The NASCAR Hall of Fame‘s Class of 2020 was revealed on Wednesday, featuring NASCAR champion drivers, an owner, and a mechanic. In an announcement video, Joe Gibbs and two of his drivers in Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, famed early Winston Cup Series driver Buddy Baker, and mechanic Waddell Wilson were named to the class.
One of motorsport’s most decorated drivers, Stewart moved to NASCAR from the Indy Racing League in 1996. From 1999 to 2016, Stewart enjoyed three Cup titles (2002, 2005, 2011) and forty-nine Cup wins. In the later years of his driving career and after it, his Stewart-Haas Racing operation became one of the Cup Series’ premier organisations; as of 2019, Stewart is the only person to win a driver’s and an owner’s championship (the latter with Kevin Harvick in 2014).
The 2000 NASCAR Cup champion, Labonte was a team-mate of Stewart’s at Joe Gibbs Racing. From 1991 to 2016, he scored twenty-one Cup wins, with his first coming in the 1996 Coca-Cola 600. Also the 1991 Busch (now Xfinity Series) champion, Labonte is the first driver to win a race in each of NASCAR’s three national series (Cup, Xfinity, Gander Outdoors Truck). He currently races in the Whelen Euro Series. With his induction, Labonte will join his brother Terry in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Before their respective departures from the team, Stewart and Labotne spent their careers driving the #20 Home Depot and #18 Interstate Batteries cars for Gibbs’ team. Founded in 1992 and like SHR, JGR is a regular contender for wins and championships, with four in the Cup Series. After the first twelve races of the 2019 season, a JGR car has won seven times this year between Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. (Erik Jones won his first Cup race for the team in 2018). Gibbs will soon hold the honour of being part of two different sports halls of fame; a former National Football League head coach for the Washington Redskins, Gibbs was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
A longtime NASCAR mechanic, Wilson developed engines for many stars from Cale Yarborough to Mario Andretti to David Pearson, and for teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Holman-Moody. Wilson-built engines won the Daytona 500 in 1980, 1983, and 1984. In 1982, Benny Parsons became the first driver in NASCAR history to set a 200-mph qualifying lap at Talladega Superspeedway, doing so with a Wilson motor.
Nicknamed the “Gentle Giant” and “Leadfoot”, Baker enjoyed race wins at NASCAR’s prestigious tracks, including the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, thrice at Talladega, thrice in what is now the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and working with Wilson to win the 1980 Daytona 500. After his driving career ended, he became a longtime announcer on television and radio.
Edsel Ford II, the great grandson of Henry Ford and executive in the Ford Motor Company, will receive the Landmark Award for his contributions to stock car racing. He was chosen from a pool of five candidates; the others were NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, Bowman Gray Stadium founder Alvin Hawkins, Pocono Raceway founder Doc Mattioli, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company executive and Winston Cup partner Ralph Seagraves.
Other nominees for the Class of 2020 included nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik, car owner Ray Fox, West Coast great and Cup veteran Hershel McGriff, eighteen-time Cup winners Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant, two-time Busch Series champion Sam Ard, famed late model driver Red Farmer, Holman-Moody owners John Holman and Ralph Moody, championship-winning crew chief Harry Hyde, 1961 Daytona 500 winner Marvin Panch, two-time 600 winner Jim Paschal, five-time NASCAR weekly series champion Larry Phillips, 1997 Brickyard 400 winner Ricky Rudd, and inaugural NASCAR champion crew chief Red Vogt.
The Class of 2020 will be inducted on 31 January 2020 at the Charlotte Convention Center.