Waltrip, Gant inducted into NMPA Hall of Fame

The National Motorsports Press Association inducted two more members into its Hall of Fame, located in Darlington, South Carolina. At a banquet at the Darlington Country Club, NASCAR and its key media members recognized the careers of Harry Gant...

The National Motorsports Press Association inducted two more members into its Hall of Fame, located in Darlington, South Carolina. At a banquet at the Darlington Country Club, NASCAR and its key media members recognized the careers of Harry Gant and Darrell Waltrip.

Gant won 18 Winston Cup races during his career, and was placed on NASCAR's list of its 50 greatest drivers in 1998. Perhaps he is best known as "Mr. September" for his 1991 streak of four consecutive wins in September of that year.

Gant accepted his plaque to the applause of some of the best in the business. Among the those who greeted Gant with a standing ovation were Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and David Pearson.

While Gant never won a Winston Cup championship, he finished in the top 10 eight times, including a career-high second in 1984. Gant, 51, who now occupies his time raising cattle, was taken aback when he was informed that he was among this year's 2003 class.

"I hadn't really thought about the Hall of Fame, so I am real surprised," said Gant.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip ushered his brother Darrell into the hall of fame with laughter and a look back at his legendary brother's career. Waltrip, who retired in 2000, earned three Winston Cup titles in his heyday and made a total of 84 trips to victory lane. Waltrip did not retire from racing when he hung up his helmet, but continues to serve as an active participant in NASCAR, now from the safety of the television booth.

Waltrip reflected back to some of his earliest days of racing, including driving for Bud Moore and the challenges of running in NASCAR's elite division. He described it in the typical Waltrip style, "I thought I had died and gone to hell."

Waltrip appeared moved by the award, "I have to admit, this is quite an honor." He went on to credit his wife Stevie with having played a large role in his success and ability to carry on.

Waltrip adds this new highlight to an already long list of recognitions, he has also been awarded residency in the Kentucky Hall of Fame, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Waltrip and Gant join a prestigious list of former NASCAR heroes including Dale Earnhardt, Tim Flock, A.J. Foyt, Alan Kulwicki, Junior Johnson and Richard Petty.

Eligibility for entry into the NMPA Hall of Fame is based on membership votes, Gant and Waltrip each received approximately 77 percent of the votes.

This year's induction banquet brings to an end, the NMPA's association with longtime partners Conoco Phillips and Sports Marketing Enterprises/R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The two corporate sponsors will not be returning to the sport next season, and NMPA President Kenny Bruce took special time to recognize them as having played an integral part in the growth and reach of the National Motorsports Press Association.

The NMPA first inducted racers in 1965. With the addition of Gant and Waltrip, there are currently 70 people recognized in the Hall of Fame. The NMPA Hall of Fame is located at the famed Darlington Raceway and open year round to fans. The facility was recently renovated and expanded, and is currently displaying the Plymouth of Johnny Mantz -- winner of the first Southern 500 in 1950.

Ceremonies to commemorate the best NASCAR had to offer are usually held in conjunction with the race weekend festivities at the Southern 500. Next season the Southern 500 moves from its traditional Labor Day spot on the schedule to November 14th, as the Cup series moves to Fontana, California to this date next year.

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Darrell Waltrip , Michael Waltrip , Richard Petty , Junior Johnson , Harry Gant , A.J. Foyt , Tim Flock , David Pearson , Alan Kulwicki