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First Five Legends Inducted into Hall of Fame

First Five Legends are Inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame

An outpouring of strong emotions accompanied Sunday's induction of five legends of stock car racing into the newly opened NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Suspense wasn't one of those emotions. The inaugural class had been well known and well publicized—and deservedly so. Included were NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.; NASCAR's second president and CEO, Bill France Jr.; seven-time Cup champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt; and 50-time race winner Junior Johnson, who also claimed six Cup titles as a car owner.

The ceremonies were alternately solemn and light-hearted but consistently genuine. In inducting his legendary father, Kyle Petty used the opportunity for some good-natured ribbing.

“When I was growing up, our house was right next door to the race shop,” Kyle Petty said of his father. “He would go to work in the morning, at 7 or 8. He would come home for lunch when I was young, have lunch, and then he would lay down in the middle of the living room floor, sleep till 3 or 4 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 and seven championships working half days.' That may be the greatest statistic of all time to me.”

Richard Childress, Earnhardt's team owner and best friend, appeared with Earnhardt's wife, Teresa Earnhardt, sons Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kerry Earnhardt and daughters Kelley Earnhardt and Taylor Earnhardt to induct the driver known as the Intimidator.

No one was immune from Earnhardt's aggressive style, not even his son.

“We were in Japan racing,” Earnhardt Jr. recalled. “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 tires work for me. I got up underneath him in Turns 3 and 4, and 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 into (Turn) 1. That was the day I met the Intimidator.”

Vice chairman of NASCAR, Jim France, inducted his father, Bill France Sr. NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy did the honors for their father, Bill France Jr., after a stirring introduction from longtime friend Rick Hendrick. In a ceremony where the families of all five inductees played pivotal roles, Robert Johnson inducted his father, Junior Johnson.

“This Hall's a tribute to everybody—it leaves nobody out,” Hendrick said after the inductions. “And I'm just real thankful that they've done it as professionally as they have. And I believe it's going to stir a lot of emotion from all of the pioneers and the people today to try to make it even better and help to grow it.

“So this was a celebration to me of a lot of things—NASCAR, the history, these people, the fans.”

Perhaps Petty captured best the magnitude of the proceedings.

“It kind of hit me today that it's really, really a big deal,” Petty said after the ceremony, “because NASCAR's finally got their Hall of Fame, and I think it moved all of us up a notch. … I think now we're as big-league as anybody.”



Related Pictures

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Richard Petty at the Hall of Fame Induction
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS qualified for second position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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