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Five more inductees added to NASCAR Hall of Fame

The three living members of the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class. L to R: Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Ray Evernham.

The three living members of the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class. L to R: Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Ray Evernham.

By AMANDA VINCENT

Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Robert Yates were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte on Friday evening as the five-member class of 2018 inductees.

“This is for every short track racer that ever had a dream, ever had a heart, ever believed in anything that you can believe in; this is it — the Hall of Fame,” Hornaday said.

Byron won the first NASCAR-sanctioned race at the Daytona Beach road course on Feb. 15, 1948, and was the first champion of NASCAR’s first series — its Modified division. NASCAR’s Strictly Stock division, the forerunner of today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, came along the following year, and again, Byron won the first race in Charlotte, N.C., on June 19, 1949, and was the series’ first champion.

Three of the five inductees — Evernham, Hornaday and Squier — were all in attendance for their special moments. The most emotional moment of the induction ceremony, though, came with the induction of Yates, who passed away after a battle of liver cancer last October.

While Yates didn’t make it to his official induction into the Hall of Fame, he did live long enough to find out about his induction, as the class of 2018 was announced at the conclusion of NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day last may. Yates wrote his induction speech before his passing, and those words were read by Hall of Famer and former Robert Yates Racing driver Dale Jarrett.

“I never prayed to win a race. I just prayed for the wisdom to help me make good decisions,” Yates’ speech read. “My creator didn’t always give me what I asked for, but he gave me more than I deserved.”

Yates was a renowned NASCAR engine builder, and then, team owner. He arrived on the scene in the 1970s as an engine builder for NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. A Yates engine powered another Hall of Famer, Bobby Allison’s, championship in 1983, and by the end of the 1980s, Yates was a team owner with Allison’s son, Davey Allison, as his driver.

Before getting out of team ownership after the 2007 season, Yates had 57 premier-series wins and a championship in 1999 with Jarrett as driver. Yates’ cars won three Daytona 500s, one with Allison and two others with Jarrett.

Hornaday is, to date, the most successful driver in NASCAR Truck Series history, holding records for most wins in the series, with 51, and championships, with four. With his induction Friday evening, he became the first inductee from the Camping World Truck Series.

As a crew chief, Evernham was paired with Jeff Gordon early in their NASCAR careers together, and together, they won 47 races and three championships in the mid to late-1990s. As a team owner, Evernham was instrumental in Dodge’s return to NASCAR premier-series racing in the early 2000s, and since getting out of team ownership, he’s tried his hand at broadcasting for ESPN.

“I stand here tonight before you very humble, very thankful, and very grateful to be a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Evernham said. “Martin Luther King said that if a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets as Michael Angelo painted or as Beethoven composed music. He should sweep the street so well that the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, there goes a great sweet sweeper. And I read that quote a long time ago, and I realized the best way I could pay back everyone who believed in me was to work hard and be a good street sweeper.”

While four 2018 inductees competed in the sport as driver, car owner, crew chief or combination of two of those categories, Squier was inducted for his career as a NASCAR broadcaster, first on radio as one of the founders of the Motor Racing Network, and then on TV for CBS and others. Just as he was there at the beginning of MRN, he was a part of the CBS broadcast team that provided the first live, flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest race, in 1979.

Just as Squier spent his career talking about others in the sport, he used the bulk of his induction acceptance speech doing the same.

“In our sport, there are innovators, builders, advocates, challengers, heroes, and an announcer now and then, who all have a part to play,” Squier said. “This is always a thank you time speech, so many to deal with. Some of us are inconceivably lucky to call these folks friends. I think we all call them heroes.  And I’m feeling like an odd duck in a flock of fancy geese; let me tell you.”

Squier is one of the two namesakes, along with fellow former broadcaster Barney Hall, of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. The 2018 award was presented to Norma “Dusty” Brandel prior to Friday evening’s induction ceremony.

Brandel covered NASCAR as a California-based newspaper reporter for more than 60 years. In 1972, she became the first female to report from the NASCAR garage at a race at Ontario Motor Speedway.

During the ceremony, Jim France, was honored with the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. France was unable to attend, though, because of an illness.

France, the son of NASCAR Founder Bill France Sr. worked behind the scenes while his father, brother (former NASCAR President Bill France Jr.) and nephew (current NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France) took the spotlight. France founded the GRAND-AM Road Racing Series in 1999, and 13 years later, he led the merger of GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series.

“No one deserves this award more than Jim France,” France’s niece, International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, said. “He is the epitome of what the Landmark Award represents.”

France currently holds the position of ISC Chairman of the Board.

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Posted by on January 23, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR,NASCAR Camping World Truck. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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