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Team Owners Dominate Hall’s Class of 2017

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 25 2016
Rick Hendrick was elected to NASCAR's Hall of Fame on Wednesday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Rick Hendrick was elected to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three car owners and two drivers were named Wednesday as the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2017 inductees while Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clary Earles was selected as the Landmark Award winner.

hallf of fame logoTeam owners Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks will join NASCAR champion and TV personality Benny Parsons and retired NASCAR driver Mark Martin in what NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France described as the “greatest class yet.”

“It hasn’t soaked in yet. I didn’t expect it,” Martin said after the announcement. “This is the crown jewel of my career. It’s humbling to me to be a part of this class.”

Terri Parsons, who for nine years had come to the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee announcement hoping her late husband would be named, said this time it just felt different, like today was the day.

“For some reason, it felt different than it had any other year,” Terri Parsons said shortly after the announcement. “I think a lot of it had to do with friends and family who had been encouraging

Richard Childress is in The Hall. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Richard Childress is in The Hall. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

me.”

Like Martin, Childress was emotional about his selection.

“Only in America could a kid with a $20 race car and a dream be in the Hall of Fame,” Childress said. “I know I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all of those championships and wins with Dale Earnhardt.”

Parsons was the top vote getter, receiving 85 percent. He was followed by Hendrick with 62 percent, Martin 57 percent, Parks 53 percent and Childress 43 percent. The next top vote-getters were engine builder and former team owner Robert Yates, the first premier series champion Red Byron and 1992 NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki.

Results from the NASCAR.com fan vote were, in alphabetical order, Buddy Baker, Kulwicki, Martin, Parsons and Larry Phillips.

In addition to Earles, the other nominees for the Landmark Award were Janet Guthrie, who made her NASCAR debut 40 years ago this May in the Coca-Cola 600, Parks, former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco sports marketing head Ralph Seagraves and motorsports broadcaster Ken Squier.

Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship in a car owned by L.G. DeWitt. He earned 21 victories in 526 starts, but finished among the top 10 283 times – a 54 percent ratio.

Raymond Parks, a key figure in the early development of stock car racing, is headed to hall. (Photo courtesy of ISC Archives/Getty Images)

Raymond Parks, a key figure in the early development of stock car racing, is headed to hall. (Photo courtesy of ISC Archives/Getty Images)

One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500. After retiring as a driver, Parsons became a voice of the sport, first as a commentator for ESPN and then later NBC and TNT. He was working for NBC and TNT when he died at age 65 from complications of his battle with lung cancer.

Long before Childress became a team owner in NASCAR’s premier series he was a driver with limited means. The self-made racer was respectable behind the wheel. From 1969-81, he had six top-five finishes and 76 top-10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in NASCAR’s premier series standings in 1975. Childress formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972 and retired from driving in 1981. He owned the Chevrolets Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 victories from1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress’ drivers have given him five other titles. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner titles in all three of NASCAR’s national series. His 11 owner titles are second on the all-time list.

Hendrick’s organization – Hendrick Motorsports – is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. The team owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championships. Hendrick also possesses 14 NASCAR national series owner championships, the most in NASCAR history. Hendrick’s 242 owner victories in the premier series rank second all-time.

Martin has often been described as the “greatest driver never to win a championship;” however, he came incredibly close to the title, finishing second in the standings five times. During a 31-year career, Martin totaled 40 victories (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). He won 49 times in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and possessed the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 victories across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list.

Parks was one of stock car racing’s earliest and most successful team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Sea and Roy Hall. His pairing with Atlanta resident and mechanic Red Vogt produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Parks’ cars won the first NASCAR modified title in 1948 and the inaugural premier series championship in 1949, both with Red Byron.  

The 2017 inductees were determined by votes cast by a panel that included representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media, manufacturer representatives, retired drivers, owners and crew chiefs, recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Fifty-four votes were cast. Four voting panel members – Ricky Rudd, Yates, Waddell Wilson and Squier – were recused from voting because they were among the 20 nominees considered for induction.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 25 2016
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