News - Petty: Dale Inman Invented The Position Now Called NASCAR Crew Chief
January 12, 2012
Richard Petty’s Cousin Had Uncanny Ability To Communicate With ‘The King’
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2012)
– Within the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, among crew chiefs and
mechanics, the most popular addition to the NASCAR Hall of Fame is one
of their own – Dale Inman.
Inman, according to his first cousin Richard Petty, invented the position we now call the crew chief.
“Dale was a racing benchmark,” said Petty. “He
was the sport's first official crew chief and people modeled themselves
after him. He knew what, when and where -- and when he made a mistake
he wasn't afraid to admit it. Everyone respected him for that. Nobody
even comes close to the number of wins that Dale has recorded."
be inducted Jan. 20 as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s third
class that includes Richie Evans, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood and Cale
numbers between 1958 and 1992 indeed support “The King’s” belief: eight
NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, 193 victories and 129 poles.
The 75-year-old Inman won seven titles with Petty and another with Terry Labonte.
began working in the Petty Enterprises Level Cross, N.C. shop for Lee
Petty when he was too young to go to the track and be the team’s chief
stand-out year was 1967. That season, Inman and Petty won a
NASCAR-record, 27 races – 10 of them consecutively. All 27 victories
were in the same car they built a year earlier.
was in the engine room and we had six employees,” said Inman, when
asked if he and the team were aware of what they were accomplishing. “We
were so busy we didn’t have time to think about what we were doing.”
the current era, a crew chief can puzzle over a dozen or more cars
before selecting which one to take to a specific race. That was hardly
the case for Inman.
Petty frequently had only two or three cars for Inman to supervise,
perhaps an even more difficult task considering a 50-race schedule that
featured multiple dates during a given week on both dirt and asphalt
asked me if I was nervous,” Inman said, discussing his feelings before
the NASCAR Hall of Fame announcement was made. “And I said, ‘not as much
as I was in some of those races.’”
Inman was The King’s cousin, it seemed as if the pair could be twin
brothers. The two worked in the shop on Lee Petty’s race cars but also
had played football together at Randleman High School. Inman was the
team’s halfback; Petty was a guard on the offensive line.
“It was scary sometimes how we came up with the same answers,” Inman said.
didn’t set out to be a crew chief; it just came with the evolution of
the sport. “There had to be a leadership role,” he said. “I picked that
his cousin, Inman never had a desire to drive race cars. “I just didn’t
see me tearing up somebody else’s equipment,” he said. “I always was
pretty well content to work on the race cars and make them better.”
also was a gifted teacher. Many of the sport’s top crew chiefs
matriculated at what became Dale Inman University, among them Mike Beam,
Barry Dodson, Jake Elder, Tony Glover, Steve Hmiel, Robbie Loomis, Todd Parrott, Robin Pemberton and Wade Thronburg.
things that you learned were not always about being or trying to be the
best race car mechanic or your win-loss record; they were also about
how you represented your team on and off the track,” said Pemberton,
a winning crew chief for Mark Martin, Kyle Petty and Rusty Wallace and
now NASCAR’s Vice President, Competition and Racing Development,
recalled of his time working under Inman. “Dale
was very good at a lot of things but I really think he was one of the
best race strategist I have ever seen week in and week out. The vast
majority of the time Dale made the right call to get the most out of the
didn’t disagree but put it this way: “I kept up with who we we had to
beat and what their weaknesses were,” he said. “We also surrounded
ourselves with good people.”
left the team shortly after Petty’s 1981 Daytona 500 victory. The
decision to move on was incredibly emotional – for both Inman and Petty.
I told him I was leaving the team in '81, he looked at me like he was
going to cry,” Inman said in a feature published later in “Stock Car
Illustrated.” “'Dale,' he said, 'when I go off down into one of those
turns at 170 mph, who am I going to depend on so I know that all the
bolts are tight?' I went home and cried.”
later worked for Rod Osterlund, J.D. Stacy and Billy Hagan – the latter
owner of Labonte’s championship-winning team – before returning to
Petty Enterprises to manage the organization’s business affairs in 1986.
He helped mold the careers of John Andretti and Bobby Hamilton, both
retired from NASCAR in 1998 but remained close to the sport. He helped
Kyle Petty complete the Victory Junction camp. When the NASCAR Hall of
Fame was opened, Inman brought in its first artifact, the restored
Plymouth Belvedere in which Petty set the records in 1967.
2006 a national motorsports’ journalism organization proclaimed Inman
NASCAR’s second greatest crew chief. Always humble, Inman responded,
“I’m not sure I should even be ranked.” He called Leonard Wood of the
Wood Brothers – fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Glen Wood’s brother –
the best crew chief he’d ever seen.