Five Legends Were Inducted Into The NASCAR Hall Of Fame During Emotional Night In Uptown Charlotteby Hunter Thomas January 20, 2018 0 comments
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Five of NASCAR’s legends were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night in Uptown Charlotte. The ninth class included Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Robert Yates.
The memorable night kicked off with the induction of Red Byron, NASCAR’s inaugural race winner and champion. Byron was one of the iconic individuals who met in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1947 at the Streamline Hotel to help establish the sanctioning body of NASCAR. The World War II veteran had his left leg severely injured during a bombing mission over the Aleutian Islands while fighting the Japanese. Following an explosion on the bomber, where he served as a flight engineer and tailgunner, Byron went on to race with a special brace that allowed him to push the clutch. In 15 starts between 1949 and 1951, the Alabama native captured two wins and two poles.
“In Major League Baseball, it is the 1908 Boston Americans,” Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Winston Kelley said. “For the NFL, the 1933 Chicago Bears, in the NBA, the 1948 Philadelphia Warriors, and for NASCAR it is Robert Red Byron in 1948. The common denominator of each is they are the first champions in their respective professional sports leagues. One thing is crystal clear: Red Byron’s pioneering spirit, contributions and accomplishments solidify his legacy and rightful place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”
The NASCAR Hall of Fame has recognized media members before. In fact, NASCAR Hall of Famers Benny Parsons and Dale Jarrett spent a good portion of their careers talking to viewers through the television broadcast. However, on Friday night, Ken Squier became the first individual who spent his entire career in the media to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. When Ken stepped onto the stage on Friday night, Ken did what Ken does best: he started off by talking about everyone else but his self. The Waterbury, Vermont native co-founded the Motor Racing Network (MRN), and he is best known for telling the stories of others on CBS and TBS. In fact, if you could recall a single Ken Squier moment, it’d probably be his commentary of the fight between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers during the 1979 Daytona 500. Squier is also the individual who first called the Daytona 500, “The Great American Race”.
“I really like motorsports, and I love the people in it, and I treat them with a great deal of respect because I feel that they have a lot of merit that never gets touched, and it’s what people should be looking to and for as we search around and try to grope and grope our way through what the public understands, and they need to understand more about risk,” Squier said following the 2018 NASCAR Induction Ceremony.
On Friday night, Ron Hornaday Jr. became the first driver to represent the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Hornaday Jr. who is from Palmdale, California was one of the original drivers that competed in the inaugural 1995 Truck Series season. Throughout the years, Hornaday Jr. amassed 51 wins, 27 poles, 158 top-five and 234 top-10 finishes in 360 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts. He has also competed in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series. In the 90s and early 00s, Hornaday Jr. went head-to-head with some of the toughest drivers that NASCAR has ever seen. Prevailing in the on-track rivalries between Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner and others helped Hornaday Jr. distinguish his self from the other competitors.
“Jack Sprague is probably the toughest competitor that didn’t care how big you were because I know I could kick his ass, but he didn’t care,” Hornaday Jr. said following the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. “When he was behind that wheel, nothing could beat him. Mike Skinner, Joe Ruttman, everyone he raced back there, they wanted to make a name for themselves.
“When we started this Truck Series, there was 43 trucks that started that field, and we sent eight of them home, and we had every big team owner. When we went into that Monday morning meeting, there was no excuses with my owners, with Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and everybody. You told them why you didn’t do it. You don’t explain how you forgot how to do it or whatever.”
Ray Evernham was the third individual to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night. Without a doubt, Evernham’s most notable accomplishments came when he served as the crew chief for four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jeff Gordon. While working with Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports, the two captured three (1995, 1997 and 1998) championships, as well as two Daytona 500 victories (1997 and 1999) at Daytona International Speedway and two Brickyard 400 wins (1994 and 1998) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Hazlet, New Jersey native captured 47 wins and 30 poles in 213 races between 1989 and 1999. In 2000, Evernham started his own Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team, and as a team owner, he won 13 races, 23 poles, and he earned 66 top-five and 123 top-10 finishes.
“It is just impossible to find the words to express what it feels like to stand up here,” Evernham said during the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. “I’ve seen the toughness and most articulate men that I know stand on this stage and fight to hold back tears while they struggle to find the right words.
“I think that’s when you look back at your career you realize there’s so many people that helped you, whether they taught you something or gave you a few bucks, a pat on the back or a vote of confidence. It’s like all those people that cheer the marathon runners on. I don’t remember everybody’s names and their instances, but I want you to know that I’m standing here tonight because of you.”
On Friday night, you could say that the best was saved for last. Robert Yates, one of the most successful engine builders and car owners that NASCAR has ever seen was the final individual of the night to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Yates, who passed away in October of 2017 crafted the following speech before succumbing to liver cancer. Dale Jarrett who piloted the Robert Yates Racing No. 88 team to a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in 1999 read the speech. It follows:
When I started in racing, this was not the goal. All I wanted to do throughout my career was win races. I would always say, I don’t race for the money, I race to win. For me, that’s what it’s always been about, but to be part of this year’s induction class is a true honor. There are a lot of other people I want to thank because this isn’t really about me; it’s about those who gave me the opportunity to do something I love.
I want to thank Bill France Jr. He loaded me up with wisdom through the years, and while some of our conversations were tough, he taught me things about this sport that were invaluable. And Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company, when you get to know people like Edsel, you realize that you’re always part of the Ford family, and that means a lot.
Working in the Holman Moody engine shop turned out to be the best education I could ever ask for. We worked day and night, but if it wasn’t for people like Jack Sullivan, John Holman, and Ralph Moody, I wouldn’t have developed the skills I needed.
Junior Johnson is a man of few words, but I’ll never forget, we were at Charlotte Motor Speedway one day, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Robert, I’ve got to have you.” We worked out a deal where he basically allowed me to run my own shop, and nobody appreciated what I did during that time more than him. So Junior, thank you.
I learned what it was like to run a race team in 1976, when I took over as general manager for DiGard Racing. I worked with Hall of Famers like Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison and had 10 great years there. The Allisons have been a big part of my life. I won a championship with Bobby in 1983 at DiGard, and then got to work with Davey, who was always so positive. When I bought Harry Ranier Racing, I knew other people wanted to hire him, so we talked about it, and he said to me, “Robert, I’ll always work for you. You don’t ever have to worry about me.”
Losing Davey was painful. We shed a lot of tears and didn’t know how we would move on, but we did. As NASCAR started to move to more multi‑car teams, Ford approached me about running the Quality Care car in 1995. I never liked the idea of two cars. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and I always talked about how, until they made two places for cars in Victory Lane, you only need one. So I wasn’t fond of running a second team, but it worked out well.
We hired Dale Jarrett on a handshake deal done at the Raceway Grill in Darlington. We didn’t sign a contract until several months later. Todd Parrott came on as crew chief, and everything just clicked. We won the Daytona 500 in 1996 in our first race together, and then won the championship in 1999. It was a special time in my life with a special group of people. So to you, Dale, Todd, and everyone who worked at Robert Yates racing or in our engine shop, you have my deepest appreciation.
I’m also extremely blessed to have my assistant Kristi Jones. She’s meant so much to me and our family. To this point, I’ve talked about some of the people who have made a difference in my career, but none of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for the people who made a difference in my life: My family.
My brothers and sisters were all good students, but I didn’t care about going to school. I was the only kid in my family that didn’t make straight A’s. That’s when my sister, Martha Brady, stepped in. I moved from Charlotte to Wake Forest and lived with her. She told me what classes I was going to take, and that was the first time I studied and made straight A’s. My sister Doris Roberts talked to me about going to Wilson Tech, and that was the best two years of school I ever had. I loved physics and geometry. So if it wasn’t for my two sisters, I don’t know where I’d be today.
Another person I want to thank is my twin brother, Richard Yates. He’s been a big part of my life, and I love him dearly.
When I was working for Junior Johnson, I would take Doug to the shop. He was still in diapers, but the floor was clean, so I would put him down there, and he would sort out nuts and bolts. He could sort them out and put them all in the right bin. I knew he was destined for a career in racing. Little did I know that would include working side by side with him for 20 years. Doug, I couldn’t be prouder of the man you are today. I love you.
I used to give Amy rides on my dirt bike when she was only two years old. She would sit in front of me and laugh and hold the handlebars and say, “faster, Dad, faster.” She’s a great mom to her four kids and the sweetest daughter a dad could ever ask for. Amy, you’re my baby doll, and I love you. Doug and Amy have given Carolyn and I eight wonderful grandkids. Your futures are bright, and I love each of you dearly.
It’s been 51 years since I took a four‑day leave from the Army and made the best decision of my life: I married Carolyn. She’s been by my side ever since and has supported me every step of the way. I worked all hours of the day and night, but she never called to say, get home. She let me work.
Carolyn, I don’t know where the time has gone, but it seems like yesterday we were in a one‑bedroom apartment trying to make ends meet. You’re the light of my life. You’ve always been there for me, particularly this past year. Your devotion reminded me of our vows: In sickness and in health. And I love you.
I never prayed to win a race. I just prayed for the wisdom to help me make good decisions. My creator didn’t always give me what I asked for, but he gave me more than I deserved. I thank you for this great honor. Good night, and God bless.
Others honored on Friday night included Jim France and Norma “Dusty” Brandel. France was the winner of the Landmark Award, and Brandel was the recipient of the Squier-Hall Award.
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