Gordon, Of Course, Enters The Hall Of Fame

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 23 2018

Jeff Gordon will join team owner Rick Hendrick in the NASCAR Hall of Fame it was announced on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon led the balloting Wednesday in a selection process that placed three drivers and two team owners into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Joining Gordon for the Feb. 1, 2019 induction ceremonies will be 1992 NASCAR premier series champion Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and championship team owners Roger Penske and Jack Roush.

NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton also announced Jim Hunter as the recipient of the 2019 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Other nominees were Janet Guthrie, Barney Hall, Alvin Hawkins and Ralph Seagraves.  

“I’m always happy with every class, but there’s a touch to this one, especially with Roger and Jack and, obviously, Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison, who I think would have changed a lot of our record books,” Helton said. “And then our whole sport lived on the shoulders of Jeff Gordon for a whole era that we’ll talk about a 100 years from now. So it’s a special class.”

Gordon received 96 percent of the vote in the closed session. That is the highest amount of votes ever received by a candidate. Previously, David Pearson in the 2011 class and Robert Yates, who was inducted earlier this year, received the most votes with 94 percent. The percentage votes for the original class were never released. Voting for the others named to the NASCAR Hall of Fame were Roush, 70 percent; Penske, 68 percent; Allison, 63 percent and Kulwicki, 46 percent. The next top vote-getters were Buddy Baker, Hershel McGriff and Waddell Wilson.

Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Allison, Baker, Harry Gant, Gordon and Kulwicki.

The Class of 2019 marks the 10th class and a total of 50 legends inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The inductees were determined by votes cast by the voting panel that included representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, competitors, recognized industry leaders, the nationwide fan vote, and the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. Fifty-seven votes were cast. Two voting panel members – Ricky Rudd and Wilson — were recused from voting since they were potential nominees for induction.

Class of 2019 Inductees:

Davey Allison

Allison was the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison. He grew up more interested in football, but could not escape the racing bug, following his father into the family profession. The younger Allison honed his skills at local Alabama tracks, getting his big break in 1987, taking over for Cale Yarborough in Ranier-Lundy’s Ford Thunderbird. Allison spent no time continuing the family’s legacy, compiling two victories, five poles and nine top-five finishes in his full-season debut to capture 1987 Rookie of the Year in the premier series. Allison won 19 races and 14 poles, including the 1992 Daytona 500, before his tragic death in a helicopter accident in July 1993.

Jeff Gordon

Gordon helped take NASCAR from a regional sport to the mainstream. He took NASCAR by storm in the 1990s, becoming the youngest driver in the modern era to win a premier series title as a 24-year-old in 1995. He went on to win three more championships (1997, ’98, 2001). In 1998, Gordon led the Rainbow Warriors – named for his colorful No. 24 Chevrolet – to a modern era-record 13 wins. Overall, he won 93 races, which ranks third on the all-time win list. Gordon is a three-time Daytona 500 champion and won the Brickyard 400 a record five times.

Alan Kulwicki

Noted Wisconsin short-track racer Kulwicki moved to Charlotte in 1984 with nothing but a pickup truck, a self-built race car and the hopes of competing in NASCAR’s highest series. He had no sponsor and a limited budget. Kulwicki burst onto the scene as the 1986 NASCAR Rookie of the Year with his self-owned AK Racing team. Throughout his career, Kulwicki received lucrative offers from powerhouse race teams, but insisted on racing for himself. That determination eventually led to his first of five career victories at Phoenix in 1988. His signature season was his championship-winning 1992 campaign, where Kulwicki overcame a 278-point deficit with six races remaining to capture the NASCAR premier series title.  Kulwicki never got the chance to defend his title, dying in a plane crash on April 1, 1993 as he headed to Bristol, Tenn., for the race.

Roger Penske

A true captain of industry, Penske has steered one of the most successful motorsports ships in the sport’s history. Penske, who celebrated his 50th anniversary in racing in 2016, reached a major milestone and collected a prestigious award during the golden anniversary season. That year, he reached 100 wins in NASCAR’s premier series and capped off the season by receiving the Bill France Award of Excellence. Penske won the premier series championship in 2012 with driver Brad Keselowski, and owns two Daytona 500 wins with Ryan Newman in 2008 and Joey Logano in 2015. And from 2013-15, Penske tied a record with three consecutive owner championships NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Off the track, Penske likewise makes an indelible mark. He built the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in 1996, and previously owned Michigan International Speedway.

 Jack Roush

Once a Michigan-based drag racing owner and enthusiast, Roush made his best motorsports decision when he turned south in 1988 to start a NASCAR team. Since beginning Roush Racing (now known as Roush Fenway Racing), the graduate-level mathematician turned engineering entrepreneur has won a record 325 races across NASCAR’s three national series. Overall, Roush boasts five NASCAR national series owner championships, while his drivers have won an additional three championships. Roush has displayed a prowess for discovering and developing talent. He helped Matt Kenseth (2003) and Kurt Busch (2004) grow into premier series champions and also jump-started the careers of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.

Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR:

Jim Hunter

Throughout his career, Hunter left an indelible mark on NASCAR and those associated with the sport.  His wit and wisdom helped guide NASCAR’s growth during portions of six decades as a company executive, track president, public relations professional and journalist. Hunter broke into the motorsports business as a member of the media in the 1950s. He worked as the sports editor of the Columbia (S.C.) Record, was an award-winning reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and columnist for Stock Car Racing magazine. He moved to the public relations side of the business with Dodge in the 1960s before serving as public relations director at Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. In 1993, he became president of Darlington Raceway and corporate vice president of the International Speedway Corp. He remained at Darlington until 2001 when he accepted an offer from Bill France Jr. to return to NASCAR to lead an expanded public relations effort aimed at responding to the needs of growing media coverage.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 23 2018
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