NASCAR inducts Hall of Fame class
By Jenna Fryer
CHARLOTTE — Ned Jarrett won 50 races over his career, claimed two NASCAR championships, and once beat the field by 19 miles at Darlington Raceway. Then he moved on to broadcasting races, a second career that was as successful as his first.
The highlight, though, was not on the track or in a broadcasting booth.
Instead, he considers Monday night, when he’ll be inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, as his proudest moment.
“This is the best day of my life,” said Jarrett, known as “Gentleman Ned,” for his clean racing and his kind demeanor.
“I thought maybe some day I would be able to get in there. I honestly didn’t think it would be this early.”
Jarrett is part of the five-member second class, which includes 105-race winner David Pearson and 84-race winner Bobby Allison. Also in the class is Petty Enterprises patriarch and three-time Cup champion Lee Petty, and Bud Moore, a decorated World War II veteran and two-time Cup championship team owner.
The first class, inducted last May, featured seven-time Cup champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, former driver and car owner Junior Johnson, and NASCAR Bill France Sr. and his son, former chairman Bill France Jr.
When plans were announced to build NASCAR’s only Hall of Fame, Jarrett made a commitment to improving his health so he could live long enough to be inducted.
“I’ve worked extremely hard on my health the last several years for this purpose,” said the 78-year-old Jarrett. “I wanted to live for other reasons, too, but that was a big reason I wanted to be around for a while. I am truly honored to be among this class.”
Monday night’s ceremony drew major star power to help with the inductees: Former President George H.W. Bush narrated the video to introduce Lee Petty, while newscaster and author Tom Brokaw narrated Moore’s.
Alabama football coach Nick Saban narrated Allison’s video.
Jarrett selected broadcaster Ken Squier to introduce him, and he’ll be inducted by his children Dale Jarrett, Glenn Jarrett and Patti Makar. Dale Jarett is a former Cup champion and current ESPN broadcaster.
Lee Petty, who died in 2000 and is the only deceased member of the class, will be inducted by his grandchildren. Allison will be inducted by his brother, Donnie.
The twist is for Pearson, who will be introduced by Richard Petty, his longtime rival. The two still bicker about their on-track competitions, and shared a testy moment on stage last week at a nominees dinner over the 1976 Daytona 500 finishes. Pearson passed Petty on the last lap, and as Petty tried to reclaim the lead, they touched and both spun, but Pearson was able to cross the finish line ahead of Petty.
Car owner Leonard Wood, who along with longtime friend Russell Branham will induct Pearson, said the “Silver Fox” treasures those racing memories.
“He might pick at Richard, but he’d rather run with Richard than anybody,” Wood said. “He thought it was more special when it came down to them two than any of his competitors.”
Pearson joked several times Monday night that he was anxious to put the festivities behind him because the workload of an inductee has been grueling — particularly since Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in a throwback paint scheme of Pearson’s famed No. 21 Ford.
“It’s been a rough going, especially ever since February, since the guy won Daytona with the car painted up like mine, same number,” Pearson said.
“It’s been pretty busy ever since then.”
Wood said not to be fooled by Pearson, who is quietly thrilled to be going into the Hall.
“He might not admit it … you know David, but he loves it,” Wood said.