The NASCAR Hall of Fame continued its tradition of paying tribute to the sport’s past Saturday night with the induction of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Charles “Red” Farmer and the late Mike Stefanik.
The evening’s ceremony was a unique glimpse into the history of the sport and how each of these drivers contributed to the growth of NASCAR and secured their place in its history.
Renowned crew chief, Ray Evernham, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, opened up the ceremony, saying, “This is our house, this is our house where our legends live.” He then invited Stefanik’s wife, Julie, to the stage to accept the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring.
“This is a huge honor, and I know Michael would have been very humbled,” Julie Stefanik said. She spoke of his 38 years in the sport and her appreciation of all the people who had helped and influenced him during those years, saying, “I can’t even begin to name names and won’t even try in fear of leaving someone out.”
She spoke at length about her husband’s career but ended by saying, “He was more than just a racer to us. He was a beloved husband, father, son, brother and friend and he will be missed forever.
Stefanik’s accomplishments include being at the top of the list for all-time NASCAR championships with nine, a position he shares with only one other driver, 2012 Hall of Fame inductee, Richie Evans. Julie Stefanik named Evans as someone who was a mentor to her husband and a good friend. In 2003, Stefanik was named one of the Modified Tour’s 10 Greatest Drivers and he holds the all-time series record in wins, poles, top fives and top 10s.
Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and good friend, inducted Farmer. He described him as “a racer’s racer,” saying, “he deserves to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”
Farmer began by humorously saying, I’m gonna take a little time here tonight. I hope you all had something to drink and been to the bathroom ‘cause I got 75 years of racing I need to talk about.”
It was a theme that would be prevalent throughout his speech as he regaled the audience with stories. His entertaining story-telling even prompted Dale Earnhardt Jr. to say, “I think I got my first guest for this year’s Dale Jr. Download. I don’t know what you’re doing in February, Red, but I need you to come on and tell some stories, buddy.”
Farmer named Ralph Moody as someone who helped him tremendously during his career and spoke of their first meeting when he was new to racing and searching for direction.
During his speech, he noted that the NASCAR Hall of Fame was the 10th hall of fame to honor him.
“If these Hall of Fames were a Christmas tree with all the ornaments around it, this NASCAR award,” Farmer said, “would be the gold star on top of that Christmas tree.”
Farmer has been racing for 75 years and at the age of 89, continues to race. He was a member of the Alabama Gang and was named one of the 50 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR’s first 50 years in 1998. His exact win count is unknown but estimates put it at over 700.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was inducted by his wife, Amy. After congratulating the other inductees, Earnhardt reflected on his humble beginnings.
“I was a mechanic at a dealership. That was my destiny, or so I thought.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
As a driver, his accomplishments include 26 Cup Series wins, two Daytona 500 wins, two Xfinity Series championships and being voted the most popular driver for 15 consecutive years. He has also won three Xfinity Series championships as a team owner of JR Motorsports with 58 race wins. Now working as a television analyst, he has continued his influence and cemented his legacy off the track.
Earnhardt began by thanking everyone involved in NASCAR, “anyone who has ever invested their time in this sport to make it great.” He went on to say, “However if I were to single just one person out of that group somebody who embodies NASCAR and has also been an incredible friend to me and mentor, it’s Mike Helton.”
He also mentioned others who had played significant roles during his career, including Gary Hargett, who taught him humility when he first began racing late models. “He taught me how to treat people,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He called me out when I was making mistakes. Gary never shouted. Gary never got angry. But, he was a guy who held me accountable.”
Tony Eury Sr. was, without doubt, a key factor in Earnhardt’s growth in the sport. When Dale Earnhardt asked Eury who should drive Dale Earnhard Inc.’s Xfinity Series car, Eury suggested that his father let Dale Jr. drive it.
He also gave credit to his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Rick Hendrick, Steve Letarte, and his fans.
“Junior Nation has always had my back. When I stumbled you guys were right there ready to lift me back up. And man, there were times when I absolutely needed you and you never let me down. We won together and we lost together. And because so, you should know that I don’t go into this Hall of Fame alone. I go with you and I go because of you.”
But most importantly, the person who made his life complete, his wife, Amy.
“How do you explain someone who makes every day of your life better?” Earnhardt said.
The night would not have been complete without Earnhardt acknowledging the significance of joining his father as an inductee. It was a proud and humbling experience to join his father, Dale Earnhardt, who was a member of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2010.
“To join Dad in the Hall of Fame is probably as good as it’s going to get.”
During the Hall of Fame ceremony, the late Bob Jenkins was awarded the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence for his work in television and radio broadcasting. Also recognized was the late Ralph Seagraves as the recipient of the 2021 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Seagraves was an executive with R.J. Reynolds and influential in bringing the Winston sponsorship to NASCAR.
*All photos by Ted Seminara