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January 29, 2014

Dale Jarrett

Blake Shelton

Tony Stewart


TONY STEWART:  I've had the privilege of kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway twice in my career, and we all have our final inductee to thank for creating that tradition for all of us that will live forever.  He's always had a knack for showcasing his talents on NASCAR's biggest stages, winning the Daytona 500 three times and the Brickyard 400 twice.  He also captured NASCAR's biggest prize:  The premier series in NASCAR, the championship in 1999.
Tonight Dale Jarrett joins his father Ned and other legends in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
(Video shown.)
Please welcome the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, Dale Jarrett.
BLAKE SHELTON:  Honored to be here, everybody, and I didn't think this was going to be an emotional deal for me until the airplane ride over here to Charlotte today, and so I decided, I got to thinking about what this is and what it means to you and what it means to me.  So I decided to write this stuff down because I knew I would screw it up if I tried to wing it.  I'm going to read this to you as it came to me on the airplane today.
People ask me all the time how I became a NASCAR fan, and my answer is always, man, I guess I was just born that way.  You see, my dad was a driver when I was a kid, not like y'all, but he raced on local tracks, stock cars, and what are the ones with the wing?  Okay, sprint cars but without the wing on them, that look like a sprint car, a midget.  I guess my dad raced midgets, okay.  You know what I'm talking about.
See why I wrote this down?
He was also a huge fan of races on TV, and I can't remember my dad ever missing a Daytona 500 or an Indy 500, and I put in parentheses here, although compared to NASCAR, those other cars blow.  I just put that on there.  (Laughter.)
Anyway, I think my dad always had a secret dream of one of us kids becoming a race car driver.  He entered all three of us into local motocross events.  My brother was good, my sister was okay, and I sucked.  So I learned to play the guitar, thank God.
Ironically, though, that's how my history with NASCAR came full circle.  Country music and NASCAR go hand in hand, y'all, and I take great pride in being a meaningless but very loud, very defensive ‑ Clint ‑ sometimes pot‑stirring voice among the fan base and the inside of this sport.
Over the years, I've been lucky enough to witness in person some really cool things hanging around you people, and the best part is back in the day I got to bring my dad along with me.  My dad was there the day that Elliott Sadler dove off the SPEED stage here in downtown Charlotte, missing the crowd by about the length of his face.  Do you remember that?  Man, that was funny.  (Laughter.)
He got to see Michael Waltrip ask meaningless question after meaningless question at a drivers' meeting at Texas Motor Speedway.  To us that was a big deal, I guess.
I watched him shove old women and children aside at Talladega to shake the hands of his favorite drivers:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, and this man right here, Dale Jarrett.  As years went on, Dale and I crossed paths many times, and although my dad's health began to keep him from traveling, he loved hearing all the stories about the time I spent with Dale.
I didn't tell him everything.
Dale even spoke to him on the phone a time or two.  I believe it was little things like that that kept my dad happy those last few years.  You guys were his heroes.  And even though I know he was beyond proud of my accomplishments in music, he just couldn't get over the fact that I got to spend time with guys like Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler, and most of all, Dale Jarrett.  And man, what I'd give if he could have seen the old boys standing around talking about what was the biggest flower arrangement at his funeral, not because it was so big but because it came from Dale Jarrett.
I hope you drivers realize the kind of impact you have on the lives of everyday, hard‑working people, people like my dad, and that's why it's my honor to be here tonight to induct Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  So on this 29th day of January 2014, I want to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and officially induct my friend Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
DALE JARRETT:  Thanks, Blake.  You know, that's pretty cool, right?  Man, a busy schedule like that, and Miranda, I appreciate you coming and being here tonight, too.  Y'all taking the time to be here on a very special night for me, and those words meant a lot, and at times I did get to talk to your dad, and that's the family aspect of country music and racing are a lot alike, and I certainly appreciate that.
One of the perks of having a successful NASCAR career and driver is to have good friends like you and make that along the way, so thanks for taking the time to be here.
I want to begin a night of many thank yous by saying congratulations to the other inductees and their families.  As I've thought about being inducted with these four superstars of our sport, Tim Flock, Fireball Roberts, Maurice Petty and Jack Ingram, along with the 20 individuals before us, I realize that I may have the most unique perspective of this entire group of Hall of Famers.  You see, I watched and lived around many of them as a kid while my Hall of Fame father was racing against them.  Later on I had the opportunity to race against them, drive for some of them, and certainly learned valuable lessons from most of them, and that was on and off the track.  Even though it says tonight is an award for me, this is really about so many other people, but there just isn't enough time to thank everyone individually.
I am honored that many of you could join me here tonight, and just know that if we worked together during my 31 years of driving or the last six years in the world of television, I have thought about you and appreciate the opportunity we had to work together.  Your efforts and sacrifices are really the reason I'm here tonight.
It's very possible that none of this would have ever happened if it were not for two very special people and friends that gave me the opportunity to drive a race car for the first time in 1977.  By the way, in 1977, same year that a future Hall of Famer that you just saw a few minutes ago began his driving car.  That would be Jeff Gordon.  He started in '77, also.  He was five and I was 20, but we started in the same year.  Those two friends of mine that gave me that chance, Andy Petree and Jimmy Newsome, they're here tonight to help me celebrate this special evening.  We learned a lot together in those early years, and you know, some of it is about racing along the way, too.  So thanks, Andy and Jimmy, for everything that you did.  Thanks for being here.
There are three others that helped me along the way earlier in my career, Hart Eisenhower, John Erwin and Rick Bowman.  I can't say enough for everything that you did for me.  We're going to fast forward to the end of my driving career.  Andy and I are once again working together.  This time we're getting paid by ESPN to talk on TV.  Is this a great country or what?  My gosh.  I'm fortunate to work with some of the very best in the TV industry at ESPN.  Thanks to all of you for this great opportunity.  It's a dream come true for a sports junkie like myself.
Many of us often need a second chance in our life or our profession.  In 1990 I found myself on the outside of the Cup Series looking for that second chance.  That opportunity came shortly after that year began from the Wood Brothers race team after their driver Neil Bonnett was injured at Darlington.  A phone call from Eddie Wood to substitute for Neil was a career‑making call for me.  As fate would have it, I ended up driving the famed No.21 Ford for the next two years, earning my first career win in 1991 at Michigan, was just a small part of the great experience I had being involved with this Hall of Fame family and organization.
I know second chances are worthless if you aren't ready to take advantage of them, but I believe I made the most of mine with the help of everyone at Wood Brothers racing.  To Glen, Leonard, Eddie, Len and your entire family, thanks for believing in me, and most importantly for being great friends to my family.  You'll always have a special place in my heart.  Thank you.
Now, making changes in your career is sometimes very risky.  I tried to always look at these changes more as opportunities to advance my career, and as it turned out, most of my decisions were correct.  1992 was one of those moves.  I have two huge thank yous here.  The first to Joe Gibbs for choosing me as his driver to start his venture into NASCAR.  His first win as a car owner was my first Daytona 500 victory with the great sponsor and friends at Interstate Batteries.  But it was so much more.  Joe, the life lessons were invaluable, and I'm a better person because of our partnership and friendship.  Thank you very much.
The second is to my brother‑in‑law, Jimmy Makar, who basically came over, started JGR and was the crew chief for me while I was there.  Jimmy, you were simply amazing in making all of that happen.  By the way, Jimmy is still at JGR, senior vice president of racing operations.  Thank you very much, Jimmy.
1995 brought another change in race teams, another family owned organization, Robert Yates Racing.  Robert, Carolyn, Richard and Doug Yates welcomed treated like family for the next 12 years.  There's nothing better for a race driver than going to the racetrack every weekend and knowing you have a fast car and a chance to win, and the crew chief is a driver's best friend, and I was fortunate to work with two of the best at Robert Yates racing, Larry McReynolds and Todd Parrott.  It was Todd who guided me to most of my wins and a championship in the Cup Series.  He was a tireless worker on the chassis and aero side of the race cars.  Gosh, we spent many a night in the wind tunnel, midnight‑to‑8:00 always had to be for Todd.  We couldn't go at normal hours.  But we had to have those things, because we knew we had the best engines in the business from Robert and Doug Yates.  It was incredible to work around such hard working and dedicated people who only wanted one thing:  To win.  That's what I wanted.
I'm very proud to have been the driver to bring the Yates family their first championship in the Cup Series in 1999.  There are also some key members of that championship team here tonight.  Thanks to each of you for that never‑give‑up attitude that you brought to our team.
We also had some great sponsors at Robert Yates racing that I would like to thank:  Ford Motor Company, Coca‑Cola and UPS.  What a blast I had in making those UPS commercials.  That was a lot fun.  I also had a great teammate in Elliott Sadler that was there.  Elliott is a great friend to this day, and I appreciate that, buddy.
Now for the difficult part of this.  This was a lot easier in rehearsal.  My family has always been a huge part of my life and career.  My sister Patti has always been there for me, listening to my problems or giving me much‑needed advice.  Glenn, my brother, best friend.  With Glenn, I know I'll always have a golf partner because he literally plays eight days a week so I'll never have a problem looking for a game there.  Thanks to both of you.  I appreciate your support.  My mother has always stayed in the background, but she is the reason I am who I am today and the guiding hand that kept our family moving in the right direction.  You know, and like most wonderful mothers, I never did anything wrong in her eyes.  Well, almost nothing.  Thanks, mom, I appreciate everything.
And of course my father.  And now fellow Hall of Famer.  That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it, dad?  My dad has been everything a son would want his father to be:  Successful, a leader by example, a teacher you can believe in, and always there to support me.  My dad was and still is today my hero.  That's what really makes this night so very special.  I'm joining my father in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
And now there are five more people that I want to recognize and thank.  You could say I saved the best for last.  These five all have the last name Jarrett, and they, for more than 35 years, have made the biggest sacrifice for me to chase my dreams in the NASCAR world.  Now, I have my own Hall of Fame in my heart:  Jason, Natalee, Karsyn, Zach and Kelly are certainly the first five members.  I've been blessed with four wonderful children that never question why I had to be away from home so much but rather they were always there to make my day better regardless of how my day went at the track.
It's your support and unconditional love that drives me to succeed and most importantly, you make me strive every day to be a better father.  Thank you for making me a very proud dad.
For a competitor in the NASCAR world, it's imperative you have a clear mind as you compete at speeds of 200 miles per hour.  That can only happen in my opinion with a good family life and things being handled at home as you travel for over 200 days a year.  I was very fortunate to have that with Kelly.  She not only made our home a special place, she is the reason our children are so wonderful and well‑rounded.  And her very competitive spirit, along with mine, always had me ready to kick some ass every weekend.  Thanks, Kelly.
Now, I had the opportunity to race with some of the greatest drivers in our sports history, Petty, Pearson, Allison, Waltrip, Earnhardt, Wallace, Gordon and Johnson just to name a few, and I stand here tonight feeling as though I'm the luckiest person on earth.  In closing, I'm honored to accept this induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  I have always considered it a privilege to represent NASCAR during my career, so my last thank yous go to my good friend Mike Helton, the France family and the voting committee for making me a member of this very prestigious Hall of Fame.  Thank you, and God bless.

Q.  Blake, you talked a little bit about it, the connection that the two of you have, but Dale, if you can tell me a little bit about how the friendship was formed.  You guys have been hanging out together a lot longer than some people may think.
DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, it goes back about ten years, and I have to thank my good friend Elliott Sadler for it.  We were having a fan club event up at Elliott's fan and Blake and Miranda came and performed along with a number of others, and we stayed up pretty late that night talking and became friends.  I love this guy.  He's so genuine and obviously a great singer, and it was tremendous to have him to be here and be a part of this.  Along with him, and having Tony Stewart there, I don't know how excited everyone else is to know that Tony Stewart is going to be back in a race car in February, I'm thrilled to death.

Q.  It is an emotional night, but I want to have a little fun.  Our inductees, we have chief, we have Fireball, we have a guy who drives with a monkey.  If you were a driver what would your nickname be?
BLAKE SHELTON:  In basketball they called me Hook Shot Shelton, and in dancing they call me Shuffling Shelton.  I don't know about driving, maybe Sideways Shelton.

Q.  It's not a good one?
BLAKE SHELTON:  That's Clint's name.  Never mind.
DALE JARRETT:  What they might call him is not as flattering as you might want to think.

Q.  Blake, you did say you were surprised about the emotion of it all.  Has it lived up to your expectations or exceeded them?
BLAKE SHELTON:  I enjoy seeing all of this but it's hard to sit here and watch all this footage without wishing my dad was here to see all of this.  I'm just a NASCAR fan.  Aside from anything that you may know of me, I'm a NASCAR fan at heart, and my dad was, and my family is.  This is overwhelming to me to be here.  I wish he could have been here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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