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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.”



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Richard Petty at the Hall of Fame Induction
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
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Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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