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The King, clad in his trademark cowboy hat and dark sunglasses for his speech, deflected attention to his accomplishments, preferring to praise his parents, his family, the Frances, his team, media and fans.
"I never did anything by myself," said Petty, NASCAR's all-time winningest driver with 200 victories, who closed with, "I guess I'm going to be like Gomer Pyle. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Johnson, the one-time moonshine runner turned champion driver and car owner, was inducted by his 16-year-old son, Robert, who nervously called his father to the stage.
"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," he said. "Please join me in welcoming our next inductee, my father, Junior Johnson. I love you, Dad."
Earnhardt's induction was the most anticipated -- proven when a No. 3-clad fan in the back of the room cheered and raised three fingers in salute. Unlike the other inductees, whose choices for introduction and acceptance speeches were well-known, Earnhardt's representatives were more fluid and the crowd was not certain who would speak.
Teresa Earnhardt, uncomfortable with public speaking, has been somewhat reclusive in the nine years since her husband's death. Her relationship with stepson Dale Earnhardt Jr. is strained, at best, and it's rare to see all four children in public together.
But the family attended Thursday night's gala together, and the occasion of Earnhardt's induction had marked a somewhat coming-out party for his youngest daughter, Taylor. Once frequently spotted alongside her father at the racetrack, she'd been largely out of the public eye since her father's death.
The 21-year-old represented the family at several events this weekend and was poised on stage during the ceremony.
"Everyone always tells us that we all look a little bit like dad," she said. "I think we all act like him, too. We're determined, driven, stubborn as a fence post.
"But dad gave all four of us something. He gave all his fans something. I think that's what makes him a true champion in everybody's eyes."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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