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Tough Choices Mark Selection Of Sixth HOF Class

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 22 2014

Bill Elliott set the NASCAR speed record at Talladega Superspeedway en route to election into the Hall of Fame. (Photo by Racing Photo Archives/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR President Mike Helton said Wednesday that selecting the five people to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015 was probably the most challenging of the six voting sessions that have occurred.

“It was very difficult to come to five,” Helton said. “The conversation (we had in the balloting) was probably the most challenging conversation we’ve had yet getting the 20 down to five.”

Bill Elliott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White, Fred Lorenzen and Wendell Scott were announced as the five men who would be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 30, 2015. Anne B. France, wife of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and the sanctioning body’s secretary-treasurer, was named as the first recipient of the Landmark Award.

“The five inductees and our inaugural Landmark Award winner I think represent very well the development and building of the sport in its early days and Bill Elliott kind of puts an exclamation mark on the drivers and the stardom of the sport and how it helped build us in his era,” Helton said. “I think it’s a good mix.”

Helton worked at the Atlanta track when Elliott began his Cup career and the NASCAR executive admitted that seeing a person whom he grew up with in the sport named to the NASCAR Hall of Fame made him feel old.

“Certainly, it’s exciting for a lot of folks with Chase’s[Elliott] success already kinda of regenerating that Dahlonega and Dawsonville group, this will be an additional enthusiastic moment for all of them up there,” Helton said. “And it’s good to be reminded of that era that we were able to grow the sport so much and characters like Bill Elliott certainly played a big role in that.”

The 1988 Cup series champion, Elliott won a record 16 Most Popular Driver awards, two Daytona 500s and three Southern 500s at Darlington Raceway. In 1985, he claimed the Winston Million in its

Fred Lorenzen was a Northerner in a Southern sport. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

inaugural season, winning three of the four races that comprised the $1 million bonus. In a 37-year driving career, the Dawsonville, Ga., native reached NASCAR’s pinnacle working together with older brothers Ernie and Dan. His 44 victories rank 16th on the all-time list and his 55 poles are the eighth highest.

“This has been an incredible day,” the 58-year-old Elliott said. “I am totally speechless over this whole thing. I never imagined in a million years that I would ever end up here, especially starting out as a little red-headed, runny-nose kid in Dawsonville, Ga.”

Scott is the first African-American elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Helton said he believed the Danville, Va., native had been close to being selected in previous years.

“Wendell Scott … Joe Weatherly, Rex White, Fred Lorenzen, those guys certainly put a big stamp on the sport in its early days,” Helton said.

He described Scott’s selection as a “very significant statement.”

“Not many people remember or will probably ever understand the challenges he went through to participate in this sport, which wasn’t uncommon for anybody,” Helton said. “But I think his hurdles were taller and stronger and more significant, but for him to persevere and his success being relative to his efforts and everything, it’s a tremendous statement. I think it’s one we should all embrace.”

Scott produced 147 top-10 finishes in 495 races, but the only top 10 in which he finished on the lead lap was his lone victory that came on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla. Scott’s children

Joe Weatherly was Cup champion in 1962. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

attended the NASCAR Hall of Fame announcement, just as they have in the past, and they were very emotional about their father’s selection.

“This means more than words can ever say, but I’ll try,” Sybil Scott, one of his daughters, said. “It means that it’s happened in Mommy’s lifetime. It means that the fans get what they’ve worked so hard for, it means Daddy is undeniably a Hall of Famer, and it means all the people who have supported him and us the duration of his career and after get to enjoy this. This is for everybody who has ever done anything. It’s one of the most awesome days in our life.”

Shortly after the announcement, White, the Cup series 1960 champion, said he almost didn’t know what to say.

“I didn’t feel like I would beat the guys that were nominated this year,” White said. “It’s just amazing. I’m not prepared for it. When I was dressing this morning I said, ‘I ain’t going to get it. It doesn’t make any difference what I wear.’”

In 233 races, the Fayetteville, Ga., resident produced 28 victories and 36 poles.

A Norfolk, Va., native, Weatherly won Cup championships in 1962 and ‘’63 and a Modified title in 1953. In 220 starts, he totaled 25 victories and 18 poles.

Lorenzen, nicknamed Ford’s “Golden Boy”, was the first stock car driver to exceed $100,000 in winnings in a single season. The Elmhurst, Ill., driver enjoyed his best season in 1963, totaling six victories, 21 top-5s and 23-top 10s in 29 starts. Despite missing 26 races that season, he finished third in the standings.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 22 2014
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