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Dale Jr. highlights NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join his father in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021, becoming the sixth father-son set to be enshrined.

Voters also selected modified ace Mike Stefanik and Red Farmer to join Earnhardt in the Class of 2021. Ralph Seagraves was selected as the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

Earnhardt, Stefanik and Farmer make up the 12th class to be selected to the Hall of Fame.

Earnhardt Jr. received 76% of the Modern Era ballot votes, Stefanik received 49%. Ricky Rudd finished third, followed by Neil Bonnett. Red Farmer received 71% of the Pioneer ballot votes. Hershel McGriff finished second. There has never been a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame.

Voting Day was held virtually on June 9 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The panel consisted of 65 former drivers, inductees, NASCAR executives, industry leaders and media members, plus one vote reserved for fan balloting. Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote were Neil Bonnett, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Red Farmer.

The induction ceremony date will be announced at a later date.

This also marked the first time the Hall class was reduced from five inductees to three: Earnhardt and Stefanik being chosen from 10 Modern Era candidates and Farmer chosen from five candidates considered from the Pioneer Era.

Here are the newest Hall inductees:

Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr., nicknamed Dale Jr., is a two-time Daytona 500 winner (2004, 2014). Voted as the sport’s Most Popular Driver for 15 consecutive years from 2003-17, he retired as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver following the 2017 season.

“It was great to see my face pop up on that screen,” Earnhardt said with a smile to NBCSN’s NASCAR America. “I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t really nervous. I had a root canal earlier today, so maybe I was more nervous about that. That was kind of distracting my thoughts.

“I also was understanding the fact I’m young, considering most people that are inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I had a lot of years that I could be patiently to hopefully see my name called. So I was going to be okay.”

But Earnhardt’s voice began to crack with emotion when he added:

“Once you started the show, man nerves set in and I got shook up and I was extremely emotional to be nominated. Not a lot of people are like this, but I really work off affirmation — I succeed off affirmation — and there’s no better compliment or affirmation than from your peers and the people that you work with and work around.

“This is such a great pat on the back for a lot of hard work and a lot of years in the sport, trying to do the right thing for the yourself, your sponsors but most importantly for the health of the sport. I’m feeling great about this experience and looking forward to what lies ahead, the evening itself and the ceremony. It’ll be a great experience and I’ll be excited.”

Earnhardt made 631 Cup starts between 1999-2017, earning 26 wins (tied with Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen for 30th in NASCAR history), 149 top-five and 260 top-10 finishes. His highest single-season finish was third in 2003.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and father Dale Earnhardt talk during the 1998 Coca-Cola 600. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

He also made 142 career Xfinity Series starts from 1996 through this past Saturday at Miami, earning championships in 1998-99 when the series was known as the Busch Series. He earned 24 wins, 70 top-five and 94 top-10 Busch/Xfinity finishes.

Since his retirement from the Cup Series, the now 45-year-old Earnhardt has become a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports, but kept his hand still in racing, making one start per season in the Xfinity Series, with finishes of fourth in 2018 and fifth in 2019 and 2020. He said after Saturday’s race at Miami that it potentially may be his last race ever as a NASCAR driver.

Earnhardt’s father, seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt, was in the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class in 2010, along with Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty and Junior Johnson.

The other father-son pairings in the Hall are: Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr., Lee and Richard Petty, Ned and Dale Jarrett, and Buck and Buddy Baker and Bobby and Davey Allison.

“I don’t know the entire voting panel, but I know some of the folks that are in that. To think they have that respect and feeling for you, it really hits you in the heart, it really does.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know how I’m going to feel as we move forward, but it’s going to be a lot of fun reflecting on our past, our driving career, going to get to share a lot of great stories and it should be a good time.”

Michael Paul Stefanik was one of the most prolific NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers, earning seven championships. In 453 Modified starts, the Massachusetts native earned 74 wins, 223 top-five and 301 top-10 finishes.

Mike Stefanik was named to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Tuesday. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Stefanik is the third driver who primarily raced modified to be enshrined in NASCAR’s Hall. He joins Richie Evans (inducted in 2012) and Jerry Cook (2016).

Stefanik was named the second greatest driver in NASCAR Modified history in 2003.

He won successive K&N Pro Series East championships in 1997-98, and finished second in 1995, 2003 and 2005. He also competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

Stefanik was killed in a plane crash on September 15, 2019, when the plane he was piloting experienced mechanical failure and crashed in Sterling, Connecticut. He was 61.

Charles “Red” Farmer is well into his 80s but is still competing, having gained notoriety primarily for short track racing, as well as being one of the charter members of the “Alabama Gang,” a group of drivers who settled in the area of Hueytown, Ala., and became legendary in all forms of stock car racing, from dirt tracks to NASCAR Cup.

Farmer’s career stretched for more than seven decades, although the numbers vary widely. He is estimated to have won between 700-900 races from the 1950s through the 2000s. He also won numerous championships at tracks in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Still racing, still winning — that’s Red Farmer at 87 years old. Photo: Red Farmer.

While Farmer made only 36 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, he excelled in the NASCAR National Late Model Sportsman division (now known as the Xfinity Series), earning three straight championships from 1969-1971.

Despite the few starts on the Cup Series, he was still named NASCAR’s most popular driver four different times, and was named one of the 50 Greatest Drivers In NASCAR History in 1998. Including Tuesday’s announcement, Farmer will now be a member of six different auto racing halls of fame.

Farmer is also known for coyly claiming he was born anywhere from 1928 through 1932.

And he’s still racing, having competed as recently as last weekend, finishing 10th. At the age of 87. He said he will race this weekend at Talladega Short Track.

Farmer was Davey Allison’s crew chief in the then-Busch Series and was with Allison when the helicopter they were in crashed while landing at Talladega Superspeedway on July 12 1993. The younger Allison died. Farmer suffered a broken collarbone and several fractured ribs. Farmer continues to race, primarily at the Talladega Short Track, a 1/3-mile dirt oval across the street from NASCAR’s Talladega Superspeedway.

William Ralph Seagraves has long been acknowledged as the architect who brought tobacco manufacturer RJ Reynolds into NASCAR as its title series sponsor.

Ralph Seagraves of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

Initially brought on as a sponsor for car owner Junior Johnson’s team, Winston was the first non-automotive sponsor to enter NASCAR on a full-time basis. Winston found a welcome home after the U.S. government banned TV cigarette advertising in 1970.

Realizing the impact and return on investment it could obtain would be greater in the overall sport, as opposed to sponsoring just one team, Seagraves and RJR made NASCAR an offer it couldn’t refuse and became the exclusive title rights sponsor in 1971.

From 1971-2003, NASCAR’s premier series – which was previously known as the Grand National Series – was renamed the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, becoming a marketing juggernaut that led to the sport becoming one of the most popular in the United States.

In addition to NASCAR, Winston – with Seagraves’ guidance and leadership as the company’s top sports marketing executive – would also go on to sponsor NHRA drag racing, golf, soccer, tennis and hydroplane racing before tobacco sponsorship was outlawed by the federal government.

Seagraves retired in 1985 and passed away on Sept. 27, 1998 at the age of 69.

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Falling short of being voted in from the Modern Era were Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd and Kirk Shelmerdine.

Falling short of being voted in from the Pioneer Era were Jake Elder, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.

Not being chosen for the Landmark Award were Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton and Dr. Joseph Mattioli.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

May 10 in NASCAR: Dale Jr. announces departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc.

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In a press conference at JR Motorsports on May 10, 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced the end of an era.

Earnhardt revealed the final 26 Cup races of the season would be his last as a driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his father, Dale Earnhardt.

“It’s time for us to move on and seek other opportunities,” Earnhardt said while sitting next to his sister, Kelley.

Earnhardt was in his seventh full-time season driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for DEI. Up to then he had won 17 races, including the 2004 Daytona 500. He had also been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver four times.

But he’d only won one race each in the last two seasons. In 2007, he’d go winless for the first time.

“It is time for me to compete on a consistent basis and compete for championships now,” Earnhardt said.

The NASCAR world waited a little over a month to find out Earnhardt’s destination. On June 13, it was announced he was signing with Hendrick Motorsports. He’d spend the rest of his Cup career with the powerhouse before retiring after the 2017 season.

Also on this date:

1956: Buck Baker won a Grand National race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway after running all 200 laps without a pit stop. The result was protested by the Schwam Motor Company team, which owned the car driven by second-place finisher Curtis Turner, who finished one lap down. The team believed Baker’s fuel tank was illegal. NASCAR ruled it was legal.

1969: LeeRoy Yarbrough came back from being a lap down with 30 laps to go, survived a three-car incident with Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough to win at Darlington.

1975: In his 50th Cup Series start, Darrell Waltrip claimed his first career win in a race at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. Waltrip triumphed after Cale Yarborough blew an engine on Lap 321 of 420. Waltrip beat Benny Parsons by two laps.

1997: In a caution-free race at Talladega, Mark Martin led 47 of 188 laps and beat Dale Earnhardt for his second and final Cup points win on a superspeedway.

2014: Ryan Blaney made his Cup Series debut at Kansas Speedway. In a race won by Jeff Gordon, Blaney started 21st and finished 27th.

May 1 in NASCAR: Greg Biffle beats oil, heat and gas problems for Xfinity win

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Greg Biffle didn’t anticipate having to pit with 10 laps to go in the May 1, 2004 Busch (Xfinity) Series race at Auto Club Speedway, but he did so while running second to his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth.

“I saw the fuel pressure jump around a bit,” Biffle said according to The Associated Press. “The last two Busch Series races here, I could have won, but I ran out of gas or had to pit for gas and nobody else did. It was a flashback.”

The potential fuel pressure issue piled on to problems his No. 60 team had during the 150-lap race.

The team had to add 3 1/2 quarts of oil to the car throughout the event due to a mystery oil pressure problem.

Then with 50 laps to go, Biffle’s cooling system malfunctioned. The race was being held in 90-degree heat.

“It was like somebody flipped a switch and I had a hair dryer in my face,” Biffle said.

Biffle executed a fast pit stop on Lap 140 for his splash of gas, but returned to the track in eighth place, nearly a lap behind Kenesth.

But over the next few laps every driver in front of him had to pit for fuel.

Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick each stalled as they tried exiting their pit boxes after their stops.

“That explains it, I didn’t know how I got so far ahead of those guys,” Biffle said.

Biffle took the lead with three laps to go and cruised to the checkered flag for his second win of the year.

Also on this date:

1955: Buck Baker won a 133-lap race at the Charlotte Speedway dirt track. During the race, Herb Thomas was in a violent wreck on Lap 41 that saw him thrown from his car, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” Thomas was taken to the hospital with a fractured leg, bruises, a concussion, a lacerated arm and shoulder injuries.

1964: LeeRoy Yarbrough capitalized on Jimmy Pardue’s mechanical failures to claim his first of 14 career Grand National wins in a race at Savannah (Georgia) Speedway.

1983: Richard Petty edged Benny Parsons by a couple of car lengths to win at Talladega for his 197th Cup Series win. Phil Parsons, making his second career start, was involved in a horrific 11-car crash on Lap 71 where he flipped multiple times in Turns 1-2, including landing on the back of Ricky Rudd’s car. After being pulled from his car by photographers located near the crash, Parsons was taken to the hospital with a broken shoulder blade.

1988: Five years after his violent wreck, Phil Parsons led 52 of 188 laps to score his only career Cup Series win out of 203 starts.

1993: Ward Burton led twice for 259 of 300 laps to win a Xfinity Series race at Orange County (N.C.) Speedway.

April 19 in NASCAR: Lee Petty wins at Richmond as Flocks boycott race

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Today would have seen the Cup Series hold its 128th race at Richmond Raceway.

The race would have fallen on the same day that Richmond hosted its inaugural event in 1953.

Then, instead of a .750-mile paved short track, NASCAR’s pioneers competed on a half-mile dirt track at the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds.

According to the next day’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, about 5,000 fans watched Lee Petty claim the win. He took the lead with 10 laps to go and went on to beat Dick Rathmann (after an evaluation of scoring cards resulted in Buck Baker being moved back to third).

The race also was highlighted by who wasn’t in it.

Brothers Tim and Fonty Flock boycotted the event. When it came to qualifying, the Flocks had wanted to wait for track conditions to improve before they made their attempts. But after NASCAR gave all drivers a 30-minute window in which to make their runs, the Flocks refused. NASCAR then asked them to start from the rear of the field, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” The Flocks objected, packed up and left.

Also on this this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen crossed the finish to win at North Wilkesboro just in time. His engine almost immediately blew after coughing its way through the final five laps, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.” Lorenzen survived to beat Ned Jarrett by about 200 yards.

1997: Steve Park led the final 71 laps to win the Xfinity Series race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Park became the first driver not named Dale Earnhardt to win in the Xfinity Series for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

1998: Ron Hornaday Jr. passed Jack Sprague with five laps to go and won a Truck Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

2010: Denny Hamlin took the lead on a restart with 12 laps to go and led the rest of the way to win at Texas Motor Speedway over Jimmie Johnson. It was Hamlin’s second of eight wins that season.

2015: Matt Kenseth won at Bristol Motor Speedway in a race named after NASCAR reporter Steve Byrnes, who would pass away two days later from cancer.

April 8 in NASCAR: Waltrip edges Petty in epic last-lap battle at Darlington

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The last five laps of the 1979 Rebel 500 at Darlington Raceway were pretty wild.

The final dash of the April 8 race featured Richard Petty and a young Darrell Waltrip in the early stages of their year-long battle for the title (which Petty would claim).

Together, Waltrip (242 laps) and Petty (89) led 331 of the race’s 367 laps. But it came down to a five-lap shootout where they traded the lead almost 10 times, with each driver leading twice on the final lap.

Petty led at the white flag before Waltrip dove underneath him in Turn 1.

Petty pulled up to Waltrip’s left-side door for the length of the backstretch before he briefly pulled ahead entering Turn 3. That’s when Waltrip darted to the inside and rocketed to the lead and the win.

Darrell Waltrip in victory lane after the 1979 Rebel 500 at Darlington. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

It was the second of seven wins for Waltrip that season.

“We touched several times,” Waltrip said afterward according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “We knew the show was still going on. I’d wave at him or he’d wave at me. I never thought for once he’d wreck me. It was tight, but fair and square.”

The day also marked the end of one of the most historic pairings in NASCAR history.

After earning 42 wins together from 1972-79, Wood Brothers Racing and three-time champion David Pearson split up.

It came after a pit miscue that saw Pearson leave his pit box when the team had only changed two of the intended four tires. The left-side tires came off the car as Pearson reached the end of pit road.

Crew chief Leonard Wood later denied it was because of the pit incident.

“It was the climax of several small things,” Wood said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing.”

Also on this date:

1951: The premier series put on two races on this day, in Mobile, Alabama, and in Gardena, California. The California race, at Carrell Speedway, was the first Grand National event held west of the Mississippi. It was won by Marshall Teague, who led all 200 laps on his way to securing his second of seven career wins (in 23 starts). He was a two-time winner on the Daytona Beach course.

1956: Tim Flock won his third race of the year, at North Wilkesboro, and then quit the team he was racing for, the Chrysler team owned by Carl Kiekhaefer he won a title for in 1955. Flock was replaced by Buck Baker. Flock would only win one more time that year while driving for Bill Stroppe and it would be his last of 39 career wins. Baker would win the next two races and 10 more after that on his way to his first of two championships.