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Waltrip, Yarborough make NASCAR Hall of Fame
Yarborough and Waltrip got in on their third try, headlining the third five-member class announced Tuesday. They’re joined by eight-time series champion crew chief Dale Inman, nine-time Modified champion Richie Evans and pioneering driver and owner Glen Wood.
“It’s probably the best class of the three,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France, who was on the receiving end of a playful kiss on his cheek from a tearful Waltrip. “You’ve got two of the greatest drivers. You’ve got the greatest crew chief. You have a legendary car owner, and then you have Richie Evans, who dominated in Modified racing. It demonstrates the Hall of Fame is more than just the Sprint Cup series.
“It’s hard to argue this class in any way, in my view.”
Yarborough, who led with 85 percent of the vote by the 55-person panel, won 83 races and three consecutive titles (1976-78). Only Jimmie Johnson’s current streak of five titles is longer. Yarborough’s 83 victories rank sixth. He won four Daytona 500s and later served as car owner until he left the sport in 1999.
Yarborough, who didn’t attend the announcement, said by phone he watched the telecast with his wife in the shop of his farm in Sardis, S.C.
“I’m glad. I’m glad that’s over with,” Yarborough said. “Everybody has been asking me, ‘Do you think it’s this time? Do you think you’ll go in this time?’
“I feel honored. I’m in a lot of different motorsports halls of fame, but to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the guys who are already in and the ones who will come later means a lot to me. It’s a great group to be a part of.”
Waltrip, who received 82 percent of the vote, won 84 races, tied for third all time, and collected series championships in 1981, ‘82 and ‘85. While Yarborough was absent, you couldn’t miss Waltrip in the front row.
Saying he was so nervous he was “sick to his stomach,” Waltrip’s eyes welled up with tears as his name was announced. He then ran to the stage and kissed France, something he promised to do in radio interview earlier in the day.
“Let’s just say I embraced him,” Waltrip said, “because it felt good to get embraced by the committee today.”
It was a stark contrast to a year ago, when a stunned Waltrip was left out of the hall as he participated in Speed’s telecast of the event. Waltrip has spent the past 11 years as a TV analyst for Fox Sports and Speed, but still hasn’t lost that competitive streak.
“We knocked each other out of a lot of races,” Waltrip said.
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