Special to The Times
June 4, 2013
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Bristol Motor Speedway connections to the now five NASCAR Hall of Fame classes continue to increase in number.
Prior to the announcement Wednesday night of the five newest members of the NHOF, 16 of the previous 20 inductees not only were involved in races at Bristol. They succeeded, emphasizing the fact the toughest places in the biggest races on the biggest stages define championship seasons and hall-of-fame careers.
The latest additions to this exclusive club simply confirm the fact.
Of the five inductees, only one, Tim Flock, did not visit victory lane at Bristol - for a very simple reason. The man Richard Petty called the “smoothest driver I ever saw” never raced here.
The rest: Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts did.
The total now reads: 20 of the 25 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame were involved in 93 different ways in wins at Bristol.
The Iron Man. That is Ingram’s moniker, the nickname by which he is best known. How he was tagged with the label is up for debate but the fact it was a perfect fit is not. He ran 99 races in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series after the age of 50 and before that sort of thing was common. In fact, he continued to run selected short-track races into his 70s. HIS 70s, not THE ’70s.
In fact, he participated in two celebrity events with legendary Bristol drivers in 2009 and 2010 at the age of 73.
From 1982 through 1987, Ingram did not finish lower than fourth in the final NASCAR Nationwide (Grand National, Busch Series) standings. Twice, 1982 and 1985, he won the series championship.
And like so many others before and since, the 1982 title came with the aid of a win in Bristol.
He did not lead the majority of the 150 laps; that credit went to Morgan Shepherd. But Ingram led enough, including the most important one - the money lap.
Like father, like son. Ned Jarrett, a 1965 winner at Bristol, was named to the NHOF in 2011, and Wednesday night it was time for his son Dale.
Like Ingram, the younger Jarrett got a later start in his career, not even taking a shot at driving a race car until he was 20 years old.
He raced, in part-time, often-underfunded, rides to work up the ladder. The fourth race of his Cup career came at Bristol. So did his last one.
He won the NASCAR Nationwide event at Bristol August 23, 1991. Six years later, on the exact same date in 1997, he rolled into Cup Victory Lane.
In 668 career starts, Jarrett ran more Cup races at Bristol than any other track.
All in the family. A fourth member of the Petty family was added Wednesday night to the Hall.
“The King” Richard, the Patriarch Lee and the mechanical genius cousin Dale Inman all are in.
And now, so is The Chief; Maurice, the quiet giant behind the even bigger horsepower that came out of the engine shop tucked away in the back of that building in Level Cross, N.C.
Richard Petty won three times at Bristol Motor Speedway. Three trips to victory lane in cars built by Inman and his group and powered by The Chief. But Maurice has another win at Bristol, one more than Richard actually.
July 1962, in the fourth Cup race at Bristol, Jim Paschal earned one of his 25 career wins and his only win at Bristol in the No. 42, owned by Petty Enterprises with an engine by Maurice.
My real name is Glenn. Many probably are unaware of Fireball Roberts’ real name. That’s ok. Fireball is way cooler.
Arguably the sport’s first real superstar, Roberts ran just seven races at Bristol before his career was cut short after a tragic accident.
Regardless of the limited time, his skill was obvious.
In those seven races, he led laps in four of them. He twice started from the pole and won once and finished second three times.
He qualified lower than fourth just once.