Newest NASCAR Hall of Fame Member to appear in the Pit Road Box Seats Nov. 22
The NASCAR Hall of Fame will open in May 2010 (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, Getty Images Sport)
NASCAR elected the first five members to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2010. The 51-member voting panel consisting of NASCAR executives, journalists and former participants (as well as one ballot featuring a combined fan vote) opted for the two men who led the sport for more than 50 years (Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr.), the two men who won the most championships (Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt) and a legendary moonshiner who won races as both an owner and driver (Junior Johnson).
“I have been around this sport for a long time and each of the men that were inducted are truly deserving of this honor,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway Track President Curtis Gray. “To have a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Richard Petty visiting our Pit Road Box Seats is unbelievable. Fans in the Pit Road Box Seats have a wonderful opportunity to meet one of the most personable and charismatic people, not only in NASCAR, but in all of sports.”
“You had eight or 10 people that very much should have been in the first go-around,” Petty said. “I just looked at some of us later stars, if it hadn’t been for the Frances and a bunch of people that helped them, there wouldn’t have been a hall of fame, a Richard Petty or a Dale Earnhardt.”
The induction ceremony is scheduled to be May 23, 2010 and will attract the legions of fans that followed Petty and Earnhardt. Both men won seven championships but with different styles.
Petty won his seven Cup championships but is perhaps best known as an ambassador for the sport. He is still a fan favorite, both during his racing days and now as a team co-owner. Petty holds the record for most wins (200), most poles (123), most wins in a season (27) and most Daytona 500 wins (seven). He also has the record for the most starts in the series, 1,185. Petty is still one of the most popular people around the NASCAR garage and fans that attend Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20-22 will get to meet one of the sport’s biggest stars.
“It feels good,” Petty said. “I felt like this was a race, then you feel good finishing … in the front five.”
Earnhardt also won seven Cup championships, the first in only his second full season of NASCAR competition. His 76 victories rank seventh on the all-time list. His passionate driving style made him a polarizing figure for fans which earned him the nickname “The Intimidator.” Earnhardt, who made 676 starts in his career, died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Earnhardt also was the first driver to truly market himself as a brand.
“For what my dad achieved in this sport – both on and off the track – he certainly earned his place in history and deserves to be distinguished in this inaugural class of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees,” said his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. “I want to thank the voting panel and nomination committee for recognizing that and honoring him this way. It means a lot to the Earnhardt family, and it means a lot to my dad’s fans, which I am one. He was the man, plain and simple.”
Johnson won races as both a driver and an owner. He won 50 races as a driver and then moved successfully into an ownership role. Over the years, his drivers won 132 races and six titles, three by Cale Yarborough and three by Darrell Waltrip.
“This is a big, big deal to me,” Johnson said. “It's the greatest thing that's happened to me in this sport. I'm almost speechless to say that I am going into the hall of fame. You just don't know how it feels to be one of the five people selected to go into this first class. It's so big; it's so honorable."
France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1947. He led the new organization through its infancy and created a nationally recognized sport. He also founded International Speedway Corporation which owns Homestead-Miami Speedway – site of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Nov. 22. ISC remains as one of two major track promoters in NASCAR. France stepped down as president of NASCAR in January of 1972, handing it over to his son, but he continued to be a consultant for a number of years. He died in June 1992.
France Jr. took over for his father in 1972 and kept building NASCAR. He led the sport through the 1980s and 1990s, years when it grew in national prominence and into the top motorsport in the country. France remained in the sport’s top role until November 2000. He remained as NASCAR vice chairman for the remainder of his life. France died in June 2007.
First NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees:
• Bill France Sr., the founder of NASCAR
• Bill France Jr., former Chairman and CEO of NASCAR and a former president of Daytona International Speedway
• Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR champion
• Dale Earnhardt, seven-time NASCAR champion
• Junior Johnson, winner of 50 NASCAR races as a driver and six championships as an owner
The Chase for the Sprint Cup is on! The BEST seats are available NOW for the Nov. 20-22 Ford Championship Weekend, featuring the series-crowning Championship finales of all three of NASCAR’s top circuits: the Camping World Truck Series (Friday), Nationwide Series (Saturday) and Sprint Cup Series (Sunday). For Friday night’s Truck Championship, all kids 12 and under will be admitted FREE; on Saturday for the Nationwide Championship, all kids 12 and under are just $15; and for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Championship, adult tickets start at just $55. Click here to view great seats available for each race. For information about the Pit Road Box Seats and to download the order form click here or call (305)230-5105.