For those that ever watched him race; saw him win and win and win; watched him hoist NASCAR’s cherished Cup Series championship trophy, again and again and again - Tony Stewart’s place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame certainly seemed an inevitability.
And on Friday evening, Stewart, 48, will be enshrined with a group of the sport’s highest achievers in the NASCAR Hall of Fame - joining his former team owner Joe Gibbs and former teammate Bobby Labonte along with legendary crew chief Waddell Wilson and the late, multi-talented Buddy Baker.
Perhaps fittingly this Class of 2020 is one of the most diverse representations in the sport – including a team owner, championship drivers, a heralded crew chief and driver-turned-broadcaster extraordinaire.
For all his career, Stewart has proven to be among the most diversely talented competitors – winning in every form of racing, in whatever kind of car he drove.
Stewart dazzled fans and impressed fellow competitors in a three-time NASCAR Cup championship driving career (2002, 2005, 2011). He is the only driver in history to have won both a premier NASCAR Cup Series title and an IndyCar championship (1997). And Stewart is also the only driver to have won a NASCAR championship under the longstanding former points system (2002, 2005) and the new playoff system (2011).
His 2011 NASCAR Cup Series title came as both driver and team owner. And he added another owner’s trophy in 2014 when his Stewart-Haas Racing team earned the Cup championship with driver Kevin Harvick.
“Tony’s career, I look at on paper and he’s my true hero as far as what he’s been able to do," fellow inductee Labonte said of his former teammate.
After becoming the first driver to earn all three of USAC’s top championships – in Midgets, Silver Crown and Sprint Cars – then taking the IndyCar title in 1997, Stewart was ready and primed to give NASCAR a real go.
Although he had plenty of credibility and a long resume already – Stewart actually began his Cup career after only 36 sporadic starts over three seasons in the Xfinity Series; some of that time overlapping with his IndyCar schedule. The open-wheel master did not win a race in a stock car while learning the new craft in the Xfinity Series - although he had a pair of runner-up finishes at Rockingham, N.C. and New Hampshire in 1998.
His natural talent and ability to learn quickly, however, provided all the promise and confidence Joe Gibbs needed to give Stewart a shot in NASCAR’s big leagues. Stewart made his Cup Series debut in 1999. And never disappointed.
He earned 15 top-10 finishes in his first 24 Cup races and then put an exclamation point on that first-year effort with a win at Richmond, Va. in only his 25th start – leading a dominating 333 of the race’s 400 laps. With the incredible effort, he became the first Cup Series rookie to win a race since Davey Allison more than a decade (1987) earlier.
He answered his maiden win with back-to-back victories at races at Phoenix Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway that November to close out the stunning rookie campaign. He became the first Cup Series rookie to win three races – a top-mark he and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (2002) still share today.
The next season, 2000, going door-to-door with other NASCAR Hall of Famers such as seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett, Stewart went on to win a career-high single-season total of six races as his Joe Gibbs teammate and fellow 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Labonte won the Cup title.
Two years later – in 2002 - Stewart was hoisting his first Cup championship trophy and added another in 2005. He had won 24 Cup Series races in just those first six seasons.
It was a time of great success and happiness for Stewart, who today readily recognizes how special it is for him to be inducted right alongside his former team owner (Gibbs), teammate (Labonte) and former Xfinity Series crew chief (Wilson). He even attended the Buck Baker Driving School and recalls having Buddy Baker on-site during his beginnings in a stock car - so this year’s class feels particularly familiar and esteemed to him.
As with another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Jeff Gordon, Stewart’s presence and success in NASCAR helped people look at the sport differently. And it opened up a broad spectrum of career possibilities for drivers. From off-road racer Jimmie Johnson to fellow USAC driver Kasey Kahne, who soon became stars as well, Stewart trailblazed an unexpected opportunity.
“It was such an honor, from where I come from, racing with him," said the seven-time champion Johnson.
“Finding drivers that had a non-traditional route to NASCAR, those guys were a notch up for me. I can recall going and watching Tony race a midget at Ventura (Raceway). I was probably 16 or 17 years old, so it goes way back knowing who he was and watching his career in IndyCar. And then to go toe-to-toe with him was a huge honor."
Johnson also acknowledged the honor of racing Stewart was simultaneously one of the biggest championship challenges he faced in his own decorated career.
“At times I knew I could frustrate him and use that to my advantage," Johnson said with a slight laugh. “But the bulk of the time, I knew I had to be on my game. I mean the guy’s tenacious. If you left the slightest opening, he was going to take it.
“I just respected that and enjoyed it. I knew in the day, when that orange hood was coming, plus I had the [competing sponsor] pressure of Lowe’s versus Home Depot. I knew when that orange hood was coming, I was fighting for my life."
The harder they raced, the closer they actually became as friends. Their sponsors were direct competitors and Johnson and Stewart were deciding Cup Series titles year after year after year. But the respect they gained – on and off-track – has been life-lasting.
“We were expected to be such fierce rivals that we joked about it and kinda formed a friendship off of it," Johnson said.
“On my side, I just always felt when we would have a few beers and have a chance to connect. He really valued my opinion and being a young guy new to the sport trying to find my way, to have somebody really listen was new for me and really special to me in ways. This is Tony Stewart and he’s really listening to me. So, for me, maybe that was the start of it."
As the seasons went on, Stewart developed a reputation similar to his racing idol, the legendary A.J. Foyt. He was uber-talented, but also no-nonsense on-track. And highly spirited. He left nothing on the table, in regard to his feelings. Emotion was as much a part of Stewart’s at-track presence as was his great talent to wheel any type of car to victory.
At times, it appeared any perceived conflict or underestimation seemed to energize Stewart. This champion “underdog” was perhaps most threatening in that he was a master of surpassing expectation. It was something he learned early in his life, overcoming and exceeding a lot of expectation as he made his way up the ranks in the USAC classes. He earned a shot in racing’s big-time because of his immense talent, never because of a fat family checkbook.
And that grit and gumption was on full display in his incredible 2011 championship run.
After being winless the entire 26-race regular season, Stewart reeled off victories in the first two Playoff races at Chicago and New Hampshire - his third season in the dual role of driver and team owner. A month later, he won back-to-back races at Martinsville, Va. and Texas Motor Speedway and showed up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the championship race a mere three points behind Carl Edwards.
The two had fun in the week leading up to the championship finale dropping verbal barbs like a pair of boxers before the championship fight. And as compelling a storyline as they created leading into the race, the race itself proved to be unlike no NASCAR title events previously or since.
Twice the race was stopped for rain and Stewart’s No. 14 Ford had to overcome a couple of mechanical issues that arose. But he took the lead on the final restart and held point for 36 laps, beating Edwards to the line by 1.306 seconds.
The one-two result meant the two drivers were technically tied in points. However, Stewart had won five races and Edwards had only one trophy meaning the title went to Stewart by tiebreaker. The only time in NASCAR history the points standings finished in a tie.
That dramatic and compelling championship run remains the most memorable for Stewart.
“So many things happened that night," Stewart said, recalling the challenges.
“All the things that happened were setbacks and to be able to come back from that. That’s definitely the highlight for me."
Stewart closed his Cup driving career out in 2016 in a fitting manner – earning a win in his last season with a last-lap pass on the Sonoma (Calif.) road course. He finished with 49 victories and 308 top-10 finishes in 618 starts – a hefty 50 percent of the time he suited up, he finished in the top 10.
Stewart remains a very engaged team owner – having won a title with Harvick. And fittingly, his team is perpetually championship-eligible, challenging for NASCAR trophies while its namesake continues to suit up in short tracks across the country – finishing his driving career right where he started it.
But with a whole lot of success in between.
“Not many people are still doing what they love to do and getting inducted in the Hall of Fame at the same time," Stewart acknowledged.
But Tony Stewart is. And he did it his way.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Selection Committee Expands and Taps Deep Historic Racing Knowledge Base29 Jan 2020 Written by Adam Sinclair
The experience level of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Selection Committee grows to an unprecedented level as five specialists have joined the now 11-person committee. Their expertise will be put to the test as members research and evaluate entry requests to ensure that every car meets the high level of provenance, authenticity and period correctness to the day it originally was raced that is demanded in order to be accepted.
Their vast individual knowledge base is arguably the deepest for an event anywhere in the world, and when the final entry requests are received, applicants will know an international team of historic and classic car authorities are behind the scenes evaluating their race car.
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will be held Aug. 13-16 at Monterey County’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and is one of the cornerstones of the Monterey Classic Car Week, which kicks off with the Monterey Pre-Reunion Aug. 8 and 9, that attracts visitors from around the world.
Bruce Canepa (returning member) – Former professional race car driver, and now collector, historian, and restorer of authentic race and classic cars. He has participated in the Rolex Reunion nearly every year. He also was co-organizer of the three Porsche Rennsport Reunions held at Laguna Seca Recreation Area.
Paul Duchene (existing member) – For more than 40 years, he has been writing about classic cars for major newspapers and magazines and was executive editor of Sports Car Market magazine. He has also been announcing the races for the past 10 years.
Scott George (new member) – Scott is the curator for Miles Collier Collections, and vice president of the Revs Institute, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to Preserving the Future of the Past. He oversees the meticulous care, preservation and restoration of some of the most historically important automobiles and race cars in the world.
John Lamm (existing member) – Author and journalist for many magazines like Road & Track and Car and Driver, he has spent his career researching and writing about cars. He has attended every historic race in Monterey since its inception in 1974.
Patrick Long (new member) – Longtime factory Porsche race car driver, he has competed around the globe winning at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, and is a regular at the Rolex Reunion across multiple classes. He was on the last two Porsche Rennsport Reunion selection committees and is dedicated to maintaining high driving standards for historic racers.
Chris MacAllister (new member) – He has competed in the Historic/Reunion event since the early ‘90s, drives historic Formula 1 internationally and has served as a group steward at prior Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunions. He also is on the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
Mark Osborne (new member) – A frequent participant racing in Monterey and Goodwood, he is Global Director of Motorsport for Bonhams, where he oversees vetting each car’s heritage.
Andy Prill (existing member) – One of England’s most respected Porsche authorities and restorers, he is owner of Prill Porsche Classic. A qualified mechanical engineer, he annually races in Monterey, Goodwood and across the globe.
Darius Sadeghi (new member) – An avid car enthusiast, he is responsible for committee oversight and is a staunch advocate for ensuring authenticity and correctness of each entered race car.
Murray Smith (existing member) – Historic racing expert and a voice for accuracy and authenticity for competing cars, Murray has been involved in the Rolex Reunion for many years. He also is the organizer of the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park, which is entering its 38th year.
Cris Vandagriff (existing member) – Head of the event’s scrutineering team, he owns HMSA (Historic Motor Sports Association) and runs historic racing events in the U.S. and Canada. Having been involved in racing his entire life, he is a highly-respected resource to ensure the car is prepared to the most period-correct manner.
Bill Warner (existing member) – An award-winning author and photojournalist, he is the founder of the acclaimed Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Bill is a regular competitor in historic racing and was co-chairman with Dr. Wolfgang Porsche at the 2018 Porsche Rennsport Reunion.
This year features some of the most popular groups for visitors. The throaty historic Can-Am and Trans-Am cars return to one of the original tracks where they once raced for championships. In all, there are 14 groups that span nearly every decade of motorsports history.
1927-1951/Pre-1940 Sports Racing & Touring
1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT
1955-1961 Sports Racing under & over 2000cc
1961-1966 GT under 2500cc
1963-1966 GT over 2500cc
1970-1984 Sports Racing under 2100cc
1973-1981 FIA, IMSA, GT, GTX, AAGT, GTU
1974-1979 Formula Atlantic
1981-1991 IMSA GTO/GTP
1963-1974 FIA Manufacturers Championship
Entry requests are being accepted through Feb. 22 on the Rolex Reunion event page at WeatherTechRaceway.com. Historically, nearly 1,000 entry requests are received for the internationally-renowned event. For more information, visit WeatherTechRaceway.com or call 831.242.8201.
The 2020 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca season kicks off April 16-19 with the Sea Otter Classic; Trans Am SpeedFest returns May 1-3; MotoAmerica Superbike SpeedFest at Monterey July 10-12; Ferrari Challenge Series July 23-26; the Monterey Pre-Reunion August 8-9; Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion August 13-16; and Monterey SpeedWeek consisting of Monterey SportsCar Championship (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) September 11-13 and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (NTT IndyCar Series) September 18-20.
DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth, Week 1: On-Track NASCAR Action Complemented by Off-Track Activities29 Jan 2020 Written by Speedway Digest Staff
The first week of DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth is the ultimate stage-setter for this year’s big show on Sunday, Feb. 16, the 62nd annual DAYTONA 500.
Race fans, take note: it’s Speedweeks, plural, with plenty of entertainment options both on and off the 2.5-mile tri-oval the week before “The Great American Race” opens the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“Week one of DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth has always been special but now the team is working even harder to make it a true celebration to kick off the NASCAR season,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “This first week has always had its own traditions and we continue to add new elements which will build new memories for the tens of thousands of fans who are on the property.”
Following is a rundown of Week 1:
- USAC National .25 Midget Series: This popular series returns for a Feb. 5-9 event, featuring aspiring young open-wheel drivers competing on a paved oval in the DIS infield.
- Kickoff to DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth: A free community event on Thursday, Feb. 6 at ONE DAYTONA’s Victory Circle, across the street from Daytona International Speedway. This event will run from 6-8 p.m. featuring select NASCAR haulers on display, the Seabreeze High School drumline performing, a Q&A session with drivers from the ARCA Menards Series and a live performance by the Tanner Keagan Band.
- Daytona Beach Half Marathon: There will be races of the two-foot variety all weekend long. The Beachin’ It 5K kicks off activities on Saturday, Feb. 8 on the beach followed by the Lap the Track 5K and the Daytona Beach Half Marathon on Sunday, Feb. 9. Runners will race on a 13.1-mile course that starts on the race track, heads East to the Atlantic shoreline and then returns for a finish at the ONE DAYTONA complex.
- 57th annual Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire: On Feb. 8, the season-opening race for NASCAR’s ARCA Menards Series – the first on-track appearance for stock cars at DIS in 2020.
- DAYTONA 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger/Busch Clash At DAYTONA: This Feb. 9 NASCAR doubleheader has rekindled a grand February DIS tradition. Qualifying (12:30 p.m.) locks in the front row for the DAYTONA 500. The Busch Clash (3 p.m.) features pole winners from the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series plus former Busch Clash champions, former DAYTONA 500 champions and former DAYTONA 500 pole winners in a 75-lap all-out sprint.
- Worship Service: Packages are available to church groups to participate in a Worship Service on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. in the AdventHealth Injector. Following the service, which will include a local praise band, attendees will then enjoy the days’ racing activity including DAYTONA 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger and the Busch Clash At DAYTONA. Children 12-and-under are free.
- Second annual DAYTONA Beer Festival: On Feb. 9 from 12-3 p.m., fans can enjoy beer samples from more than 75 brands in the speedway Midway Suites. A ticket to the Busch Clash and DAYTONA 500 – plus pre-race UNOH Fanzone access – is included in the $52 ticket price.
- Vintage Car Display and Parade: Also on Feb. 9, fans will be able to enjoy a parade of vintage stock cars on the track and on display in the UNOH Fanzone.
Tickets for the Busch Clash, Daytona 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger, the 62nd annual DAYTONA 500 and other Daytona International Speedway events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway's mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.
Tyler Dettor is not afraid of change. His racing career shows it – the 2020 season marking his third major transition in racing.
The 19-year-old Charlottesville, Virginia resident started racing junior dragsters at the age of eight. He competed in drag racing for eight years, then moved to racing dirt Late Models, first at Eastside Speedway, and last year at Virginia Motor Speedway.
In 2020, Dettor is making another major change – switching to asphalt racing and competing in the NASCAR Limited Sportsman Division at South Boston Speedway.
“I went to Jay Hedgecock’s racing academy in High Point, North Carolina about a year ago, and that kind of sealed the deal on me coming out here and running an asphalt car,” Dettor explained.
“He took me to a race at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and I really enjoyed it. I love any type of racing. I decided this is what I really want to do. I’d like to get some wins, and I’d like to get some championships. Maybe one day I can be a national champion too.”
Dettor took an early step toward preparing for the 2020 season with a recent testing session at South Boston Speedway.
“I just wanted to come out here, turn some laps, and make some speed,” Dettor explained during a break.
“Hopefully we can do well in the Limited Sportsman Division here this year.”
Dettor says the transition to asphalt racing is a big one, one that will take a little time.
“It’s a big transition, but I’m getting there,” he remarked.
“We’re taking baby steps and I’m still learning. I’m trying to get seat time and turn laps.”
As far as goals go, Dettor’s goals are simple.
“Finish the race, of course, is the first one,” he pointed out.
“I’d like to finish on the lead lap and keep the car in one piece. I’d love to be able to pick up a win or two.”
Dettor pointed out he is excited about the opportunity to race at South Boston Speedway this season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he remarked.
“We’ve worked hard for the past year building this car. We’re excited, to say the least. There are a lot of good drivers at South Boston Speedway. We came down and watched last year. It’s going to be interesting to see how we stack up against the rest of them.”
South Boston Speedway opens its 2020 season on Saturday, March 21 with the WhosYourDriver.org NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150/NASCAR Late Model Twin 75s. There will be a 150-lap race for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors and twin 75-lap races for the NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division teams.
Advance tickets are available for $10 each through Friday, March 20. Adult general admission tickets on race day will be $15. Youth ages 12 and under will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Employees at the Apex Tool Group in Apex, NC, helped celebrate the upcoming start of the NASCAR Cup Series season alongside Kurt Busch, members of the Chip Ganassi Racing team, and the new-look GEARWRENCH® No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE Wednesday. At what was dubbed ‘The Green Flag Event’, Busch officially unveiled the new paint scheme for his GEAWRENCH car, which will take to the track four times this season.
Apex Tool Group—one of the largest tool manufacturers in the world—is the parent company of GEARWRENCH, which is a premier hand tool brand for automotive and industrial mechanics.
“There’s so much excitement around Kurt and we wanted to make sure our team members at our Raleigh facility knew that they were a part of it,” said Rena Fiorello, director of brand management for GEARWRENCH. “It was fun to feel that team atmosphere and make sure that our colleagues understand that they’re truly part of everything we do, and that includes our partnership with Kurt and Chip Ganassi Racing.”
After unveiling his car’s new look emblazed with GEARWENCH black and orange, Busch took turns driving employees around a track in the parking lot to give them a taste of what it feels like to be in a NASCAR race. He took time to sign autographs, take photos, and gave a special shout-out to the employees who are military service veterans.
Busch will drive the GEARWRENCH car during four races on the 2020 schedule: Phoenix Raceway (March 8), Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 24), Dover International Speedway (Aug. 23) and Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 4). For more information, visit www.gearwrench.com.
Jeremy Clements Racing will return for the full 2020 NASCAR XFINITY
Going into the 2020 season JCR looks to continue to build on the recent consistency over the last few years; coming
When asked about 2020 Clements said, “I’m optimistic, I do feel better this year than I d
• Jeremy’s 20th career start at Daytona International Speedway
• Best finish of 8th – 7/2014
• Best start of 19th – 7/2018
• Crew Chief: Andrew “Panda’ Abbott
• Manufacturer: Chevrolet
• Engine: Clements Racing Engines
RepairableVehicles.com, a division of Interstate Auto Center, Inc., is one of the leading resellers of repairable vehicles in North America. By working together with insurance companies, dealerships, rental companies, and automotive salvage auctions, they can provide an ever-changing inventory of high-quality total-loss, recovered theft, collision damage, and other types of repairable vehicles to their customers worldwide. www.
Darlington Raceway is celebrating ‘NASCAR Champions…Past, Present and Future’ for its throwback weekend celebration on Sept. 4-6, 2020. Another champion will be crowned in 2020 and Darlington Raceway will also be host to the opening round of the NASCAR Playoffs, which will declare its 72nd champion since 1949.
Each month, the track will recognize NASCAR Cup Series champions from specific decades, beginning with the 1950’s champions (including 1948 and 1949) in January.
“It’s an exciting time for Darlington Raceway as the track’s 2020 campaign will feature our award-winning throwback weekend celebrating NASCAR’s champions, plus we’ll open the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the first time on September 6,” track President Kerry Tharp said. “We’re excited to be able to celebrate the champions of our sport each month, beginning with the 1950’s, and recognize their accomplishments that built stock car racing into what it is today.”
Here’s a look at the six different champions from that era:
1948 NASCAR Modified Champion, 1949 NASCAR Strictly Stock Champion – Red Byron
- Red Byron, who won the inaugural NASCAR modified championship in 1948, would win NASCAR’s Strictly Stock title (now the current NASCAR Cup Series) in 1949 with two victories during the eight-race campaign. Due to health complications from World War II, Byron was only able to compete in 15 races from 1949-51, but won back-to-back championships in ’48-49, becoming the sport’s first champion. For his success, Byron was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2018.
1950 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Bill Rexford
- Bill Rexford won his one and only NASCAR championship in 1950 in a close finish that saw him beat out Fireball Roberts during the 19-race campaign. Rexford posted one victory at Canfield Speedway in Ohio that season and had five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in a season that saw seven different drivers take the points lead. He raced up until 1953.
1951 and 1953 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Herb Thomas
- Herb Thomas was a 48-time winner in NASCAR’s top series, scoring all his wins between 1950 and 1956, including the famed Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in 1951, 1954 and 1955. His 1951 Southern 500 victory (in the Hudson Hornet) propelled him to the championship that year, which included seven wins and 16 top-five finishes in 35 starts. His 1953 championship consisted of the most wins (12), top-five’s (27) and top-10’s (31) that season in a dominant performance. Thomas was elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013.
1952 and 1955 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Tim Flock
- A 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee, Tim Flock posted all 39 of his career victories during the '50s. His career win percentage was 22.5 percent, which is the highest among all drivers with at least 100 starts in the series. Flock earned 122 top-10s during the 1950s, and only 22 of those were not top-five finishes. Flock won the series championship in both 1952 and 1955. Based on the point standings, he won the 1952 championship by just starting the final race at West Palm Beach. His 1955 title was one of the most dominant in series history after winning 18 races in 39 starts. He won the ’55 championship by over 1,500 points over second-place Buck Baker. His 18 wins in 1955 wasn’t surpassed until Richard Petty won 27 races in 1967.
1954, 1958 and 1959 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Lee Petty
- Lee Petty competed in 379 events over the 11-year period (1949-1959), winning 48 of them, including the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959. Petty won a series-best three championships in the decade while also scoring the most top-10 and top-five finishes in the era—297 and 206.
In the first Daytona 500 that was held at Daytona International Speedway in 1959, Petty and Johnny Beauchamp battled to a side-by-side finish. Although Beauchamp was declared the unofficial winner, Petty was awarded the official victory by NASCAR three days later after reviewing photographs and newsreel footage. He was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. His son, Richard, went on to be the all-time winningest driver in NASCAR history (200) wins. He passed his dad in all-time NASCAR Cup Series wins in 1967.
1956 and 1957 NASCAR Grand National Champion – Buck Baker
- Buck Baker, a 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, won back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series titles in 1956 and 1957. He amassed 14 victories during the 1956 campaign, which was six more than the second-place finisher in the points standings (Speedy Thompson). The 1957 campaign was equally impressive as Baker won 10 races and had 30 top-10 finishes in 40 starts. He won 46 total races in his career with 372 top-10 finishes and 246 top-five showings.
The Tradition Continues on Labor Day weekend as the NASCAR Cup Series Southern 500® is set for Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020. Throwback Weekend coverage will once again be covered in its entirety on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM. The NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 will race on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020.
Darlington Raceway PR
Baker, First to Break 200-mph Barrier at Talladega, Among 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Class This Friday Night29 Jan 2020 Written by Speedway Digest Staff
Five individuals who each made their mark in not only NASCAR, but at historic Talladega Superspeedway, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class this Friday (Jan. 31) evening.
The five-person group – the 11th since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 – consists of former drivers Buddy Baker and Bobby Labonte, former driver/owner Tony Stewart, team owner Joe Gibbs, and former crew chief Waddell Wilson. They will be enshrined at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. The event will be televised LIVE on NBC Sports Network and the NBC Sports App at 7 p.m. CST, and can be heard on Motor Racing Network – The Voice of NASCAR – as well as SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Here’s a breakdown of the inductees:
At 6 feet, 6 inches tall, Baker was often called the “Gentle Giant,” but behind the wheel he had a lead foot and knew only wide open. On March 24, 1970, he became the first driver to officially eclipse the 200-mph mark on a closed-course while testing at Talladega in a winged Dodge. His speed in his blue No. 88 machine was 200.447 mph, then a world record. Baker is also a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, located just outside Talladega Superspeedway’s Turn 4.
After sweeping both races in 1975 while driving for Bud Moore, he came back in spring of ’76 for his third straight triumph, a consecutive record he would hold until Dale Earnhardt Jr. reeled off four in-a-row from 2001-03. His fourth and final Talladega Superspeedway (TSS) win came in the spring of 1980, driving the familiar No. 28 “Gray Ghost” to Gatorade Victory Lane after claiming the season-opening Daytona 500 earlier that year. In a 33-year career, he won 19 races in the NASCAR Cup Series. After retiring in 1992, Baker made a successful transition to the television booth as a commentator for The Nashville Network and CBS, and later as a radio co-host on Late Shift and Tradin’ Paint for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The ultimate grinder, Labonte raced any car he could get behind the wheel of before he got his first break as a full-time Cup Series driver at 28 years old in 1993. His persistence paid off with a career highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 premier series title. His ’98 Talladega triumph was a nail biter, and one of brotherly love. With just two laps to go, Labonte slipped past leader – and his brother – Terry, then held on for the win by a mere .167 second over Jimmy Spencer. Terry fell to fourth at the finish.
A success in all three of NASCAR’s national series, Bobby was the first of four drivers to win both a Cup and Xfinity Series championship. He is also one of 27 drivers to win a race in all three national series.
Known as “The People’s Champion” for his blue-collar, hard-nosed style of competition, Stewart actually claimed two first-place finishes at Talladega, both in 2008. He started the year with a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event in April then came back in the fall with a controversial NASCAR Cup Series win. After Regan Smith’s pass of leader Stewart coming through the tri-oval on the final lap was below the yellow line, which was against NASCAR rules, Stewart was awarded the victory.
Stewart immediately showed that he would be a force to be reckoned with in NASCAR – earning three victories in his Rookie of the Year season in 1999. The titles soon followed. Stewart won his first Cup championship in 2002 driving for Gibbs and answered that quickly in 2005. His versatility was on display throughout his 17-year NASCAR career. He tallied 49 wins in the Cup Series – winning on every style of track. He won 16 times as a driver/owner including one of the most memorable championship pursuits in history in 2011.
Gibbs has won throughout his entire life. The three-time Super Bowl champion football coach started Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in 1992 and has led the organization to five Cup Series championships and five Xfinity Series titles. Known as a master motivator, Gibbs’ 176 Cup Series owner wins rank third all-time. Four of those wins have come at Talladega’s 33-degree banked facility, and with four different drivers.
Fellow 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Labonte wheeled his No. 18 to the winner’s circle first in the spring of 1998 for JGR, and 10 years later, the duo of Kyle Busch and Stewart made it a Gibbs’ sweep in 2008. Denny Hamlin was the last to take the checkers in spring of 2014. He also has five victories at Talladega in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Referred to in NASCAR circles as simply “Coach,” Gibbs was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
A dual threat as an engine builder and crew chief, Wilson powered and guided cars to some of the biggest victories in NASCAR history. While building the engines and calling the shots atop the pit box, he guided three drivers to four wins at the world’s greatest track – Talladega. In addition to Baker’s win in 1980, he backed it up a year later with Bobby Allison in ’81, then went back-to-back again in 1984-85 with Cale Yarborough. In addition, in 1982 he built the first engine to help driver Benny Parsons break the 200-mph barrier for the first time in an official NASCAR qualifying lap at 200.176 mph.
As an engine builder, Wilson supplied the power that helped David Pearson (1968, ’69) and Parsons (1973) to Cup Series titles. Overall, Wilson’s engines helped some of the greatest drivers to ever wheel a car – including NASCAR Hall of Famers Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Allison, Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip – to 109 wins and 123 poles.