A Place of Honor for NASCAR’s Legends

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 – The NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Charlotte, N.C., officially opens to the public. The $195 million project took four years to complete. Kicking off the official opening were NASCAR officials, the governor of North Carolina and legends of NASCAR, including Richard Petty and Junior Johnson, two of the Hall’s inaugural inductees.

A mix of memorabilia and interactive displays are located inside the 150,000 square foot building. The Hall’s centerpiece, however, is Glory Road, a sweeping display of 18 famous vehicles stationed on a “road” that gradually increases in banking to simulate the banking found on various race tracks hosting NASCAR events.

The Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 2010, a class that consisted of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, longtime chairman William Clifton France, known as Bill Jr., Petty, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt.

Martinsville postscript

It’s hard not to be impressed with Brad Keselowski’s performance Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The Team Penske driver led 446 of 500 laps in winning the STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Leading 400 or more laps in a single race is a rare occurrence. Keselowski’s achievement was the 12th time in 141 races dating back to 1949 that a driver has done so at Martinsville.

His laps led count checks in at No. 5 overall.

Topping the list is Fred Lorenzen, who led 493 of 500 laps in the fall race of ‘64. The only laps he failed to lead were paced by Richard Petty (5), Junior Johnson (1) and Ned Jarrett (1).

That rout capped a three-race Martinsville run that had already seen the popular racer lead 421 laps in winning the fall race of ’63 and 487 in winning the spring race of ’64. Three races and Lorenzen led 1,401 of 1,500 laps.

The 400-plus laps led list for Martinsville:

1. Fred Lorenzen                493           1964 (F)

2. Fred Lorenzen                487           1964 (S)

3. Junior Johnson                481           1965 (F)

4. Richard Petty                  480           1970 (F)

5. Brad Keselowski             446           2019 (S)

6. Bobby Isaac                     445           1971 (F)

7. Bobby Allison                  432           1972 (F)

8. Bob Welborn                   435           1957 (F)

9. Jeff Gordon                     431           1997 (S)

10. Fred Lorenzen              421           1963(F)

11. Rusty Wallace               409           1993 (S)

12. Ernie Irvan                     402           1993 (F)

All were race winners with the exception of Allison, who finished second to Petty. (F) Fall race & (S) Spring race designation.

Only one other facility, Bristol Motor Speedway, hosts 500-lap Cup races. Thirteen of its 116 races have seen a driver lead 400 or more laps, including the 1973 spring event that saw Cale Yarborough lead all 500.

It was interesting to hear Keselowski mention the NASCAR Hall of Fame when he was asked about milestones he hoped to accomplish. I don’t know that I’ve heard any competitor put win numbers to induction before.

“I would like to hit the 30-win mark before the season is over, which looks like we’ve got a great shot at that,” Keselowski said after career win No. 29. “I … look at a few markers for the Hall of Fame and one of the markers to me as a Cup driver is probably that 30-win mark. Championship is one of them. Kind of adding that 30-win mark in there and I think that’s kind of – you’re there.

“I think anyone who has 30 wins on the Cup level is going to eventually be in the Hall of Fame. So that’s a good mark for me.”

He has a point. Of the 21 drivers with 30 or more wins who are no longer competing, 19 are in the Hall of Fame. Tony Stewart, with 49 wins, is a 2020 nominee. Matt Kenseth, with one Cup title and 39 career wins, was not among this year’s list of 20 nominees.

In case you were wondering: A Martinsville tidbit. The track was the site of the final career Cup win for several drivers – Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Nelson Stacy, John Andretti, Earl Ross and Red Byron.

Keselowski has 29 career wins, 28 coming with Penske. Career win No. 1 came in 2009 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway while driving for car owner James Finch and Phoenix Racing.

The win broke a three-way tie for 27th on the all-time win list, a mark he shared with Carl Edwards and 1960 series champion Rex White.

Will Keselowski wind up with more victories for Penske than Wallace, who remains tops in Cup competition with 37 victories for the team owner?

As impressive as Keselowski’s Martinsville run was, the effort from runner-up Chase Elliott was equally noteworthy.

How many laps was Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in second place, pursuing Keselowski?  Is there a record for laps completed while running second?

Stewart one of six new Hall nominees

Three-time NASCAR premier series champion Tony Stewart is one of six new nominees to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2020.

Stewart won titles in 2002, ’05 while competing for Joe Gibbs Racing. He added a third championship, in 2011, while competing as an owner/driver with Stewart-Haas Racing.

The Columbus, Ind., native retired from NASCAR competition following the 2016 season although he continues to race in sprint cars. He won 49 Monster Energy Cup Series races, 11 Xfinity Series races and two Gander Outdoors Truck Series races.

Twenty nominees were announced Wednesday from which five will be selected for induction. Joining Stewart as first-time nominees are drivers Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Jim Paschal, Marvin Panch and mechanic Red Vogt.

Ard won back-to-back Busch (now Xfinity) Series championships in 1983-84, capturing 18 of his 22 career wins along the way. His career was cut short due to injury after only 92 starts in the series.

Neil Bonnett enjoyed a successful career behind the wheel and in the television booth where he worked as an analyst for TNN during the cable network’s coverage of NASCAR.

A member of the Alabama Gang, Bonnett won 18 times in Cup and finished a career-best second in the standings in 1985. He was killed in a crash during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500.

Paschal earned 25 wins, including nine with Petty Enterprises, in a career that spanned more than two decades. Paschal competed in the very first NASCAR Strictly Stock race, held at Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway in June, 1949.

Marvin Panch, a native of Oakland, Calif., won 17 times and had 95 top-five finishes in 216 career starts in NASCAR’s top series. He won the 1961 Daytona 500 while driving for noted owner/mechanic Smokey Yunick; the bulk of his wins, eight, came while driving for the Wood Brothers.

Vogt was one of NASCAR’s first crew chief/mechanics, preparing entries for owner Raymond Parks and winning with drivers Red Byron, Fonty Flock, Slick Smith and Fireball Roberts.

The six join returning nominees Buddy Baker, Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Harry Gant, Joe Gibbs, John Holman, Harry Hyde, Bobby Labonte, Hershel McGriff, Ralph Moody, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Mike Stafanik and Waddell Wilson.

Dropped from the list of nominees is championship-winning crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine.

Returning Nominees for the Landmark Award, presented for outstanding contributions to NASCAR, are Alvin Hawkins and Ralph Seagraves; new on the list are Edsel Ford II, Mike Helton and Dr. Joe Mattioli.

Two former nominees, Barney Hall and Janet Guthrie, are not on the 2020 list.

The five inductees for the Class of 2020, as well as the Landmark Award recipient, will be chosen May 22.