By AMANDA VINCENT
Earlier this week, the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) announced its three 2016 inductees into its NMPA Hall of Fame. The class of 2016 consists of NASCAR team owners Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs and three-time IndyCar championship driver Al Unser. They will be inducted into the Hall during a ceremony at the Embassy Suites in Concord, N.C., on Jan. 16, 2016.
Hendrick’s name showed up on 88 percent of ballots cast by NMPA members, while 76 percent of the membership voted for Gibbs and 66 percent for Unser
Hendrick began his NASCAR race team in 1984, debuting in that year’s Daytona 500 under the All-Star Racing banner. The team posted an eighth-place finish in its debut. Seven races later, the team scored its first win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with Geoff Bodine behind the wheel.
In the time since, including a name change to Hendrick Motorsports, the race team has produced 14 driver championships across NASCAR’s three national series, including three at the Cup level — six for Jimmie Johnson, four for Jeff Gordon and one for Terry Labonte — and 14 owners’ championships across the national divisions.
“I have such great respect for the people who cover our sport and the role they play in keeping our fans informed,” Hendrick said. “The NMPA has done so much to give back to the NASCAR community and highlight people’s contributions through programs like the Myers Brothers Award and Driver of the Year. It takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice to do what our media members do every week. To be recognized by that group of people is very humbling.”
Gibbs, meanwhile, has been a NASCAR team owner for 23 seasons. Those 23 seasons have produced four championships at the Sprint Cup level — two for Tony Stewart and one each for Bobby Labonte and 2015 champion Kyle Busch. His cars also have won 128 races in NASCAR’s premier series. In the Xfinity Series, Joe Gibbs Racing has earned four owners’ championships and one drivers’ title.
IndyCar driver, Unser, is one of other three drivers to win the series’ premier race, the Indianapolis 500, four times. In 337 races, Unser claimed three championships, 40 wins, 127 podium finishes, 29 poles. He also made a handful of NASCAR starts, posting three top-10 finishes in five races at the Cup level.
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