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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
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane with wife Samantha and son Brexton Locke after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, places the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a ninth place finish Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with third place finisher Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, races to a third place finish Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
A detailed view of the Brickyard 400 trophy prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, take the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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