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NASCAR Hall Of Fame Has Five New Members

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 23 2012

Rusty Wallace was one of five people elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the end, it took what one member of the voting panel called a green/white/checkered restart, but the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday found out which five people would become its class of 2013.

The five are:

– Driver Herb Thomas

– Mechanic Leonard Wood

– Driver Rusty Wallace

– Driver/owner Cotton Owens

– Driver Buck Baker

For the first time in the four-year history of the voting process, a tied occurred in balloting. Voters had to be called back into session because of the tie and were asked to decide between Baker and Fireball Roberts.

Voting for this year’s class was as evenly distributed as any previous NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class. Thomas and Wood each garnered 57 percent of the vote, followed by Wallace (52%), Owens (50%) and Baker (39%).

Winston Kelley, executive director of the Hall of Fame, praised “the diversity” of the new class.

“By diverse I mean the different contributions, the types of people and the different eras they did it in,” Kelley said. “That’s the think I’m most pleased with.”

Thomas was a native of Olivia, N.C. He won 48 races in NASCAR’s premier series. His victories came in 228 starts, giving him a winning percentage of 21.05.  Thomas was a two time champion (1951 and ’53). He was a three-time winner of the Southern 500. He retired in 1962.

Wood joins his brother, Glen, in the Hall (class of 2012). Together, they represented the most visible portion of the famed Wood Brothers Racing team of Stuart, Va. The team is credited with revolutionizing pit stops. So good were they that in 1965, they were invited to pit the Lotus of Jimmy Clark in the Indianapolis 500. The Woods fielded cars for such icons as David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt. When his election was announced Wednesday, the fans crowded into the Hall erupted in perhaps the loudest cheer of the day.

Wallace was nominated and elected in his first year of eligibility. The native of St. Louis won 55 Cup races (which ties him for eighth all-time) during his career. He won the 1989 championship, beating Dale Earnhardt Sr. by 12 points. Wallace, the 1979 USAC rookie of the year, was an excellent road racer. Wallace said he was shocked and humbled to be a first-ballot choice.

Owens was one of the sport’s true pioneers. A native of Union S.C., he drove in the premier series from 1950 to 1964. He won nine times as a driver and 38 times as an owner. He won the 1957 beach race in Daytona, beating a field of 135 other entrants. He fielded cars for such drivers as Junior Johnson and David Pearson.

Baker was also a true pioneer. He became the first driver to win two consecutive championships – in 1956, ’57. His first championship came in a Carl Kiekhaefer car, the second in his own car. Baker won 46 races, ties him for 14th on the all-time list. He was a tenacious Modified driver who carried his tenaciousness into the premier series.

The election of the class of 2013 means there are now 20 members enshrined in the downtown Charlotte Hall.

The first three classes were comprised of:

2010 – Richard Petty, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

2011 – David Pearson, Lee Petty, Bobby Allison, Bud Moore and Ned Jarrett.

2012 – Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Glenn Wood, Dale Inman and Richie Evans.

Following the announcement of the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame class tonight, NASCAR announced the creation of a new award to honor the contributions of media to the success of the sport. This award, which will become part of the annual NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremonies beginning in February 2013, will bear the names of the first two award winners, legendary broadcasters Ken Squier and Barney Hall, and be called the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

A special exhibit will be created as part of the existing media section within the NASCAR Hall of Fame to recognize the careers of Squier and Hall, as well as honorees in the years to come.

“Media have played an important role in the growth and popularity of NASCAR over the years by telling the stories of legendary drivers, championship moments and week-to-week action to millions of fans across the world,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “The voices of Ken Squier and Barney Hall are an indelible part of our sport’s history and we couldn’t be more pleased to recognize their long and outstanding careers.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 23 2012
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