There is a thread that runs through the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017, which includes drivers Benny Parsons and Mark Martin, team owners Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress, as well as pioneer Raymond Parks.
Let Hendrick explain.
“I’m extremely proud to go into the hall with Benny Parsons and Mark Martin, who both drove for me, and with Richard Childress, one of my closest friends,” said Hendrick. “And Raymond Parks, I was just watching a video on how he helped get the sport started.”
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The connections between the most recent inductees helped make for an emotional day for Hendrick, Childress and Martin, as well as the families of the Parsons, who died in 2007, and Parks, who passed away in 2010.
“This is the crown jewel of my career,” said Martin, who won 96 races across NASCAR’s three national series. “It’s like winning the Daytona 500 on your last start.”
The hall’s eighth class is led by Parsons, who received 85 percent of the vote from a 53-member voting panel. Parsons, who died in 2007 at the age of 65, won the 1973 Cup championship and 21 races.
Hendrick, whose Hendrick Motorsports owns a NASCAR-record 11 Cup championships, had 62 percent. Martin, who never won a championship but finished second five times, had 57 percent. Parks, whose race team dominated the sport in the 1940s and early ’50s, had 53 percent. Childress won six Cup championships with hall-of-fame driver Dale Earnhardt and was on 43 percent of the ballots.
The next top vote getters were team owner and engine builder Robert Yates and drivers Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki.
Despite his accomplishments, Hendrick was surprised at hearing his name called. He has been one nominated seven times before.
“To me, it’s all about the people who I’ve worked with and who work for me,” Hendrick said.
Hendrick remembers the first time he took a car to Daytona in 1984, with Harry Hyde his crew chief and Geoffrey Bodine behind the wheel.
“I got there and saw the Wood Brothers, Junior Johnson, the Pettys and didn’t think I belonged,” said Hendrick. “But I’ve had good people who work hard.”
Bodine finished eighth.
Martin, who drove for Hendrick for several seasons, said Parsons played a role in getting his career started. Martin, then a teenager, visited Parsons in Ellerbe, the Richmond County town where Parsons lived.
“He had words of advice for me and my dad, took us to lunch,” Martin recalled. “He took time for me.”
▪ H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, won the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR.