All eyes of the NASCAR world will be on Charlotte this upcoming weekend as NASCAR’s Hall of Fame is set to induct the class of 2020. The Hall inducted Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Junior Johnson as its inaugural class in 2010 and every year since has added five more enshrinees that during their career helped to grow the sport to the level that we enjoy today.
The Hall’s list of enshrinees is made up of a cross section of individuals that had outstanding careers in the sport and it is not just limited to drivers. Owners, crew members, track operators, promoters, media and other contributors are all eligible for induction. When the 58 voters convene to cast their votes each year they take in consideration each nominee’s NASCAR accomplishments and contributions made to the sport.
One additional vote is counted and that comes from a fan vote.
The class of 2020 includes Bobby Labonte who captured 21 checkered flags and the 2000 Cup Series title during a career that began with his first full time season in 1993. He is one of only four drivers that have won both the Xfinity and Cup Series titles during his career. He is also one of 27 drivers to win a race in all 3 of the major NASCAR series.
He and his brother Terry join Kyle and Kurt Busch as the only brothers to have won a Cup Series title.
Joe Gibbs is a three-time Super Bowl winning coach and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and on Friday will add the NASCAR Hall of Fame to his resume’.
He gains entry into the Hall as an owner as he has built a championship winning four car operation that just completed one of the most dominating seasons in the history of the sport. He has five Cup championships with Kyle Busch (2015, 2019, Tony Stewart (2002, 2005) and Bobby Labonte (2000).
In addition to his five Cup titles, his organization also has 5 Xfinity titles. The list of drivers that have competed in a Joe Gibbs race car besides his championship drivers reads like a list of who’s who as it includes Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr.
Tony Stewart will be inducted with his former owner Joe Gibbs on Friday as the two had plenty of ups and downs together but became a force in the sport with their two championships.
He left JGR in 2009 to become a driver/owner with Gene Haas as the pair formed Stewart Haas Racing. He was able to win sixteen races and one championship while wearing both hats with his 2011 title run being one of the best in the history of the sport.
He won five of the ten playoff races that year including the final race of the season which left him in a tie with Carl Edwards but claimed the title as he won NASCAR’s tie breaker. He totaled 49 wins in his career as a driver to go with his three championships and has led SHR to 51 wins and one title as an owner.
Waddell Wilson will enter the Hall this Friday as an engine builder/crew chief. He was highly successful in both roles as his engines won 109 races and 123 poles plus powered David Pearson to titles in 1968-69 and Benny Parsons in 1973. His time as a crew chief included checkered flags in 3 Daytona 500’s with Cale Yarborough (1983-1984) and Buddy Baker in 1980 who still holds the record for the race with an average speed of 177.602 MPH. He won 22 races and 32 poles in his role as crew chief.
Buddy Baker who was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 joins the HOF with a reputation of putting his foot through the floor board as his career will forever be linked with the speeds he achieved while behind the wheel. He was the first driver to break the 200-MPH mark on a closed course while testing at Talladega Superspeedway.
He won 19 races in his career including the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington and back-to-back wins at Charlotte in the World 600’s in 1972-73. Once he retired in 1992, he moved to the TV broadcast booth for the Nashville Network and CBS and later became one of the more entertaining personalities at Sirius XM NASCASR Radio.