Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blake Shelton's speech inducting Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame

   BLAKE SHELTON:  Honored to be here, everybody, and I didn't think this was going to be an emotional deal for me until the airplane ride over here to Charlotte today, and so I decided, I got to thinking about what this is and what it means to you and what it means to me.  So I decided to write this stuff down because I knew I would screw it up if I tried to wing it.  I'm going to read this to you as it came to me on the airplane today.

   People ask me all the time how I became a NASCAR fan, and my answer is always, man, I guess I was just born that way.  You see, my dad was a driver when I was a kid, not like y'all, but he raced on local tracks, stock cars, and what are the ones with the wing?  Okay, sprint cars but without the wing on them, that look like a sprint car, a midget.  I guess my dad raced midgets, okay.  You know what I'm talking about.
   See why I wrote this down?
   He was also a huge fan of races on TV, and I can't remember my dad ever missing a Daytona 500 or an Indy 500, and I put in parentheses here, although compared to NASCAR, those other cars blow.  I just put that on there. 
   Anyway, I think my dad always had a secret dream of one of us kids becoming a race car driver.  He entered all three of us into local motocross events.  My brother was good, my sister was okay, and I sucked.  So I learned to play the guitar, thank God.
   Ironically, though, that's how my history with NASCAR came full circle.  Country music and NASCAR go hand in hand, y'all, and I take great pride in being a meaningless but very loud, very defensive ‑ Clint ‑ sometimes pot‑stirring voice among the fan base and the inside of this sport.
   Over the years, I've been lucky enough to witness in person some really cool things hanging around you people, and the best part is back in the day I got to bring my dad along with me.  My dad was there the day that Elliott Sadler dove off the SPEED stage here in downtown Charlotte, missing the crowd by about the length of his face.  Do you remember that?  Man, that was funny.
   He got to see Michael Waltrip ask meaningless question after meaningless question at a drivers' meeting at Texas Motor Speedway.  To us that was a big deal, I guess.
   I watched him shove old women and children aside at Talladega to shake the hands of his favorite drivers:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, and this man right here, Dale Jarrett.  As years went on, Dale and I crossed paths many times, and although my dad's health began to keep him from traveling, he loved hearing all the stories about the time I spent with Dale.
   I didn't tell him everything.
   Dale even spoke to him on the phone a time or two.  I believe it was little things like that that kept my dad happy those last few years.  You guys were his heroes.  And even though I know he was beyond proud of my accomplishments in music, he just couldn't get over the fact that I got to spend time with guys like Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler, and most of all, Dale Jarrett.  And man, what I'd give if he could have seen the old boys standing around talking about what was the biggest flower arrangement at his funeral, not because it was so big but because it came from Dale Jarrett.
   I hope you drivers realize the kind of impact you have on the lives of everyday, hard‑working people, people like my dad, and that's why it's my honor to be here tonight to induct Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  So on this 29th day of January 2014, I want to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and officially induct my friend Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Could Jeff Gordon retire after the 2014 NASCAR season?

   Could four-time Cup series champion Jeff Gordon finally step away from fulltime competition after the 2014 season?

   Maybe, Gordon said. Then again, maybe not.

   Like if he were to win a fifth Cup series championship this season in the season finale at Homestead, Fla.

   "I will call it quits - I'll tell you that right now - right there on the spot," Gordon, 42, said Tuesday during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. "I think that would be a great way to go out.

   "But I know if we did that, I'd be thinking, 'Maybe we could do it again next year.'  So, don't hold me to that. I'm jokingly serious."
   As Gordon has gotten older, he said it's not uncommon to take time each season to consider his future.

   "I've done everything I've wanted to do in sport. I want to go out feeling good about who I am and what I'm doing and being competitive," he said. "Then you have a bad year and  your back is hurting and you say things like (it might be my final year)."