This year's Hall of Fame class pays homage to NASCAR's past

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Voting for the five 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees sent a clear message -- namely, that those who helped build stock car racing into a national passage deserved recognition among the foremost personages of the sport.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Voting for the five 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees sent a clear message -- namely, that those who helped build stock car racing into a national passage deserved recognition among the foremost personages of the sport.

Four of the five members of the 2013 class -- Herb Thomas, Leonard Wood, Cotton Owens, Buck Baker, trace their origins in the sport to the late 1940s and 1950s. The fifth, 1989 Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace, was elected in the first year he was nominated.

For Wallace, induction alongside four founders of the sport brought an interesting contrast during the announcement of the 2013 class in the Great Hall of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

"To go in with some of those pioneers is just amazing," Wallace told the NASCAR Wire Service. "They were doing a little thing on the television a little while ago, and it showed all those guys in black-and-white and showed me in color.

"I was like, 'This is kind of crazy.' I had a blue uniform, and everybody else had black-and-white pictures. I'm like, 'OK, is this right or wrong?' I don't know."


Thomas, who like Wood was named on 57 percent of voting committee members' ballots, was the first two-time champion of NASCAR's foremost series, winning titles in 1951 and 1953. Thomas won 48 races, 13th most all-time, and his winning percent of 21.05 remains a series record.

Wood, co-founder of the legendary Wood brothers, remains one of the foremost mechanics the sport has known. From 1953 through the current season, the Wood Brothers team has amassed 98 victories, the most recent coming with driver Trevor Bayne in the 2011 Daytona 500.

In 1965, Ford Motor Company and Colin Chapman hired the Wood Brothers to pit Jim Clark's car in the Indianapolis 500. In part because the Woods pioneered a faster method of fueling the car, Clark won the race that year.

The Wood Brothers fielded cars for a litany of exceptional drivers, including NASCAR Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough and David Pearson. Leonard Wood, who follows his brother Glen into the Hall, is still a presence in the Cup garage, offering his wisdom to the many who ask.

"I kind of thought I might have a shot at it, but you never know how people are going to vote," Wood said Wednesday at the Hall of Fame. "It's such a great honor to go in right behind brother Glen. We always did so much together.

"To be in there with him and our former drivers Pearson and Cale -- and to be associated with (fellow Hall of Famers) Richard (Petty) and Dale (Earnhardt) is so rewarding."

Owens, who made his reputation as a driver and an owner, garnered 50 percent of the vote. As a driver, Owens won nine times in NASCAR's top series, posting his first victory in 1957 on the Daytona Beach and Road Course -- also the first NASCAR win for Pontiac.

Pearson, who like Owens was from Spartanburg, S.C., collected 27 of his 105 victories while driving for Owens. They teamed to win the series championship in 1966.


Baker was the first driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR's premier series, claiming titles in 1956 and 1957. Baker won his first championship for Carl Kiekhaefer, the first owner to build a multi-car organization. Baker won his second title driving his own No. 87 Chevrolet.

In 1957, Baker posted 10 of his 46 victories (14th most all-time), four short of his high-water mark of 14 wins in 1956.

Baker received 39 percent of the vote on Wednesday, tying him with Glenn "Fireball" Roberts for the final position in the 2013 class. Baker won induction in a first-ever tiebreaking re-vote between the two nominees.

Wallace, who was named on 52 percent of ballots, was surprised he was inducted before the late Benny Parsons, 1973 Cup champion and beloved broadcaster. But Wallace, who has 55 career wins, was the only winner of 50 or more races who wasn't already in the Hall.

"I'm very humbled," Wallace said. "I'm very excited -- I really, really am. I almost feel like Jesse James. I feel like I've grabbed something and run off, and there are so many good guys who need to be in there before me.

"I did not think I was going to get in today. I thought Benny Parsons would get in. I thought Freddie Lorenzen would get in. I thought some of these super big names that I read about all my life growing up would get in before me. I told myself, 'If I don't get in, I am totally fine with that, because I'd like to see somebody that I idolized growing up get in.' "

In announcing the 2013 class, NASCAR also inaugurated the Squier-Hall award for media excellence, named for its first two recipients, legendary TV broadcaster Ken Squier and radio play-by-play announcer Barney Hall, for decades the voice of NASCAR racing on the Motor Racing Network.

Henceforth, the award will go to one media member per year.

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