Nate Ryan cast a ballot June 9 for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as NBC Sports’ digital representative.
It’s the 12th consecutive year of voting for Ryan, who is one of 65 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel (plus one online vote determined by fans).
The NASCAR Hall of Fame induction process has changed. From 2010-20, the five highest vote-getters annually were inducted from a list of 20 to 25 nominees.
This year, the ballot consisted of two categories: Modern Era (10 nominees) and Pioneer (five nominees). Two inductees were chosen from the Modern Era ballot and one from Pioneer (members of the voting panel each voted for two Modern Era candidates and one Pioneer candidate).
Ryan’s ballot for the 12th class (followed by his ballot for each of the preceding 11 years, which included six at USA TODAY Sports):
Kirk Shelmerdine: Four-time champion crew chief for Dale Earnhardt (1986-87, ’90-91). As a crew chief, he guided teams to 46 Cup victories and 15 pole positions in 460 starts from 1977-92. Pursued a driving career after retiring as a crew chief, scoring three ARCA victories and finishing 20th in the 2006 Daytona 500.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A two-time Daytona 500 winner (2004, ’14) who had 26 victories and 15 pole positions in 631 Cup starts from 1999-2017 after winning consecutive Xfinity championships in ’98-99. Voted Most Popular Driver 15 times, he moved to the NASCAR on NBC broadcast team in 2018.
Jake Elder: “Suitcase Jake” earned a nickname for moving on often, but he enjoyed success with every team he joined. He was the crew chief for Mario Andretti’s victory in the 1967 Daytona 500 and won consecutive Cup championships with David Pearson in 1968-69. In 448 Cup starts as a crew chief, he had 43 victories and 36 poles.
Janet Guthrie. She finished 15th in the 1976 World 600 in her Cup debut and also was the first woman in the Daytona 500 in 1977. She became the first woman to lead a lap in Cup at Ontario Motor Speedway in October 1977.
Ryan’s NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots:
2010: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bill France Jr.
2011: Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty
2012: Waltrip, Yarborough, Dale Inman, Raymond Parks, Curtis Turner
2013: Fireball Roberts, Turner, Fred Lorenzen, Herb Thomas, Tim Flock
2014: Roberts, Turner, Lorenzen, Flock, Joe Weatherly
2015: Lorenzen, Turner, Weatherly, O. Bruton Smith, Rick Hendrick
2016: Turner, Smith, Hendrick, Ray Evernham, Bobby Isaac
2017: Hendrick, Evernham, Benny Parsons, Parks, Red Byron
2018: Evernham, Byron, Robert Yates, Alan Kulwicki, Buddy Baker
2019: Jeff Gordon, Kulwicki, Baker, Davey Allison, Jack Roush
2020: Tony Stewart, Baker, Waddell Wilson, Joe Gibbs
2021 Modern Era: Kirk Shelmderine, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pioneer: Jake Elder.
2015: Raymond Parks
2016: Raymond Parks
2017: Raymond Parks
2018: Ralph Seagraves
2019: Jim Hunter
2020: Ralph Seagraves
2021: Janet Guthrie
Dale Jr. highlights NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021
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.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2021 class, as well as the next recipient of the Landmark Award, will be announced today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN during a special episode of NASCAR America.
The 2021 class is the first with the Hall of Fame’s revamped selection process that reduces the number of people in each class from five to three.
Two Hall of Fame inductees will be selected among 10 nominees in the Modern Era ballot. One inductee will be selected among five nominees on the Pioneer ballot. The Landmark Award recipient will be chosen from a list of five nominees.
Two of the nominees on the Modern Era ballot are NBC Sports analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met virtually on June 9 to determine the class.
Here are the nominees:
Modern era (10): Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Kirk Shelmerdine and Mike Stefanik.
Pioneer (5): Jake Elder, Red Farmer, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.
Landmark (5): Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Ralph Seagraves.
Dustin Long: Ryan Blaney. He keeps running at the front like he has lately, he’ll win a race soon.
Daniel McFadin: Ryan Blaney. He’s clearly been faster over the last few races and more consistent, just as Team Penske as a whole has been compared to Joe Gibbs Racing.
Jerry Bonkowski: Ryan Blaney has definitely been on a roll of late with five top-five finishes in his last six starts. Conversely, Busch has six top fives in his last 10 starts. But if a race came down to the last lap and the two drivers battling it out, I give the edge to the defending and two-time Cup champ.
The 2021 Class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be announced at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBCSN. Who would you have on your NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot?
Dustin Long: Modern Era: Kirk Shelmerdine and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pioneer Era: Ralph Moody.
Daniel McFadin: Modern Era: Kirk Shelmerdine and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pioneer Era: Banjo Matthews
Jerry Bonkowski: Modern Era: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Rudd. Pioneer Era: Red Farmer.
Daniel McFadin: We haven’t heard from Logano on what his intentions were Sunday, but I’d be hard pressed to imagine he wasn’t trying to make Elliott’s night more difficult on some level. If it were me, I’d have waited until we were both competing for position or a win, as was the case between them at the end of the Bristol race. But Logano didn’t wreck him or even make contact. So I really don’t see the harm.
Jerry Bonkowski: Logano didn’t want to fall back even further. Pretty simple and standard stuff. As the old saying goes, “That’s racing.” Besides, given their past history, do you honestly think Logano would do anything to benefit Hamlin? No way. It was just a regular racing deal.
Talk about the passion: Ray Evernham drives ‘Glory Road’ history
Particularly when it’s a conversation with someone he knows well but doesn’t often have the privilege of discussing one of his favorite passions in racing – its history.
Whether it’s via the tapings of the “Glory Road” documentary series or as a member of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame Honors Committee that selects the Pioneer ballot, Evernham is getting those opportunities quite often the last few years.
Starting Wednesday, all 16 of the 30-minute episodes in “Glory Road” are available at TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. They feature conversations with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, Tony Stewart, Rick Hendrick, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon on some of the most legendary moments in NASCAR lore.
“My conversations with Dale Jr. were conversations that we had never really had before,” Evernham recently told NBCSports.com. “My conversations with Mike Helton we hadn’t had before. Jeff Gordon and I talked about things that we hadn’t really talked about.
“I think that sitting with some of the key people and talking about things you hadn’t really talked about before maybe stirred something in their mind that they felt a little more comfortable talking to me than just a standard interview. When you’re talking to somebody that’s interested and have done their research, something always comes out.”
Jeff Gordon’s most successful ride, NASCAR’s road-racing history and the return of Dodge are among the cars, people and places showcased on “Glory Road.” Many interview subjects are featured in multiple interviews such as Helton, a longtime NASCAR executive.
“Mike is a car guy,” Evernham said. “But you don’t get much time with a guy like Mike Helton other than (NASCAR) business. Everybody’s got an agenda when they’re talking to him. When Jeff and I get together, everybody’s got an agenda.
“Those conversations for Glory Road, there was no agenda other than sitting there talking about cool stories and cool cars, and it was really enjoyable. I saw a different side and reached a place with people I’ve known for years that I’ve never been able to go, and I hope to bring that out to fans who are watching the show. They’re seeing a part of this person’s life or personality that they don’t always see because when we’re all racing together, business overrides the other stuff that we want to have fun talking about.”
“I was really happy when Dale was nominated for the Hall of Fame because we had that conversation” for “Glory Road,” Evernham said. “He’s made a huge impact on the sport in a lot of other ways. His popularity No. 1, but the fact how he approached safety and he’s been the first to (raise awareness) about concussions. He’s become very public about his love of the sport and how he followed the history. He actually has a lot of expertise in that area.
“It’s felt like everybody expected him to be a great race car driver, which he was, but I don’t think they were expecting him to be the person that he is.”
Legendary mechanics Banjo Matthews and Jake Elder were among the five nominees to the new Pioneer ballot (one will be chosen for 2021), and Evernham lobbied for both.
“Banjo Matthews took over from Holman-Moody and took Ford and NASCAR to the next step,” Evernham said. “A lot of people don’t know that. Behind the scenes, Banjo pushed for a lot of the safety things through the late ‘70s and ‘80s. I used to pick up the phone and call Banjo all the way up until ’93, ’94, ’95 when I had the No. 24 team. I’m glad he’s not being forgotten because he had such a huge part of the sport.
“A lot of people worked for Jake Elder as well. Jake was a genius. No formal education. Literally could not read or write in some ways. And he was able to understand things mechanically with the car and become a great crew chief and do a lot at a time when the crew chief had to do everything. When they didn’t get any money.”
“The spirit of what those guys did before we had all those fancy tools and all the big money and notoriety; they did that for the love of the sport,” Evernham said. “Ray Evernham’s crew chief tree is deep, but I’m only a branch on Banjo’s tree or the Jay Signore tree. We’re fortunate to trace back NASCAR to the beginning in 1948. You don’t have to go to the 1800s like in baseball and football and other sports. That historical part of our sport is not unreachable, and some of the people we’re talking about now know the forest was very small when they were growing their trees.
“It looks big now with the branches, but when you trace some of the later guys in the Hall of Fame, their roots go all the way back to guys like Banjo Matthews and Jake Elder. I’m glad they’re being recognized. I’m proud to be on that part of the committee. When we recognize those things we really are recognizing them for the footprint they have in motorsports.”