- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Family was the prevailing theme as NASCAR inducted its third, and most diverse, class into the Hall of Fame.

Cale Yarborough, notoriously tight with his money, recalled the days he fed his family with 10-cent cans of black eyed peas _ a lifetime ago compared to the special outfit his wife bought for Friday night’s ceremony.

Darell Waltrip, in a humorous speech that stretched almost 24 minutes, grew emotional only once, when thanking his daughter for flying 25 hours from a mission trip in the Philippines to surprise him at the inauguration.

Dale Inman was inducted by his cousin, seven-time champion Richard Petty, and the late Richie Evans‘ widow thanked the fans for keeping her husband’s memory alive.

And Leonard Wood inducted Glen Wood into the Hall by calling “my big brother, Glen Wood,” to the stage.

Glen Wood, a pioneer NASCAR team owner, stressed his induction into the Hall of Fame was an accomplishment of the Wood Brothers race team and his decades-long partnership with manufacturer Ford.

“This is not just about me being inducted in the Hall of Fame. It’s also about the Wood Brothers. And it’s about NASCAR,” he said. “And I’m proud to have been a NASCAR driver and car owner for the past 60 years, and I’m proud of this great honor, and this is about two families: the Wood family and the Ford family working together, which has resulted in me being here tonight.”

The most diverse class opened with Dale Inman, the first crew chief to be inducted.

Inman was introduced by Petty, a member of the first Hall of Fame class. Inman crew chiefed Petty to all his titles, and won an eighth with Terry Labonte.

“Neither one of us was that mechanically inclined. We just sort of learned as we went,” said Petty of his cousin Inman. “Way back when, there wasn’t no such thing as a crew chief. They had mechanics, crew mechanics, whatever they wanted to call them, and Dale was basically the first one.

“He’s the one that basically started the crew chief operation.”

Petty then rattled off a list of prominent NASCAR crew chiefs and mechanics _ including current NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton _ who all learned the trade from Inman.

Inman, still active in Richard Petty Motorsports, made a point to wish the unsung heroes of the NASCAR a successful 2012 season _ including RPM drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola.

“I want to wish all the luck in the world to all the active crew chiefs now, and especially to the (numbers) 9 and the 43. Get after `em, boys,” he said.

NASCAR chairman Brian France presented the four living inductees with Hall of Fame jackets prior to the ceremony, and Waltrip grew emotional as soon as he got on stage. So excited to be voted into the Hall, Waltrip raced onto the stage the day the class was announced and kissed France.

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