Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, two drivers that helped push NASCAR onto the national stage and keep it there from the latter half of the 1970s through the 1980s, headline the five-member class of 2012 inductees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Darrell Waltrip, gave NASCAR CEO Brian France a big hug after being selected, and he also gave him a kiss.
The two, along with crew chief Dale Inman, owner/driver Glen Wood and Modified legend Richie Evans were announced as this year’s inductees Tuesday at the Hall of Fame.
Yarborough received 85 percent of the vote from the 55-member voting panel, which chose from 25 nominees. Waltrip received 82 percent, followed by Inman (78 percent), Evans (50) and Wood (44). Also receiving votes were Jerry Cook, Cotton Owens, Raymond Parks and Herb Thomas.
Yarborough became the first driver to win three consecutive Cup titles, teaming with Hall of Fame car owner Junior Johnson to capture championships in 1976, ’77 and ’78.
Yarborough retired after the 1988 with 83 wins in 560 starts. In addition, he posted 255 top-five and 319 top-10 finishes and won 69 career poles. He ranks sixth all time in victories and fourth in poles.
Yarborough is a four-time winner of the Daytona 500, capturing the series’ biggest race with three different car owners, and a five-time winner of the Southern 500 at Darlington.
His involvement in a last-lap crash, and the ensuing fight, with brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison in the 1979 Daytona 500 created an unexpected windfall of fan interest in the sport. The event was the first live, flag-to-flag coverage of a major NASCAR Cup race.
Like Yarborough, Waltrip enjoyed his most successful seasons in NASCAR while teamed with Johnson, also winning three Cup titles (1981-82, ’85). He also finished second in the standings on three other occasions.
“Junior Johnson recognized his talent and put him in that car because he was a businessman,” said Jeff Hammond, a former crew chief of Waltrip and now an analyst for Speed and Fox Sports. “Junior knew that if you won races, you’d win championships. He went after Darrell for that reason. He had the option to take Dale Earnhardt, but he took Darrell over him at the time. One of our founding fathers recognized the talent and intelligence that Darrell had behind the wheel.”
Waltrip’s 84 career wins, which came in 809 starts, is tied for third all-time in the Cup series. Among his victories are the Daytona 500 and Southern 500, and he holds the record for consecutive wins at Bristol with seven (1981-84).
Inman served as crew chief for the majority of Richard Petty’s 200 career wins but also was a mentor for a number of today’s hands-on personnel.
Inman won eight championships in NASCAR’s Cup series—seven with Petty and one with Terry Labonte. In 1967, he and Petty teamed up for 27 wins, including one stretch of 10 in a row.
Wood was the foundation upon which the legendary Wood Brothers Racing organization was built. After a brief driving career, during which time he won four times in 62 starts, he and brothers Leonard and Delano Wood stuck to ownership and turned the driving over to others.
The team has 98 Cup wins, including a win in this year’s Daytona 500 with rookie Trevor Bayne.
Evans rounds out this year’s class. A nine-time Modified champion, Evans, of Rome, N.Y., was known as the King of the Modifieds and in 2003 was named No. 1 among all-time Modified competitors in NASCAR.
NASCAR founder William H.G. France, son Bill France Jr., drivers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, and owner/driver Junior Johnson made up the inaugural 2010 class.
The 2011 class, inducted last month, was comprised of drivers Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Ned Jarrett, owner/driver Lee Petty and owner/crew chief Bud Moore.
The 2012 induction ceremony is scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 20-22.