Maurice Petty formally inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Petty dynasty is now completely represented in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Maurice Petty was formally inducted Wednesday night into the Hall, joining his father, brother and cousin as members of the exclusive group.
Maurice Petty was the first member of the fifth class to be inducted during Wednesday night's ceremony. "The Chief" was inducted by brother Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion and member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class.
"The big deal is that it's really the end of Petty Enterprises because we started in 1949, and now that my brother is in the Hall of Fame, then that pretty well closes the book on it," Richard Petty said.
Maurice Petty is the first engine builder to be inducted into the Hall. His engines won seven titles and more than 200 races, including seven Daytona 500s.
Also in the Hall from the Petty Enterprise dynasty is patriarch Lee Petty, and the Petty boys' cousin and crew chief, Dale Inman.
"Who would have thought growing up that there would be guys, four of us, out of a small, rural country community that would be in a North Carolina Hall of Fame?" said Maurice Petty of the family's roots in Level Cross.
Fireball Roberts, considered the first superstar of NASCAR, was the second member inducted. Introduced by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon as a "lightning quick legend" who dominated Daytona with seven victories including the 1962 Daytona 500, Roberts also twice won the Southern 500.
He ran just 10 races in 1958, but won six of them. He died from critical burns suffered in a crash at Charlotte in 1964 when his car overturned and caught fire. Roberts, who suffered from asthma, had always refused to soak his firesuit in flame retardant chemicals because of the fumes.
His grandson, Matt McDaniel, accepted Roberts' induction and noted his death led to safety improvements in NASCAR.
"After his death, NASCAR started developing flame retardant coveralls, five point safety harnesses, special contoured seats and a fire zone fuel cell," McDaniel said.
Jack Ingram, considered one of NASCAR's greatest drivers, was inducted by his close friend and rival Harry Gant. Ingram won three consecutive Late Model Sportsman championships, then the inaugural Busch Series title in 1982 and again in 1985.
Ingram's mark of 31 Busch wins stood until Mark Martin beat it in 1997. All but two of Ingram's victories came on short tracks.
Ingram told a story of winning the track championship at Harris Speedway in Ruffin County by winning the final race of the season, only to have the check for his winnings bounce. He called NASCAR from the bank and was told to take the check to the bank where it had been issued.
"I took it down there and walked in that door. They handed me five 100 dollar bills - that kept my family going for several months," Ingram said. "I was a total supporter of NASCAR from then on because (founder) Bill France, he meant what he said when he said he guaranteed that purse. I appreciated that the whole rest of my life."
Two-time series champion Tim Flock, one of NASCAR's first dominant drivers, was remembered during his induction for the Rhesus monkey named Jocko that was his co-pilot for many a race. Winner of 39 races and the 1952 and 1955 championships, the tale told by Flock's widow, Frances, was of the time Jocko got loose in the car during a 1953 race in Raleigh.
"Tim had to pull in the pits to put Jocko out, the monkey out of the car," she said. "He came in third that day, and the extra pit stop to remove Jocko from the car cost him a big sum of money that day. His brother finally went on to win the race."
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