by Bobby Markos
The name Petty has for a long time been synonymous with NASCAR. The Petty family has been involved with the organization since its inaugural race in 1949, where family patriarch Lee finished 17th. The family’s next generation saw son Richard rewrite the history books and set several benchmarks that may never be matched. While Petty Enterprises was dominating the headlines, a family cousin played an integral role in the success. This week on The Dale Jr. Download, Dale and co-host Mike Davis sit down with that man, Dale Inman, to get the inside scoop on how it all came to be.
The conversation opens with Dale Jr. inquiring about Inman’s earliest memories in racing. Dale Jr. brings up a famous comic book he had that depicts the early days where Richard, brother Maurice and cousin Inman would race crude machines around Level Cross, North Carolina. Inman gives listeners a breakdown of what Lee, Richard and Maurice were like behind the scenes. He also goes into detail on Richard’s first ever NASCAR start, which was a convertible race at Columbia Speedway in 1958.
Inman tells an incredible story of the 1958 NASCAR Championship race, where Lee was squaring off with Jack Smith. In a day when many of the east coast based drivers didn’t travel to the west coast shows, the schedule saw a May 30th stop at Trenton and a June 1st race at Riverside. Lee reached out to Smith and tried to strike up an agreement to sit out the western journey, but Smith insisted he was going to run. This led to Lee instructing Richard and Maurice to drive a second car from Level Cross to Riverside, where he would fly in and race the Sunday show. When Richard injured himself at home, the driving duties fell onto Inman.
The show covers the NASCAR Hemi-ban of the 60s and Petty’s decision to go drag racing. It also talks about Inman and Richard’s split in 1981 and what led to that. Inman would eventually reunite with Richard in 1986, and he describes what the last years of their career together were like.
Listener’s can expect some unbelievable stories about the past eras of NASCAR, as well as an intimate look into one of its most famous families. In the opening segment of the show, Dale talks about the eventful Indianapolis Road Course weekend, as well as everyone’s own personal reworking of the English language. All of this and more on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr Download - available on this website and all major podcast platforms.
Additional reading about our guest:
Hailing from Level Cross, North Carolina, Dale Inman is the cousin of Richard and Maurice Petty. While attending school, Inman would work at Petty Enterprises, wrenching on Lee’s car during the 1950s. In 1958, when Richard began racing, Dale would play a role on his pit crew, eventually moving up to the crew chief position.
Inman would work at Petty Enterprises over three decades, winning 188 races and seven championships. In 1981 He would leave the team and go on to work for Rod Osterlund with Dale Earnhardt Sr. He would also have a stint working with JD Stacy when Osterlund sold the team to him the following season. In 1983 he was hired by Billy Hagan to work for driver Terry Labonte, and in 1984 Inman would win his eighth championship with the team.
1986 saw Inman return to Petty Enterprises. He continued working with the team even after Richard’s retirement in 1992. Inman would retire from NASCAR in 1998 with 193 total victories and eight championships. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the 2012 class. Today finds Inman spending some time at the Petty Motorsports race shop, as well as the Petty Museum in Level Cross, North Carolina.