NASCAR Hall of Fame Enshrines Distinguished Class of 2017

CHARLOTTE, NC – JANUARY 20: The living members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame gather as a group at the conclusion of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 20, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

The enshrinement of three car owners of paramount importance to stock car racing, a driver who proved a prolific winner in NASCAR’s top-two series and a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion who would become one of the most beloved storytellers in the history of the sport highlighted Friday night’s induction of the Class of 2017 into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Not only did the emotional proceedings usher one of NASCAR’s first car owners, Raymond Parks, into the Hall. Also recognized were the ongoing accomplishments of two owners – Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick – whose efforts have helped to produce a pair of seven-time champions.

Friday night also brought the induction of driver Mark Martin, who won 40 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, another 49 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and who finished second in the championship standings at NASCAR’s highest level no less than five times. Continue reading

From Small Beginnings, Rick Hendrick Reached Pinnacle of Success in Business and NASCAR

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 17: Jimmie Johnson (C), driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, poses with team owner Rick Hendrick (L) and crew chief Chad Knaus (R) in Champions Victory Lane with their six trophies after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2013 in Homestead, Florida. Photo – Robert Laberge/Getty Images

It’s said reaching the top is the easy part; staying there is more difficult.

For Rick Hendrick, the climb up the mountain required a decade of hard work culminating in Hendrick Motorsports capturing its first NASCAR premier series championship in 1995.

Two decades later, Hendrick’s Chevrolet team remains stock car racing’s platinum standard: a record 12 NASCAR premier series titles – including Jimmie Johnson’s record-matching seventh crown in 2016 – and 245 victories with 16 different drivers.

“It just seems like yesterday we didn’t think we’d even make it through our first year (1984) and now we’ve won 12 of these things, and it’s hard to do,” said Hendrick following Johnson’s title-winning victory last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida.

The 67-year-old Hendrick will reach yet another career milestone on Friday when he’s inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The Class of 2017 includes fellow team owner Richard Childress, former Hendrick Motorsports drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons and pioneer car owner Raymond Parks. Continue reading

Stock Car Racing’s ‘Nice Guy Champion,’ Emmy-Winning Broadcaster Benny Parsons Enters NASCAR Hall of Fame

1973: Benny Parsons inside his L. G. DeWitt-owned Chevrolet at a NASCAR Cup race. Parsons finished in the top-ten in 21 of 28 races and won the Volunteer 500 at the Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway on his way to winning the NASCAR Cup championship.
Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

A single word defined the late Benny Parsons: Beloved.

It mattered not whether you were fellow competitor, race fan or television viewer. Parsons was more than just a top premier series driver or broadcaster.

To race with him – or just to meet him – Parsons had the aura of being the best friend you wished you had.

Parsons became the NASCAR premier series champion in 1973. He won 21 times, a resume that included the 1975 Daytona 500.

“Benny didn’t win a lot of races – some thought he wasn’t ruthless enough – but few drivers won more friends and fans,” wrote Larry Woody in a 2014 Racin’ Today story.

“Ten minutes and you bonded with him,” said Rick Hendrick, whose Chevrolets Parsons drove in 1987.

Parsons, who died in 2007 at age 65, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). His fellow inductees among the Class of 2017 include Hendrick, Richard Childress, Mark Martin and Raymond Parks. Continue reading

Mark Martin’s Fitness Regimen Redefined the NASCAR Athlete and Prolonged a Winning Career

Team owner Jack Roush (L) and Mark Martin, driver of the #6 Viagra Ford, celebrate winning the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Banquet 400 on October 9, 2005 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo – Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

To the surprise of no one, Mark Martin continued to win races at the highest level well past an age when most competitors have hung up their helmets.

With five victories past the age of 50, Martin also came within one standings position of winning the 2009 premier series championship.

The phrase ‘age is just a number’ may be cliché – but it certainly applied to the diminutive Martin, whose fitness regimen of heavy weight lifting and healthy eating became legend and ultimately sent his fellow competitors flocking to gyms and nutritionists.

In short, Martin lived his life like a man half his age – and drove like it as well.

“I told the guys I don’t have any problem keeping up with a 25-year-old,” he told The Associated Press in April 2009 after becoming the third-oldest winner in NASCAR premier series history at Phoenix International Raceway. “I feel really good.”

Only one driver – Harry Gant – won more races after his 50th birthday. Martin polished off a 40-victory resume during a magical year driving for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009, adding to his 35 wins at Roush Fenway Raceway. That’s the most wins by a competitor without a series championship. Continue reading

Stock Car Racing Pioneer Raymond Parks Set the Standard During NASCAR’s Early Era

1949: NASCAR’s first “Super Team,” consisted of car owner Raymond Parks (L), mechanic Red Vogt (C) and driver Red Byron (R). The trio captured the first-ever NASCAR title, the 1948 Modified championship, then went on this year to take home the first NASCAR Cup championship.
Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

As one of early stock car racing’s most successful car owners, it is appropriate that Raymond Parks captured the first two championships offered by the fledgling National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, an organization Parks helped form in 1947.

Parks and his driver, Red Byron, won NASCAR’s modified title in 1948. The pair, along with mechanic Red Vogt, became the sanctioning body’s 1949 Strictly Stock champions – the initial season of what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The Dawson County, Georgia, native and his racing team were gone from NASCAR after 1955, winning just twice. But Parks, who died in 2010 at the age of 96, was seen as one of the sport’s seminal figures and a visionary.

“He set the standard. Mr. Parks brought the sport class,” said NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty in a interview shortly after Parks’ death. “It took people like Mr. Parks to lay the foundation we’re living off of.

“And without him, we wouldn’t have the history we have and we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Parks’ contributions will be celebrated Jan. 20 in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). His fellow inductees among the Hall’s Class of 2017 are Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin and Benny Parsons. Continue reading