NASCAR has announced its 2020 Hall of Fame members – a group of five comprising three drivers, a crew chief and a team owner. The inductees for the 11th class are driver Buddy Baker, current team owner Joe Gibbs and former racers Bobby Labonte and Tony “Smoke” Stewart, who join former engine builder and crew chief Waddell Wilson.
In addition, NASCAR announced that Edsel Ford II earned their 2020 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR, and will be honored, together with the five-person class of inductees during NASCAR’s traditional ceremony the final day of January 2020 at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. The ceremony is part of a three-day celebration.
Stewart received the most votes from a 57-person panel comprised of NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from both major facilities and short tracks, media members, manufacturer reps, competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the sixth year the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Joey Logano.
Stewart gained 88 percent of the vote, followed by Gibbs (72%), Wilson (72%), Baker (70%) and Labonte, who received 67% of the votes cast. The near-misses were Mike Stefanik, Ray Fox and Hershel McGriff. On NASCAR.com, the fan vote favored (in alphabetical order), Baker, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Labonte and Stewart.
Buddy Baker, known as the “Gentle Giant” for his height and his personable nature, had a 33-year NASCAR career, winning the 1980 Daytona 500 with a current track record of 177.602-mph average race speed. He was first to turn a lap over 200mph while testing at Talladega Superspeedway and won a total of 19 races in the Cup series.
Gibbs, a winner in pro football as well as motorsports, began Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992. His teams have secured four Cup series championships and five Xfinity series titles. The former football coach is renown for his ability to motivate his teams and drivers to win three Daytona 500s and earn five Brickyard 400 wins, among other outstanding races. Coach Gibbs was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Bobby Labonte’s accomplishments have come in any type of car where he could wrap his hands around a steering wheel. Finally breaking into NASCAR Cup series racing as a full-time driver at 28 years old in 1993, Labonte’s perseverance paid off with 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 Cup series championship. Texan Labonte is also one of only 27 drivers to win races in all three of NASCAR’s national series.
Indiana’s Tony Stewart is known as “The People’s Champion” for his down-home style of competition. After winning USAC’s Triple Crown and the Indy Racing League’s championship, Stewart earned Rookie of the Year in his first NASCAR season. He won his first Cup title in 2002 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and took a second title in 2005, in addition to tallying 49 Cup victories and winning on every type of track in his 17-year NASCAR career, including two at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Always a threat to win as either an engine builder or crew chief, Waddell Wilson-built engines propelled David Pearson (1968, 1969) and Benny Parsons (1973) to Cup series titles. Wilson-built engines earned 109 wins and 123 pole positions, with some of the sport’s greatest racers: Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, all NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers. As a crew chief, Wilson guided three cars to Daytona 500 Victory Lanes: Buddy Baker (1980) and Cale Yarborough (1983-84).
A member of the Ford Motor Co. board of directors and longtime executive of the car-building company formed by his great-grandfather Henry Ford, Edsel Ford II is a familiar face in NASCAR garage areas. Always open to conversation with competitors, executives, team owners and fans at the tracks where NASCAR races, Edsel Ford II has served as Ford’s president and chief operating officer as well as being a director of International Speedway Corporation.