CHARLOTTE, N.C. – David Pearson finally received his spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the most votes a year after the 105-race winner was surprisingly excluded from the inaugural class.
The Silver Fox received 94 percent of the vote and was the first of the five inductees called by NASCAR chairman Brian France. He immediately received a standing ovation from those gathered in the Great Hall of the Hall of Fame.
He insisted he wasn't upset that he had not made it in with the first class.
"There was no sting about the first place, a lot of people thought there was, but I knew three weeks before I wasn't going in," Pearson said.
Considered the only "lock" of this class, Pearson said he was never certain he'd be elected Wednesday.
"Nobody never knows 'til they call it right then," Pearson said.
Not so for three-time champion Darrell Waltrip, who knew by the time the third name was called that he had not made the cut this year.
Three-time Daytona 500 winner Bobby Allison, whose 84 wins are tied for third on the victory list, was the second inductee announced and was followed by Lee Petty, a 54-race winner and patriarch of a Petty Enterprises organization that dominated NASCAR for more than three decades.
Waltrip, watching the announcement from a stage where he was waiting to analyze the selection for Speed, looked crestfallen when Petty's name was announced.
"I knew right there that I was probably not going to make it," said Waltrip, who had campaigned for his selection. "Five people. Kind of hard to fit. Somebody was going to be the odd man out."
The remaining two slots went to two-time champion Ned Jarrett, who believed he was selected as much for his racing resume as he was for his post-driving career as a popular broadcaster, and pioneer Bud Moore, who fielded cars for Pearson, Allison, Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Buddy Baker and Benny Parsons over 37 seasons.
Nobody begrudged the selections.
But many wondered how Waltrip and Cale Yarborough, another three-time champion, could have been excluded when Allison, a driver with very similar numbers, made the class.
The answer was politics.
"You don't want to say the most popular people are the ones who are going to be in the Hall of Fame, that should not be it all, but people are human beings," said longtime race promoter Humpy Wheeler, a member of the voting committee.
"I don't think that there's a vote anytime, anywhere that personal feelings aren't involved in it."