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CHARLOTTE, United States - American Hero. Silver Fox. Gentleman Ned. Leader of the Alabama Gang.
They’re known by other names or titles, but when you think about the lives and careers of Bud Moore, David Pearson, Ned Jarrett and Bobby Allison, they have many things in common. On the track, they’ve made multiple trips to victory lane as members of Ford Racing and have all won NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. Now, they’ll be forever intertwined off the track as members of the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class.
When NASCAR announced its plans to start a Hall of Fame and chose Charlotte, NC, as its location, there was never any doubt that these four men, along with fellow inductee Lee Petty, would one day be enshrined in its hallowed halls. The fact they’re going in as the second group overall, however, surprised just about all of them.
“It’s a great honor to go in this round. What was really thrilling to me was when France got up and started calling out the ones going in and he called out David Pearson first and then Bobby Allison and then Lee Petty. Then he got to Ned Jarrett and he hesitated when he got to me,” recalled Moore. “Then he finally turned around and said it was gonna be Bud Moore. I tell you, I was speechless. Tears came to my eyes and it was something to know I was picked over some of the other guys.”
Moore won five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for his heroic efforts in World War II, which included storming Utah Beach on D-Day and capturing more than 20 German soldiers with the help of only one comrade. After returning home, Moore began racing and eventually ended up running Ford cars for 50 years in NASCAR. He won the 1962 series championship with driver Joe Weatherly and the 1978 Daytona 500 with driver Bobby Allison.
“The biggest thrill is going in with Bobby Allison and David Pearson, two of the drivers that drove race cars for me,” said Moore. “It’s really a big honor for me.”
Allison came to Moore for the 1978 season and was in the midst of a slump that had seen him go winless the previous two years. Despite being involved in an accident during one of the Daytona qualifying races, Allison was able to take his repaired Ford to victory lane just two days later in the Daytona 500.
“I got into NASCAR Cup racing driving anything in the world along the way. I built my own car for my first win and won a few times with that. Then I bounced around and drove for Cotton Owens for a short period of time. I won a race for him, but got fired,” said Allison. “A lot of other things happened, but I went through that thing with the AMC Matador and then into Bud Moore’s Thunderbird and had three more really, really good years.”
Allison and Moore won 14 races together from 1978-80 before Allison left and eventually won the series championship in 1983. The Alabama native is a three-time winner of ‘The Great American Race’ and is tied with Darrell Waltrip for third on NASCAR’s all-time win list with 84.
“I had a lot of good days in racing and I think that I certainly did earn it, but, at the same time, a lot of guys did a lot of good,” said Allison when asked about his election to the Hall. “To be able to get inducted into that thing right off the bat is really an honor, and I was really thrilled by it.”
Pearson is recognized as one of the sport’s all-time great drivers. He stands second in career victories in NASCAR’s top division with 105 and won back-to-back championships with Ford Racing while driving for Holman-Moody in 1968 and ’69.
“Ever since I saw my first race at the fairgrounds, I was small and going to school and I said, ‘Whenever I get big enough or enough money, that’s what I’m gonna do for a living.’ I just stuck with it and I did it,” recalled Pearson, who was known just as much for his smarts and slyness on the track as his natural driving ability. “I feel like if anybody wants to do something bad enough or hard enough, I feel like they can do it. But it’s something that I always did like, running fast, so that’s what I started out doing, especially on dirt.”
Even though he had already won three championships in the sixties, Pearson really made his reputation with a seven-year run behind the wheel of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury from 1972-78. They teamed up to win 43 races during that period, including 10-of-22 starts in 1976.
“It’ll mean a lot as far as being in the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” said Pearson. “I appreciate them doing it, but, to be honest, I feel like some of the guys that started the thing – the older guys and some who aren’t here – ought to be the guys going in first.”
Besides being on the nomination ballot, Jarrett also has a vote as one of three retired drivers on the voting committee, so that made the day even more of an emotional rollercoaster.
“I told my wife before I left home that I probably didn’t have much of a chance of getting in this year, but once I got there and saw the support, and all the talk that was going on as things were brought up, it certainly gave me a good feeling,” said Jarrett, who is Ford Racing’s all-time winningest driver with 43 and its first NASCAR driving champion. “I was prepared in case I didn’t get in because I didn’t want to get my hopes too high and have a lot longer fall, but it was a very rewarding moment when Brian France called my name and said that I was among those elected.”
Jarrett won two championships in what was then called the NASCAR Grand National circuit and 50 races overall before retiring in 1967. Viewed as one of the nicest men in the sport, Jarrett forged a new career after that and became a pioneer in the broadcast field of stock car racing, working the pits for radio in the beginning and later up in the booth as an analyst for television.
“That really meant a lot to me over the years to be able to be in broadcasting and see it grow from its infancy in the sport and then one day to have a bearing on whether I might make the Hall of Fame or not, so that’s something I’m very proud of,” said Jarrett. “It’s a great feeling of satisfaction, there’s no doubt about that.”