another race in Charlotte and I just run terrible.Â Roger called me up and said, kid, you need more experience, and he said, right now this is kind of affecting my IndyCar team, because he was running his stock car out of a shop in Reading, Pennsylvania, and he said, you know, you get some more experience and our paths will cross down the road.Â And I went, man, you've got to be kidding me.Â I tried so hard and finally it didn't work out.
I said, well, let me take that advice.Â I'm going to try to get some more experience.Â So back in '83, I said I'm going to got for a title, I'm going to try to get a title.Â I'm racing my buddy Mark Martin over there with Alan Kulwicki, and who else did we have, Davey Allison and all of them.Â And I was racing against them, and I won that championship in 1983.Â I beat a guy named Dick Trickle by 10 points I think it was, and he got me going, and it got me noticed.Â Cliff Stewart gave me a call, owner of the Gatorade car back there in High Point, North Carolina.Â Richard knows him real good.Â He gave me that break and got me going, and I won my rookie year in '84 but I hit everything on the racetrack.
Cliff Stewart will tell you I was the only guy that's ever seen Martinsville, Virginia, burn the brakes off so fast that that he'd go down there in Turn 1 and listen to me and I was the only driver downshifting trying to slow my car down.Â Finally tore the car up.Â I go to Darlington, South Carolina, the 500.Â I went in the corner so deep I couldn't get the baby stopped, I went up over the top of (inaudible) car and I landed on his roof, and he drove in.Â I tore everything up I possibly could, but I learned a lot.
In '85 things didn't get any better.Â I was running better but we were blowing a lot of motors up, and all of a sudden this guy named Barry Dodson was looking at me and saying I think this guy has got some talent and can get it done, and he had just the right car owner for me right then.Â I was pretty wide open.Â Raymond Beadle is sitting right here, and Raymond, thanks a lot for coming from Dallas tonight.Â Raymond gave me my first break, and I actually won that big race over there at Bristol.
But I said, you know what, I want to be in the club, and I got this sense that me living in St.Louis is not the right place to be when I want to be in the club.Â So we go out there winning one race, I don't think it was enough to convince these veterans and the Dale Inmans and these people like that that I deserved down there.Â I felt like I had to do it twice.
Four races later I go to Martinsville, Virginia, we win.Â That puts me at two wins.Â I stand in the mirror and I looked at myself, and I said, Self, I think you're in the club.
And man, it just felt so good to win that second win, and then all of a sudden we took off.Â Won the last two races in Riverside, California, before they shut the place down, won all kind of road course races and short tracks and this and that.
But one thing I was doing along the way, I was running Raymond completely out of money.Â I said we've got to have this, we've got to have this and we've got to have this, and what Raymond kept saying is no problem, no problem, no problem.
And there's a story that a lot of people don't know in this room, and it's a really cool story.Â We started running out of money at the end of '89, and Rick Hendrick said, hey, I'm going loan y'all some money to keep you going, because Raymond and Rick were big buddies.Â So Rick Hendrick right now will tell you that he's got I don't know how many championships and a half of one.Â Rick paid for that last part of that to keep us going, and so I really have kind of drove for Rick Hendrick a little bit, too, and a lot for Raymond, and he we just had a blast.
Raymond worked so hard and put everything he had into the championship in '89, and in 1990 we were able to win the Coca‑Cola 600, go up to Sears Point, win that one, too.Â I picked up the phone and called Roger, and I said, Roger, you told me a long time ago to get me some more experience, and you know I want to drive for you.Â I want that Penske name, I want it bad and I want to drive for you.Â He said, okay, you've got enough experience let's get this thing started.Â We had a little meeting, and he said, Don Miller, you're going to own 25 percent of this team or 24, Rusty, you're going to own 24, Roger said, I'm going to own the rest.Â Let's get racing.
Man, we took off and we won a lot of stuff, I thought, for the first couple years, won a couple races, pretty aggressive.Â But then the '92 season I was kind of up and down.Â I did a lot of wrecking and messed a lot of stuff, and I wasn't nearly as polished as Roger thought I needed to be I don't think.Â And we go to Daytona to test, and all of a sudden I get a phone call.Â And Don is down there with me.Â I said, Don, Roger just called us up hotel over there, and he wants to have a meeting.
And I'm thinking to myself, I don't know what I've done wrong, and maybe he's going to do something nice for me, I don't know.
We walk into that meeting, in that old beat up hotel room across the street from Daytona International Speedway, and sits me down and looks me right in the eye, and he goes, son, this NASCAR thing is not working like I thought it would.Â I want to give all my interest to you and Don and you guys take off and you go have fun and do it.Â I paused and I looked and I said, I feel like I'm in some time warp.Â I can't believe this is happening.
And he said, no, I just want to get out.Â I want to go focus back on my IndyCar stuff.Â But I love NASCAR and I'm going to be in NASCAR but this isn't working right now.Â And I got mad.Â I got mad.Â I just got in disbelief.Â I was like, what.Â I took my right hand ‑‑ and Roger knows exactly what I'm about to say.Â I took my right hand and I shook it at him like this and I pointed, and I said, I want to be a Penske driver.Â Dammit, I want to be a Penske driver.Â Don't spin out on me now.
He said, damn, kid, you're pretty convincing.Â I'm going to give you another shot.Â Well, we took off in 1993, we won 10 races.Â We got that baby right in there, we got everything back on track, and Kathy and Roger, I want to thank you so much for not spinning out.Â And I want to thank you so much for hanging in there with me.
You know, I don't know if Brad Keselowski is around here yet or not, I don't know if he's left or sitting out here or something, but I want to congratulate him so much on winning that championship.Â The way he drove that car with such poise and calculation and not tearing nothing up, it's unreal.Â So I congratulate you for winning that.Â But I really think you thought to come out and congratulate Roger on not spinning out because I don't know if you would have had that ride if Roger had spun out on us.
I want to thank all my team members.Â I see a lot of the Blue Max guys here, I see a lot of the Penske guys here.Â And you guys are fantastic.Â What you done, I really appreciate what you done for my career.
One of the longest running sponsorships besides STP, Miller Brewing Company, been behind us for a long, long time.Â The folks at Mobil Oil, we've seen them around tonight, stayed with me from Raymond's car right into Roger's car, and they're just fantastic.Â Without these sponsors we couldn't get this done, there's no doubt about that.
But you've got to have a good crew chief, you've got to have good crew chiefs, and I've had a lot of good ones.Â My very first crew chief in 1983 in my American Speed Association car, which we won a lot races with, almost 200 races before I got down South, and that crew chief was Paul Andrews, and Paul is here tonight and I want to thank him.Â Darrell Bryant, crew chief or the No.88 car when I drove for Cliff Stewart.Â Barry Dodson, Barry is in the room tonight, one of the best crew chiefs I've ever had.Â I won the championship with Barry back in '89, a fantastic guy.Â Jimmy Makar now with Gibbs, Jimmy was my car chief back then.Â We had Eddie Dickerson as a crew chief for us.
But probably one of the most fun crew chiefs I've ever had in my life, this guy taught us all how to have fun, he taught the pit crew how to rock and roll, he taught everybody what to do, and that's Buddy Perry, and I think Buddy is around tonight and I want to thank Buddy Perry.
But one of the most calculating crew chiefs, calculated, smart, aerodynamic smart, really on it and really working hard crew chief for me and a guy that I won a ton of races with is Robin Pemberton.Â He still believes in me, we're still good friends, and we won a bunch of races, and then Robin went on to be successful with Ford Motor Company and is now one of the chief guys at NASCAR.
Billy Wilbur worked with me for a while.Â But my last win was with one of my best friends, and I'm really proud to say he was my last crew chief, that was Larry Carter.Â Larry was really something.
Well, I've told some stories and thanked some people and stuff like that but I think big wrecks do some crazy things on the racetrack.Â I did a crazy thing and I learned a big lesson from one of the best people in the world, and I'm about to tell a story about a major wreck that I had in Bristol, Tennessee, where I flipped end over end and the car landed upside down and was torn in a million pieces and all this, but the problem started kind of before I got in the car.Â Dale Inman, you know where I'm going with this story, don't you.
I was there and I grabbed a ham sandwich.Â I made it up real quick and I wolfed that baby down and I took it and Richard Petty comes over to me, hey, kid, what are you doing.Â I said, I'm having a sandwich.Â He said, you can't do that before that you practice.Â Any smart race car driver knows you can't have a sandwich and jump right out on the racetrack and go practice.Â If you wreck, that thing could get clogged up in your esophagus and you could choke and die.Â I said, ah, whatever.
I go out on the racetrack and I blow a right front tire in practice.Â That baby hits the wall end over end, I'm tore all to pieces and I'm knocked out.Â I'm starting to come in and out of consciousness, and I look up, and I see this guy pulling the windshield out of my car, and I'm going, what the world, that's Dale Earnhardt Sr.Â Earnhardt is up there on the hood ripping the windshield out going, don't die, kid, keep talking to me, don't die.Â And I've got this guy with his hand around my neck, and he's pushing my neck back.Â I'm going, what is this.Â Well, what I didn't know I was unconscious and not breathing, there's Dr.Jerry Punch holding my neck up, and Dr.Jerry Punch that day in Bristol saved my life.Â I was dead, not breathing, and he got me going.Â Didn't you, Doc?Â That's right.
Man, they loved me after that.Â We were driving over to the hospital, I go to the hospital and I get there and I'm in an ambulance going over there and Barry Dodson is there, Jimmy Makar is there, they're talking to me, and I'm saying, hey, take that gurney off me, take that strap off me, it hurts so bad, and I heard Jimmy Makar car telling Barry, there's no strap, man, his ribs must be broken all to heck.Â His ribs must be all tore up because it's loose, it's loose.
So they take me to the hospital load me in there and they lean me up, they stand me up, and I just puked right over the nurse, and that doggone ham sandwich was jammed up in my esophagus, and I get to the racetrack the very next day, and Richard Petty says, kid, you don't listen too good, do you?
So Carl, next time you're out there on the track and you're jumping out of the car and flexing those muscles, just make sure you don't wreck.
I learned that story.
Then I had this other bad one at Talladega.Â Went 25 times down the front straightaway, motor flew up, body flew off it, and I woke up in a helicopter.Â All I heard was thump thump thump thump, and I'm going, what is this?Â Where am I?Â I was in a helicopter; I was tore up.Â But at least one thing happened out of that wreck.Â That was the wreck that invented the roof flap.Â Bill France Jr. said, we're going to fix this baby up and they took that car and put it on top of a flatbed truck with a big jet behind it blowing wind on it, and we developed the roof flap, Don Miller and Jack Roush and all the guys, and that was one of the neatest inventions we ever done.
Well, that's some story telling, that's some thank‑yous.Â But I want to thank NASCAR.Â I want to thank NASCAR really, really bad.Â Because without NASCAR and that vision of me wanting to drive NASCAR so bad and you guys making it possible, I would never be here.
I want to thank the entire France family.Â I know everybody thanks the France family, but these are some really special people that love life and they love NASCAR.Â And Mike Helton, you've been one of my biggest supporters.Â You've guided me through a lot of things, and I really consider you one of my best friends, I really do, and I appreciate it, buddy.
I love telling stories about NASCAR as you can tell, I love helping build this sport, I love educating people that don't know about NASCAR.Â I love telling a lot, a lot of stories, and I feel like I'm going to continue doing that through ESPN, my friends over there and all our NASCAR Countdown show and just story telling, just talking in general.Â I love being an ambassador for the sport, I love talking to people and telling them how fun it is and how great it is and how happy it makes people feel on Sundays.
And I will tell you, Winston Kelly, the job that your team did here at the Hall of Fame is just amazing, and I want to thank the voting panel for getting me in the Hall of Fame.Â It means everything in the world to me.
But before I close, I want to say one thing:Â There's one thing I learned about the sport.Â It's that‑‑ the thing I learned, and I said it earlier and I said it at a driver's meeting in 2005 I day I retired and walked out, I said, this is a privilege, this is a privilege to race in NASCAR.Â You don't have to do it.Â We're not making you do it.Â It's a privilege to race in NASCAR, and this has been a blessing for me to be able to be in this sport and do what I've done, and I really, really appreciate it.Â And I just hope that all the young drivers and the current drivers respect NASCAR as much as I respect it and go out there and say the good things about NASCAR and help build the sport because I'm telling you what, with this brand‑new Generation 6 car coming up next year, I think this sport is going to take off climbing.Â I think that team did an incredible job.
And with that said, thank you very, very much for putting me in the Hall of Fame.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports