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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Jeff Gordon Highlights NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2019

NASCAR unveiled the 11th class of five individuals that will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January on Wednesday afternoon.  The class consists of three drivers and two car owners.

The highest vote-getter was four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who will be enshrined in his first year of eligibility.  In addition to his four championships (1995, 1997-1998 and 2001), Gordon has 93 career Cup victories, third all-time behind Richard Petty and David Pearson.  He also has the all-time consecutive starts record with 797.  That streaked stretched from his very first start at Atlanta in 1992 to what was originally supposed to be the final race of his career at Homestead in 2015.

Jeff Gordon will be joined by two car owners, Jack Roush and Roger Penske.  Roush was already well-known for his efforts in drag racing and especially sports car racing before coming to NASCAR in 1988.  Roush hired Mark Martin as his first full-time driver and worked his way up the grid.  Martin earned the team’s first NASCAR win at Rockingham in 1989.  Since then, Roush entries have won 137 Cup races, 137 races in the now-XFINITY Series and 50 Truck Series races.  His teams won two Cup championships (2003 with Matt Kenseth and 2004 with Kurt Busch), four XFINITY Series titles (2002 with Greg Biffle, 2007 with Carl Edwards and 2011-2012 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) and one with Biffle in the Trucks (2000).

Penske has been a car owner in NASCAR off and on since the 1970s.  He owned the factory AMC Matadors driven by Bobby Allison and Mark Donohue in the mid-1970s and gave Rusty Wallace his first chance in Cup back in 1980.  In 1991, Penske formed Penske Racing South to take on Cup full-time.  Wallace was tabbed as the team’s first driver and it was off to the races from there.  Penske has won 105 Cup races and the 2012 championship with Brad Keselowski.  In addition, Penske has 65 XFINITY Series wins and another title with Keselowski (2010).

In addition, Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, who battled for the 1992 championship before dying in separate aviation accidents in 1993, will also be enshrined.

Allison won 19 races in only 191 career starts.  He had one of the most successful rookie years in the Modern Era, winning twice (Talladega and Dover) and earning five poles.  Despite being injured in crashes at Bristol, Charlotte and Pocono, Allison had his best season in 1992.  That year, Allison won five races (including the Daytona 500) and earned 17 top five finishes, but finished third in points.

For Kulwicki, his career is best remembered for fierce self-determination.  Having moved to North Carolina from Wisconsin in 1984, Kulwicki ran for Rookie of the Year in 1986 with extremely limited resources.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award despite failing to qualify for a number of races and running much of the year with only one car.  Kulwicki only won five races in his Cup career, but he won the 1992 championship by only ten points over Bill Elliott.  Kulwicki, an owner-driver who may have been the most meticulous driver in the garage, won his title running on only a fraction of the budget of the primary contenders.

Finally, former NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter will be inducted by virtue of winning the Landmark Award.  Hunter spent over 50 years in motorsports as an executive with NASCAR, President of Darlington Raceway, a public relations representative and a member of the media.

The five inductees plus Hunter will be formerly inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.  The date has not been announced as of yet.

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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11 comments

  1. Avatar

    A solid class, I was disappointed for Buddy Baker. Obviously, I’m stoked that Gordon is in, but man people are making too much that he wasn’t unanimous. As time goes on, they should look at tweaking the selection criteria. We are starting to get to a place where every nominee isn’t an automatic lock. However, what I love about the NASCAR Hall of Fame is that there isn’t a hard and fast list of accomplishments you need to get in. If you significantly contributed to the sport, you should be considered. The process is far better than the Baseball Hall of Fame which only features writers. The voting committee features a broad spectrum of stakeholder from across the sport, including a fan vote.

  2. Avatar

    I think the HOF has gotten watered down over the past few years. Anyone who ever won a championship gets in automatically. Pretty soon anyone who ever won a race will get in automatically. The process should be more like baseball where instead of a fixed number (5), inductees must get a minimum percentage of the votes, like 80%. But like everything in NASCAR, mediocrity is ruling the HOF selection process. Dale Junior and Danica will get in for sure, even though Junior’s qualifications are borderline and Danica’s are non-existent. I’ve got no problem with Allison getting in, but Kulwicki was never a great driver and if he had financial issues, they were self-inflicted by his inability to keep sponsors because of his own behavior. At least, maybe after their induction, we can finally put the 1992 season to rest forever, instead of treating it as if it were significant.

    All the more reason, I hope NASCAR ceases to exist within a year or two. If it takes the RTA to force a split and a dissolution, I’m all for it. This is not a sport. It is a joke. Does anyone actually pay to see the HOF? I guess there is still a sucker born every minute.

    • Avatar

      Been saying this for years. Sure there was a need for having classes of five inductees early on when it first opened. Now a decade in, the NASCAR HOF is getting into Craig Biggio territory.
      This may come off wrong, but death especially at a young age seems to elevate said deceased’s credentials. This isn’t a NASCAR thing, though. Seems to happen in many walks of life.

    • Avatar

      maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to, like MLB, have a more balanced group of voters. In other words where te majority aren’t either the France family or tied to them in some way.

    • Avatar

      I guess you never saw Alan run. Anyone who can beat Mark Martin, Dick Trickle, Mike Eddy, Bob Senneker and all the other great drivers he went up against you would change your mind. If Junior Johnson wanted him as a driver that says a lot. He did things his way using his brain as well as his right foot. A certain driver now could learn from him.

      • Avatar

        Of course I saw him run. I live a few blocks from where Kulwicki grew up and where his father lived after Alan’s death. In other words, I live in ASA country. I know he and Mark shared a garage. I know a lot about Alan you don’t, including the dirt. And I always thought Mark was the far superior driver, proving that any championship system is flawed, as Mark never won one but Alan did because of the statistical oddities of the Langford system. And Alan was lucky to be away from Johnson when he destroyed his own team to cover up an extramarital affair.

      • Avatar

        The fact is there are certain drivers each of us dislikes or hates based on our own personal reasons and what we know about them either from the media or direct personal contact. I despise Kulwicki the way most of you despise Kyle Busch. And the difference in talent is as wide as the ocean. Alan could be as nasty and arrogant and self-centered as Busch, but he was never half the driver Busch is and will continue to be.

  3. Avatar

    I would love to see Tim Richmond in the HOF;however I know that will never happen.