Five of NASCAR’s legendary competitors – three drivers and two owners – were enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, tonight during the Induction Ceremony held in the Crown Ball Room at the Charlotte Convention Center.
Davey Allison, Jeff Gordon, Alan Kulwicki, Roger Penske and Jack Roush comprise the 10th Class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame – now home to 50 inductees.
A phenom from Northern California, Gordon is credited for taking NASCAR from a southern pastime to the mainstream. He became the youngest driver in the modern era to win a premier series title as a 24-year-old in 1995. The leader of the Rainbow Warriors – named for his colorful Chevrolet – went on to win three more championships (1997, ’98, 2001). In 1998 Gordon won a modern era-record 13 races. He finished his career third on the all-time wins list with 93 victories. The youthful, flashy Gordon served as the perfect rival to the rugged Dale Earnhardt Sr. and was the first NASCAR driver to host “Saturday Night Live.” He retired from full-time NASCAR racing as the sport’s iron man, boasting a record 797 consecutive starts.
“What a special evening. I’m so honored to be here surrounded by friends, family, fans and many people that have worked very hard behind the scenes for me over the years,” Gordon said. “Thank you to the fans who make racing the great sport that it is. You make being a race car driver a dream come true.”
Allison is regarded as one of the top pure talents to ever take the wheel of a race car. He won 19 races and 14 poles before his tragic death in a helicopter accident in 1993 at 33 years old. The son of 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Bobby Allison, he finished second to his father in the 1988 Daytona 500 as the pair became the only father-son duo to finish first and second in NASCAR’s biggest event. Allison would later win ‘The Great American Race’ in 1992.
An accomplished short-track racer from Wisconsin, Kulwicki moved to Charlotte in 1984 with only a pickup truck and self-built race car with the hope of competing in NASCAR’s premier series. He quickly made his dream into a reality earning Rookie of the Year with his self-owned team in 1986 and picking up his first win at Phoenix in 1988. Despite lucrative offers, Kulwicki never raced for anyone but himself. In 1992, he overcame a 278-point deficit with six races left to capture the NASCAR premier series championship on the strength of two wins, 11 top fives and 17 top 10s. Unfortunately, Kulwicki never got the chance to defend his title after dying in a plane crash on the way to Bristol Motor Speedway in 1993. He’ll forever be known for his trademark “Polish Victory Lap,” a celebratory cool-down lap with the driver’s window facing the fans.
One of America’s renowned entrepreneurs, Roger Penske has built a motorsports empire involved with racing for more than 50 years. Penske has won 114 NASCAR premier series races, two Daytona 500s (Ryan Newman, 2008; Joey Logano, 2015), four Xfinity Series owner titles, and two premier series owner championships (Brad Keselowski, 2012; Joey Logano, 2018). Outside of competition, he built Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, in 1996 and previously owned Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace (36 wins) and Bobby Allison (four wins) have raced for Penske.
“This Hall of Fame honor and this moment is very special to me, and I am so glad to share it with my family and friends,” Penske said. “Racing has been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember. It is a common thread that is woven throughout all of our Penske business. Racing is simply who we are.”
A graduate-level mathematician and engineering entrepreneur from Michigan, Roush was a drag racing owner and enthusiast before he decided to try his hand at NASCAR in 1988. Since entering the sport, he’s won a record 324 races across NASCAR’s three national series and boasts five owner championships, including two premier series titles (Matt Kenseth, 2003; Kurt Busch, 2004). Roush initially built his powerhouse team by pairing with 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Mark Martin, who won 83 national series races for Roush from 1988-2005.
“‘When I announced my plan to start a NASCAR Cup team in January 1988, few if any knowledgeable fans and even fewer Cup team personnel would have given me favorable odds of surviving for more than three decades as I stand before you tonight,” Roush said.
In addition to the five inductees enshrined today, Jim Hunter was honored as the fifth recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
Hunter’s career in the NASCAR industry spanned more than 50 years as a NASCAR executive, track president, public relations professional and journalist. He worked for a decade as an award-winning journalist before transitioning to public relations for Dodge, then Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. In 1983, Hunter was named NASCAR vice president of administration. Ten years later, he became president of Darlington Raceway and corporate vice president of the International Speedway Corporation. Hunter was a close confidant of Bill France Jr. who lured him back to NASCAR in 2001 to lead an expanded public relations effort aimed at responding to the needs of burgeoning media coverage. Many drivers and industry executives credit Hunter’s mentorship as the key to their NASCAR success.
Prior to tonight’s Induction Ceremony, journalist Steve Waid was presented the seventh Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.