Five more NASCAR legends were honored with a well-deserved induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night at the Crown Ball Room at the Charlotte Convention Center.
First to be inducted was three-time champion engine builder Waddell Wilson. During his time in the sport he built engines that won championships in 1968, 1969 and in 1973. While he was an engine builder, he also was able to achieve success as a crew chief in NASCAR. He was able to capture the Daytona 500 three times as a crew chief with Buddy Baker in 1980 and Cale Yarbrough in 1983-84.
Following a captivating speech by Wilson, current NASCAR Cup driver Ryan Newman took to the stage to introduce the tribute video for Buddy Baker. Baker the son of two-time champion Buck Baker took on the family legacy with a NASCAR career that saw him capture 19 wins and 38 poles before turning to broadcasting.
“The only thing faster than his wit was his speed in a race car,” Newman said of the man whose 177.602 mph speed record for the Daytona 500 still stands. “…Once he got out front, no one was getting by him.”
The 1980 Daytona 500 winner was officially inducted by NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley and Humpy Wheeler and they presented his 2020 class ring to his sister Susie Baker.
After the “Gentle Giant” was officially inducted in to the 2020 class, it was time for team owner Joe Gibbs to be inducted. From the three championships on the gridiron, Gibbs made the shift to NASCAR in 1992 to form Joe Gibbs Racing. Since 1992 he’s captured five NASCAR Cup Series championships and has 176 wins as an owner.
Gibbs was able to share a special moment with his son Coy Gibbs as he received his ring and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“The NASCAR family is just unreal,” Joe Gibbs said, describing his original concerns about being accepted in NASCAR when he left the NFL and joined the sport in 1992. “Everyone stretched out their arms. The fans, the fellow competitors … that meant so much as we took off in racing.”
When Gibbs completed his fun filled speech, the driver that brought him his first championship Bobby Labonte was the next to be inducted.
Labonte received a “Texas” introduction to his tribute video by Texas native Chris Buescher. Shortly after the video he was inducted by his brother Terry Labonte, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2016.
“To be inducted along with legends, to be added to the Hall with the previous inductees and to be a part of NASCAR, I’m very, very grateful,” Bobby Labonte said. “From as early as I can remember, there were two things I did as a kid. I raced quarter midgets in South Texas, and I watched my brother race.
“I idolized him. So, after all these years, I stand before you, following in my brother’s footsteps. I’m even wearing the same tie he wore on his induction night.”
To close out the class of 2020, three-time champion Tony Stewart became the man of the hour. He spent a total of 18 years in the NASCAR Cup Series and accumulated 49 wins and 308 top 10s. After being introduced by Kevin Harvick it was time for the “Rushville Rocket” to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
He was inducted by co-owner of Stewart Haas Racing, Gene Haas.
“I’m one of just 55 people to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Stewart said. “And, considering that NASCAR has been around for more than 70 years, that’s kind of nuts. It truly is an elite group, and it’s incredibly humbling to be a part of it.”
Ford Motor Company Executive Edsel Ford II was named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
During the NASCAR Hall of Fame dinner before the induction ceremonies long time broadcaster Dr. Dick Berggren was honored with the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.