Three legendary drivers and two of stock car racing’s most influential owners were honored with well-deserved induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night.
In one distinct way, the 10th Hall of Fame class is unique. Either as owners or drivers, all five members of the class competed against each other at some points in their careers.
Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon headlines a 2019 class that includes two drivers whose careers — and tragic loss of life — are inextricably intertwined. Alan Kulwicki, the last privateer to win a Cup championship, and Davey Allison, both played key roles in the 1992 title race, before both passed away the following year as the result of aviation accidents.
The Hall also welcomed reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion owner Roger Penske, as well as Jack Roush, whose drivers won back to back Cup titles in 2003 (the last year of the season-long scoring system) and 2004 (the first year of the postseason Playoffs).
After an introduction from fellow California Cup driver Kyle Larson, team owner Rick Hendrick, along with Gordon’s son Leo and daughter Ella, presented the final induction honors of the night for the newly inducted Hall of Famer, who won 93 Cup races, third most all-time.
“What a special evening,” Gordon said. “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. Thank you!
“I was told I have about eight minutes to give my speech. I’m not exactly sure if it’s going to take six, 12 or what, but, honestly, no amount of time would be enough to thank everyone who helped me get here to this stage tonight.”
Gordon then proceeded to thank those who played key parts in his storied career, from Hendrick to three-time champion crew chief Ray Evernham to stepfather John Bickford to his wife Ingrid and his children.
“Raising a family is similar to racing — some days you’re hanging in the back, hanging on tight, holding on and hoping a caution falls at any second,” Gordon said. “Other days you’re pulling into victory lane celebrating and proud as you can be.
“I’m so thankful and lucky to have the love of my life and two amazing kids by my side every morning when we start our engines and every night when the checkered flag waves.”
First to be inducted was team owner Roush, one of the foremost innovators in stock car racing. Roush fielded Fords for Cup champions Matt Kenseth (2003) and Kurt Busch (2004), winning the first title under NASCAR’s new 10-race Playoff format.
In a career that has encompassed four decades, Roush has accumulated 137 victories in each of the Cup and Xfinity Series while nurturing the career of fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin, a 40-time winner in NASCAR’s premier series.
It was Martin who presented Roush with his Hall of Fame ring, after an introduction by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won back-to-back NASCAR Xfinity Series titles under the Roush Fenway Racing banner in 2011 and 2012.
“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 his induction speech.
“Were it not for Mark Martin’s ambitions and commitment, and the timely advice and support of Banjo Matthews, Bobby Allison, Glen and Leonard Wood and counselor John Cassidy, I would not have survived long enough to have earned even a footnote in any chronicles of the sport.”