What drivers said after Daytona race

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RICKY STENHOUSE JR — Winner: “Wow, these guys. I kept my Talladega car and told them to build a new one. We won the Firecracker 400! This is awesome! I have been coming here since 2008. I actually came in 2006 one time with Bobby Hamilton Jr. and it is cool to put it in victory lane and get our second win this year. I love it!’’

Clint Bowyer — Finished 2nd: “We finished second two weeks in a row, so that’s a huge confidence booster for our team, but nonetheless, the pressure cooker is turning up. You’re sitting there looking up there that green‑white‑checker coming to the green there, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, no, somehow, some way, I’ve got to get up there and keep one of those guys that are going to be first time winners out of this thing.’ That’s real, it’s alive, and it’s something you’re going to have to pay attention to. You hope you keep riding this wave and turn one of those seconds into a win.’’

Paul Menard — Finished 3rd: “We wanted to race hard all night long, but I forget who wrecked up in 1 and 2 but we got in the wall pretty hard and had to work on some damage so that put us back right at the end of the first stage and couldn’t go anywhere. So kind of bailed out of the stages and was a bunch of attrition obviously, and we kind of passed some cars that way, but got some really big runs toward the end and made up a lot of ground and Bowyer pushed the hell out of me the last lap. I just couldn’t get a run off Turn 4 coming to the checkered. I guess I used it all the lap before.’’

Michael McDowell — Finished 4th: “It’s nice to do this week after week. This isn’t our first good run. We had a good run the last three or four weeks, and we’ve been putting together solid runs. At the same time, coming to the line second, I thought I had a shot at him but just they had such a big run behind I couldn’t hold them off.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 5th: “I don’t want to say we got lucky, but we got lucky.  We did not dominate tonight by any means.  We rode around in the back for most of the race and it played out between everybody but Austin. It was a little bit of luck, but it was calculated and it was good enough for a top-five tonight.

David Ragan — Finished 6th: “I’m certainly proud of our effort tonight. We had a great day on pit road. Our car fast and it drove really good. I give us an ‘A’ for the night. I missed my mark a bit coming to the white line. I zigged when I should have zagged. It’s tough to block two or three lanes coming to the white flag. I missed it on that run. If I couldn’t win I’m glad another Ford is is victory lane. Ricky (Stenhouse) is a good guy and I’m proud for that team. I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t close the deal.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 8th: “We had a plan that we weren’t going to race until 40 to go, and it all worked out.  It was crazy back there. You are kind of hanging on. I thought the Quick Lube Chevy had good speed and handled really well. That has always been our strength here and it was again. The guys did such a great job. It was our backup car. I kind of crushed the roof of the primary car at Talladega.  They got it ready and it had decent speed in it.  You just wish you could re-do it.  I thought I was doing everything right.  On that first restart I had a big push there on David (Ragan) and thought we were going to get clear that second restart. I couldn’t get to Ty’s (Dillon) bumper as good as I wanted to. I was going to shoot the gap, and Ty went high and the 38 went low and I got pinned in the middle and lost our chance to win.”

Erik Jones — Finished 9th: “It was an up-and-down night. We were up front at a few points and back at a few points – just learning and trying to figure everything out. I don’t know exactly what happened when we got spun around. I think I got up inside of somebody or somebody came down on me and just got spun around unfortunately. Still got a decent finish out of it – top 10 at a superspeedway so that’s a good finish and some momentum for next week.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 10th: “Really nice to finish Daytona. We tried to have a smart race and just hang out there in the back so we could have a good piece at the end. The team did a great job on giving me a good race car all weekend. We knew qualifying would be what it was, but the car raced and handled really well and we got a top-10 out of it.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “It is nice when you are rewarded with good points and important championship points – points that carry into the bonus rounds with our wins and stage win last week.  I really thought we were in a great position and I got smashed into the wall by the No. 95  (Michael McDowell) off of two. But to come back and have the car tore up still in 12th, decent day for us. Excited about that, but really looking forward to the summer stretch. We have some great tracks coming. 

Jamie McMurray – Finished 14th: “So we had probably the best plate car tonight that we have had in four or five years. We got caught up in that wreck and obviously it killed a lot of speed in the car.  I didn’t choose good lanes at the end and I got hung out one time and went from a fourth or fifth place finish to 14th.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. — Finished 15th: “That was fun. Probably the most fun that I’ve had at the Speedway. I missed three, four wrecks. Just a big chess game. Way different than Xfinity race. Just trying to plan out my attacks. I hate that we got in that wreck late and put us in the back. A good rally to get to 15th. We keep improving.” 

Ty Dillon – Finished 16th: “I wanted to do it so bad for Bob Germain who gave me this opportunity. That is two close ones and if you keep getting these close ones, you will get one eventually. We work hard every week but not every week are we contending for wins, but when it’s our chance we make the most of it. So I am proud of the way we are growing as a team and we are leading a lot of laps any way we can.  I just feel disappointed. When it’s the white flag you go for it. Nobody went with me and so that is kind of the pains of being a rookie, but I would have been mad at myself if I didn’t make a move right there. The move cost me a good finish but didn’t really determine what our day was.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ — Finished 17th: “The race was good and we ran definitely much better than where we finished. Just all the starts and restarts, those last two restarts we were on the bottom and it wasn’t going anywhere. Just a little bad luck there at the end of the race.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 21st: “We were really fast and made our way up through there on a few occasions. But we were just never in the right place at the right time.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 26th: “I am not sure what happened. I saw (Kyle Larson) get turned and get up in the air a little bit. I just couldn’t miss him. I was already on the top and I hate that I T-boned him. I just couldn’t get out of the way. I thought we had a really good car. We were racing hard. Everyone was racing hard. We got kind of shuffled out. I didn’t pick a very good lane. We were working our way back forward when that happened.’’

Matt Kenseth — Finished 27th: “It’s been really hard to get a finish. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) had a great strategy tonight and had us out front. Obviously I should’ve got down in front of the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse). He made up a lot more ground through three and four than I thought. I should’ve got to the bottom and tried to get by the 5 (Kasey Kahne) there. I thought we were still in OK shape and then the 5 got real loose into one and something happened and it checked our whole lane up and then, as luck would have it, as soon as we lost those 10 spots the wreck happened. Just nowhere to go. Disappointing end.”

KYLE LARSON — Finished 29th: “I’m fine. I was just up front there and doing what I could to stay up front. The 38 (David Ragan) got to my inside, and I saw that in my mirror and I kind of felt it a little bit because you can feel the air. I was just trying to leave him a little bit of room and I just moved up too high and ran across Ricky’s (Stenhouse, Jr.) nose and I hate that I caused that wreck and I feel pretty bad about. It was going to be an extremely good points day and we hurt that a little bit.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., – Finished 32nd: “The attention and the reaction from the fans makes me feel great.  Hopefully we are able to turn that around and back on them for the rest of the season and thank them for all they had done. I wish we had had a good finish tonight if not a win. We were working up in there and having a good time and being aggressive and wearing out the sides of that race car.  It just wasn’t to be.’’

Kevin Harvick — Finished 33rd: “We just blew a tire. That’s the way it goes. It just blew out right in the middle of the corner. I hate to wreck half the field. That’s a part of what we do.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 34th: “I just tried to slow down, but you know you get hit from behind, you hit the guy in front of you – there’s nothing you can do. When you’re going 190 something and everybody stops in front of you, it’s kind of hard to do anything. This July race, man, I don’t think I’ve finished it in like five years. It’s just – it’s been a tough one every time. Every time we feel like we’re doing something okay we get in a big wreck, so it’s been a tough one for sure but rebound and go to Kentucky and hopefully go for some more wins.”

Joey Logano — Finished 35th: “I saw four our five laps before the wreck that the 95 (Michael McDowell) got into the side of the 18 (Kyle Busch). I didn’t see any smoke off the 18, just a near miss. Then four or five laps later I think the left rear popped on the 18 and around he started going and we were there. Wrong place at the wrong time again for us. It’s superspeedway racing. Sometimes you’re on the good side of it, sometimes you’re on the wrong side of it. That was the bad one. We’ll just move and head to the next race.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 36th: “I didn’t see and am not sure.  I tried to slow down, I downshifted and it wasn’t enough. We knocked the oil cooler and radiator out.  I should have been smarter and rode around like half of the others in the field, but we were trying to get some bonus points there coming to the end of the stage. It didn’t work out.”

Danica Patrick on retiring from NASCAR: ‘I felt like it wasn’t a space I wanted to be in anymore’

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Danica Patrick was unhappy much of her final season in NASCAR.

Patrick revealed that and a lot more in this past week’s Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

When asked how she felt during the 2017 season, Patrick admitted she was disillusioned at times.

“A lot of negativity to some degree, and it feels like a grind a little bit,” she told Rogan. “I felt like it wasn’t a space I wanted to be in anymore.

“I wanted to be in a happy space, doing things that bring me joy. I was noticing I was missing that – or wanting it more.”

That’s why Patrick decided early on that 2017 would be her final full season in racing.

The timing actually couldn’t have been better: her contract would not be renewed for 2018 by Stewart Haas Racing, she lost her primary sponsorship early in the 2017 season and the remaining sponsorship on her No. 10 Ford Fusion ran out at season’s end and there weren’t many other opportunities to remain in the sport.

If there ever was a time for Patrick to go in another direction and try something else, 2018 would be that time.

“It’s just life; just do things that make you happy,” she told Rogan.

So Patrick has begun building a new life. Sure, she still plans on competing in next month’s Daytona 500 and in May’s Indianapolis 500 – she’s calling it the “Danica Double” – she’s also begun creating a new life after and beyond racing.

She’s building upon herself as a brand rather than just a race car driver. She’s moving in a direction that, with the exception of Daytona and Indy, she’ll not be involved in racing for the first time in more than 25 years.

“Those are going to be my last two races ever,” Patrick said. “This is my Danica Double goodbye tour. I’m ready. I love racing but I love other things, too.

“I’m okay with transitioning out and there were a lot of things that were kind of pointing me in this direction in 2017, stuff that had never happened to me before to kind of, yeah, head towards the exit a little bit. But I’m good with it. I’m a very decisive person.

“This was one of them that I thought about a little bit how to be done or if to be done, I guess, but the how was the hardest part. My agent kept calling and asking me ‘what about this or what if you did that’ and I said no, no and no. You all have to be ready for me to be done, please.”

Patrick’s racing career began before she was 10 years old – she already was thinking at that age about going to college to become an engineer “so I could work on my race car.”

She began racing go-karts growing up in Roscoe, Illinois (about 2 hours from Chicago) and by 16 she was racing Formula cars in Europe.

So after nearly 25 years of racing, it’s time to move on – and Patrick is ready.

“In the last year, as far as an energetic space, it’s just so sad and negative a lot of the time,” she said. “Racing in general, most of the time it’s miserable. You have some days that are good, but most of time it’s not happy.

“You’re not satisfied, you wish somebody would have treated you better out there, there’s so many things to be negative about, and just the grind of it.

“Everybody is worn out. You have to be really careful about the people around you, everybody has to be in a good mood not to spiral out of control, because you see each other three, four days every week for 40 weeks of the year, so you’ve got to be in a good space with people.”

During her time in both IndyCar and NASCAR, Patrick became the face of and inspiration for female racers in all forms of motorsports over the past decade-plus.

She has given all of herself to racing on four wheels, be it in an open-wheel Indy car or a NASCAR stock car. Racing was all she wanted to do for so very long.

Heck, she has a tattoo on her back that starts out as an American flag and fades into a checkered flag. If that isn’t an example of a true bad-ass racer, what is?

Yet not having the success she hoped for and even expected in NASCAR left her becoming somewhat jaded, feeling like she was going in circles both literally and figuratively.

Still, her decision to retire from full-time racing at the age of 35 – she turns 36 on March 25 – caught some by surprise.

“I think everyone would expect with what I do, at the level I do it, that racing is the only thing I do, I love it so much I’ll do anything, I’ll drive every day – and the truth is, no,” Patrick said. “I like racing, but there’s a lot of things I don’t like about it, too.

“I’m grateful for everything it’s given me, but if you were to ask me what I do outside of racing, I don’t go to the racetrack, I don’t watch races.”

And after the upcoming Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and Indianapolis 500 on May 27, she’ll permanently not go to the racetrack or watch races, it would appear.

Now it’s on to a life as enhancing and expanding her personal brand, transitioning from being a race car driver to making and selling wine, designing and marketing clothes, writing books and so much more.

Click here to listen to the two-hour audio version of Patrick’s appearance on Rogan’s podcast.

Or, watch the whole interview on YouTube:

Robert Yates left us with a beautiful gift: his NASCAR Hall of Fame acceptance speech

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Dale Jarrett cried beforehand while preparing. Edsel Ford II cried during, as did countless attendees at Friday night’s annual NASCAR Hall of Fame induction.

They cried not just about the induction of legendary team owner and engine building genius Robert Yates, but also the touching and profound words Yates left as his legacy.

Knowing that his long battle with cancer could potentially take him from us before the induction – which it ultimately did on October 2, more than three months ago – Robert Yates left the NASCAR world with an emotional gift: some of his final words.

Before he passed away at the age of 74, Yates hand-picked fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett to read those words, a task that was both a great honor but also very emotional for Jarrett, who won a NASCAR Cup championship and Daytona 500 while driving for Yates.

“It was an honor for the Yates family to ask me to do that and to be a part,” said Jarrett, now a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports. “It was a very difficult thing to do. (It took) a number of reads before I could get through it, as you could imagine.

“This was someone that we could have spent the entire two hours talking about how special of a man and hard worker Robert Yates was. He’s exactly what this Hall of Fame is about, that type of person that started at the bottom, worked his way to the top, and there’s nobody that’s been as good as him ever in this business.”

Jarrett said he wished it would have been Yates who was inducted into the Hall in 2014 so he could enjoy the moment, rather than Jarrett.

“Speaking strictly from a personal standpoint, I look at this, that I wish he could have been the one going in in 2014. It would have only been fitting that he was in here in the Hall of Fame before I was, and we could have heard that speech from his mouth and in his words.

“But I was honored to do that, and when I look at it and think about it, a lot of us drivers were fortunate to drive for Robert and Doug Yates and the Yates family and what they’ve meant to me. But in my case, he took an average driver that had a huge heart and a huge desire to win and made me think that I could do extraordinary things.

“I’m appreciative of that and the opportunity that he gave me to win races and a championship, and a special night for the Yates family.”

Here’s Robert Yates’ full, touching induction acceptance speech, in his own words, that were read Friday by Dale Jarrett:

When I started in racing, this was not the goal. All I wanted to do throughout my career was win races.

“I would always say, I don’t race for the money, I race to win. For me, that’s what it’s always been about, but to be part of this year’s induction class is a true honor.

‘There are a lot of other people I want to thank because this isn’t really about me; it’s about those who gave me the opportunity to do something I love.

“I want to thank Bill France Jr. He loaded me up with wisdom through the years, and while some of our conversations were tough, he taught me things about this sport that were invaluable.

“And Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company. When you get to know people like Edsel, you realize that you’re always part of the Ford family, and that means a lot.

“Working in the Holman Moody engine shop turned out to be the best education I could ever ask for. We worked day and night, but if it wasn’t for people like Jack Sullivan, John Holman and Ralph Moody, I wouldn’t have developed the skills I needed.

“Junior Johnson is a man of few words, but I’ll never forget, we were at Charlotte Motor Speedway one day, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Robert, I’ve got to have you.’ We worked out a deal where he basically allowed me to run my own shop, and nobody appreciated what I did during that time more than him. So, Junior, thank you.

“I learned what it was like to run a race team in 1976, when I took over as general manager for DiGard Racing. I worked with Hall of Famers like Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison and had 10 great years there.

“The Allisons have been a big part of my life. I won a championship with Bobby in 1983 at DiGard, and then got to work with Davey, who was always so positive.

“When I bought Harry Ranier Racing, I knew other people wanted to hire him, so we talked about it, and he said to me, ‘Robert, I’ll always work for you.  You don’t ever have to worry about me.’

“Losing Davey was painful. We shed a lot of tears and didn’t know how we would move on, but we did. As NASCAR started to move to more multi-car teams, Ford approached me about running the Quality Care car in 1995.

“I never liked the idea of two cars. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and I always talked about how, until they made two places for cars in Victory Lane, you only need one. So I wasn’t fond of running a second team, but it worked out well.

“We hired Dale Jarrett on a handshake deal done at the Raceway Grill in Darlington. We didn’t sign a contract until several months later.

“Todd Parrott came on as crew chief, and everything just clicked. We won the Daytona 500 in 1996 in our first race together, and then won the championship in 1999. It was a special time in my life with a special group of people.

“So to you, Dale, Todd, and everyone who worked at Robert Yates Racing or in our engine shop, you have my deepest appreciation.

“I’m also extremely blessed to have my assistant Kristi Jones. She’s meant so much to me and our family.

“To this point, I’ve talked about some of the people who have made a difference in my career, but none of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for the people who made a difference in my life: my family.

“My brothers and sisters were all good students, but I didn’t care about going to school. I was the only kid in my family that didn’t make straight A’s. That’s when my sister, Martha Brady, stepped in. I moved from Charlotte to Wake Forest and lived with her. She told me what classes I was going to take, and that was the first time I studied and made straight A’s.

“My sister, Doris Roberts, talked to me about going to Wilson Tech, and that was the best two years of school I ever had. I loved physics and geometry. So if it wasn’t for my two sisters, I don’t know where I’d be today.

“Another person I want to thank is my twin brother, Richard Yates.  He’s been a big part of my life, and I love him dearly.

“When I was working for Junior Johnson, I would take Doug to the shop. He was still in diapers, but the floor was clean, so I would put him down there, and he would sort out nuts and bolts.  He could sort them out and put them all in the right bin.

“I knew he was destined for a career in racing. Little did I know that would include working side-by-side with him for 20 years. Doug, I couldn’t be prouder of the man you are today. I love you.

“I used to give Amy rides on my dirt bike when she was only two years old. She would sit in front of me and laugh and hold the handlebars and say, “Faster, Dad, faster.” She’s a great mom to her four kids and the sweetest daughter a dad could ever ask for. Amy, you’re my baby doll, and I love you.

“Doug and Amy have given Carolyn and I eight wonderful grandkids.  Your futures are bright, and I love each of you dearly.

“It’s been 51 years since I took a four-day leave from the Army and made the best decision of my life: I married Carolyn. She’s been by my side ever since and has supported me every step of the way. I worked all hours of the day and night, but she never called to say, get home. She let me work.

“Carolyn, I don’t know where the time has gone, but it seems like yesterday we were in a one-bedroom apartment trying to make ends meet. You’re the light of my life. You’ve always been there for me, particularly this past year. Your devotion reminded me of our vows: In sickness and in health. And I love you.

“I never prayed to win a race. I just prayed for the wisdom to help me make good decisions. My creator didn’t always give me what I asked for, but he gave me more than I deserved.

“I thank you for this great honor.  Good night, and God bless.”

Ray Evernham on NASCAR Hall of Fame induction: ‘This is forever’

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Ray Evernham has been successful in virtually everything he’s done in his life.

That includes an amateur boxer, race car driver, 3-time NASCAR Cup championship crew chief, Cup team owner, TV and radio personality, racetrack owner, businessman and so much more.

But nothing will ever personify and speak to Evernham’s career success like Friday night’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

It’s without question the pinnacle of his career, celebrating a man who has done so much in the sport – as well as for the sport.

“You dream about it and you work hard to get there, and the whole time you’re doing it you never really think that you could ever make a mark in a sport that would get you at this level,” Evernham told reporters after his induction.

“I can tell you it still really blows me away. To stand up on top of that stage there and look at the banner and look at the people sitting there in front of me and when I turned around people were on their feet and clapping, it was like very surreal.

“It was just like being in a movie. I thought, ‘Man, oh wow, now I know how Rocky felt.’ But I can tell you it’s the greatest moment of my career.”

Man, oh wow, now I know how Rocky felt.’ … It’s the greatest moment of my career.” — Ray Evernham

Evernham was presented for induction into the Hall by Jeff Gordon. When asked how much of a role he played in Evernham’s career, Gordon was gracious in his reply.

I think (Evernham) played a larger role in my career,” Gordon said. “I’m so thankful to be a part of this.

“What he’s meant to me with my driving career and as a friend because of all we’ve gone through – I mean, we’ve seen one another go through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, on the track or off the track.

“And when you go through that and you have the kind of relationship that we had, the business relationship that then turned into the friendship, when you see somebody honored like Ray was tonight, which is so deserving – this guy sacrificed – I think that’s why I love seeing people.

“Listen, don’t get me wrong; I love seeing the drivers. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, all of them deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. But to me, the drivers already get a lot of rewards or accolades or written up, but guys like Ray, even though he got his fair share, but it was never enough for the effort, the sacrifices and the things that he did to make that car, the team and me really shine the way that it did.”

While Gordon and Evernham teamed together for the first time in Gordon’s NASCAR Cup debut, the final race of the 1992 season at Atlanta, something magical happened when they first got together two years earlier in a 1990 test.

“I knew it immediately, we just clicked,” Evernham said of Gordon. “I liked him a lot and he liked me. We spoke the same language. He was a kid, might have been 19.

“I had seen the best drivers in the world. I knew talent. What I saw him do that day at Charlotte with the car that we had that wasn’t that special, I believe it was a Buck Baker school car we went and tested with, and he was quick, I think second quick overall that day to Davey Allison.

“He did some pretty amazing things, and the way that he spoke to me and the way that he described what the car was doing and what he needed in the car, I thought to myself, this guy is way too young. That’s not experience; that’s pure talent and that’s ability.”

Gordon concurred.

“It was the same for me,” Gordon said. “It clicked right away. … I came home from that test, and I just said, ‘You’re not going to believe this guy.’ He had a clipboard. He’s writing down every word that I say, and he’s like, ‘Ok, we’re going to do this, we’re going to put this spring in.’

“I was like, ‘What’s that going to do?’ I didn’t know anything about springs or shocks. I was racing dirt sprint cars and midgets. He said, ‘Well, it should do this,’ and I’d go in the corner, and it did it. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this guy is a genius.’ So we clicked immediately.”

Evernham, now 60, admits that his induction had him choked up.

“It’s been emotional to me,” he said. “I mean, certainly you look at this as a cap-off on your career, and you look back, as I said – I meant it when I said I’ve seen some of the toughest, most articulate guys we know stand on that stage and be emotional.

“Tonight it’s very special to me because Ray J (Evernam’s son) was up there, Jeff was up there and Ben Kennedy, again, because his dad Bruce and I were close, to have all three of them up on the stage. When I walked up there, I said, I hope I can get through it without crying, but that’s normally Jeff’s deal. But I get it.

“It’s a tremendous, tremendous honor, and when you start to … when you realize that it really is all about the people and the relationships that you’ve made, because without those people and without the relationships, the rest of the stuff is just trophies, man.

“When you win at the Cup level, you get to enjoy it for four days, and then there’s 39 more guys trying to knock you off that pedestal. They’re not going to let you have fun. Friday morning, it’s back to square one.

“The memories are going to be of the things that we did with the people. … That’s what’s really special about the Hall of Fame, because this is forever.”

Ron Hornaday Jr. kept up a cold tradition with Hall of Fame induction

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – The call came “out of the blue” in November.

The name “Horny” flashed on Wayne Auton’s phone.

The nickname belonged to Ron Hornaday Jr., four-time Camping World Truck Series champion and one of Auton’s closet friends.

Earlier in the year, the former Truck Series director and current manager of the Xfinity Series had been the one to call Hornaday and let Hornaday know he was one of the nominees for the 2018 class in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“Hey, buddy, I need you to do something for me,” Hornaday said. “I want you to induct me into the Hall of Fame.”

Auton needed a moment.

“Ron, did you just say what I thought you said?” He eventually responded.

“Yeah.”

“Damn man, you need to let somebody in your family do that.”

“No, you are my family.”

Auton began crying.

For two days Hornaday couldn’t sleep.

The 59-year-old native of Palmdale, California, fretted over the speech he’d give Friday night at the Charlotte Convention Center as the first Truck Series champion to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“This is really the crown jewel of everything he’s done,” Hornaday’s wife, Lindy Hornaday told NBC Sports. “He was scared he was going to forget somebody and I said, ‘Everybody knows you and they know that you’re thankful to everybody. So don’t thank anybody specifically. Just thank them all.'”

Friday morning, Hornaday woke up without a speech set in stone.

“I got up at 9 o’clock this morning and it was like *makes gagging noises*,” Hornaday said. “I walked away, took a deep breath, come back and I couldn’t do it again. And I said to hell with it. When I started seeing my friends and family, something will come to me instead of trying to read this speech off that prompter. I got back to the room and I’ve never had an anger deal, I don’t know what it’s called in your stomach, but my stomach was turning over so bad. I was regurgitating air for about four hours. I finally fell asleep for a little while. My wife wanted to go to lunch. I sent her with all the family to lunch. I finally thought about thinking about what this really means and still didn’t know what it meant until I started seeing friends, family, peers, the Hall of Famers. They really just got me into a different mood. I did that one sober. Usually I get a couple of beers in me before I speak.

“Everybody’s telling me, ‘be yourself, take your time.’ How can you do that? It’s the freakin’ Hall of Fame!”

Those are the same words Hornaday bellowed at the beginning of his unscripted speech, with both arms raised high.

“That was the best part about the whole thing,” Hornaday said. “Had to break the ice, just to get somebody to giggle. And I knew I could get on a roll.”

Hornaday said he only forgot to mention Chevrolet, the manufacturer he earned all 55 of his NASCAR wins with.

Wayne Auton, left, poses with Lindy Hornaday and Ron Hornaday Jr. (Photo: Daniel McFadin)

During the two days Hornaday fretted over his speech, Auton was with him.

The two first encountered each other in 1995, the inaugural season of the Truck Series.

“He was there at every one of my wins,” Hornaday told NBC Sports. “He’s the one that gave me the words of wisdom, he’s the one that pulled me down and closed doors and told me what I had done wrong on the race track. He’s the one that chewed my butt out, he’s the one that when he got all done and said I’d chew his butt out. We got all done and said and we’d get a beer together.”

For 18 years, the two were “friends, enemies and warriors,” said Auton.

“Whether he won, whether he lost … when we were inside the gate we had a job to do,” Auton said. “When we walked outside the gate we were very good friends. We had to have a beer together. Cold beverage. We knew each other’s family like they were our own.”

Leading up to the ceremony, the two pestered each other about what the other would say when the time came.

“I said, ‘Ron, I just hope I don’t pee in my pants,'” Auton said.

“When he was up there speaking, I seen him shaking pretty good,” Hornaday said. “I’m glad I got back to him and made him as nervous as I was.”

Standing on the auditorium floor afterward, Auton described the moment as “the biggest honor” he could ask for.

“I’ll never top that.”

When they left the stage, it took them awhile to get back to their seats.

Auton said they stopped to have a cold Coors Light.