Bill Elliott leads NASCAR’s 2015 Hall of Fame inductee class

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMay 21, 2014 

NASCAR Hall of Fame Auto Racing

Bill Elliott celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Firecracker 400 auto race at Daytona Beach, Fla. Elliott's election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame was announced Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

MARK FOLEY — 1988 AP FILE PHOTO

For the first time in its short history, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will induct a five-member class composed entirely of drivers.

It should come as no surprise, then, that leading the sixth class is one of the sport’s most popular drivers, Bill Elliott.

Elliott, who won 44 races and the 1988 championship in NASCAR’s premier Cup series, was named on 87 percent of the ballots during Hall voting on Wednesday. The sixth class will be inducted Jan. 30.

Joining Elliott in the Class of 2015 are Wendell Scott (58 percent), Joe Weatherly (53 percent), Rex White (43 percent) and Fred Lorenzen (30 percent).

Out of the 20 nominees, the top five vote-getters are inducted.

In typical fashion, Elliott showed little emotion when the results of the voting were announced, but his 18-year-old son, Chase, patted him on the back.

“There were so many people instrumental to getting to this point,” Elliott said. “One of the biggest things about our whole career was that we did it our way in Dawsonville, Ga.

“A bunch of kids out of nowhere that built a race team and with the help of Harry Melling in Jackson, Mich., we put it all together.”

As it did each time he won a race during his career, the Dawsonville Pool Room sounded its siren on Wednesday when Elliott’s name was announced.

Joining Elliott in the 2015 class is one of NASCAR’s trailblazers in Scott, the first – and so far only – African-American to win a Cup series race. Scott earned 147 top-10 finishes in 495 career starts during his 13-year career.

“The next inductee gives me additional pride because he undoubtedly scaled and climbed the highest mountain,” NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in announcing Scott’s selection.

Scott died in 1990.

In addition to winning back-to-back Cup championships in 1962-63, Weatherly also won a modified title in 1953. Overall, he won 25 Cup races. Weatherly died in 1964.

White, the oldest living Cup series champion, had 28 Cup wins, 36 poles and won the 1960 series title as a driver/owner.

Lorenzen, one of NASCAR’s first superstars even though he was a “part-time” driver, won 26 Cup races but never ran more than 29 of the season’s 50-plus races at that time.

A fan vote conducted on NASCAR.com constituted one of the 54 ballots on Wednesday. Scott led the fan vote ballot, followed by Elliott, Benny Parsons, White and Terry Labonte.

As a result of a rules change in December, the reigning Cup series champion – this year being Jimmie Johnson – took part in the voting process.

“It was an honor that I am very proud of,” Johnson said of his participation on Wednesday. “It was an amazing experience.”

The December rule changes also created a new award, the Landmark Award of Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Anne B. France was voted the inaugural winner from among five finalists.

She, along with her husband, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., kept NASCAR operating in its infancy. She was the first secretary and treasurer of NASCAR, and when Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, she served in the same roles for International Speedway Corp.

Utter: (704) 358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

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