NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2017 selected
Raymond Parks (photo courtesy of ISC Archives/Getty Images)
By AMANDA VINCENT
On Wednesday evening, the 2017 class of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees was announced. The next class includes Benny Parsons, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Richard Childress. They officially will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., in January.
Parsons was the champion at NASCAR’s top level in 1973. He posted 21-career wins in 526 races. He finished in the top-10 in more than 50 percent of those races with 283 top-10 finishes to his credit. Parsons also is credited with being the first driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 mph, doing so at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 1982. After retiring as a driver, Parsons continued to contribute to the sport, becoming a beloved television broadcaster on NASCAR coverage for NBC and TNT.
“This is the biggest honor of Benny’s life,” Parsons’ widow, Terri Parsons, said. “It summarizes everything he has ever worked towards. Every job he has ever had, be it as a race car driver in all divisions, host of NASCAR radio shows, NASCAR color commentator for TV networks, each were just as important to him as the next. He lived his life for NASCAR fans and helping to make the sport of auto racing a better sport for them to enjoy. I know he is smiling his big smile tonight saying, ‘Unbelievable.’”
Hendrick’s race team, Hendrick Motorsports, lays claim to 14 NASCAR national-level championships, with 11 of those coming at the Sprint Cup level with three different drivers — Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Labonte and Gordon combined to win four-straight Cups for Hendrick between 1995 and 1998 and Johnson won five-straight from 2006 to 2010.
Martin is considered by many to be the best driver ever to not win a NASCAR championship. He finished second in the Cup championship standings five times. Martin has a combined 96-career wins across NASCAR’s three national series, 40 of those coming at the Spring Cup level. He has 49-career wins in the Xfinity Series — a tally that held the all-time record for most wins in the series for 14 wins before he was surpassed by Kyle Busch.
Parks was NASCAR’s first championship car owner, as his driver, Red Byron, hoisted NASCAR’s premier division championship trophy in 1949. Byron also is credited with being instrumental in Bill France’s creation of NASCAR.
Childress began his NASCAR career as a driver, but it was as owner of Richard Childress Racing that he experienced his most success. After retiring as a driver in 1981, Childress claimed six Cup championships, all with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt in his car. In all, Childress is an 11-time championship car owner across NASCAR’s three national divisions. He was the first team owner to have championships in all three series and his tally of 11 titles is second only to fellow-2017 inductee, Hendrick.
The 2017 inductees were chosen from a list of 20 nominees that also included Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday, Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates.
Parsons was on the most ballots from voting committee members with his name on 85 percent of the ballots cast. Hendrick’s name was on 62 percent of ballots, while Martin was on 57 percent, Parks 53 percent and Childress 43 percent.
The latest recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR also was revealed Wednesday. The award recipient for 2017 will be H. Clay Earles, the founder of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Like the Hall of Fame inductees, Earles will be honored during the inducution ceremony at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January. Martinsville Speedway was one of the tracks on NASCAR’s first premier series schedule. The short track is the only original track still remaining on the yearly Sprint Cup Series schedule.
Other individuals nominated for the Landmark Award included Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier.