Time for five new NASCAR Hall of Fame rings.
The Hall of Fame announced Wednesday its Class of 2019, headlined by four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. Gordon racked up 96 percent of the possible votes, making him the highest vote-getter in Hall of Fame history.
Gordon will be inducted alongside 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, 19-time winner Davey Allison and current team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske. This is the 10th class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
"It's very surreal to me, and I'm still trying to process," Gordon said. "On one hand, I don't feel worthy, because I put (everyone inducted before me) on such a high pedestal.
"I'm just really proud and honored to be a part of this."
If there was ever someone who deserved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Gordon certainly fits the bill. His four championships in NASCAR's premier series is tied for the second-most ever, and his 93 Cup victories are third-most ever. He won the Daytona 500 three times and the Brickyard 400 a record five times. Not to mention that Gordon transcended the sport as a national celebrity, or that he helped bridge the gap between the old and new eras of racing, or that he continues to promote the sport as a television broadcaster and race analyst for Fox.
Ray Evernham, Gordon's longtime crew chief and a member of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, said inducting the four-time champ was a "no-brainer."
"When you look at everything he's done, and how much of an ambassador for the sport he's been on top of that," Evernham said, "he's a pretty phenomenal guy. And I'm happy that this is something he can share with his children, because I know that's important to him.
"They didn't get to see all of the wins and all of the championships ... and this, I'm sure, will be the highest honor of his career and he gets to share it with his family."
Kulwicki and Allison, two of NASCAR's top drivers from the 1990s, are also two of the sport's more tragic stories. Each died midway through the 1993 season, cutting short two promising careers.
Roush, whose Roush Fenway Racing team includes Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt Kenseth/Trevor Bayne in the Cup Series, has worked with several of the best racers ever and won eight championships at every level of the sport. Same goes for Roger Penske, who has five combined championships and over 100 Cup victories with Team Penske.
Roush, who was in attendance for Wednesday's ceremony, said, "I felt like I wanted to sit down," upon hearing his name called.
Along with these five inductees, the Hall of Fame voting panel — comprised of former drivers, manufacturers, media members and more — selected Jim Hunter as this year's Landmark Award winner, given annually to someone for their, "outstanding contributions to NASCAR." Hunter worked in the industry for most of his life as an award-winning reporter, public relations specialist, track president and NASCAR executive.
While Gordon was not selected unanimously, neither were seven-time champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt or even NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. Inductees who have appeared on the highest percentage of ballots in the past (outside of the inaugural 2010 class, for which NASCAR has no records) are David Pearson (2011) and Robert Yates (2018), each garnering 94 percent of votes.
The 2019 class will be inducted and officially honored in a ceremony on February 1, 2019.