On May 2, just prior to the recent NASCAR race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame just outside the track inducted four new members, including three legends from the NASCAR community.
NHRA drag racing legend Don Schumacher was inducted, along with NASCAR team owner Rick Hendricky, legendary NASCAR crew chief Dale Inman and 1989 NASCAR Cup champion and current NASCAR on ESPN personality Rusty Wallace.
Dale Inman is a part of the first family of NASCAR, the Pettys. He’s Richard Petty’s cousin and served as Petty’s crew chief through much of the seven-time champions’ Winston (now-Sprint) Cup career.
He became a full-time employee at Petty Enterprise in 1963. That year, he and his cousin paired up to win 13 races. The duo won 27 races in 1967, 10 of those coming consecutively. Inman was the first crew chief to implement a gas and go strategy that won Petty the Daytona 500 in 1981.
Inman left Petty Enterprises that year and worked with teams includding Osterlund Racing, Hagan Enterprises, before moving back to Petty Enterprises in 1986. In addition to seven Cup titles won with Petty, Inman also guided Terry Labonte to a Cup championship in 1984 with Hagan Enterprises. Petty may be tied with Dale Earnhardt for most Cup championships as a driver, with seven, but Inman actually has one more than his cousin.
Inman moved to a management role at Petty Enterprises in 1988 and then semi-retired in 1998. He now serves as a consultant at Richard Petty Motorsports.
Rusty Wallace, hailing from St. Louis, Mo., was one of NASCAR’s first superstarts not from the Southeast. He claimed the Winston Cup title in 1989 and won 55 races, 34 of those coming on short tracks, before retiring from driving in 2005. In the time since, Wallace has been covering NASCAR on television for ESPN. He has also owned a NASCAR Nationwide Series team.
Wallace was the Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1984 and put together a string of 16-consecutive seasons in which he won at least one race. His final win came in 2004 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Although he didn’t compete in his first full season at NASCAR’s top level until 1984, he actually made his series debut in 198- at Atlanta Motor Speedway for car owner Roger Penske. He finished second in that race.
After racing sparingly in the Cup Series for the next few years, Wallace was crowned ASA champion in 1983. It was after that title that he went full-time Cup racing. He raced for Cliff Stewart Racing for a couple of years before moving to Blue Max Racing. It was during his time at Blue Max that Wallace claimed the 1989 Winston Cup title.
Wallace reunited with Penske in 1991 and finished out his racing career there. He won a total of 18 races in the two-season stretch of 1993 and 1994, finishing second and third to champion Dale Earnhardt those two years. He won 37 races with Penske before his retirement in 2005.
Rick Hendrick started racing early, setting records at a local drag strip near his hometown of Palmer Springs, Va., at the ripe old age of 14. At 16, he won the Virginia division of an engine-building competition. But it was in team ownership that Hendrick flourished.
His automative-related ownership roots goes back to Chevrolet dealerships. In 1976, a 26-year-old Hendrick became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the U.S. with the purchase of a franchise in Bennettsville, S.C. From their Hendrick Automotive Group has grown to 100 dealerships across 13 states.
But Hendrick is most recognized for his Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization. Prior to getting into NASCAR, Hendrick owned a successful drag-boat racing team that won three-consecutive championships in the late 1970s. It was after the death of boat driver Jimmy Wright that Hendrick transitioned to NASCAR.
At first, Hendrick was a sponsor and co-owner in the NASCAR Busch (now-Nationwide Series). He was co-owner of a car the late Dale Earnhardt drove to victory lane in 1983.
Hendrick started All-Star Racing in 1984, and that’s when the dynasty was born. The team that would eventually be renamed Hendrick Motorsports began with a No. 5 Chevrolet driven by Geoff Bodine with Harry Hyde as crew chief. The team won three races and finished ninth in points in its first year of competition.
Jeff Gordon claimed the first Cup championship for HMS in 1995, and then Terry Labonte followed with a second one a year later in 1996. In all, Hendrick Motorsports now has 10 Cup level championships with three different drivers — Gordon, Labonte and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson won his five for HMS consecutively between 2006 and 2010.
In May 2012, Hendrick Motorsports became only the second team in NASCAR Cup history to claim 2012 wins. Petty Enterprises was the first.