Hall honors Lorenzen, Scott, White, Weatherly and Elliott.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR feted its latest inductees into the Hall of Fame on Friday night.
The All-Star lineup included 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott, two-time champion Joe Weatherly, 1960 champion Rex White, and race winners Fred Lorenzen and Wendell Scott.
Fearless, fast Freddie
As Tony Stewart mentioned in his introduction of Fred Lorenzen, the Elmurst, Ill.-native paved the wave from racers in the Midwest to find success in southern stock car racing. Lorenzen’s NASCAR career started as a mechanic for Holman-Moody in 1960 and transitioned from working on to driving cars by the end of the year.
“Dad treated strangers just as he treated members of his own family,” Chris Lorenzen said of his father. “It’s no surprise that one of his most popular nicknames is the Golden Boy.”
Although Lorenzen only raced part-time, he posted 26 wins and 32 poles in 158 starts. His best season came in 1963 when Lorenzen earned six wins, 21 top fives and 23 top 10 finishes in just 29 starts. But his next year was probably Lorenzen’s most impressive. In 1964, he won eight of the 16 races he entered – including five straight.
Give ‘em hell Wendell!
Jeff Gordon described Wendell Scott’s journey to NASCAR’s top series as “doing a lot with a little.”
“His is a story of perseverance and determination in the face of unimaginable obstacles,” Gordon added. “He fought through any and all hardships and tonight he reaches the NASCAR’s pinnacle”.
Although Scott wasn’t the first African-American racer in what is now Sprint Cup, the Danville, Va.-native was the first to run full-time and win. His only victory came on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida.
His son Franklin Scott, who worked on his father’s cars, said the children “weren’t allowed to use the works ‘can’t’ and ‘never’. He didn’t believe in those words.”
Scott’s 495 starts ranks 37th on the all-time list. From 1961 until 1973, Scott amassed 20 top fives, 147 top 10s and one pole.
Fellow Hall of Famer Junior Johnson said Rex White “was the best Saturday night driver you ever saw in your life.”
The 1960 NASCAR champion from Taylorsville, N.C. competed on the top tour from 1956 to 1964 and collected 28 wins and 36 poles during his tenure in the white and gold No. 4.
After current Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick called White to the stage, he was joined by his crew chief James Hylton. White humbly told the audience, “No driver wins a championship by himself. Nobody enters the Hall of Fame alone. I am a symbol of a team effort, my first race in 1953 until now.”
White’s 28 wins came from 1958 to 1962 – and no other driver matched his total during that five-year stretch.
As he neared the end of his speech, White brought the house down when he turned to Hylton and asked, “Are you going to give me the ring?”
The Clown Prince of Racing
Joe Weatherly won his first NASCAR championship driving for fellow Hall of Famer Bud Moore in 1962.
In just his second full year on the tour “Little Joe” won his second title driving for nine different drivers. The following year, Weatherly died in a crash at Riverside, Calif. – five races into the season. In 229 starts, the Norfolk, Va.-native scored 25 wins and 18 poles.
“He had quick reflexes and good equipment,” veteran crew chief Junie Donlavey said of Weatherly. “He was just a natural born driver.”
Weatherly had already made a name for himself on the Modified tour where he earned 101 victories from in 1952 and 1953 – and the title the second year.
Although Weatherly’s niece Joy Barbee was just two-and-a-half when her uncle died, she spoke of his practical jokes, his sense of humor and how “he loved a good laugh, and he loved a good time.”
“He always had a big smile on his face, and he was just such a character to be around, and he definitely lived up to the title given to him as the Clown Prince of Racing,” Barbee added.
To modern day fans, Bill Elliott might be known as Chase’s dad. But on Friday “the kid from a small town in Georgia that dreamed of driving race cars” – who won the Most Popular Driver Award a record 16 times – was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
In 27 seasons, Elliott won 44 races and 55 poles rank 16th and eight, respectively on the all-time lists. Although his sole Cup championship came in 1988, he scored 11 wins, 11 poles and 16 top-five finishes during his 1985 season along with the Winston Million.
In 828 starts, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville collected 175 top fives and 32 top 10 finishes.
“It’s been a great ride and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Elliott said.
Given their due
The Hall of Fame also honored Anne Bledsoe France with the inaugural Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
“It’s a sport that she loved and the sport she helped create,” said France’s great granddaughter Lesa Kennedy. “She was the glue that held NASCAR together in the beginning and she worked tirelessly to see it succeed.”
The wife of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., affectionately known as “Annie B”, helped to build the sport from the business side as its first secretary and treasurer. She served in the same roles for International Speedway Corporation after Daytona International Speedway was built in 1959. Mrs. France managed Daytona’s ticket office and worked on the property until 1992.
Tom Higgins Squire-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Higgins was the first full-time beat writer in NASCAR and covered every race on the schedule for 21 consecutive seasons. When Higgins was given his award, he said, “I’m just a simple boy from the Blue Ridge Mountains and I never expected anything like this.”