Matt Kenseth, Kirk Shelmerdine join NASCAR Hall of Fame as Class of 2023

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Matt Kenseth will become the 25th Cup champion enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame after he was selected by the voting committee Wednesday.

Kenseth and Kirk Shelmerdine will represent the Modern Era in the Class of 2023. Kenseth, who was on the ballot for the first time, received 69% of the 61 votes cast. Shelmerdine received 52% of the votes cast. There were 10 candidates from the Modern Era.

Hershel McGriff was selected from the Pioneer Era. He was selected on 31% of the votes cast. There were five candidates from the Pioneer Era.

Mike Helton, a senior advisor to NASCAR, was selected for the Landmark Award, which honors outstanding contribution to the sport. He was the first person outside the France family to take over day-to-day operations of NASCAR in 1999.

The induction ceremony will take place Jan. 20, 2023.

Results of the fan vote were: Kenseth, Gant (Modern Era) and Foyt (Pioneer).

Harry Hyde finished third in Modern Era balloting and was followed by Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant. In the Pioneer ballot, A.J. Foyt finished second.

Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, won 39 series races and two Daytona 500s. He made his first Cup start in 1998 for Bill Elliott at Dover when Elliott attended his father’s funeral. Kenseth won Cup rookie of the year honors in 2000, beating a class that included Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Kenseth made the last of his 697 Cup starts in 2020. He drove for Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. 

Kenseth won the 2009 and ’12 Daytona 500s. He also won the 2000 Coca-Cola 600 and the 2013 Southern 500.

The Cambridge, Wisconsin native often was compared to David Pearson in driving style. While Kenseth often didn’t lead the most laps, he was known to work through the field to get to the front when it mattered.

Kenseth won the 2003 Cup title despite winning only one race. That spurred NASCAR to change how it determines its champion, beginning with the Chase format — the precursor to today’s playoffs.

Kenseth turned 50 in March and recently ran in the Boston Marathon. 

Shelmerdine won four Cup championships as the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt and then went back to a driving career. 

Shelmerdine’s teams won 46 Cup races and 15 poles from 1977-92. 

Robin Pemberton, a rival crew chief, once said Shelmerdine was “a pretty sharp fella who got out of the sport a little too early. He still had a lot to offer. It was a big shock. I think everyone was confused as to the reasons he left. I’m not so sure anybody knows.”

Only Dale Inman (eight) and Chad Knaus (seven) won more Cup championships as a crew chief than Shelmerdine. 

As a driver, Shelmerdine won three ARCA races and finished 20th in the 2006 Daytona 500. 

McGriff ran his first Cup race in 1950 in the Southern 500 at the age of 22. His final NASCAR race was in 2018 at Tucson Speedway at the age of 90 in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West.

He ran 85 Cup races over 28 seasons. McGriff won four races, all in 1954, and finished sixth in the points that season. He also won the 1986 NASCAR West championship. 

He was selected as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. McGriff is 94 years old.