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NASCAR Hall of Fame fan vote underway

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Fan voting for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class has begun.

Fans can vote online and the five nominees receiving the highest percentage of votes will comprise the Fan Vote ballot.

The fan vote ends on May 20 at 11:59 a.m. ET. The class will be formally voted on and announced at the Hall of Fame on May 22.

Here are the 20 nominees for the 2020 class:

Sam Ard, NASCAR Xfinity Series pioneer and two-time champion

Buddy Baker, won 19 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500

Neil Bonnett, won 18 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including consecutive Coca-Cola 600 victories

Red Farmer, three-time Late Model Sportsman champion; 1956 Modified champion

Ray Fox, legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner

Harry Gant, winner of 18 NASCAR Cup Series races, including two Southern 500 victories

Joe Gibbs, combined for nine car owner championships in Cup and XFINITY series

John Holman, won two NASCAR Cup Series championships as co-owner of Holman-Moody Racing

Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief

Bobby Labonte, won a championship in both the Cup Series and XFINITY Series

Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR west series champion

Ralph Moody, won two NASCAR Cup Series championships as co-owner of Holman-Moody Racing

Marvin Panch, won 17 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1961 Daytona 500

Jim Paschal, 23 of his 25 NASCAR Cup Series wins came on short tracks

Larry Phillips, first five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion

Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400

Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships

Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, two-time Brickyard 400 winner

Red Vogt, the first master mechanic of NASCAR, and a founding member

Waddell Wilson, won three NASCAR Cup Series championships as an engine builder

Click here to vote on the Hall of Fame class.

Dale Jr. Download: Kirk Shelmerdine on Hall of Fame, Dale Sr.

(HHP/Harold Hinson)
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There’s been a lot of buzz around Kirk Shelmerdine in the last week, probably more than at any point in the 27 years since he unexpectedly walked away from being Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief.

The reason? Shelmerdine was dropped from the nominee list for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class a year after he first appeared on it. It was a move that NBC Sport’s Nate Ryan wasn’t very fond of.

But Shelmerdine, who won four Cup titles with Earnhardt and 46 races before he turned 35, is taking it in stride.

On this week’s “Dale Jr. Download” (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Shelmerdine quoted Clint Eastwood’s character in the film Unforgiven to express his view.

“The way I look at it is, Clint Eastwood says, ‘Deserves got nothing to do with it,'” Shelmerdine said.

“The list of names, if you look in the record book for crew chief stuff, mostly, my name’s in there next to Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson,” he continued. “All these people that were heroes to me or bigger than life people. Racing was this whole dimension that you never thought a kid from Philadelphia is going to even be involved in let alone do well. …

“The Hall of Fame sort of caps it off. It was really a great feeling being on that list last year. You look at the people who are there. ‘Holy smokes, how can I be not only on the list, but way up the list is some categories?’ That’s a super honor already. Whether someone officially recognizes it or not ever, that’s up to them. I already kind of know what I had to do to get there and how lucky I am to just be on that list. It’ll happy sooner or later.

“They’ll be running out of people before long.”

During his podcast appearance, Shelmerdrine shared stories of how he broke into the sport in the late 70s, teaming up with Richard Childress and Earnhardt and why he decided to step away from his crew chief role after the 1992 season.

Shelmerdine also told of the time Earnhardt served as his spotter in his first start in NASCAR’s Sportsman Division at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1989

“He sat up there in the condo (in Turn 1) on the radio, and I wish I had a way to record that. It was gold,” Shelmerdine said. “I’m seeing the inside of his mind for two hours the whole time. He’s talking and mumbling, ‘Stay in that gas, boy.’ ‘What’s his name, he’s sideways. So what you got to do when you get to him is this.'”

After years of experience, Earnhardt also predicted when his crew chief would start to get uncomfortable in the cockpit.

“About 20 laps into the race he goes, ‘How’s your (expletive) neck right now?'” Shelmerdine said. “It was exactly the lap before I noticed, ‘Holy (expletive), my neck hurts.’ He said it the damn lap I felt it.”

Listen to the full podcast below and watch the TV version today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Janet Guthrie ’would be pleased to be nominated again’ for NASCAR Hall Landmark Award

Photo courtesy Janet Guthrie
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In the same classy manner that she dealt with things in her racing career, Janet Guthrie on Friday took a diplomatic approach to not being included on the 2020 list of nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Landmark Award.

Guthrie had been on the nominee list for the Landmark Award from 2017-19 but her name was inexplicably removed from the 2020 list.

The first woman to qualify for and compete in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, Guthrie appeared Friday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Beyond Racing” show with co-hosts Angie Skinner and Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

When asked if she was surprised at not being on the nomination list for 2020, Guthrie replied: “I have no idea what the criteria are by which they choose people to be nominated for these awards.”

Guthrie’s best chance to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall would be through the Landmark Award for contributions made to the sport. Guthrie made 33 starts in the then-Winston Cup Series between 1976-80. She finished a career-best sixth at Bristol in 1977. She also had ninth-place finishes at Charlotte and Rockingham in 1977 and 10th-place finishes at Michigan (1977) and Atlanta (1978).

“What I really wish is I would have been able to compete another five years,” said Guthrie, who turned 81 on March 7. “I really think I would have won Cup races in less than the usual amount of time so that I would have been eligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

Given the fallout from fans after Guthrie’s name was not included in the 2020 Landmark Award list, her name could be placed back on the list for 2021 and beyond.

I’d be pleased if I were nominated again,” Guthrie told Earnhardt Miller and Skinner.

Guthrie already is in other halls of fame, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame in 2018.

She will still be inducted into another hall of fame in a few months: she’ll be among four inductees to the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan on July 18.

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Ryan: It’s a shame the story of Captain Kirk didn’t get its due

Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
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Why don’t the guys who make the critical race-winning calls ever get the calls to the shrine that validates their race-winning careers?

That’s the question that the NASCAR Hall of Fame awkwardly is facing yet again with the nomination process for its 11th class.

Kirk Shelmerdine, the team-building genius who guided Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet to four championships before mysteriously disappearing from the NASCAR limelight, inexplicably has fallen off the nominees list for the 2020 induction ceremony.

It was only last year that Shelmerdine had appeared on the ballot for the first time.

Now he’s gone, and it’s reasonable to ask if he ever will return for consideration given some of the names that have supplanted him.

There was never any doubt about three-time champion Tony Stewart being ushered directly into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

But there undeniably are greater questions about the other five new nominees — Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal and Red Vogt. They all are deserving of consideration … but are they more deserving than Shelmerdine?

Shelmerdine has nearly twice as many wins (46) as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier Cup series as any of those candidates.

He changed front tires and led the famous Flying Aces pit crew that was the best in NASCAR for several seasons.

He was a key cog during many of the greatest years ever posted by seven-time champion and inaugural Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt.

Shelmerdine is a living and breathing integral connection to the legacy of “The Intimidator,” which makes it even more indefensible that his candidacy has been suspended without explanation.

It’s patently ridiculous, and it’s a disturbing pattern that has emerged over the years since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Kirk Shelmerdine worked as a crew chief for Richard Childress Racing from 1982-92. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

Crew chiefs get no respect when it comes to being considered for legendary status, never mind actually being enshrined.

Of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 50 inductees, there are only four who have at least 50 races as Cup crew chiefs (Dale Inman, Glen Wood, Bud Moore and Ray Evernham). And of that group, only Inman and Evernham could be considered true crew chiefs.

Between Inman, Moore, Evernham, Leonard Wood, Robert Yates and Maurice Petty, the representative list of crew chiefs, engine builders and mechanics in the NASCAR Hall of Fame is painfully short, and the number of slights is unfortunately long.

–Dale Inman was elected to the third class of the Hall of Fame with 78% of the vote … two years after he inexplicably was left off the ballot for the inaugural class – a 25-person list with no crew chiefs.

–Ray Evernham, who was voted the greatest crew chief of all time 13 years ago, didn’t appear on the ballot until the 2016 class and wasn’t elected until 2018.

–Smokey Yunick and Banjo Matthews, two icons generally regarded among the finest mechanics of their generation, have yet to be recognized.

In the case of Yunick, the larger-than-life personality whose “Best Damn Garage in Town” is the stuff of Daytona Beach legend and Hollywood lore, there is a realistic fear he never will be nominated because of his endless wars with NASCAR executives and officials over the rulebook.

There were some other curious omissions on the 2020 ballot in the Landmark Award category, where racing pioneer Janet Guthrie and late Motor Racing Network legend Barney Hall got booted.

As Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer noted, the optics are poor to have Guthrie suddenly excluded with so much cultural focus on female equality and particularly given NASCAR’s persistent efforts to promote diversity (and rising stars such as Hailie Deegan).

The process for building the nomination list, though, isn’t necessarily wrong.

According to those involved in culling the nominees, the NASCAR Hall of Fame actually has been more proactive in pushing for a broader spectrum of nominees by providing more information for prospective candidates in several categories.

Much like the Hall of Fame vote, the nomination discussion is held in confidence, and the voting is done by secret ballot and tabulated by an accounting firm. As Winston Kelley explained Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR, it wasn’t as if someone were advocating for the exclusion of Guthrie, Hall and Shelmerdine.

The names disappeared from consideration through an honestly conducted winnowing. Another process might produce the same results.

The question that must be answered is why the results keep being returned with crew chiefs, engine builders and mechanics being snubbed.

If the argument is that they somehow aren’t personalities, that’s absurd, too.

Yunick’s autobiography probably could be optioned as a screenplay. Evernham has transitioned into a post-crew chief/team owner career as a highly successful TV analyst. Inman still is often at Richard Petty’s side weekly in the Cup garage, cracking hilarious stories about yesteryear.

Kirk Shelmerdine speaks during a 2010 news conference about pit stops at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

Shelmerdine has one of the greatest backstories in NASCAR.

How many people can say they competed in The Great American Race first as a crew chief and then as a driver (Shelmerdine finished 20th in the 2006 Daytona 500)?

At the top of his game as Earnhardt’s crew chief, a 34-year-old Shelmerdine walked away from Richard Childress Racing after the 1992 season to start a driving career, which he toiled through for 15 years with limited success racing his own team in ARCA, trucks, Xfinity and Cup.

Though Shelmerdine was a straight-talking Delaware native with an iconoclastic streak that made him a great in calling and managing races, the move still stunned NASCAR. Team owner Richard Childress said Shelmerdine simply was “burned out.”

Robin Pemberton, a rival crew chief before his run as NASCAR executive, 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.”

When asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch 16 years ago (while trying to make the 2003 Daytona 500 with Junie Donlavey) why he quit, Shelmerdine said, “It gets to the point that you don’t care about winning, you just can’t stand to see the other (expletives) win.” The reporter who asked the question was so taken aback by the answer, he couldn’t even muster a proper follow-up.

Maybe the rest of Shelmerdine’s story finally might be told during a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech that’s long overdue.

Too bad we’ll have to wait at least another year to hear it.

Tony Stewart ‘still looking forward’ after NASCAR Hall of Fame nomination

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Tony Stewart is going too fast to take time appreciate his contributions to NASCAR.

The three-time Cup champion said as much Wednesday on NASCAR America Motormouths as he discussed being one of 20 nominees for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

“I’m still racing,” Stewart said of his busy schedule, which includes 99 dirt races. “It doesn’t leave much time to stop and do anything, let alone really reflect on our career. I’m still busy with Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody at Ford. I’ve got four awesome drivers I love interacting with. I guess I just haven’t gotten away from it enough to really stop and look backwards. We’re still looking forward right now.”

Stewart, who finished his NASCAR racing career with 49 Cup wins, said he still doesn’t feel like his name belongs in the same discussion as Earnhardt, Unser, Foyt and Petty.

“I think a lot of that too is those were guys I grew up watching on TV and respect so much,” Stewart said. “I don’t know that I was even qualified to carry their helmet bags for them. Just to be put in a sentence like that, it’s like watching an episode of Sesame Street, which thing doesn’t belong?”

Stewart received word he was nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame via text while flying home from Florida, where had been inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on Tuesday.

“It’s hard to imagine going into Hall of Fames while you’re still a race car driver,” Stewart said. “I told them it kind of makes me feel old and I don’t know if I want to feel that old yet.”

Watch the above video for the full interview with Stewart.