NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Dale Earnhardt (Part 6/6)
Topics: NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt
May 23, 2010
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
MIKE JOY: The only thing bigger than Dale Earnhardt's legend was his heart and his legions of fans. Earnhardt scrapped and scrambled to reach NASCAR's top tour, but once there he became the biggest star of his era.
It's been a great race here this afternoon with Bill France, Sr., Richard Petty, Bill France, Jr., Junior Johnson, all inducted into the Hall of Fame, white flags in the air, one lap to go.
To begin our final ceremony, please welcome back to the stage, the president of NASCAR, Mike Helton.
MIKE HELTON: One of the NASCAR's greatest strengths is its character. We've already inducted four men who contributed immensely to that aspect of our sport.
This next inductee added probably the most character to our sport at the right time. He did that by being the working man's hero on the racetrack and off.
MIKE HELTON: Famous successful duos in their fields are remembered by their chemistry that seemed to make the two of them one. There's no better person to induct Dale Earnhardt today than the man who was the other half of one of our most recognizable dynasties, he also happened to be Dale's best friend. Welcome to the stage, Richard Childress.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Good afternoon. It's an honor to be part of this historic event. Winston Kelley, congratulations to you and everyone with the NASCAR Hall of Fame for making this dream come true. Let's give him a hand, the whole group.
I would also like to congratulate all of the inductees and their families. The voting panel made the right choices for this first class of inductees.
I'm very proud and honored to be part of inducting Dale Earnhardt into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His mother Martha and all the family are here this afternoon. I know how very proud they all are. I know that Ralph Earnhardt and others are looking down, proud as well.
Martha, would you and the whole family please stand and be recognized. Great people. I'm already standing. I think I'm part of the family.
I can remember the first time I heard Dale Earnhardt's name. My brother was a chief steward at Caraway Speedway in the mid '70s. He called me one Sunday morning and said, If you ever want a driver, you got to look at this kid Dale Earnhardt. He told me Dale was racing Butch Lindley. They were going for the win, and Dale never checked up. He came across the finish line with two wheels on the fence and still won the race. Because of that, Dale Earnhardt became his own legend.
You probably remember the pass in the grass. Coming from 17th to win Talladega in 2000, his last win. Winning the pole at Watkins Glen despite being hurt. There's so many, many more we all can remember.
Dale Earnhardt was a champion's champion.
I'm often asked what type of driver Dale was. Dale was determined to win. He was the most competitive person in or out of a racecar. He could do more with a racecar than anyone I've ever seen. But the biggest thing he once told me was, When it gets down to those last 50 laps, I want it more than anyone else.
He had a drive to win. And it was in those last 50 laps that you saw the real Dale Earnhardt.
I'll give you another quick story about Dale. It was something he actually said at Talladega. There were some drivers complaining and grumbling about going too fast. He said, If you're afraid to go fast, stay the hell home. Don't come here and grumble about going too fast. Drag kerosene around your ankles so the ants won't jump up and bite your candy ass. That was a classic Dale Earnhardt.
Dale also was a competitor away from the racetrack. If you were on a hunting trip with Dale and you shot a bigger elk, boy, it was going to be a long, long ride home. If you were headed to an airport after a race, you better hold on because he was going to try to get there first.
Dale was a family man. He loved Teresa, his children, his parents, and his brothers and sisters. They meant more to him than anything else.
Dale also had a great appreciation for his fans. He knew they were hard-working people that spent their hard-earned money to come and watch him race. He wanted to give them their money's worth. If he was on the track, or if they bought merchandise with his name and likeness on it, he wanted to be the best.
As a friend, Dale and I had spent many hunting trips together, had thousands of conversations. I look back now on them as very, very fond memories.
Dale carved out his own piece of NASCAR history. He took the sport to another level. In that process, he brought millions of fans along for the ride.
I'd like to welcome to the stage the Earnhardt family, Dale's wife Teresa, his sons Kerry and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and his daughters Kelley and Taylor.
On this day, the 23rd of May, 2010, it is truly my honor and privilege to induct Dale Earnhardt into the Hall of Fame, and to present this ring, this Hall of Fame ring, to Dale's family.
TERESA EARNHARDT: When Dale Earnhardt had his hands on the steering wheel, he felt and saw things that you and I will never see. He could see the wind. Moving at 200 miles an hour, he could see things more clearly than most of us could ever fathom, and thrill us all while doing it. Some call him legend. Some call him hero. Some simply call him Dad. Or son.
Dale Earnhardt was a man who personified the American dream. He worked hard. He earned everything he had and he enjoyed it. This is an achievement of a lifetime. To be able to celebrate it, for me this is a moment of pride for Dale that I just can't put into words.
As I thought about the importance of today, I thought about the people, I thought about what people recognize and remembered about Dale's attributes. They called him the bravest, the toughest, the greatest, the most unselfish, the most generous, the most authentic, just to summarize a few. But there's so much that we could say about Dale.
But the people who believed in him, steered him to victory, held him up to greatness, have said it best. Former president George Bush quoted, Dale, he was an American legend. Senator Jesse Helms said Dale was an authentic American, he was a hero to millions. Secretary of State Colin Powell called him an American icon. Another quote, he was the greatest racecar driver that ever lived. Also, There's Earnhardt, and there's everybody else. But local school children put it best when they simply called him a real hero.
Dale Earnhardt was definitely a hero to his family. No one can say more about that than his children. Through them, his friends and fans, through this Hall of Fame, through you, Dale Earnhardt, the legend, lives on.
KERRY EARNHARDT: You know, Dad, as we grew up, he sacrificed a lot in life. There was a lot of times when Dad wasn't around and I wondered what was so important to him that he had to be gone all the time. Things called autograph sessions, appearances. Fans meant the most to Dad. Dad once taught me things about what fans were. He always taught me that no matter who it is in life, your bosses, coworkers you work with, the ones that come out to support you in whatever you do in life, are your fans, the ones that believe in you and believe in everything you do.
You know, Dad was just tremendous with his fans. Learned a lot from Richard. I can't say enough about what the fans meant to Dad. Dad would always take the last minute and plus some to be associated with the fans, young ones up to older ones. There's a lot of times Dad would give back to fans for what they did to him.
I remember times he met children with handicaps. They ended up having a van built for a wheelchair access and giving it to the family, to many other things. Just a proud moment to be here and be part of this induction to the Hall of Fame. As a son, I thank everyone, the fans out there, that supported him.
KELLEY EARNHARDT: My dad was a very giving person. Though he was an incredible driver and a businessman, that was very important to him. But it was also important to give back. Whether he did that to the local farmers on Highway 3 or racers just getting, started like Jeff Gordon, or the men and women serving our military in the public service, it was about doing business the right way and using his successes to give back to others.
Giving back was important, but what was not important was telling people about it. Most of his acts of kindness went without anyone knowing. Other times his help and his advice was a little more public, right, Dale?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I guess you could say there were a few times where I got some public advice from him. We were in Japan racing. 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 work for me. I got up underneath him on turn three and four, 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 off into one. That was the day I met The Intimidator (laughter).
That same grit and competitive spirit, he carried that with his racing, but he carried it with everything else in life, too. When he wasn't in the racecar, he was always outdoors. He was an avid outdoorsman, right, Taylor?
TAYLOR EARNHARDT: I think that it's a big nod that me and Kerry, Kelley and Dale all grew up with different aspects of Dad. Dale was always at the track with him. I got some more outdoorsy, the real man he was behind the scenes, away from the racetrack. I always grew up not wanting to clean my room. I'd call Dad, we'd go ride around the farm. He taught me to hunt. Aside from that, he taught me how to take care of animals, conserve animals, which is something he was very passionate about. He taught me that. That's something I took from him.
I think with us all having different experiences, we all look like Dad, everyone always tells us that we all look a little bit like Dad. I think we all act like him, too. We're determined, driven, stubborn as a fence post. But Dad gave all four of us something. He gave all his fans something. I think that's what makes him a true champion in everybody's eyes.
TERESA EARNHARDT: I'd like to give you one more quote from Dale. A racer wants to race and win. Imagine having the opportunity to do that for a living, and then to be successful, and then to be considered one of the greatest drivers that ever raced, especially by a group of peers. It's one of the greatest honors a driver could ever receive. I've had a great career. If it ended tomorrow, I'd have no regrets. Dale Earnhardt.
MIKE JOY: What a wonderful day of celebration, stories, and a tremendous range of emotion as we have now inducted the first five inductees into NASCAR's Hall of Fame.
Like Henry Ford more than a century ago winning his only auto race, NASCAR's pioneers covered themselves with dust and glory, raced their ways onto the paved tracks, early superspeedways, paving the way for today's heroes to race their way into your living rooms. They were common men who accomplished uncommon deeds.
Today we span all of the eras of NASCAR history in celebrating the first five inductees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Thank you for joining us. Good afternoon.
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