A Class of Their Own: Waltrip, Yarborough Among 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees
After missing out on the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year, three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip was absolutely elated when his name was announced as one of the five inductees into the pinnacle of stock car racing on Tuesday.
Running to the stage, Waltrip kissed and hugged NASCAR chairman Brian France, who hailed the Class of 2012 as "probably the best class of the three," per AP Sports Writer Mike Cranston's article.
It was a long time coming for Waltrip, who took it personally last year when he didn't get the call to the ultimate stage in NASCAR.
However, this year's announcement had him absolutely beside himself, revelling in the moment he awaited for his entire stock car career.
"Let's just say I embraced him," Waltrip said, "because it felt good to be embraced by the committee today."
Darrell Waltrip headlined an impressive field of five inductees, as he was joined by former series rival Cale Yarborough, eight-time championship winning crew chief Dale Inman, legendary car owner Glen Wood, and Modified series icon Richie Evans.
"You've got the two greatest drivers," France said. "You've got the greatest crew chief. You have a legendary car owner, and then you have Richie Evans, who dominated Modified racing."
Tuesday's announcement was the ultimate chapter for Waltrip and Yarborough, who feuded on the track during the 1970s frequently.
Waltrip's hard-nosed racing prompted Yarborough to call him "Jaws," although the latter would recommend the Owensboro, KY native's services to car owner Junior Johnson prior to the 1981 season.
"We knocked each other out of a lot of races," Waltrip said. "So for all the bad things I said about Cale, I forgive him."
While Yarborough was not in attendance for the announcement, he expressed his gratitude in being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
"I'm glad. I'm glad that's over with," Yarborough said. "Everybody has been asking me, 'Do you think it's time? Do you think you'll go in this time?'"
Leading the inductees into the Hall of Fame was Yarborough, who received 85 percent of the votes, followed by Waltrip, who received 82 percent of the votes from the committee.
In third was crew chief Dale Inman with 78 percent, who said he wasn't as nervous about the announcement as he was back in his days atop the pit box with cousin Richard Petty and Terry Labonte.
Inman won seven titles with Petty during NASCAR's regional years before nabbing his final and eighth cup with Corpus Christi, TX native Terry Labonte in 1984.
The Northeast had to feel thrilled with the late Richie Evans' induction in the Hall of Fame, bringing his impressive resume and legacy.
Evans, who received half the committe's votes, won nine Modified titles in 13 years, including eight consecutive championships from 1978-'85 before losing his life in a crash at Martinsville Speedway.
Lastly, Glen Wood was one of racing's pioneers, credited for revolutionizing pit stops with his famed Wood Brothers team which prominently featured driver David Pearson.
Wood, who received 44 percent of the votes, has enjoyed a great 2011, as he won the Daytona 500 with young racer Trevor Bayne this past February.
"I didn't come here alone," Wood said. "I had a lot of help. There's five of us brothers. All of those helped at one time or another."
If this year's class was declared "the best of the three" by Brian France, who knows what to expect in the coming years with the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
Certainly, Glen's four brothers, headlined by Leonard, will earn their due respect, and then there's car owners like Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick who will be enshrined soon.
Racers like Terry Labonte and members of "The Alabama Gang" will also be immortalized years down the road, so look for the Hall of Fame to truly shape itself as NASCAR's hallowed grounds, generation after generation.