Rex White didn't have time to answer the question before another phone could be heard ringing in the background.
"The phones are getting busy for some reason," the 1960 NASCAR Cup champion said from his home April 10.
Likely because the personable White, who won 28 times during a nine-year career at NASCAR's top level, had just been announced as one of the 25 nominees to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame's class of 2014.
"Hold on a second," White, 83, said, pausing to answer yet another call. But when the connection was lost, he quickly returned.
"Every phone I've got is ringing," he said. "It's not normal for me to be this popular."
He is the oldest living driver to win a championship at NASCAR's top level. His 1960 run to the title included six victories at Columbia, S.C. (twice), Montgomery, N.Y., Weaverville, N.C., Martinsville and North Wilkesboro. But it was his consistency ?- he finished fifth or higher in 25 of his 40 starts that season ?- that enabled him to distance himself from runner-up Richard Petty.
An owner/driver, White said one of the first lessons he learned in racing was the importance of taking care of one's equipment.
"You know," he said, "I like eating every day.
"When you worked on the car, when you paid the bills, when you had to do all the work and tow it all over the country, you didn't race like you do today where they bang and beat and tear the cars up.
"You just don't race like that. You try to avoid all that and it makes you have better finishes. The more you beat and bang, the more you're going to get taken out of a race. So I had to finish."
He actually won more races (seven) the following year, but finished second in the points battle to Ned Jarrett, and a career best eight in 1962 when he finished fifth in the standings. His 8.9 average finishing position is currently fourth-best in series history.
Other first-time nominees for the hall include Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder Bruton Smith, 1999 Cup champion Dale Jarrett, legendary engine builder Maurice Petty and short-track standout Larry Phillips.
Smith, whose company owns eight facilities that host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, called it "a great honor" to be nominated.
"Bill France Jr. once asked me to help him build NASCAR and I have literally been building monuments to the sport for my entire lifetime," Smith said in a statement provided by SMI. "Millions of people have attended NASCAR events at our speedways over the years and we've tried to be creative and innovative in an effort to help push the sport to a higher level. It's always been a perfect fit for me because I love racing and I love NASCAR fans."
Jarrett, son of 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Ned Jarrett, said hearing his name called as one of the 25 nominees was "very unexpected."
"Because you look at the names that are there and most are people that I either grew up around the sport with, watching form this sport to what it is today or had the opportunity to compete with some of those," the 1999 Cup champion said during an interview on SiriusXM/NASCAR.
"I think the thing that I should say first is that it took a lot of people to help me get to this point and have this opportunity, that literally poured their heart and soul into giving me opportunities to compete on a high level and I'm very appreciative of that."
Engines built by Petty helped propel older brother Richard to 198 of his 200 career victories, as well as seven championships and seven Daytona 500 titles. That same power also carried Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton and Marvin Panch into the winner's circle during their affiliations with the Level Cross, N.C. outfit.
"We worked hard and stayed after it," Petty told Sirius. "I'm just thrilled to be here. ? It would be great to be voted into the Hall of Fame."
The class of 2014 will be announced May 22. In addition to the five newcomers, the other 20 nominees are:
Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, H. Clay Earles, Anne B. France, Tim Flock, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Les Richter, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, T. Wayne Robertson, Ralph Seagraves, Wendell Scott, Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly.
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