William Byron continues to hold the final playoff spot with five races left in the regular season. He leads Erik Jones by 16 points, Tyler Reddick by 19 points and Jimmie Johnson by 22 points heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan to compete the weekend doubleheader.
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 Farmermake 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Among major professional sports, NASCAR has had one of the longest and most meaningful relationships with the U.S. military.
That is most notable every Memorial Day weekend when for more than 30 years Charlotte Motor Speedway has honored present and former members of the military, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Even without fans and former and current military members in the stands, there will be a military presence at the track in the form of former service members who work for teams or in the sport.
Here are some of their stories:
– Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, NASCAR
– Military service: U.S. Army, 1994-98 (active duty) and 1998-2001 (reserves). Served as a specialist/armored crewman, primarily on tanks.
If anyone would ever try to strap Goodyear racing tires on an M1 Abrams tank, it likely would be Tim Clark.
“Driving an Abrams tank doesn’t translate into a career in digital media, no matter what they try and tell you. Tanks don’t maneuver quite as well (as a stock car),” Clark said with a laugh to NBC Sports.
After piloting tanks in places such as Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Irwin, California and Germany, Clark joined NASCAR in 2012.
He came from a military family. His father, grandfather and uncle all served. He joined shortly after graduating from high school.
“(Being in the military) taught me the value of organization and teamwork, being motivated and working on a cause greater than yourself,” Clark said. “Some of the lessons that I learned there are by far the most important things that I’ve been able to apply from a career standpoint, no doubt.”
Clark takes pride in how the Coke 600 has honored veterans over the years.
“I think the respect that’s shown is the best part for me,” Clark said. “The drivers meeting is a great example. You’ll have a ton of VIPs and celebrities introduced, but the standing ovations are almost always reserved for military members.
“Being able to see it from both sides and through two different lenses, it’s incredibly powerful and I’m thankful to have the opportunity not only to have been in the military but also to now work for a company that has so much respect for the military.”
Clark said being in the military serves as good preparation for civilian life. He can’t count the number of times soldiers have asked him how they can someday also work in NASCAR.
“That is one of the most pleasant surprises of my time in the military,” Clark said. “The Army does a phenomenal job of preparing you to move into a civilian life and into a career. They help you with resumes, letters of recommendation and tips on how to apply what you’ve learned in the military into your careers and civilian life.”
Clark acknowledges that with fans and military missing, Sunday will be a strange feeling. But at the same time, he’s heartened that CMS and NASCAR will make sure service members and veterans are still honored.
“In an ideal world, we have not only troops at the track but the fans and everyone else out to enjoy the race,” he said. “But if the alternative is that we have a race that doesn’t have anyone in the stands and instead it’s just television entertainment, I think there’s a lot of value in that.
“Our ability to provide some entertainment and a distraction for not only the troops but for all NASCAR fans is top of mind for everyone. We’re doing that in a way that’s going to be the safest option for everyone.”
– President, Richard Childress Racing
– Military service: U.S. Navy, 1984-90. Served as an intelligence officer
With three years as an intelligence officer on the U.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier and three years at the Pentagon, the skills Torrey Galida acquired — things like analysis, interpretation, direction and execution — laid a foundation that has carried over into nearly a quarter-century in automotive manufacturing and racing, eventually becoming president of Richard Childress Racing in 2014.
“It was all part of my grand plan,” Galida said with a laugh.
Unlike some current members of the NASCAR community who went from high school into the military and eventually to college, Galida graduated from the University of Colorado, joined the Navy for six years and then earned an MBA from Duke University.
Galida went on to a lengthy stint as an executive with Ford, ran the pace car program for the Indianapolis 500, and was a key executive at Millsport Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing before joining RCR as Chief Operating Officer in 2011.
Galida has never forgotten his military service. He sits on the board of the Defense Alliance of North Carolina and along with the support of team owner Richard Childress, began a unique program of involvement with veterans more than three years ago.
Before the pandemic, RCR hosted veterans on the first Wednesday of the month, providing coffee and doughnuts and guest speakers. Galida said the event would attract about 200 veterans each month.
“We’ve also done a couple of special events,” Galida said. “We did lunch last May to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and had over 1,200 people, including 64 World War II vets and five or six that actually participated in the invasion of Normandy.
“It was amazing to see all those people there and incredible to see that many World War II vets.”
RCR, which employs 24 veterans, also is involved in a number of other military initiatives, including an annual “military salutes” program with Dow Chemical Co. at Michigan International Speedway. The initiative features a stars-and-stripes paint scheme on Austin Dillon’s race car that includes the names of nearly 2,000 Dow and RCR employees or family members who are former service members.
“Even though I’ve been around this for 15 years,” Galida said, “it was really a pretty cool experience to see your name actually on the car.”
– Retired NASCAR crew chief
– Military service: U.S. Army, 1959-61, Specialist E-4 ordnance specialist
Dale Inman is the most successful crew chief in NASCAR history, winning eight championships (seven with Richard Petty, Inman’s cousin, and one with Terry Labonte) and 171 races overall.
Inman started going to races with Richard and father Lee Petty in 1951, with several of those trips to Daytona Beach, Florida, for races on the sand.
After attending the last sanctioned race on the beach in 1958 and the first Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February 1959, the then 23-year-old Inman was drafted into the Army seven months later.
He served as an ordnance specialist, which oversees logistics. In Inman’s case, he oversaw the movement of trucks, deliveries and repairs.
Before Inman became a seven-time Daytona 500 winner with Petty, his Army tenure was fairly routine, with one exception.
Not surprisingly, it involved racing.
“In 1960, while in France, me and some friends in the Army went to Le Mans,” he recalled. “We took tents and camped out. We got there a day or two before the race and somehow we rode around the racetrack.
“One of the boys had a car over there and we went riding around the racetrack through the streets and by the houses, which were barriers (for the racetrack). It was unreal.”
Inman was discharged in 1961 and went to work as Petty’s crew chief after the 1963 season.
“There’s no question about how things I learned in the military helped me in civilian life, things like leadership, guidance or how to run a tight ship,” Inman said. “Whether in the Army or NASCAR, if you’ve got five or more people under you, you’ve got to have a leader, right?
“And you’ve got to respect the leaders. When I became a crew chief, people did respect me and I certainly learned a lot from the military. You’ve got to be disciplined, you know.”
Another story Inman likes to tell is about how “one of my heroes” – a fellow soldier who served a few years before him and someone who would one day join him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame – didn’t exactly get as good of a deal in the military as Inman did.
“They extended (the tours of service of) certain people depending on their birthday,” Inman said. “I missed getting extended an extra year by seven days.
“But Leonard Wood (one of the patriarchs of Wood Brothers Racing) got extended and he had to stay in another year, which cut into his racing.”
Not surprisingly, Wood’s specialty in the Army was the same thing that would lead him to fame and fortune in NASCAR – being a mechanic.
These days, Inman is happily retired in his hometown of Level Cross, North Carolina, where he and Richard Petty grew up together. Inman fondly recalls what the military means to him, particularly all the years it has been tied to NASCAR.
“I still get a thrill when I see the flyovers at the racetrack,” he said. “Any time I’m at the racetrack and see a veteran in a wheelchair or on crutches or with lost limbs or anything, I go out of my way to go speak to them and thank them and carry on a conversation the best I can, and I think they appreciate it too.”
– Military service: U.S. Air Force (1975-78 and 1982-2004). Served as F-16 crew chief, PR specialist, security police and recruiter.
Part of Randy Fuller’s job has been to pass out various sponsor caps to team members for photos in victory lane when his driver wins – NASCAR’s so-called “hat dance.”
Fuller couldn’t be more suited for that role, as he’s worn many hats in his career, including a 26-year tenure in the U.S. Air Force.
After graduating from high school, Fuller went from being a security police officer to F-16 crew chief to recruiter (he led a team of over 1,200) and marketing and public relations specialist.
He earned several of the Air Force’s most prestigious awards for his service, including for leadership and was named one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1997.
Between his military stints, he also served as a police officer – both full-time and part-time – from Georgia to Utah to Niagara Falls.
Just days after retiring from the Air Force at the end of 2004, Fuller began wearing another cap, that of a NASCAR public relations person.
Over the years, Fuller, 62, has worked with a number of NASCAR notables while overseeing the Air Force’s NASCAR program, including Dale Jarrett, Wood Brothers Racing, Elliot Sadler and Ricky Rudd.
Shortly before he was due to retire from the U.S. Air Force a second time, then-Chief Master Sergeant Fuller was tracked down in San Antonio, Texas by NASCAR team owner Jack Roush to become a public relations person for an up-and-coming driver named Carl Edwards.
Fuller would hold that role for more than 10 years.
While Fuller took Edwards under his wing, he also treated him like a staff sergeant – in a good way.
“I’d only been working at Roush for like three weeks when we had a conversation,” Fuller said. “Carl goes, ‘Why do you always take your sunglasses off when you talk to me?’ I said, ‘Because you can tell a lot by people’s eyes and they can tell a lot by yours. It’s just a matter of respect. That’s what we did in the military.’
“Carl did that ever since. He just picked it up and embraced it. If you notice, Brandon Jones is doing that now, too.”
Since Edwards’ retirement in 2016, he still speaks with Fuller weekly while the latter has gone on to rep a number of promising young drivers including Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Kyle Benjamin and Jones.
“It’s pretty neat to mentor people,” Fuller said. “Between the Air Force and NASCAR, there’s so many similarities that you can’t even believe.
“But I think the biggest thing is the team. You can’t just fly an F-16. That pilot is just like the driver. You can’t fly it without the rest of the team refueling it, pre-flight, that kind of stuff, right? Same thing in NASCAR. You’ve got people that never even get recognized that are back in the shop, never go to the track. And these guys are probably some of the most important people besides the driver.”
Fuller has taken part in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s annual Salute to the Troops for more than 20 years, both while in the Air Force and as a team PR rep.
“The pride is huge,” Fuller said. “The hair on the back of my neck still stands up when a flyby goes across.”
He was a truck driver in the Marines, a role Barban carried over to civilian life for nearly a decade with Team Penske, piloting haulers for Rusty Wallace, Bobby Allison, Al Holbert, Danny Sullivan, Rick Mears and Emerson Fittipaldi.
“I think my work ethic probably was a huge thing that transferred from the military to privately and personally career-wise,” Barban said. “Whatever the job or task at hand was, you’d just go ahead and do what you had to do to get it finished.”
Being in the military also instilled focus in the St. Louis native.
“My dad used to make fun of me that I had 21 jobs and 21 cars before I was 21 years old, everything from wiring the electric meter that goes on your house to putting the ball on Ban roll-on, mop buckets, making the blades for can openers, Steak n’ Shake hamburger flipper, rental cars and brick laying,” Barban laughed. “But it’s been 32 years in racing since then.”
Part of what led to Barban’s first job with Team Penske, followed by Hendrick Motorsports, Robert Yates Racing and then back to HMS was the spit-and-polish routine he learned in the Marines.
“When you when you walk in, I think there’s a presence: clean cut, (shirt) tucked away pretty nice, pleated pants and polished boots,” Barban said. “I feel like that definitely translated into my private life after having that experience.
“I think that any person that has any military background whatsoever is definitely a good hire.”
If Dale Earnhardt was “Mr. Restrictor Plate,” Mark Martin was “Mr. Good Almost Everywhere Else.”
When their respective Cup Series careers were over, Earnhardt had 76 points wins at 17 different tracks with 10 coming at Talladega.
Martin had 40 points wins across 20 tracks, with Talladega the site of his only two superspeedway wins.
The first occurred April 30, 1995.
The race saw Martin dominate, leading 86 of the race’s first 173 laps. Meanwhile, Earnhardt only led three of the first 183 laps. But Earnhardt was there at the end, assuming the lead from Rusty Wallace with five laps to go after Wallace ran out of gas exiting Turn 2.
Martin was hot on Earnhardt’s rear bumper as they crossed the finish line with four laps to go.
The duo ran by themselves until they were caught on the backstretch with two laps to go by Jeff Gordon and Morgan Shepherd, pulled along in the draft by the lapped car of Sterling Marlin.
As they raced through the tri-oval toward the white flag, Martin faked going high before going to Earnhardt’s inside. Martin led at the line while Earnhardt was hung out to dry. Exiting Turn 2, Shepherd got loose and tagged Earnhardt’s left rear, sending him into a spin before he made light contact with the wall. He’d finish 21st.
From there it was a race between Martin and Gordon, who would earn 12 restrictor-plate points wins in his career, with six at Talladega.
But Gordon would have to wait until 1996 for his first. Martin took the checkered flag for his first of four wins in 1995.
“I can’t believe it,” Martin told ESPN. “With two to go I’d thought we’d lost for sure. … When (Gordon) caught us, we caught (Earnhardt) at just the right time to get a big shove and Dale was putting a block on us but we were coming. We were going one way or the other. … I see how they do it now. Fast cars.”
Also on this date:
1966: In the midst of a boycott by Ford, Richard Petty dominated to win a lightly attended race at Darlington. Petty led 271 of 291 laps from the pole to score his third win of the season. About 12,000 people attended the race with 5,000 being Boy Scouts who were admitted for free, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.” Curtis Turner quit as a Ford driver and competed in the race in Smokey Yunick’s Chevrolet.
1967: Richard Petty dominated at Darlington again, leading 266 of 291 laps and beating David Pearson by one lap. The win was Petty’s 55th, which moved him by his father, Lee Petty, on the all-time wins list.
1994: Hermie Sadler led 85 laps and beat Dennis Setzer to win the Xfinity Series race at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina. It was the last of Sadler’s two career wins, both coming at that track. it was the last of 27 Xfinity races at the .375-mile track.
2005: Ted Musgrave led all but two laps, survived a restart with two laps to go and beat Dennis Setzer in a Truck Series race at Gateway International Speedway. It was Musgrave’s only win in his championship campaign.
On April 24, 1999, NASCAR had to go to the video tape to determine who won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega.
According to The Associated Press, NASCAR asked potential winners Terry Labonte and Joe Nemechek to park their cars outside Victory Lane as it reviewed footage of their photo finish moments earlier.
Labonte had been third when the last lap began and he pulled even with Nemechek on the outside as they entered Turn 3 and raced back to the finish line.
NASCAR ruled Labonte won by .002 seconds. He only led the final lap of the 113-lap event.
Labonte’s win, which came in a car with a backup engine, was his 11th and final Xfinity Series victory.
“I told them on the radio ‘I don’t know if I won or not, but it was close,'” Labonte told ABC Sports. “I’ve been in some close finishes here, but not that close.”
Also on this date:
1960: Lee Petty earned his 50th Grand National win in a shortened race at Asheville-Weaverville (N.C) Speedway. The race was ended by NASCAR after 167 laps due to hazardous conditions on the half-mile track’s paved surface, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.”
1977: Cale Yarborough won a rain-shortened race at Martinsville for his fifth win in nine starts to begin the season. … Future Cup Series crew chief Paul Wolfe was born.
1983: Darrell Waltrip outran four other cars in a nine-lap shootout to win at Martinsville. Tim Richmond led 58 laps before he was held for five laps by NASCAR after his team put left-side tires on the right side. Ricky Rudd was fined $1,500 by NASCAR after repeatedly slamming into Joe Ruttman’s car on the cool down lap and on pit road, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”
1999: Dale Earnhardt passed Rusty Wallace coming to the checkered flag to win race No. 2 of the International Race of Champions season. Earnhardt led only the last lap, just like in his IROC win earlier that year in February at Daytona.