By the time Friday January 20th comes and goes, eight classes will have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Even after all this time, there is no shortage of legends and contributors deserving of such recognition.
Check out this year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame class…..
With 40 wins in the Monster Energy series, 49 in Xfinity and seven in the CWTS, Mark Martin has a most worthy resume as arguably the best driver to never win a championship. Martin’s story is one of perseverance, heartbreak, and also triumph. Can we all not relate? After struggling to take hold in NASCAR, Mark Martin was one of owner Jack Roush’s earliest success stories. He may have never hoisted that Cup title, but Martin sure made strong runs at some of the series greatest legends.
In his later years, Martin was a mentor to younger drivers, and he was also a leader by example. In the tradition of Ned Jarrett, he was not one for dumping drivers to win. He was also well-noted and emulated in his commitment to physical fitness, enabling him to be one of NASCAR’s most successful behind the wheel past the age of 50.
Another NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee making contributions beyond what he accomplished behind the wheel was Benny Parsons. Sure, he won the 1973 championship, and yes he won the 1975 Daytona 500, but more than that, the former taxi cab driver was an ambassador.
It’s hard to get consensus among fans concerning who is and isn’t a good commentator, but Parsons may well have been one of the most respected. Years after his 1988 retirement, he was a voice for the sport on NBC and TNT. He always gave fans that feeling like he was sitting in their living rooms, enjoying the action and breaking things down with a certain homespun flair. Parsons passed away a decade ago, and he’s still highly revered in NASCAR Nation.
The ownership ranks are well represented in this NASCAR Hall of Fame vintage. The original super team owner was none other than Raymond Parks. Successful in the moonshine business, Parks was most definitely something of an outlaw legend in the tradition of Junior Johnson. More importantly, his most successful runners- Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall- gave stock car racing it’s first stars- predating the formation of NASCAR.
Also successful in real estate, Parks applied his business acumen to the creation of a successful team that included NASCAR’s first champion- Red Byron- and its first super-mechanic- Red Vogt. Pioneer racing stars Tim and Fonty Flock also owe their success to Raymond Parks.
Richard Childress provides another rags to riches tale for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Losing his father at a young age, Childress was pressed into adulthood young. The story goes that Childress bought his first car for $20. From 1969 to 1981, Childress a competitive presence on the track, though he never won a race.
Before Dale Earnhardt made the number three famous, Childress raced with that number as a nod to his hero Junior Johnson. It would be Johnson that would help pair the two that became fast friends and an incredibly successful NASCAR pairing. Earnhardt won six of his seven titles racing for Childress. Kevin Harvick, Ricky Rudd, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer owe a great measure of their fame to Childress. Though success has been harder to come by in recent years, Childress remains active and passionate about NASCAR.
No owner has enjoyed greater success than Rick Hendrick. Since his 1984 arrival, his drivers have won 11 championships and 240 races. His rosters have included the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, Tim Richmond and Kyle Busch to name a few.
Some will try to diminish the accomplishment of Hendrick. Critical fans will suggest he has bought NASCAR off for his titles, and that his bout with leukemia was a ruse to avoid prison over a mail fraud conviction. Yeah, right. All it really is is an attempt to diminish what the Virginian has accomplished as a businessman and shrewd eye for racing talent. You know you’re at the top when people try hard to knock you off. Regardless of what one may perceive of his behavior, they can’t take away what Hendrick has achieved and what he has contributed as a humanitarian.
The only real shame about this NASCAR Hall of Fame class is that Parsons and Parks aren’t alive to experience it. All five have made their mark on the sport and are to be congratulated for their hard work and success.