NASCAR Announces Inaugural Hall of Fame Class

Hall of Fame

Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. race at Richmond International Raceway

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) announced the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Thursday that includes: Dale Earnhardt Sr., Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson and Richard Petty.

All five of the members of the inaugural Hall of Fame class have strong ties to Richmond International Raceway, particularly Petty, Earnhardt and Johnson for their on-track accomplishments.

Petty and Richmond have long been fixtures of the NASCAR scene. “The King” fittingly holds the track record with 13 victories. Petty has NASCAR Sprint Cup Series records that are perhaps untouchable: 200 career victories, seven Daytona 500 wins and 27 victories in 1967 alone. His exploits at Richmond International Raceway are no different. In addition to 13 wins, the seven-time Cup Series champion also finished in the top-five in 34 of the 63 races he competed in at Richmond and led a track record 5,128 laps over his career. “The King” also won a record seven consecutive races at Richmond between 1970 and 1973.

Earnhardt was a five-time winner at Richmond International Raceway. The seven-time Cup Series champion, who had a knack for sneaking out close victories at Richmond, collected his first win at Richmond in the 1985 spring race by a margin of 0.3 seconds ahead of Geoff Bodine. In the 1987 spring race, Earnhardt nipped Bodine again by 0.46 seconds and went on to complete the season sweep at Richmond in the fall for his third win. Earnhardt picked up his fourth win in the 1990 fall race by edging Mark Martin by just a single second. Earnhardt is second at Richmond with 25 career top-fives in 44 starts.

Johnson made 13 starts at Richmond between 1955 and 1966, when the racing surface was a ½-mile dirt track. He won from the pole in the spring of 1965 and had nine other top-10 finishes at Richmond, including a runner-up finish to Petty in 1961, the first of the King’s 13 wins at Richmond.

France Sr. spearheaded NASCAR from its beginning and directed it to its present status as the world’s largest stock-car racing organization. In 1947, France became the driving force behind the establishment of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. France Sr. brought NASCAR to Richmond for the first time in 1953, when Lee Petty won on the ½-mile dirt track known as Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds.

France Jr. is remembered – and revered – as the man who followed his visionary father at NASCAR’s helm, in the process becoming a visionary himself, as he guided NASCAR to unprecedented levels of popularity. France Jr. became NASCAR’s second president in January 1972, which coincided with the sport’s emergence and its eventual ascent to become America’s No. 1 form of motorsports and the nation’s second-most popular sport overall.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel, consisting of members of the Nominating Committee along with 29 others representing NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, major race track ownership groups, retired drivers, owners and crew chiefs along with motorsports media representatives, met in a closed session in Charlotte, N.C. to vote on the induction class of 2010.

The class was determined by the 51 votes cast by the panel and the nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.COM. The accounting firm of Ernst & Young presided over the tabulation of the votes.

The Class of 2010 will be officially inducted in a ceremony on May 23, 2010 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

The results of the voting for the final five chosen in this inaugural class proved competitive. Also receiving votes were David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison.

As part of the inclusive voting process, more than 670,000 NASCAR fans submitted votes online at NASCAR.COM as part of the fan voting process. This remarkable fan feedback once again demonstrates fans’ passion and knowledge of the sport and its heritage. The fans voted Petty, Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison as their top five.

The nominees included many of the sport’s legendary names: Bobby Allison, Buck Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt, Richie Evans, Tim Flock, Bill France Jr., Bill France Sr., Rick Hendrick, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Weatherly, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame broke ground in Charlotte on Jan. 25, 2007 and will open May 11, 2010. The facility honors the history and heritage of NASCAR and the many who have contributed to the success of NASCAR.

Highlighting the Class of 2010:

Dale Earnhardt

Earnhardt co-holds the record for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships (seven) with Richard Petty. In only his second full season, 1980, Earnhardt nabbed his first championship. He won consecutive titles on three separate occasions (1986-87, ’90-91 and ’93-94). Earnhardt’s 76 victories rank seventh all-time.

He is the all-time leader in race victories at Daytona International Speedway with 34, though the most prominent of them was a while in the making.

In 1998, Earnhardt won his most coveted race – the Daytona 500. The scene was a memorable one, forever etched in the minds of race fans. As Earnhardt’s black No. 3 rolled down pit road, a Daytona 500 winner at last, every crew member from every team lined up to congratulate one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history.

Bill France Sr.

Called “Big Bill,” only partly because of his 6-foot-5 stature, France spearheaded NASCAR from its beginning and directed it to its present status as the world’s largest stock-car racing organization. In 1936, he helped lay out the first beach/road course in Daytona Beach; in the first race on the course he finished fifth. Starting in 1938, he helped promote races on the sands of Daytona Beach. In 1947, France became the driving force behind the establishment of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. NASCAR, it was called, resulting from a famous meeting at the Streamline Hotel on State Road A1A in Daytona Beach – a structure that stands to this day, as a racing landmark. “Big Bill” France passed away in June 1992. He left behind a lasting legacy.

Bill France Jr.

William Clifton France is remembered – and revered – as the man who followed his visionary father at NASCAR’s helm, in the process becoming a visionary himself, as he guided NASCAR to unprecedented levels of popularity.

France became NASCAR’s president in January 1972, replacing his father and becoming only the second president of the world’s largest auto racing sanctioning body. His emergence coincided with the sport’s emergence, and its eventual ascent to become America’s No. 1 form of motorsports and the nation’s second-most popular sport overall.

France, often referred to as “Bill Jr.,” remained president until November 2000. At that time, France announced the formation of a NASCAR Board of Directors on which he served as chairman and CEO until October 2003 when he was replaced by his son, Brian Z. France. After that, he continued to serve the sport for the remainder of his life as NASCAR Vice Chairman.

Junior Johnson

Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson is unique in NASCAR history, with tremendous success both as a driver and a car owner.

Johnson won the second annual Daytona 500 in 1960 and in the process, became credited with the discovery of “drafting” on the massive superspeedways. He won 50 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series then surprised many people by retiring from driving to become an owner. As an owner, Johnson never missed a beat; through the years, his drivers won 132 races. There also were six series championships produced with Cale Yarborough (1976-78) and Darrell Waltrip (1981-82, ’85).

Named one of NASCAR’s “50 Greatest Drivers” in 1998, Johnson resides in Wilkesboro, N.C., and remains one of the sport’s most enduring – and endearing – personalities, at the age of 78.

Richard Petty

Known as “the King”, Richard Petty’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series records are staggering: Most wins (200), most poles (123), tied for most championships (seven), most wins in a season (27), most Daytona 500 wins (seven), most consecutive wins (10) and most starts (1,185).

Petty’s success continued even after his retirement from driving in 1992. He would still hold the top spot in the family business – Petty Enterprises, and now, Richard Petty Motorsports. In all, Petty Enterprises totaled 268 victories before merging with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for the 2009 season to become Richard Petty Motorsports. Credit: NASCAR

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