Tony Stewart leads 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class

Tony Stewart, a three-time champion in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, leads the five-member NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

Tony Stewart leads 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart
Victory lane: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2011 champion Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet celebrates
Championship contenders press conference: team owner Joe Gibbs, Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart
Victory lany: race winner Bobby Labonte celebrates with Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Bobby Labonte
Celebration of Champions ceremony: Buddy Baker
Buddy Baker
The Orginal livery of Buddy Baker in Darlington 1980

Stewart, who is currently co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and continues to compete on dirt tracks across the country, won 49 races in the Cup series, including two wins in the prestigious Brickyard 400.

Stewart, 48, won the Cup title three times (2002, 2005 and 2011) and also collected 11 wins in what is now the Xfinity Series and a pair in Trucks. His versatility as a driver was on displayed throughout his career as he won on every style of track.

“Honestly, it’s surreal to me. I’m not retired; I still race. I guess I didn’t really think about it a lot,” Stewart said. “It’s such an honor. It’s really cool to be inducted with Bobby (Labonte) and Joe (Gibbs).

“Bobby is the reason I got to Joe Gibbs Racing. If it wasn’t for ‘Coach,’ none of this would have happened.”

In 2009, Stewart – a former IndyCar Series champion – became a team owner, partner with Gene Haas. SHR has won two Cup titles – one with Stewart in 2011 and a second with Kevin Harvick in 2015.

This was his first year he was eligible to be nominated.

Also elected to the Class of 2020:

- Joe Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl-winning football coach, started Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992 and has led the organization to four Cup Series championships and five in what is now called the Xfinity Series. Gibbs’ 148 Cup wins rank third all-time and include two Daytona 500s victories and five Brickyard 400 wins. His four Cup title have come with three different drivers – Bobby Labonte, Stewart (twice) and Kyle Busch. Referred to in NASCAR circles has simply “Coach,” Gibbs was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. 

A dual threat as an engine builder and crew chief, Waddell Wilson powered and guided cars to some of the biggest victories in NASCAR history. As an engine builder, he supplied the power that helped David Pearson (1968, ’69) and Benny Parsons (1973) to Cup Series titles. Overall, Wilson’s engines helped some of the greatest drivers to ever wheel a car – including NASCAR Hall of Famers Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip – to 109 wins and 123 poles. He originally gained acclaim for building the engine Roberts used to win the 1963 Southern 500. Wilson guided three cars to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 as a crew chief, winning the race with Buddy Baker (1980) and Cale Yarborough (1983-84).

- At 6-foot-6, Baker was often called the “Gentle Giant,” a nod to her personable nature during a 33-year career. In 1980, the Charlotte, N.C., won the Daytona 500 with an average race speed of 177.602 mph – a track record that still stands. That same year, Baker became the first driver to eclipse the 200-mph mark on a closed course while testing at Talladega Superspeedway. He won 19 races in the Cup series, including a victory in the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway where he lapped the rest of the field. He also won back-to-back Coca-Cola 600s at Charlotte in 1972-73. After retiring in 1992, Baker made a successful transition to the television booth as a commentator for The Nashville Network and CBS, and later as a radio co-host on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

- Bobby Labonte raced any car he could get behind the wheel of before he got his first break as a full-time Cup Series driver at 28 years old in 1993. His persistence paid off with a career highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 Cup Series title. A success in all three of NASCAR’s national series, Labonte was the first of four drivers to win both a Cup and Xfinity Series championship. He is also one of 32 drivers to win a race in all three national series.

Voting was as follows: Stewart (88 percent), Gibbs (72 percent), Wilson (72 percent), Baker (70 percent) and Labonte (67 percent).  

In all, 57 votes were cast, with two additional panel members recused from voting as they were potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd and Wilson). 

The next top vote-getters were Mike Stefanik, Ray Fox and Hershel McGriff.

Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Baker, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Labonte and Stewart.

In addition, Edsel Ford II, a member of the Ford Motor Co. board of directors since 1998 and longtime supporter of NASCAR, was named winner of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contribution to NASCAR. During his tenure at Ford he has served as president and chief operating officer and has also served as a director of International Speedway Corp.

The 2019 Class will be officially inducted on Jan. 31, 2020.

Utter’s vote

Jim Utter, NASCAR Editor of Motorsport.com, is among the members of the voting panel which selects inductees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

This was his original five-member ballot:

  • Stewart
  • Gibbs
  • Baker
  • Ray Fox
  • Larry Phillips.

Utter also voted for Mike Helton for the Landmark Award.

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