The NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony reminded me what racing once was. There were no scripts. And if there were people didn't read from them.
"It came from the heart for all of us," says Kerry Earnhardt, oldest son of Dale.
Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty and Junior Johnson were the Hall's first inductees.
As NASCAR president Mike Helton said: "Our five inaugural inductees remind us today why we're fans. Five unique individuals with a common interest -- NASCAR. Five very special men that we cheered for, we laughed with, we cried with and we learned from."
Don Cassidy, a NASCAR insider who provided legal counsel for the sport, introduced NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.
When they met, Cassidy worked for Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Says Cassidy: "Kennedy called me on the telephone one day and gave me what you might call a warning. He said a man named Bill France was coming down the hall to my office. This fellow has something to do with automobile racing, said Kennedy, who obviously knew very little about motorsports.
"He (Kennedy) went on to say that Jimmy Hoffa is giving him and NASCAR a very hard time, and we must help them.
"Shortly after Kennedy's call, the door to my office opened up and there stood one of the biggest men I have ever seen. He literally filled the doorway. I'm looking up at him, and he looks at me and his very first words were, 'Son, we have a problem, and Mr. Kennedy says you have the answer.'
"Bill pulled up a chair beside my desk and proceeded to educate me for several hours on the history of motorsports, on racing on the beach, on stock car racing, on NASCAR. He explained to me that NASCAR was created to bring order to the sport, to guarantee that prize money would be paid, and to adopt and enforce rules of competition.
"He emphasized to me that there would come a day when NASCAR and stock car racing would become a nationally recognized professional sport."
Adds Cassidy: "And if he were here today, he would be the first one to acknowledge that NASCAR has exceeded his dreams."
Kyle Petty introduced his father, Richard, and he was hilarious.
Kyle says the Petty house was next to the race shop. Richard would go to work at 7 or 8 a.m. and come home for lunch.
"Then he would lay in the middle of the living room floor, sleep until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, get up and go back to work," says Kyle. "I never found that strange until you look at his career and you think the man has won 200 races, seven Daytona 500s, seven championships, working half days, OK?
"I just want you to think about that. That may be the greatest statistic of all time."
Kyle also says: "The biggest secret in the world that probably no one knows is this -- (Richard) is the biggest fan of the sport that ever lived. I think that's what made him a great race car driver. He loved the sport. He carries a passion for this sport. He loves to drive. He loves to work on it. He loves the guys he raced against. He loved the fans."
Rick Hendrick gave the induction speech for Bill France Jr.
Hendrick talked about the on-track, increasingly dangerous feud between Earnhardt, who drove for Richard Childress, and Geoff Bodine, who drove for Hendrick.
Bill France Jr. called Hendrick and Childress and told them to be in his office, with Earnhardt and Bodine, the next Thursday at 5 p.m. He didn't ask if they were busy. He told them to be there.
"So we ended up in Daytona," says Hendrick. "I thought we were going to watch movies, try to figure out who did what to who.
"So Richard and I sat there. Bill started off with the speech he's given me many times. This sport is bigger than you, it's bigger than me, and it's going to be here when we're all gone. That's the way he ran the ship. He told Richard, he said, 'Richard, I don't know what you can do if you don't do this. I guess, Rick, you can go back and sell used cars in Charlotte.' He looked at Dale and said, 'Dale, you can make a pretty good living at this. I don't know what you could do if you're not driving a race car.' He looked at Geoff and said, 'You can go back to doing what you were doing back in New York before you got here, and I don't care what you did.' Now, we're going to go and eat dinner."
Says Hendrick: "Dale says, 'I have an appointment, I can't make it.' Bill said, 'There's a phone over there, you change your appointment.'
"So Richard and I rode in the car together. Dale and Bodine rode in the car together. The rest is history. If you saw those two on the track, you could drive another car between them, you'd have no problems."
Hendrick also recalls France Jr. coming to Charlotte to see him when Hendrick had cancer. The disease was one that they shared. France made the trip because he needed to see Hendrick, needed to know that he was OK.
"That's the soft side of Bill France," says Hendrick. "He was compassionate, but he was a hammer when he needed to be, and our sport needed that."
Robert Glenn Johnson III, who is 16 and the son of Junior Johnson, wants to become a driver. He has already started. When Junior talks about him, the pride is evident.
So is the son's. Robert III said this about his dad:
"To all you racers out there that have raced for or with my dad, you know there are two rules to follow when around him. Rule No. 1, he's always right. Rule No. 2, if he's ever wrong just refer to rule No. 1.
"I would just like to finish by saying that although my father may be going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame today, he's always been a Hall of Fame dad in my heart. Please join me in welcoming our next inductee, my father, Junior Johnson.
"On this day, May 23rd, 2010, it is my honor and privilege to induct my dad, Junmion Johsnon, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and present this Hall of Fame inductee ring.
"I love you, dad."