NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
May 23, 2010
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR: Here's a table that needs no introduction: Richard Petty, Dale Inman, Robert Johnson and Junior Johnson. Who would like to begin with a quick memory of the day? What do you think, Richard, big day, huh?
RICHARD PETTY: It was a really, really big day. I told them I hadn't really thought about what it was. You thought something about it, don't get me wrong.
But then you look back and see all the people that's been out there in NASCAR and stuff, you're kind of the chosen one, top 5, I guess five people anyway.
Then the more I thought about it I said, No matter when the drivers come through now or crew chiefs, owners, promoters, whatever, if they won 14 championships in 500 races, they're still going to have to have Hall of Fame beside their name to end their career.
So I think it kind of hit me today that it's really, really a big deal, because NASCAR's finally got their Hall of Fame. And I think it moved all of us up a notch from the standpoint that other professional sports had that we didn't have.
Now I think we're as big a league as anybody, I'll put it that way.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, you got to induct one of your best friends.
DALE INMAN: What was the question?
THE MODERATOR: You got to induct one of your best friends.
DALE INMAN: Yeah, it was a big day, a long day, and it was kind of like being in a church play when you was young or a high school play and everything. You didn't know what was going on.
Because it's been going on for a couple of weeks, you know? And then finally when they put it all together, it was great. And it was actually, got my attention a lot more than what I thought it would.
From that aspect, yeah, it was a great day.
THE MODERATOR: Robert, how nervous were you indeducting dad?
ROBERT JOHNSON: I was probably the most nervous I've ever been in my life, but I pulled it through. I think I did a good job. But it was just a great ceremony. It was great to induct dad, give him the ring. He gave it right back to me afterwards. Great day. Great week leading up to this. So I'm just really happy.
THE MODERATOR: Junior, proud day for you on many fronts, I know.
JUNIOR JOHNSON: It couldn't have been a better day for me; Robert inducting me into the Hall of Fame. A father's dream, basically. This thing was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be from the get-go.
But I kept up with it and talked to the people and stuff. And when I showed up, it was exactly what they said it was going to be. And that was just the most awesome thing you could lay on the sport for what we've been through in the past.
We've almost had our Hall of Fame in the closet somewhere down in Darlington or somewhere like that. And to come to something this big and this awesome is just unbelievable. I'm just glad that I'm a part of it. And I certainly appreciate going in in the first five.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for these four gentlemen.
Q. Junior Johnson or for Richard Petty, if you could address this. Families were a big theme, I think, today during the ceremony, not just both of your families, obviously, but obviously the Earnhardts, the Frances. Could you talk about the element that family has traditionally played throughout decades in NASCAR?
JUNIOR JOHNSON: [Chuckling] The fans thing, you're talking about -- racing has always been a family. You take Richard, his whole family run his race team, and most of them was uncles and cousins and all that stuff.
But I never had a -- never one of my family worked for me in my race shop because I couldn't control them before I went racing, and I was sure I couldn't control them racing.
But this is a family sport. And you'll see everybody out there most of the time with his family.
RICHARD PETTY: Naturally you see the France family. Then you've got the Petty family, the Pearson family, the Allison family. The Jarrett family. These guys sort of follow suit. Like a farmer's son becoming a farmer, we sort of hung around the race course.
And I see that not only in our deal, but we've got to look at the fans and all the promoters, look at you all. You're all family. We're all in this together, whether we like it or not, to make it work.
So, again, it's just -- I think of all the other sports and stuff, probably racing is probably noted more for family involvement than any other sport.
Q. Dale, this is actually for you. You seem to get a little bit choked up at one point. Could you just, and the rest of you, too, if you want to comment on it. Could you just talk about the raw emotion of the day and did that kind of catch you guys a little bit off guard?
DALE INMAN: Well, it was an emotional day for us. And for the family, of course, the things that me and Richard did back in the good old days and all that. And our wives, Mary and Linda, they were so great, taking care of the kids while we were gone and enjoying ourselves with something we really love.
But like I told them, if I left Mary with a car that would start and the washing machine was working and the dryer was working, the refrigerator was okay, I was in pretty good shape. But if one of them went down, when I come home it was rough.
But they sacrificed so much back in the day when all of us was driving to the races, and three to four races a week, and didn't give us much time to be a family person.
So they had to be father and mother to the kids. And both of them have done such a great job with our kids.
Q. Richard, did you and Earnhardt ever have words; and, if so, how did he react to getting the finger in the chest?
RICHARD PETTY: I told them the first time I remember Earnhardt we were in Martinsville. And I don't know, I was in sixth or eighth, tenth place, somewhere. We go down, green flag, I go down in the first corner, get about halfway through the corner and here's Dale Earnhardt up on my hood. He's done come down through there. He didn't even turn. He went across the grass, back up the deal. That was my first introduction to him.
So we had a few words on that. From time to time, he's got the finger, this finger, not this other one. Okay.
(Laughter). He's got the long finger. I've had a couple of speeches, especially when he first started. And he was a quick learner. Okay. That was the deal. You didn't have to tell him the same thing.
And even after he started winning races and championships, in fact we had a couple of conversations, if you want to put it that way.
Q. Junior, you're now getting back involved with racing and building cars and getting them ready for Robert to go running. Two things: Did you realize once you got back into it how much you had missed it or had you not missed it at all? And secondly, is the technology today much harder to get used to or when you get right down to it making the car go fastest still about the same thing?
JUNIOR JOHNSON: We were over at Newport News testing, when was it -- Tuesday. Tuesday. And I've got a bunch of boys working on a car. They had taken care of it and stuff. And they have all this new technology that they've got now.
You know, the bottomed out and stuff like that running the cars. Robert was having a little bit of trouble doing what he needed to do. And we had just about done testing, was getting ready to load the car up. I said give me about 15 minutes with this car, I want to see what's wrong with it.
I went back and pulled like a 20-year-old combination of stuff under it that I could do real quick. And darned if it didn't go out there and run faster, instead it drove a whole lot better.
ROBERT JOHNSON: I have a few things to add to that. He had back surgery a few months ago. And if you think that slowed him down, you're mistaken. Because he was out there underneath the car changing stuff, throwing stuff all over the place. But he's still got it. He still works, kept him going.
Q. Junior and Richard, we see how involved on a week-to-week basis Bill, Sr. and Bill, Jr. were. Do you think that Brian and Lesa need to be more involved on a week-to-week basis in the sport to grow further down the road? And then second for Robert, could you just talk about one of the biggest things you've learned from your father, whether it's in life in general or now that you're starting your racing career?
RICHARD PETTY: Well, you have to figure how much bigger NASCAR is today than what it was when Big Bill was a single NASCAR. He had four or five henchmen going around doing the different things. NASCAR is such a big business today that it can't be run by an individual on a day-to-day basis. The biggest decisions might have to be made by an individual.
But there's no individual -- where Bill he would go in clean the toilet or whatever, didn't make difference. He'd go down to the grocery store, buy toilet paper, whatever. You can't do that today.
So the deal is that NASCAR has grown. The racetrack deal has grown, which there's a separation there between Brian and Lesa. Lesa more or less runs the biggest part of the racetracks. And Brian's sort of responsibility is probably NASCAR, part of that.
But they do it all through Jim and then all the other people. It's like they were talking today. They've got that lawyer there. They've got 20 or 30 lawyers. They don't talk to nobody, do nothing without going through lawyers, just because it's such a big operation.
But they've done a good job, I think, in putting people around them to expand this into different situations. When Bill, Jr. come along, it was maybe a quarter as big as it is today. But then he took it and expanded it, expanded it.
And then it just takes more people to run a bigger business, basically. But those three still run NASCAR. They can stop anything. They can start anything anytime and get ready.
ROBERT JOHNSON: He's really taught me two things. He's taught me to be honest. And the fans drive the sport. So you've got to respect the fans. And you put your pants on like every other fan does in the mornings.
And further, the more success you have, you tend to get sort of full of yourself. But he's told me not to do that. Just stay grounded, and respect the fans.
Q. Robert, that had to be quite a moment for you and, Junior, to have your own son introduce you up there today. Describe the emotions. We've talked about the emotions over the month, but actually look back on that moment now.
JUNIOR JOHNSON: Well, you know, a lot of people would think a son, 16 years old, Robert's a very mature person for his age. And he knows what he does, he knows how to do it. And I think you made a wise choice of getting him to induct me.
Not only that, I done give him my ring. So he doesn't have to go into the Hall of Fame, he's got one.
Q. Richard, your son's grown up age-wise. I don't know if you would always say he's grown up. But to have him there, too, two very nice father-son moments today.
RICHARD PETTY: Yeah, you know, I guess Kyle knows me second best of anybody. Dale probably knows me third. Linda knows me first. So Kyle's right in there with that.
And to have your son introduce you to something like this, it's just unreal. He introduced me into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He's in my Hall of Fame, I'll put it that way, just because of the way he handles himself in those situations and stuff.
And the deal is just the father being proud of their son. He didn't go into the Hall of Fame, he'll never go into that Hall of Fame, but, like I said, he's in my Hall of Fame.
Q. Richard, I want to say, first of all, thank you for publicly thanking the media and realizing that we help you guys do your job, which a lot of the current generation drivers would be well versed to learn. But when did you first realize that you had to have that connection with the media and work with them so closely?
RICHARD PETTY: You know, I don't know if I've ever realized it. It's just kind of the deal that when we first started, the first race I ever was in was Columbia, South Carolina, 1958. And I think one reporter there from the local paper. That was it. Okay. And then maybe a few races after that you might have two reporters. It just grew.
And at that time you didn't have PR people. You didn't have sponsors dragging you around. And the reporters would just come by. We got to be buddies with all of them. Jim Hunters, that crowd, Phillips, that crowd, they grew up together. And there was about five or six of them, and they reported, they just do their stories and they send them out.
They're liable to be picked up in California, liable not to be. But they just sent them all out. That was the press corps for a long time, then when we started getting super speedways, and then naturally the tracks then tried to attract people, bring more people in, the whole deal.
It was the kind of deal I just grew up with it. And I grew with those guys. And they, to me they laid the ground work for you all. Just like we got drivers and stuff, Junior's crowd or Pearson's crowd, they grew -- they put the deal down for what the guys gotta do today.
These were the guys -- you all have your own Hall of Fame deal, I mean, you should have. You know what I mean? You've got your own group. So from that standpoint I just grew up with it, I guess is all I can say.
So you knew that the best publicity was good publicity, okay, because you know the press can either make you or break you. I've been one of the very, very few fortunate people that's been through this long a career, and 99 percent of my press has been good, whether it was or not, it came out good in the paper. And I just always appreciated that.
And I think again they laid the groundwork for you all to cover the deal and for the TV to come in, the radio, and all that stuff.
So without y'all, like I said, without y'all there wouldn't be any fans because the fans wouldn't know there was anything going on. So it's a hand-in-hand deal. You help me, I'll help you. We're all in different businesses. But it all comes out at the end of the deal and all of us make a little bit off of it.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
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