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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 23, 2010

Auto racing: France, Petty first members inducted into Hall

AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and seven-time series champion Richard Petty have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

France, who began as a promoter of beach racing in Daytona Beach, Fla., formed NASCAR in 1949 to create a governing body for American auto racing. Regarded as one of the most influential figures in motorsports, he ruled NASCAR from its first race in 1949 through his 1972 retirement.

"No one, and I mean no one, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame more than Bill France Sr.," said John Cassidy, NASCAR's longtime legal counsel, who used a story of their first meeting in Washington, D.C., to induct France.

"He explained to me that NASCAR was created to bring order to the sport. He emphasized to me that there would come a day when NASCAR and stock car racing and the NASCAR tradition would become a nationally recognized professional sport. I witnessed firsthand the growth ... to a level of acceptance that goes well beyond Bill Sr.'s wildest dreams."

France's acceptance speech was made by his son, Jim, who said his father would be proud of NASCAR and "he would be proud of this Hall of Fame."

Jim France then donated his father's induction ring back to the Hall of Fame for display in the $195 million facility that opened May 11.

Petty, known as "The King," was the second inductee of the five-member class to be inducted. Clad in his trademark cowboy hat and dark black sunglasses, he was inducted by his son, Kyle, who called him "the biggest fan of the sport who ever lived."

The King deflected attention to his accomplishments in his speech, preferring to praise his parents, his family, the Frances, his team, media and fans.

"I never did anything by myself," said Petty, NASCAR's all-time winningest driver with 200 victories, who closed with "I guess I'm going to be like Gomer Pyle. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."