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NASCAR Hall of Fame inducts its third class

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NASCAR Hall of Fame inducts its third class

Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough's long- awaited arrival to the NASCAR Hall of Fame is over, as both three-time champions in NASCAR's premier series were among those inducted during a ceremony held on Friday night.

Glen Wood, the legendary car owner whose team has raced in seven decades, Dale Inman, an eight-time crew chief champion, and the late-Richie Evans, a nine- time NASCAR Modified champion, were also enshrined in the NASCAR HofF.

The inaugural class -- Bill France Sr., Richard Petty, Bill France Jr., Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson -- were inducted when the NASCAR HofF opened in May 2010. Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, David Pearson and Lee Petty made up the Hall's second class last year.

Many of NASCAR's dignitaries, as well as active and former drivers, crew chiefs and team owners were among those in attendance for the ceremony, which was held at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Waltrip was the first person to be inducted.

During his 29-year driving career in the NASCAR Cup Series, Waltrip won 84 races in 809 starts, ranking him fourth on the all-time race winners list. His championships came in 1981, '82 and '85. Waltrip has served as an analyst for FOX Sports and Speed television's coverage of NASCAR since his retirement at the end of the 2000 season.

He was inducted by his television colleague and former crew chief Jeff Hammond.

"You know, before the night started, and I was talking to [wife] Stevie, and I said, 'Boy, honey, I just hope I don't get emotional and break down somewhere along the way and tear up,' and she said, 'DW, when you talk about something you're passionate about, you're going to get a little emotional'." Waltrip said. "Well, I'm passionate about a lot of things. I'm passionate about what I've done. I'm passionate about my career, but I'm most passionate about my family."

Yarborough was inducted by Ken Squier, a longtime radio and television announcer in motorsports.

With 83 race wins to his credit, Yarborough made history in NASCAR's top circuit in 1978 when he claimed his third consecutive championship -- a record that stood until Jimmie Johnson captured his fourth title in a row in 2009. Four of Yarborough's wins came in the Daytona 500.

"Racing is kind of like a big, tall ladder," he said. "When you begin, you start off on the bottom step of that ladder, and it's a long, hard climb to the top. But I feel like tonight I'm finally standing on the top step. It's been tough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of hard times, but there are five of us here tonight, and I congratulate each one of them."

Evans, the only deceased member of the third class, was enshrined by Billy Nacewicz, who was Evans crew chief in modifieds. Evans widow, Lynn, accepted the induction on his behalf.

"I'd especially like to thank the Hall of Fame voting panel for stepping outside the box and making Rich the first driver inductee not to have raced in NASCAR's top series full-time," she said. "You have now given hope to thousands of NASCAR competitors throughout the country to maybe someday reach their dream."

Evans is the first of the 15 inductees without a connection to NASCAR's top- tier series. He was killed in an accident while practicing for a modified race at Martinsville Speedway in October 1985

Wood, a four-time race winner, left the driver's seat to own the Wood Brothers team. With his four brothers, including NASCAR HofF nominee and crew chief Leonard Wood, the team has recorded 98 victories, including its fifth Daytona 500 win with 20-year-old driver Trevor Bayne in 2011. Pearson and Yarborough were among some of the sport's greatest names to drive for the team.

"This is a long way from the cornfield," Wood said. "First of all, I'd like to thank the voters that voted for me and thank NASCAR and the France family and the Wood Brothers, all the employees at the Wood Brothers and crew members and drivers. We've had so many great drivers, but David and Cale were most successful, so I'm proud to join them in the NASCAR Hall of Fame."

Leonard Wood inducted his brother.

Inman, who is Richard Petty's cousin, is generally credited with inventing the modern role of crew chief. He won seven championships with Petty Enterprises and an eighth with car owner Billy Hagan and driver Terry Labonte in 1984. Inman won 193 times before retiring in 1998.

"What an honor it's been to work with the different drivers over the years but most of them with Richard," Inman said. "They used the term eight championships, but it's in a different league from what the drivers are, and I give that respect. But to be the first crew chief to come in, I'm sure there will be more after this, is quite an honor."

Before Petty inducted Inman, ceremony host Mike Joy noted, "Tonight, Dale Inman and Richard are together again, as NASCAR Hall of Fame members."

Special congratulatory videos opened each inductee's segment, with a NASCAR legend starring in each. Those involved: Jerry Cook for Evans; Leonard Wood for Inman; Bobby Allison for Waltrip; Junior Johnson for Wood; and Donnie Allison for Yarborough.

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