The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., inducted its newest class of members over the weekend and this year’s class featured three owners and two drivers who will now take their spot as some of the greatest men to ever participate in the sport. When the Hall was established, it made sure that everyone would be recognized for their contributions to the sport and not just those that sat behind wheel.
Mark Martin takes his rightful place in the Hall as maybe the best driver to never win a title as he had five runner-up finishes in his career that also featured 40 wins in the Cup Series. The majority of his career was spent as the flagship team of what at one time was a five-team Roush Racing operation. He finished his career with Hendrick Motorsports and at the time of his retirement he was still considered one of the drivers that you had to beat to make it to victory lane.
The late Benny Parsons joins Martin in this year’s class as a driver and enters the Hall as a former series champion as he won the title in 1973. He won 21 races in his career but may be remembered just as much for his time in the broadcast booth. After his retirement he went to work for ESPN from 1989-2000 as an announcer and later moved over to NBC and TNT in the same capacity after ESPN departed from the sport.
While two drivers made the Hall this year, 2017 will be remembered as the year of the owners as Raymond Parks, Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress earned their place in the Hall for not what they did on the track but for the product they put on the track. All three of the owners had been on the ballot for each of the Hall’s previous eight years.
Parks was in the sport when it was formed by Bill France Sr. and won the first-ever Cup championship as an owner in 1949. He played a crucial role during the early years of the sport as it struggled to get established as he had the ear of France as both a consultant and a confidante.
The bulk of both Childress and Hendrick’s careers as owners in the sport have coincided with both owners having runs where they have dominated the sport. Both owners also have benefitted from having Hall of Fame-type drivers that have resumés that include multiple Cup championships.
Richard Childress will forever be remembered for being partnered with Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the two combined to post six of Dale’s seven Cup titles. He also has enjoyed success in both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series as his teams have posted a combined five titles. He still fields three Cup teams in the sport, with one being that of his grandson Austin.
Hendrick’s four-team organization has been the model for how to compete in the sport in recent years as it has won 12 Cup titles including the record-tying seventh championship in 2016 for Jimmie Johnson. He also has four titles with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte. Since it began competing in 1984, Hendrick teams have posted 245 wins.
PIT NOTES: The Chase may be getting a new look in 2017 with the possible addition of a road course race during its 10-race schedule. Last Friday, A.J. Allmendinger tested at Charlotte on what was a 2.3-mile road course that included part of the 1.5-mile quad-oval track and roads in the infield. There is no official word if the road course will become part of the schedule, but NASCAR did take a big part in the test. Since the road course is already in place at the track, it would be possible for a road course race to take place as early as the May All-Star race, but more likely to take place at the track’s Oct. 7 race date. The track’s first race during the Memorial Day weekend will remain the Coca- Cola 600.