NASCAR recently announced the nominees on the Hall of Fame ballots for the Class of 2023, and while the ballots are star-studded, there are a few nominees who stand out from the rest.
Last week, NASCAR announced its Hall of Fame nominees on each ballot for the Class of 2023. Just as there were in 2021, there are two ballots: the Modern Era ballot, which consists of 10 nominees who competed in the modern era of the sport, and the Pioneer Vote, which consists of five nominees who played a significant role in founding and developing the sport into what it has become today.
Modern-era ballot candidates include Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Tim Brewer, Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Matt Kenseth, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd and Kirk Shelmerdine.
Pioneer-era ballot candidates include Sam Ard, AJ Foyt, Banjo Matthews, Herschel McGriff and Ralph Moody.
While all the nominees are worthy of them, each fan who votes and each of the voting members will have different opinions on who the three inductees should be. But a few names on each ballot stand out against their competitors and have a better chance of being inducted in 2023.
Neil Bonnett – Modern Age Voting
Nominated for his work as a driver and broadcaster, Neil Bonnett is a fan favorite who garnered enough votes in the Class of 2021 election process to end up as the fourth highest voter, making him a favorite to enter the room. fame from the start.
Bonnett began his NASCAR career working on cars for Bobby Allison and the notorious “Alabama Gang”, of which he later became a member. He made his first Cup Series start in 1974 at Talladega Superspeedway and made limited starts in the series in future years.
He took his first victory at Richmond Raceway in 1977 driving a Dodge owned by Jim Stacey with crew chief Harry Hyde, who is also on the ballot this year.
Bonnett then drove the majority or all of every season through 1989, collecting 18 career wins, including crown jewels in the Southern 500 and World 600. He also won races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
In 1990 Bonnett was involved in a serious crash at Darlington Raceway which ended his racing career, but even while he was away from the car he was still heavily involved in racing. He was a member of the NASCAR broadcast teams of TNN, CBS and TBS, he made appearances in popular racing films racing ace and thunder daysand he hosted the TV show Winners on TNN.
In 1993, Bonnett made a very limited number of Cup Series starts to get his racing fix, but an accident in practice for the 1994 Daytona 500 cost him his life.
Bonnett was one of the first and most important examples of how drivers could stay around NASCAR after stepping away from racing and the garage. His work with Winners expanded NASCAR’s reach through the media, which has become more common today; we see it with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dirty Mo Media. This adds to Bonnett’s impressive resume and could help him enter the Hall of Fame.
Ricky Rudd – Modern Age Voting
The most recent class of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees included Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mike Stefanik, who received 76% and 49% of the votes, respectively. The highest number of votes during that year not to be elected was Ricky Rudd.
Rudd began his NASCAR career in 1975 as a Cup Series driver. He won the rookie of the year award in 1977 without taking part in any races. In 1981, he began a streak of 788 straight starts on the series, an Ironman record that stood until Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon beat him in 2015.
Rudd had 23 Cup Series wins, a seemingly unimpressive number considering his 906 starts, but his real strength was competitive consistency. He ranks seventh on the all-time top 10 list with 374, and he has the second-most starts in Cup Series history, behind Richard Petty.
Rudd also has the distinction of being a successful rider-owner, having operated Rudd Performance Motorsports for a few years in the 1990s. He had six wins as a rider-owner, including one in the prestigious Brickyard 400.
With no championships, Daytona 500 wins, and a winning record that arguably isn’t strong enough to earn a Hall of Fame spot, Rudd’s overall stats and longtime dedication, his constancy and general talent make him an eminent figure. in NASCAR, and that could very well be recognized by the committee as it makes its decision on who will be part of the Class of 2023.
AJ Foyt – pioneer ballot
There are names that are synonymous with certain sports, and in the diverse realm of motorsport it gets even more technical: Earnhardt is known from NASCAR, Andretti from IndyCar, Pruett from sports cars. But Foyt is a household name to all racing fans.
AJ Foyt rose through the ranks in midget and sprint car racing before taking a big break in IndyCar, where he won the Indy 500 four times. Foyt also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his one and only attempt in 1967. He then completed the IMSA triple crown by winning the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
In the Cup Series, Foyt only made 128 starts, a fairly low number considering the number of races most Hall of Fame drivers have made. More than 50 of those starts were at Daytona International Speedway, where he won the Daytona 500 trophy in 1972.
Foyt won six more races and drove for some of the most famous car owners in NASCAR history, including Smokey Yunick, the Wood Brothers, Banjo Matthews, Junior Johnson and himself.
Foyt has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in American motorsport, and he will live forever in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame. , and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. Adding the NASCAR Hall of Fame to his resume seems only fitting to complement his incredible career and accomplishments.