NASCAR Hall of Fame

Matthew Becherer
Matthew Becherer

In every sport, there are milestones and accomplishments that define a player, coach, owner or team. In football – from a team standpoint – it’s the Lombardi Trophy, which we just saw earned by the New England Patriots last Sunday as they won the Super Bowl for an astounding sixth time.

Individually, it might be a league MVP award or the Cy Young Award, which is awarded to the top pitcher in either the American or National League in Major League Baseball. In motorsports, it’s the DAYTONA 500 or the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Capturing these types of awards and championships can often change the career of an athlete or the history of a franchise.

But perhaps the most everlasting accomplishment for anyone involved with a sport is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Whether it’s the MLB, NBA, NFL or even NASCAR, being elected into the Hall of Fame marks the pinnacle of a player’s, coach’s or owner’s ascension to the top of their respective sport.

Last Friday, the NASCAR community came together in Charlotte for the induction of the Class of 2019 into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Drivers, crew chiefs, friends, family and NASCAR officials were all on hand to honor five exceptional individuals who have had a major impact on NASCAR throughout their careers.

Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997-98, 2001) headlined the 2019 class. A California native, Gordon enjoyed a meteoric rise to becoming one of NASCAR’s most dominant drivers ever, winning 93 career Cup races – third-most in NASCAR history behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).

What’s really neat about 

Gordon’s NASCAR career is that he was one of the first drivers from California to really make headway in NASCAR. Of course with the arrival of Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick in 2001, Gordon wasn’t the only talent to come out of California, but he certainly helped pave the way for younger drivers such as Kyle Larson, Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick – all of whom hail from the “Golden State.”

Joining Gordon in the induction ceremony last week were a pair of legendary team owners in Roger Penske and Jack Roush. Both Roush (2003 – Matt Kenseth, 2004 – Kurt Busch) and Penske (2012 – Brad Keselowski, 2018 – Joey Logano) have collected two Monster Energy Series championships here at Homestead-Miami Speedway and have set the gold standard of being a NASCAR team owner.

Family and friends of the remaining two inductees, Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, were on hand to receive the honors for the two drivers who died four months apart in 1993. Although each driver died at the height of their NASCAR career, they both still had a profound impact on the sport and shared a similar love and passion for racing.

Kulwicki was born and raised in Greenfield, Wisconsin, and he was the first NASCAR driver from outside the traditional south to achieve substantial success in the sport. Kulwicki didn’t get his full-time Cup series career until he was 32 and won Rookie of the Year that season. Following the first 20 races of his rookie year, Kulwicki, who held an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, started his own race team drove for himself for the rest of his career. Despite being a relatively underfunded team, Kulwicki won the 1992 Winston Cup championship as a driver and owner, his final full season before he died in a plane crash in 1993.

Allison was actually born here in South Florida where his Hall of Fame father, Bobby, and uncle, Donnie, grew up. Davey grew up around racing and began working for his father’s Cup team once he graduated high school. Davey didn’t get a chance to race full time in the Winston Cup until he was 26 years old, but he immediately proved he belonged by winning two races in route to being named Rookie of the Year in 1987.

Allison went on to win 19 races from 1987-93 before his career was cut short when he died in a helicopter crash at Talladega. Upon his enshrinement last week, Davey joined Bobby in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, becoming the first father-son combination in the history of the sport to each be named Hall of Famers.

You can only imagine how much more Allison and Kulwicki might have achieved had their lives not been taking away prematurely. As it stands, both drivers still had remarkable careers and more than deserved to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Allison drove to Victory Lane 19 times in his brief career and Kulwicki was one of the first drivers from outside of the south to flourish in NASCAR, perhaps helping to pave the way for drivers such as his fellow inductee Jeff Gordon.

The five inductees into the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame class were celebrated last weekend for good reason as they’ve all played a pivotal role in the evolution of the sport. Their names will now forever be inscribed among NASCAR’s greats, as the ninth five-member group to be bestowed that honor.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Feb. 8-10

SKUSA Winter Series (AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex)

Feb. 9-10 Championship Cup Series

Feb. 13 Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Feb. 16-17 Formula & Automobile Racing Association

Feb. 18 Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

Feb. 23-24 National Auto Sport Association

Mar. 8 Fast Lane Friday

Mar. 30 Performance Driving Group

Mar. 31 Florida Track Days

2019 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 15 Ford EcoBoost 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 17 Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship