In the Rearview Mirror: Dale Inman, the man behind “The King”

The NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions are just five weeks away so it is time to begin the stroll down memory lane and look back In the Rearview Mirror at each inductee. Starting off this mini-series will be Dale Inman.

Credit: Harold Hinson/HHP Images
Richard Petty may be a seven-time NASCAR champion but his longtime crew chief Dale Inman can one up him. Inman is an eight-time championship winning crew chief in NASCAR’s top series. Taking the honor as the most successful crew chief to date, he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 20, 2012 and join his driver Richard Petty with that honor.

Growing up in the Petty racing dynasty family is a tough role to follow – patriarch Lee Petty was a successful racer in his own right and son Richard was sure to follow. Richard Petty could not do it alone; his cousin Dale Inman was a vital part to his success.

Growing up in Level Cross, North Carolina, the boys were very close - playing together as they also worked on Lee’s cars.

As Richard climbed into his own stockcar in the 1950s it was Inman and Petty’s brother Maurice who were working as his mechanics. As times changed and the cars developed a bit, Maurice (who was acting as the crew chief) focused more on the engine work and Inman was promoted to crew chief during the 60s thus the matchup of Inman and Petty proven to be unstoppable.
“Racing wasn’t a job to them – it was what they did and loved,” Petty continued. “It was second nature to them – just like breathing. It came so naturally and they were so good at it that they challenged themselves to get better. If they had been musicians, I think they would have been great musicians. But racing is what they grew up doing, chose and perfected.”  - Kyle Petty
Richard Petty won an astonishing 200 races in his career; 193 of those were with Dale Inman making the crucial calls that often would make or break a race. “I do not feel I would have been as successful as I was without Dale being the leader of the team,” said Petty.

Credit: Richard Petty Private Collection
Richard Petty said of Inman, “It was kind of like having one brain in two bodies,” as he described how he thought the car was loose, Inman already knew and was prepared to make changes. It was that kind of intuition that made the duo such a phenomenal success.

With a career spanning approximately 44 seasons, Inman’s success went beyond Petty Enterprises. His career wins stand at an amazing 199, the aforementioned 193 with Petty; four with Terry Labonte and two with Tim Richmond. Dale Inman actually won the 1984 championship with Terry Labonte, his eighth championship of his career which is an unprecedented feat even yet today. Chad Knaus is the closest crew chief to breaking Inman’s record by getting five championship wins with driver Jimmy Johnson.

Many in the NASCAR garage credit Inman as their mentor and role model. “Dale taught so many guys how to be a crew chief, a leader, an innovator and how to love this sport,” Kyle Petty said. “Guys like Tony Glover, Steve Hmiel, Mike Beam, Robin Pemberton and others who came through Petty Enterprises and then went on to have an impact on the sport. They still are around today making their mark on the sport. So, Dale’s impact continues to be felt in 2011 and will be for years to come.”

A day may come when a crew chief surpasses Inman’s records but no one can match the level of impact that he has left in the sport of NASCAR.

The inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame honored Richard Petty and now fittingly Dale Inman will be inducted in just a few weeks. As Kyle Petty said, “I don’t think Dale is Dale without Richard Petty and I don’t think Richard Petty is Richard Petty without Dale. They shared the same knowledge and brain. They were inseparable. Dale went on to win races and the championship with Terry Labonte, and "The King" won races and Daytona without Dale. But they never were as successful apart as they were together. They grew up together from the time they were about five years old and became one person after so many years. They were one spirit and one entity and their accomplishments can’t be separated.”

                                    Amanda Ebersole offers Skirts and Scuffs readers a look back at NASCAR history 13923424986_nJZQNIn the Rearview Mirror. The great sport we enjoy today has glorious roots and is full of wonderful history, so join Amanda each Wednesday as she reminisces. What is your favorite memory of the golden days of NASCAR? Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter or e-mail.
In the Rearview Mirror: Dale Inman, the man behind “The King” In the Rearview Mirror: Dale Inman, the man behind “The King” Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 Rating: 5