Class of 2017 Inducted into Hall of Fame

NASCAR

The five members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night in a ceremony in the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Audio Features: Richard Childress | Rick Hendrick | Mark Martin | Raymond Parks | Benny ParsonsH. Clay Earles

Photos: Richard Childress | Rick Hendrick | Mark Martin | Raymond Parks | Benny Parsons | Induction Ceremony

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The five members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night in a ceremony in the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center. 

Consisting of team owners Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Raymond Parks along with drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons, the 2017 Class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame is the eighth in the history of the hall, which opened in 2010.

The Class of 2017 spanned every era of NASCAR Racing, ranging from Parks - NASCAR’s first Champion Car owner - to Parsons, winner of the 1973 Premier Series championship - to Martin, Hendrick and Childress who have significantly impacted the current era of the sport.

Born in 1914, Parks, a World War II veteran, was one of stock car racing’s early pioneers and fielded cars for Red Byron to win the inaugural NASCAR stock car championship in 1949. Parks’ entries scored two victories in 18 events over a six-year span. His induction opened Friday’s ceremony, with Kevin Harvick introducing Parks and family friend Kyle Petty inducting him.

“In less than two minutes he could tell you his whole story,” said Parks’ granddaughter, Patricia DePottey. "I got some cars and I started winning,” she said, reminiscing on how he talked about his career. 

DePottey went on to tell a story about her first trip to Daytona International Speedway and how she could instantly visualize the impact Parks made in NASCAR’s earliest days.

Parsons’ impact on the sport was solidified when he won the 1973 championship and the 1975 Daytona 500. But after retiring from driving, Parsons made a second career as a broadcaster for ESPN, NBC and TNT.

“He came from being a Michigan taxi driver to a NASCAR champion - it sounds like the script of a Hollywood movie,” said Brad Keselowski who introduced Parsons’ introductory video.

“Beyond Benny’s work behind the wheel, it was his work in the broadcast booth that really stood out,” Keselowski said.

“There are so many people here that he would like to thank,” said Terri Parsons, Benny’s widow. “The most important thing about tonight is he would understand how much he meant to people,” she said. 

Childress made a career as a successful journeyman driver before becoming one of the most prolific car owners in the sport’s history. 

Earning 76 top-10 finishes in 285 starts as a driver, Childress’ NASCAR career began as a result of a driver boycott in the inaugural race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1969. Childress ran the preliminary event on Saturday but was offered $1,000 by Bill France Sr. to run in Sunday’s race to fill the field. Childress was able to take his prize money to help build his first race shop.

After retiring from driving, Childress won his first race with Ricky Rudd behind the wheel in 1983, but it wasn’t until joining forces with Dale Earnhardt did Childress take his team to the upper echelon of NASCAR, winning 67 races and six championships with Earnhardt. In all, Childress’ teams have won 105 wins in NASCAR’s Premier Series and 11 championships in the top three divisions of the sport. 

“I’m honored to go in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with my heroes,” Childress said. “Only in America could a kid with a $20 racecar and a dream, selling peanuts and popcorn at Bowman Gray Stadium, be standing here.”

Childress thanked his sponsors, family, friends and fans and all of the drivers that had driven for him over the years. But Childress wouldn’t be where he was without the success he had with Earnhardt.

“I wouldn’t be standing here tonight without him,” Childress said. "He was a great friend and a huge loss to our sport. I have so many great memories - winning our first championship, winning the Daytona 500, Indy and many more."

Hendrick has become the most successful car owner in NASCAR history and won his record 12th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship last year. He’s won 245 races since 1984 and has owned cars for Hall of Fame drivers Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte as well as future first-ballot Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

Hendrick opened his speech by telling the story of how his race team was formed and how it almost failed in its infancy.

“It just seems like yesterday we didn’t think we’d make it through our first year,” Hendrick said. "When we formed All Star Racing, I had five employees. We raced six races with Geoff Bodine. We wrecked at Darlington and I said I can’t go any farther. If we don’t get a sponsor we’ll have to close the doors,” Hendrick said. Bodine would win the following week at Martinsville, allowing him to keep the doors open, find a sponsor and go on to become a NASCAR Hall of Famer.

Hendrick told stories of triumph and tragedy, remembering stories of race wins over his career to getting a visit from Bill France Jr. after being diagnosed with Leukemia just to make sure he was alright.

He also talked about his earliest memories of going to races.

“If you were good you got to go to a NASCAR race,” Hendrick said. “It was at Hillsboro, I have no idea what year it was, but I know it was at Hillsboro. Growing up as a gear head, that was all I cared about. I loved being around the cars and the racecars and NASCAR was just the epitome of racing. 

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world because of my family, because of the friends I’ve met in this sport. I thank everyone who voted for me and all the fans because this is an honor that I will never, ever forget,” Hendrick said. 

Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 and is described as “the greatest driver to never win a championship.” 

Martin won his first of 40 NASCAR Cup Series races in 1989 at Rockingham driving for Jack Roush, and would finish runner up in the series standings five times. In addition to 40 wins at the top level, Martin won 49 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and seven times in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - notching 96 total wins amongst the three top series.

“Toughness. Grit. Determination. This racing warrior could not be outworked,” said Matt Kenseth, Martin’s former teammate who introduced the Arkansas native. Martin would officially be inducted by Roush, who fielded entries for Martin from 1988 through 2006.

“I want to thank all the hall members who came before me,” Martin said. “When I was informed I would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I was humbled and speechless. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I think about my mom and dad. My dad always told me I could do anything I set my mind to.”

In addition to the five members being enshrined, the family of H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway, accepted the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR and Benny Phillips was honored as the Squier-Hall Award Winner, recognizing contributions made by members of the media to the sport.

Earles built Martinsville Speedway in 1947, a year before NASCAR’s founding, and the track continues to host two Premier Series events each year.

“I think the key to his success was the fan’s acceptance to what he did,” said Clay Campbell, current Martinsville track president and Earles’ grandson. “We work for the fans,” Campbell said. 

Phillips became the sixth member of the media to be awarded the Squire-Hall Award, named after motorsports broadcasters Ken Squire and the late Barney Hall. Phillips spent 48 years with The Enterprise in High Point, NC and wrote for Stock Car Racing Magazine for 27 years, being named the NMPA Writer of the Year seven times. While recognizing Phillips, NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director and Motor Racing Network announcer Winston Kelley paid tribute to Hall, who passed away in January of 2016.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Weekend continues tomorrow with Fan Appreciation Day. Admission to the Hall of Fame will be free and will feature autograph sessions, driver appearances and more. 

Photos

  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class of 2017
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  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
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  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
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  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
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