CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Dale Jarrett had no idea what crazy things Blake Shelton might say as the country music star inducted him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“It could have gone in a lot of different directions,” Jarrett said of Shelton’s induction speech.
Shelton read a handwritten and heartfelt speech about his love of racing, inherited through his late father, who as his health declined was so thrilled that his son got to hang with some of NASCAR’s biggest stars.
Jarrett on occasion spoke to Shelton’s father on the phone.
“I believe it was little things like that that kept my dad happy those last few years,” Shelton said. “And even though I know he was beyond proud of my accomplishments in music, he just couldn’t get over the fact that I got to spend time with guys like Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler, and most of all, Dale Jarrett.”
It set the tone for Jarrett’s emotional induction. He joined his father, Ned, as just the se! cond father-son combination with NASCAR championships inducted into the Hall.
The Jarretts join Lee and Richard Petty.
A three-time Daytona 500 winner, two-time Brickyard winner and the 1999 Cup champion, Jarrett was emotional the entire time.
But he had to choke back tears when it came time to address his father.
“My dad has been everything a son would want his father to be – successful, a leader by example, a teacher you can believe in, and always there to support me,” Jarrett said. “My dad was and still is today my hero. That’s what really makes this night so very special: I’m joining my father in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”
Ned Jarrett is the first of the 25 Hall of Fame members still alive to see his son inducted.
“As a child and a 57 year old one right now, there’s not a lot we can do that our parents will take for payment back for everything they did for us in our lives,” Jarrett said. “In a small way, I feel like this is something I! can give to them that they can be proud of.”
Maurice Petty was inducted to complete the Petty dynasty in the Hall, which now includes his father, brother and cousin as members of the exclusive group.
“The Chief” was inducted by brother Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion and member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class.
“The big deal is that it’s really the end of Petty Enterprises because we started in 1949, and now that my brother is in the Hall of Fame, then that pretty well closes the book on it,” Richard Petty said.
Maurice Petty is the first engine builder inducted into the Hall. His engines won seven titles and more than 200 races, including seven Daytona 500s.
Also in the Hall from the Petty Enterprise dynasty is patriarch Lee Petty, and the Petty boys’ cousin and crew chief, Dale Inman.
“Who would have thought growing up that there would be four of us, out of a small, rural country community that would be in a North Carolina Hall of Fame?” said Maurice Petty of the family’s roots in Level C! ross.
Fireball Roberts, considered the first superstar of NASCAR, was the second member inducted. He won Daytona seven times, including the 1962 Daytona 500, and had two Southern 500 victories.
He ran just 10 races in 1958, winning six. He died from critical burns suffered in a crash at Charlotte in 1964 when his car overturned and caught fire.
Roberts, who suffered from asthma, had always refused to soak his firesuit in flame retardant chemicals because of the fumes.
His grandson, Matt McDaniel, accepted Roberts’ induction and noted his death led to safety improvements in NASCAR.
“After his death, NASCAR started developing flame retardant coveralls, five point safety harnesses, special contoured seats and a fire zone fuel cell,” McDaniel said.
Jack Ingram, considered one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, was inducted by his close friend and rival Harry Gant. Ingram won three consecutive Late Model Sportsman championships, then the inaugural ! Busch Series title in 1982 and again in 1985.
Ingram’s mark of 31 Busch wins stood until Mark Martin beat it in 1997. All but two of Ingram’s victories came on short tracks.
Ingram told a story of winning the track championship at Harris Speedway in Ruffin County by winning the final race of the season, only to have the check for his winnings bounce. He called NASCAR from the bank and was told where to go to cash the check.
“I took it down there and walked in that door. They handed me five 100 dollar bills – that kept my family going for several months,” Ingram said. “I was a total supporter of NASCAR from then on because (founder) Bill France, he meant what he said when he said he guaranteed that purse. I appreciated that the whole rest of my life.”
Two-time series champion Tim Flock, one of NASCAR’s first dominant drivers, was remembered during his induction for the Rhesus monkey named Jocko that was his co-pilot for many eight races.
Winner of 39 races and the 1952 and 1955 championships, the tale told by Flock! ‘s widow, Frances, was of the time Jocko got loose in the car during a 1953 race in Raleigh.
“Tim had to pull in the pits to put Jocko out, the monkey out of the car,” she said. “He came in third that day, and the extra pit stop to remove Jocko from the car cost him a big sum of money that day. His brother finally went on to win the race.”