NASCAR’s Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was announced yesterday. The five-person group – the seventh in NASCAR Hall of Fame history – consists of Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. In addition, Harold Brasington won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met in a closed session in Charlotte to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2016 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s “Great Hall.”
The Class of 2016 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the second year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion (Kevin Harvick). In all, 57 votes were cast, with two additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Jerry Cook and Robert Yates). The accounting firm of Ernst & Young presided over the tabulation of the votes.
Voting was as follows: O. Bruton Smith (68%), Terry Labonte (61%), Curtis Turner (60%), Jerry Cook (47%) and Bobby Isaac (44%).
The next top vote-getters were Red Byron, Benny Parsons and Rick Hendrick.
The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates.
Nominees for the Landmark Award included Brasington, H.Clay Earles, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier.
Class of 2016 Inductees:
Jerry Cook -- made his name in modifieds, winning six NASCAR Modified championships, including four consecutively from 1974-77. All the while, he was vying with another driver from his hometown of Rome, New York, nine-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans, for supremacy in NASCAR’s open-wheel realm. After retiring from racing in 1982, Cook stayed with the sport and helped shape the series known today as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Cook served as the series’ director when it began in 1985 and remains with NASCAR as competition administrator.
Bobby Isaac -- His uncanny skill at drawing speed from a race car puts him on a short list of NASCAR legends. His 49 career poles ranks 10th all time. Maybe more impressive: Isaac captured 19 poles in 1969, which still stands as the record for poles in a single season. Isaac began racing in NASCAR’s premier series in 1961. He finished runner-up in the series standings in 1968 behind NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson. In 1969, he finished sixth in the standings after posting 17 wins and those 19 poles. In 1970, Isaac won the championship posting 11 victories, 32 top fives and 38 top 10s in 47 starts. Isaac won 37 races in NASCAR's top series, ranking 19th on the all-time list.
Terry Labonte -- Early in his career he was known as the “Iceman” for his coolness under pressure. But his demeanor belied his determination. Later in his career, he became known as the sport’s “Iron Man” thanks to 665 consecutive starts in NASCAR’s premier series, a record which stood until 2002. Winning two premier series championships, in 1984 and ’96, is impressive; the 12-year gap distinguishes Labonte further. No other driver has won his first two championships that far apart and Labonte is one of only six drivers with championships in two decades. Labonte’s stellar career is tucked between perfect bookends – his two Southern 500 wins, in 1980 and 2003. His 361 top-10 finishes ranks 10th all time.
O. Bruton Smith -- Executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., he promoted his first stock car race in Midland, North Carolina at the age of 18. Smith’s early endeavors included operating the National Stock Car Racing Association – seen as an early competitor to NASCAR – and building Charlotte Motor Speedway. CMS became the foundation of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which currently owns eight NASCAR tracks hosting 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and additional high-profile motorsports activities. Smith took SMI public in 1995, the first motorsports company to be traded at the New York Stock Exchange. He was inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame and National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame, both in 2006; and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Curtis Turner -- Called the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing,” Turner was among the fastest and most colorful competitors in the early years of NASCAR premier series racing. Turner competed in NASCAR’s first “Strictly Stock” race in 1949 in Charlotte and was the only driver to win a NASCAR premier series race in a Nash. He posted his first of 17 career victories in only his fourth start on Sept. 11, 1949, at Langhorne (Pennsylvania) Speedway. Although many of Turner’s victories came on short tracks and dirt ovals – much of his career pre-dated NASCAR’s superspeedway era – he won the 1956 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and the first American 500 at Rockingham Speedway in 1965. He remains the only series driver to win two consecutive races from the pole leading every lap. He also won 38 of 79 races in which he competed in the NASCAR Convertible Division.
Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR:
Harold Brasington -- A South Carolina businessman, Brasington believed in Bill France’s fledgling NASCAR business, created the sanctioning body’s first superspeedway – a one-of-a-kind egg-shaped oval, paved on an old cotton and peanut field. Expecting 10,000 fans to show up at Darlington Raceway’s first competition on Labor Day of 1950, 25,000 spectators showed up for the inaugural Southern 500 – NASCAR’s first 500-mile race. Darlington's success inspired Brasington to extend his reach north -- to North Carolina. He employed his track building and promoting expertise, helping in the creation of Charlotte Motor Speedway and building North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina.
Next year’s Induction Ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, broadcast on NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, live from Charlotte, N.C.