NASCAR formally inducts its 11th Hall of Fame class

NASCAR on Friday night formally inducted the Class of 2020 into its Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.

Buddy Baker

This year’s class – the 11th in the history of the Hall – included Waddell Wilson, Buddy Baker, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

Here are some of the highlights from the induction speeches during the ceremony:

Waddell Wilson

“Standing here on this stage is something I never dreamed I would be doing. I thank God for the many blessings and people He has put in my life that have made this a reality. Without Him, none of this would have been possible. …

“I had 10 great years working for Holman and Moody and that’s where I developed the skills I needed to do what I love. John Holman and Ralph Moody worked hard to get the best drivers and I had the honor of working with Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, A.J. Foyt, Dick Hutcherson, Junior Johnson, Mario Andretti, David Pearson and Bobby Allison. …

“I love racing and I appreciate the fans and all their support throughout these years. It’s an unbelievable honor to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s a humbling night for me and my family.” – Waddell Wilson

Buddy Baker

“This hero of mine had a gift for words and once said, ‘You can tell you’re in trouble when you feel the air on the back of your neck instead of in your face.’

“It’s a motto I live by every time I take the track. The only thing faster than his wit was his speed in a race car. Once he got out front, no one was getting by him. My favorite quote of his was, ‘It’s your story; you decide how it’s written.’ ” – NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman

Joe Gibbs

“I just want to say to everyone here, everyone in NASCAR. I was so nervous coming from football over to racing, how we would be accepted, the family and everybody. I just want to say a big thanks to everyone here. The NASCAR family is just unreal. I wanted to say to the France family, thank you for your guidance, leadership and the way you accepted us. The fans and the fellow competitors – just meant so much to us as we took off in racing. …

“As we fast forward to this past year, 2019, the Daytona 500, and everything that went into that. J.D. found Denny (Hamlin) in Manassas (Va.) racing Late Models. J.D.’s number was always 11

in football and racing. Denny’s number is 11. J.D. went to be with the Lord on January 11. Denny put his name over the door of that car. NASCAR wanted to honor J.D. and asked us what lap do you want to do it and we said 11. It comes down to the end of that race and can you believe Denny wins that race. I really believe God was there and he had J.D. was at his side. That was the greatest victory me and our family have been a part of and will be a part of. …

“I got eight grandkids charging the world, believe me, they are getting ready to get out there and go. But the one thing that they’re all committed to, honestly, is they love this race team, NASCAR and I’m excited about what they’re going to be able to do for us. So thanks gang, it’s going to be fun.” – Joe Gibbs

Bobby Labonte

“From as early as I can remember, there were two things I did as a kid. I raced quarter midgets in South Texas and I watched my brother race. I idolized him. So, after all these years, I stand before you, following in my brother’s footsteps. I’m even wearing the same tie he wore on his induction night. Terry, you’ve helped me so much throughout my career, there’s no way I could ever repay you. I’d probably say you’re not gonna get repaid. But please know, I’ve always strived to be like you. …

“At Joe Gibbs Racing, we got 21 wins and reached the pinnacle of this sport in 2000 together. I remember calling Coach the day after the championship and saying I kinda thought there’d be more to this. And just as he had done so many times before, he taught me another life lesson. He reminded me it’s not about the win or the title, it’s the journey and the experiences to get there.

“Coach, as I think about my path to this stage, working with you is the most rewarding part of my professional career. But personally, you impacted me more than any championship ever could. Simply put, you’re the best.” – Bobby Labonte

Tony Stewart

“So, back in May, when I was voted into this year’s Hall of Fame class, I was honored. But I was also conflicted. I’m not old… or, at least, I don’t feel old. I’m still racing. In fact, I’m racing now more than I ever have in the past. And in my mind, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is there to honor the completion of one’s career … or for Winston Kelley to get a bunch of free appearances out of us inductees.

“But in the eight months since being nominated to this year’s class, I’ve come to appreciate what an honor it is. I’m one of just 55 people to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And, considering that NASCAR has been around for more than 70 years, that’s kind of nuts. It truly is an elite group, and it’s incredibly humbling to be a part of it. …

“I’m not one to get overly sentimental, but I know I lead a blessed life, and becoming a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame is proof of that. Thank you for being here tonight and sharing this moment, and thanks to everyone – from those days at the Columbus Fairgrounds, to all those tracks we raced in USAC, to IndyCar and NASCAR and now back to the grassroots of sprint car racing – thanks for being a fan of me, and a fan of motorsports.” – Tony Stewart

Other honors

Edsel Ford II earned the 2020 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Ford is a member of the Ford Motor Co. Board of Directors and longtime executive of the company founded by his great-grandfather, Henry Ford

Earlier Friday, longtime NASCAR pit reporter and magazine editor Dick Berggren was honored as this year’s recipient of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

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