- Did you mean:
Daytona wins Facility of the Year at Sports Business Awards
RELATED: Daytona through the years Daytona International Speedway won Facility of the Year at the 2016 SportsBusiness Journal Sports Business Awards, held Wednesday night at the Marriott Marquis in New York City's Time Square. The win came as a result of its $400-million Daytona Rising project. The world's first motorsports stadium was unveiled at the 2016 Daytona 500 as the sell-out crowd witnessed Denny Hamlin win by the closest margin of victory in the race's history. Daytona International Speedway beat out the San Jose Earthquakes' Avaya Stadium, Kansas State's Bill Snyder Stadium, Texas A&M's Kyle Field and the San Diego Padres' Petco Park for the accolade. "The incredible transformation of our flagship facility would not have been possible without the hard work and support of our employees, fans, partners, and the entire NASCAR industry," said International Speedway Corporation Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy. "I'm so proud of Joie Chitwood and the Daytona International Speedway and ISC team. They truly earned this prestigious award." It is beautiful! pic.twitter.com/jcfFJ0rnic — Lesa Kennedy (@LesaISC) May 19, 2016 The evening saw many members of the NASCAR industry nominated, including: NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France (Executive of the Year), NASCAR (League of the Year), Darlington's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Event of the Year) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (Social Media in Sports) Daytona Rising, which broke ground in 2013, produced five expanded and redesigned fan entrances called "injectors," three new concourse levels for fans that span the frontstretch of the track, 40 new escalators, 17 elevators and 60 new trackside suites. The project also created 11 football field-sized social "neighborhoods" filled with video screens, widened 101, 500 stadium seats, doubled the number of restrooms and tripled concessions and merchandise points of sale to deliver a more convenient fan experience. The impact of the upgraded facility transcends sports. Daytona Rising's economic impact provides 6,300 new jobs, $300 million in labor income and more than $85 million in new tax revenue. A plethora of companies have agreed to naming rights deals with Daytona International Speedway , including Toyota, Florida Hospital, Chevrolet, Sunoco and Axalta. Remarkably, the facility remained open for business throughout the almost three-year period it took to rebuild its nearly mile-long fronstretch. During this time, the facility held two NASCAR events, the 2016 Rolex 24, 2015 Bike Week and hundreds of civic and social gatherings. Launched in 2008 by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, the Sports Business Awards recognize leaders and visionaries who personify excellence in the business of sports. The nominees were judged by their achievements from March 1, 2015 through Feb. 29, 2016.
Coming home: Wile prepares for new role as Daytona president
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chip Wile has flown into the Daytona Beach, Florida, airport dozens of times during his nearly two decades in NASCAR, working in racing public relations or for Motor Racing Network or more recently as the president of Darlington Raceway . But NASCAR's most famous track -- Daytona International Speedway -- looked different to Wile this past weekend as he landed at the airport next door. It's home now. "The 'aha moment' for me was flying in from Talladega Sunday night and landing right alongside the race track," said Wile, who started his tenure as Daytona International Speedway president on Monday. "I've flown in 50 times over the past 15 years but it felt different this time. You fly in and look over and get excited because you're going to Daytona , but knowing I have a different role now here and this is now my home was the 'aha moment.' "I'm trying to take a deep breath and really appreciate this opportunity. This is a game-changer for me and for my family. I understand how important ( Daytona ) is and what it means to our sport, and I'm looking forward to the challenge." For sure, the 36-year-old Wile knows a little something about challenges. For the past three years he has led the iconic Darlington Raceway into a modern era, ironically, by celebrating its storied past. Under his leadership, the "throwback" theme he created for Darlington's Southern 500 has been something praised and celebrated by fans, media and drivers alike. One of the most historic weekends of competition has also positioned itself as one of the most popular weekends in NASCAR -- a feat not lost by those International Speedway Corporation executives who tabbed Wile to run the facility as Joie Chitwood III takes a new role as ISC's Chief Operating Officer. Chitwood oversaw the recently completed $400 million Daytona Rising project that has propelled the speedway into one of sport's greatest modern facilities. And now Wile will shepherd the project and expand the opportunities. The Darlington experience is all fantastic background for Wile, who follows Chitwood in a place Chitwood aptly steered into the top level of innovation. "When I got the opportunity to go work at Darlington, I knew how important Darlington was to NASCAR and what it meant to lead that team," Wile said. "The obligation to hold people to a high standard because of its history and nostalgia, and certainly over the past three years, we've been able to do that with the community. Making sure we hold the Bojangles' Southern 500 to a high standard and make it a unique event with the throwback. So, that certainly is something I'm really proud of. "This is an even more prestigious brand. The Daytona 500 , I would argue, is the most prestigious brand in our sport and we have to hold it to a higher standard. And this race track, and what it means to our community and our sport, transcends really anything else that is out there." That race in particular has always held a special place in Wile's heart. He remembers working at Penske Racing, where he was reminded of the iconic Daytona track on a near daily basis. "I remember Roger Penske, who I worked for, he won 16 Indy 500s, but when you walk into his shop, the first trophy you see is that 50th running of the Daytona 500 trophy," Wile recalled. "And he's won just about everything you can win, but I'd argue that was, at the time, the biggest win in his motorsports career." Wile's extensive background working in so many facets of the sport will undoubtedly be useful for him. He spent almost a decade working with teams such as Bill Davis Racing and Penske Racing before joining ISC as director of business development with its radio network, MRN. He served as a liaison between the network and the tracks in that role before moving to Darlington. All of that is why he was the logical choice for the Daytona position and why he is confident and excited in leading the charge. "I think certainly what I bring is relationships," Wile said. "The only jobs I've ever had are in this sport. And I've been fortunate over the years. People have taken a vested interest in me and helped me be successful. I feel like I have relationships in the garage and with people that are true. I value those relationships and those are the reasons I'm getting the opportunity to come here and lead this team in Daytona . "Understanding how NASCAR works and how the race teams operate and certainly on the media side with my short time with MRN, I know what makes them tick, how their business runs and now, obviously, on the race track side. "It does give you a little bit of perspective on how you view things and look at things. I think that has helped me be successful so far. And certainly the relationships, in my opinion, are the most important thing in the sport and I will continue to lean on those."
Bruce, Cain reveal NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots
RELATED: Photos of Voting Day, inductees NASCAR.com was privileged to have two ballots cast as part of NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day on Wednesday. Senior writers Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain each submitted their five nominations for induction in the Class of 2017 and a vote for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. A spirited discussion and voting process created one of the most intriguing classes in the stock-car shrine's history with Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons selected as Hall of Fame members. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles received the Landmark Award. Here are Holly's and Kenny's ballots cast Wednesday with their choices for induction: Kenny Bruce Ron Hornaday Jr. No one dominated NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series like Hornaday, the only four-time series champ. He remains the leader in career wins, top-five and top-10 finishes in Truck Series history. Mark Martin. The working man's racer; Martin finished second in the premier series points battle five times and earned 40 wins in 882 career starts. His XFINITY Series record wasn't too shabby, either. Benny Parsons. Folks who knew Benny the Broadcaster might not know just how talented Parsons was behind the wheel of a race car. The 1973 premier series champion, Parsons won 21 times, including victories in the Daytona 500 (1975) and World 600 ('80). Raymond Parks. The Atlanta-based businessman not only provided much-needed financial assistance as the newly formed NASCAR governing body got up and running, but Parks was a successful car owner as well. His career as an owner peaked in 1949 when driver Red Byron won NASCAR's first Strictly Stock crown. A year earlier, Byron had won the group's first Modified title in a Parks-backed entry. Robert Yates. As an engine builder, Yates helped power Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough to 77 victories. As a car owner, his drivers won three Daytona 500 titles, 57 races and 48 poles. Landmark Award H. Clay Earles. His Martinsville Speedway was there from the beginning (actually before NASCAR was formed) and it remains a popular stop today as one of three short tracks on the premier series schedule. Keeping up with the changing landscape of the sport wasn't easy, and no one did it better than Mr. Earles. Holly Cain These are the Hall of Fame votes I considered the most worthy and timely, considering a ballot of 20 of the sport's most deserving people. I tried to decide on a well-balanced group of drivers, owners and technical people and considered time on the ballot, too. Some I did not vote for this year I feel like will be definite choices in the upcoming Hall of Fame votes. Red Byron. NASCAR's first champion should be in its Hall of Fame for historic reasons. He won NASCAR's very first race on Daytona Beach in 1948, won NASCAR's first "season" championship and then its first Strictly Stock title, which is the modern era Sprint Cup crown. Raymond Parks . He owned the first championship car driven by Red Byron and for many of the same reasons Bryon needs to be in the Hall, so does Parks. Even after the two early titles he fielded cars for greats such as Bob and Fonty Flock. He is the sport's heritage, its beginning. Benny Parsons . Many current NASCAR fans know Benny from his ease and skill behind the television microphone and camera once he retired from driving a race car, but he was an amazing competitor, too, winning NASCAR's two biggest trophies -- the 1973 Cup championship and the 1975 Daytona 500 . Perhaps most amazingly, he finished among the top 10 in 54 percent of the races he ran. Waddell Wilson. It is impressive Wilson was so successful both as an engine builder and a crew chief. He built the motors that David Pearson and Benny Parsons drove to titles and as a crew chief led Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough (twice) to Daytona 500 wins. He built the first engine that broke 200 mph -- driven by Parsons in qualifying for the 1982 Winston 500 . Robert Yates. This is another example of the ultimate in successful multi-tasking. Similar to Wilson, he built championship-quality engines (1983 with Bobby Allison) and then Yates owned a championship team, fielding the car with which Dale Jarrett won a title in 1999. He owns three Daytona 500 wins as part of a 57-win legacy as a team owner and won 77 races as an engine builder. Landmark Award Ralph Seagraves. This was a tough category. My selection was based on his contribution really being a turning point for the entire sport. Under Seagraves' leadership, RJ Reynolds provided top-dollar, high-promotion sponsorship of the sport that lasted for more than 30 years. It thrust NASCAR into another stratosphere as far as the American sports landscape was concerned and absolutely created a foundation that is still enjoyed today.
Martin calls selection 'the crown jewel' of his career
RELATED: Photos from the induction day Mark Martin told the tale more than once on NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day this week, about his connection to fellow inductee Benny Parsons. Martin was a teenager -- "a nobody," as he termed it -- with racing dreams carved from his earliest days of wheeling cars on dirt. Parsons, in the prime of his driving career in the mid-1970s, took time for the Arkansas youngster and his father, sharing advice over lunch in his hometown of Ellerbe, North Carolina. Talk about a follow-through. Martin, 57, joined Parsons among the five chosen for induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. "It hasn't soaked in yet," Martin said by telephone Wednesday after the Hall's announcement. "I didn't expect it. It is, by far, the crown jewel of my career and I'm so grateful for the people that helped me get there." Martin wasn't in Charlotte to hear his name called; instead, he was on his way to Indianapolis, reasoning that he wouldn't be among the five inductees this year. Martin was named on 57 percent of the voting panel's ballots, third-most among the 20 nominees. Still, he took the unexpected nature of being selected to heart, saying, "If I would've been on the voting panel, I would've probably voted another way." Martin's credentials -- both his success and his longevity across four decades in NASCAR competition -- eventually won out in just his second year on the ballot. Martin won 40 times in NASCAR's top division and combined for 56 more victories in its other two national series. But Martin acknowledged the gaps in his resume, those that he came heart-wrenchingly close to achieving. Among those were his five runner-up finishes in the championship standings and his 0-for-29 career streak in the Daytona 500 , the sport's most prestigious race. After Wednesday's accomplishment, Martin said that Hall of Fame induction fills any potential voids. "Look, I don't have a Daytona 500 trophy and I don't have a championship trophy, and I said many times that when people would complain about my not having one of those, I would ask the question: 'How would my life be different if I had one?' " Martin said. "And I truly believe that my life would not be very different. But my life will be different from now on because I'm in that Hall, because that is my crown jewel. "That speaks of not one year worth of success, not one great achievement, but a body of work, and that's what I'm proud of."
Five legends unveiled as 2017 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class
RELATED: See all of the nominees DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2016) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The five-person group -- the eighth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 -- consists of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. In addition, NASCAR announced that Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2017 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner, respectively, this evening in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's "Great Hall." The Class of 2017 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the third year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ( Kyle Busch ). In all, 54 votes were cast, with four additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd, Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes. Voting was as follows: Benny Parsons (85%), Rick Hendrick (62%), Mark Martin (57%), Raymond Parks (53%) and Richard Childress (43%). The next top vote-getters were Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki. Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Larry Phillips. The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates. Nominees for the Landmark Award included Earles, Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier. Class of 2017 Inductees: Richard Childress Long before he became one of the preeminent car owners in NASCAR history, Richard Childress was a race car driver with limited means. Childress, the consummate self-made racer, was respectable behind the wheel. Between 1969-81 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in the NASCAR premier series standings in 1975. Having formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972, Childress retired from driving in 1981. He owned the cars that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 wins between 1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress drivers have given him five others. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series, and his 11 owner titles are second all-time. Childress also owned the vehicles driven by NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champions Clint Bowyer (2008) and Austin Dillon (2013), as the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver champion Austin Dillon . Rick Hendrick The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports , Rick Hendrick’s organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, most in NASCAR history. Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. In 2010, Johnson won a record-extending fifth consecutive championship. Hendrick also owned the car driven by 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champion Brian Vickers . Hendrick’s 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. Mark Martin He is often described as the "greatest driver to never to win a championship," but Mark Martin 's legendary career is so much more than that. He came incredibly close to that elusive title many times -- finishing second in the championship standings five times. Over the course of his 31-year premier series career, Martin compiled 40 wins (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). Martin saw success at every level of NASCAR. He won 49 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, holding the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list. In 1998, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Raymond Parks Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest -- and most successful -- team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. His pairing with another Atlantan, mechanic Red Vogt, produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Red Byron won the first NASCAR title (modified, 1948) and first premier series title (1949) in a Parks-owned car. Parks’ team produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events. Benny Parsons Benny Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship and could be called an everyman champion: winning enough to be called one of the sport’s stars but nearly always finishing well when he wasn’t able to reach Victory Lane. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times -- a 54 percent ratio. One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500 . He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also was known as a voice of the sport making a seamless transition to television following his NASCAR career. He was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: H. Clay Earles One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR's development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949. The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 -- three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a "different" type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today.
Growth, new pairing lead to big gains for Bayne
CONCORD, N.C. -- In the closing lap of the opening segment of last week's Sprint Showdown, Trevor Bayne saw an opening just after the restart and went for it. With a spot on the line in the Sprint All-Star Race where $1 million would be at stake, there was no hesitation. "I guess I've always kind of driven that way but it doesn't get talked about it because it's like for 25th and sometimes it doesn't work because it doesn't stick," Bayne told NASCAR.com at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Right now, when I've got cars that are capable of doing that and when it's for the win, it just looks a lot different. It's kind of always been my style on late-race restarts being able to go for it." That aggression came out in the Sprint All-Star Race as well where Bayne battled and traded paint with Kurt Busch en route to the Roush Fenway Racing driver ending up with a seventh-place result. And while that seemed to open some eyes at the track, Bayne has quietly been making strides in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Thanks to a new rules package that caters to his driving style, his growth behind the wheel and a burgeoning partnership with new crew chief Matt Puccia, Bayne sits 18th in the point standings. That is the highest spot for the three-car Roush organization heading into Sunday's race. The pairing with Puccia, who replaced Bob Osborne atop the No. 6 pit box ahead of this season, has been just the tonic for Bayne in a solid bounce-back campaign. Puccia had been atop the No. 16 pit box for Bayne's Roush teammate, Greg Biffle for the prior four-and-a-half-seasons. The two have come to a quick understanding and that has paid off on the track. "We've known each other for a long time ever since I came to Roush really, we've been buddies," Bayne said. "I think that relationship from the past and kind of going through the same struggles last year and coming back together and both of us needing to revamp everything. He was going to end up being a XFINITY crew chief and that's not what he wanted to do. Things weren't looking up on the 6 team over here, so we were both kind of what each other needed to revitalize our careers." Part of the bond between the duo comes in the form of becoming new fathers in the past year. Last December, Bayne and his wife Ashton, welcomed their first child, Elizabeth Kate, into the world. Puccia and his wife, Alyssa, welcomed their first child, Kennedy Harper in October. "Matt's daughter is two months older than ours. We'll talk on the plane and he will show me a video of her doing something new and I'm like, 'oh boy, this is what I got to deal with in two months,' " Bayne said. "Now, Kennedy, his daughter is crawling around so I'm cherishing the moments while Ellie's still immobile and lays still and I can keep up with her." He may only be 25 years old, but Bayne has already had a career full of peaks and valleys. In just his second career Sprint Cup start; he won the sport's biggest race, the Daytona 500 in 2011 at the age of 20 years old. He was sidelined for two months in 2011 and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. Last season in his first full-time season in the sport's top level, Bayne finished 29th in the point standings (and was no higher than 22nd during the course of the season) with just two top 10s in 36 races. "When you are struggling, you are super analytical about everything," Bayne said. "You look at everything you are doing. You analyze it. You try to make it better and sometimes that hinders you. I actually feel like I worked way harder at it last year than I'm having to this year. Sometimes that's what it takes. It's got to come naturally. "I'm not saying I’m not working at it because I am. There's a lot of things I learned last year that I implemented whether its post-race notes or spending time with the simulator. … I can't really say it's anything I'm doing, but when things are clicking it just makes it easier on everybody." This year, Bayne already has three top 10s in the season's first 12 races and is looking for a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The cutoff to the Chase is roughly three-and-a-half months away with 14 races to go. At present, Bayne sits eight points out of the 16th and final Chase Grid spot held by AJ Allmendinger . The driver of the No. 6 Ford views consistency as his ticket into the Chase. "Right now, our goals are to finish top 15 every week, be on the lead lap. Don't dig ourselves a hole," Bayne said. "Kansas, we blew a left rear tire and maybe could have avoided losing some of those laps had we pitted sooner when we knew we had a rub. We can't make mistakes. If you minimize that, you've got a good shot at it. … People are going to have bad days. You look at July in Daytona , you got to get through that race. You got to have a solid finish there like we did at Talladega (10th-place in May). "When the opportunity strikes to get a win or to run top five, you got to make those points up when you can, so you got to be pretty aggressive. I think our best chance is to points-race in right now, so those top 15s, top 10s we got to keep clicking them off like we've been doing."
H2H: Would 600 win mean more to Junior or Busch?
RELATED: Full 600 coverage A winner's trophy for the marathon, reputation-making Coca-Cola 600 is certainly one of the most prized possessions in all of NASCAR. The longest race (600 miles) on the NASCAR circuit is about so much more than just distance, too. There's the history of having such a contest at the 1.5-mile track just north of the Charlotte, North Carolina, NASCAR hub, not to mention this is the only race with three unique sets of elements: A race that starts under the sun, traverses to dusk and ends at night under the lights makes for three time frames with three unique sets of circumstances. Yes, it is truly a battle of man vs. machine. That's what makes it so difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600 , which both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never done. In fact, neither has won a points-paying event at Charlotte Motor Speedway . So which driver would benefit most from a win Sunday? Brad Norman and George Winkler set out to answer the question. PHOTOS: All of Busch's victories " See Junior's patriotic scheme NORMAN: So sorry, Junior Nation, but Sunday's race is more important to Kyle Busch . "Rowdy" has been on an incredible hot streak since returning from a broken leg last season -- eight wins in 37 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Four of those victories were his first at the tracks in Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas, respectively. There are only two tracks remaining on the circuit where Busch has not won a Cup race -- Charlotte and Pocono. The career-sweep is a mind-boggling feat, making Sunday's event a massive deal for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. WINKLER: Sure, it would be impressive for Kyle Busch to add to his resume with a victory at Charlotte, but it would be an all-out celebration for Junior to win the Coca-Cola 600 . From downtown Kannapolis, North Carolina, (where Junior grew up) to Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a 25-minute drive, so one can only imagine the type of attention a victory like this would get. Plus, Junior has said repeatedly that winning the Coca-Cola 600 is a top priority of his and one of the gaps he'd most like to fill on his resume. NORMAN: Yeah, it's a big 'un for Junior on a personal level. History is at stake for Busch, though. Not just personal history, either -- team history. Check out some of the most historic races on the NASCAR circuit and their results over the past year -- 2015 Coca-Cola 600 ( Carl Edwards wins); 2015 Brickyard 400 ( Kyle Busch wins); 2015 Southern 500 ( Carl Edwards wins); Homestead finale ( Kyle Busch wins, and wins 2015 championship); 2016 Daytona 500 ( Denny Hamlin wins). JGR has a ridiculous streak at stake in these types of races, too. There's simply way more on the line for both "Rowdy" and the organization at large. WINKLER: See, I think the reverse is true. Because JGR has been so dominant this season, I think it's more important for Hendrick Motorsports , and particularly Junior, to re-establish their mojo. Earnhardt Jr. has wrecked in two of his last three points-paying races, has had some races where he qualified poorly but came through the field and others where he overcame in-race issues and the odds to post top fives. Considering how Junior has battled this season, I think he's tested and ready to fight for the whole 600 miles and be in a good position to win.
Ty Dillon, Erik Jones top Friday practices at Charlotte
PRACTICE 2: Results Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon topped the board in the XFINITY Series' final practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Sitting behind the wheel of his No. 3 Chevrolet, Dillon laid down a field-fast lap of 181.342 mph. Landing in the runner-up spot was Joe Gibbs Racing 's Daniel Suarez in the No. 19 Toyota (181.056 mph) with his teammate Erik Jones -- who topped opening practice -- right behind him to take third in the No. 20 (180.379 mph). Defending race winner Austin Dillon , who is pulling double duty this weekend, was fourth-quickest on the speed charts at 180.210 mph. Rounding out the top five was the No. 48 Chevrolet of Brennan Poole , who wheeled his Chip Ganassi Racing entry around CMS at 179.958 mph. Next on the agenda for the XFINITY Series is Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying (11:15 a.m. ET, FS1) for the Hisense 4K TV 300 (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1). PRACTICE 1: Results Two-time 2016 XFINITY Series winner Erik Jones scored the fastest lap during the series' opening practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing wheelman topped the leaderboard at 181.159 mph. Next on the speed charts was fellow JGR driver -- and Sprint Cup Series regular -- Denny Hamlin , driving the No. 18 Toyota at 180.584 mph. This weekend marks the first XFINITY Series start of the season for the Daytona 500 winner. Fellow Sprint Cup regular Ryan Blaney was third-quickest after propelling his No. 12 Team Penske Ford around the 1.5-mile track at 179.874 mph. Daniel Suarez 's No. 19 JGR entry (179.826 mph) and the No. 3 of Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon (179.468 mph) were fourth and fifth, respectively. Defending race winner Austin Dillon was right behind his brother in sixth (179.378 mph).
Hall's call: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class revealed
RELATED: More on the Hall of Fame " See all of the nominees CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two phenomenally successful contemporary car owners, a champion driver-turned-beloved-broadcaster, a driver with a prolific winning history and the man described as NASCAR racing's "original car owner" are the newly elected members of the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France introduced the new inductees on Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, calling this group of five perhaps "the greatest class yet." The new members, selected from a group of 20 nominees, include 1973 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner Benny Parsons, who later became one of the most revered television broadcasters in the sport's history; team owner Rick Hendrick, who has notched a record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles; driver Mark Martin, whose 96 career victories across NASCAR's three national touring series are sixth all-time; car owner Raymond Parks, whose cars won the first NASCAR modified title in 1948 and NASCAR's first premier series title a year later; and car owner Richard Childress, whose pairing with Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt produced six championships and 67 victories in NASCAR's top division. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles is this year's recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. MORE: Hall of Fame reaction pours in Parsons, who succumbed to lung cancer on Jan. 16, 2007, was named on 85 percent of ballots cast by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Committee. Parsons had been on the ballot for eight years. "This is the biggest honor of Benny's life," said Terri Parsons, his widow. "It summarizes everything he has ever worked toward. Every job he has ever had, be it as a race car driver in all divisions, host of NASCAR radio shows, NASCAR color commentator for TV networks each were just as important to him as the next. "He lived his life for NASCAR fans and helping to make the sport of auto racing a better sport for them to enjoy. I know he is smiling his big smile tonight saying, 'Unbelievable!' " In a career that spanned 25 years, Parsons won 21 Sprint Cup races in 526 starts, but he was a top-10 machine, recording 283 for a staggering percentage of 53.8. Hendrick, who received 62 percent of the vote, has won car owner titles in the Sprint Cup Series with three different drivers -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with fellow Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick's 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. "I'm extremely proud to go in with Benny Parsons and Mark Martin , who drove for me, and then Richard Childress, who's one of my closest friends in the sport," Hendrick said. "Parks… I watched the video on him, and he kind of helped the sport get started. "So I'm really humbled to be in the position I'm in. I've been doing it now for 33 years, and I hope that we've got some more things to accomplish, but I'm very, very appreciative of the fact that I got voted in while I’m still racing." Martin, who garnered 57 percent of the vote, boasts the highest Sprint Cup victory total (40) of any eligible driver not already inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In addition, Martin has 49 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins to his credit (second all-time), along with seven wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His 56 Sprint Cup poles rank seventh on the all-time list. PHOTOS: Martin, other inductees through the years Martin, who was runner-up in the final Sprint Cup standings on five occasions, most recently in 2009 at age 50, described his selection to the Hall of Fame as the "crown jewel of my career." "I didn't expect it," Martin said. "And I'm so grateful to the people who helped me get there… I have so many great memories of the sport. The class that I'm being inducted in, I’m humbled to no end." Parks, named on 53 percent of the ballots, funded his racing operations through his successful real estate ventures in Atlanta. With mechanic Red Vogt tuning his cars, Parks dominated stock car racing in the 1940s and 1950s, teaming with Red Byron to win the inaugural modified title in 1948 and the first premier series championship in 1949. Also included on Parks' roster of drivers over the years were Bob Flock, Roy Hall, Fonty Flock and NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner. Park, who has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for eight years, passed away in 2010 at age 96. Childress, who was included on 43 percent of voting panel ballots, started his career as a driver but found considerably more success in the sport as an owner. In addition to the races and titles he won with Earnhardt, Childress holds 11 owner's championship trophies in NASCAR's top three series, second only to Hendrick's 14. Childress performed the posthumous induction of close friend and driver Dale Earnhardt into the first NASCAR Hall of Fame Class. "I was really, really honored and proud that day," Childress said. "I didn't really expect to get in because I was told that the only way you were going to get in was to retire or be deceased -- and I sure liked the first one better, and I haven't got plans to retire yet either." Landmark Award winner Earles had a simple business philosophy that made Martinsville Speedway one of the most pre-eminent short tracks in the country. "The secret to success in our business is giving the customer what he wants," Earles said before his death in 1999. "When a man plunks down his money, he deserves the best. You try to make him comfortable, give him a great show and make sure he gets his money's worth. And we've always tried to do just that. "Your customers are your greatest assets, and that will never change. You actually sell the customer a memory as much as a race. If their memories are good, they’ll keep coming back." Note: Hendrick and Childress will field a combined seven cars in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX).
Parsons' 10-step list finally complete after Hall's call
RELATED: Five legends unveiled for 2017 Hall of Fame Class CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Benny Parsons had learned that his recent cancer diagnosis was a terminal one, he made a plan for his wife, Terri, to carry out after his death in January 2007. On Wednesday, May 25 -- Voting Day for the NASCAR Hall of Fame -- Terri Parsons checked the last box on that 10-item list. "I know when Benny knew that he wasn't going to make it, his biggest fear was he was going to be forgotten. And I think this cements that," Terri Parsons said. "He will never be forgotten now, and I think his final wish ... he gave me a list of 10 things to do, and as of today, all 10 are done." Benjamin Stewart Parsons will forever be remembered as a NASCAR champion, a Daytona 500 winner and a blue-collar competitor behind the wheel. But he'll also be known as a brilliant, engaging commentator for stock-car racing from the TV booth. After Wednesday, if either of those memories were ever to fade, he'll now be forever known as a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. Mostly, Parsons will also be known simply as Benny, an everyman ambassador for the sport known as much for his driving and broadcasting skills as for his ability to bond with fans in the stands. That enduring popularity is what produced a groundswell of fan support on social media and an overwhelming show of approval by the 54-member voting panel, which named him on 85 percent of its ballots, leading all 20 Hall of Fame nominees. "It always meant a lot to Benny what people thought of him because Benny loved everybody," said Phil Parsons, Benny's younger brother and himself a longtime TV broadcaster. "From the fans to the competitors to the owners, sponsors, NASCAR, ARCA, whoever it might've been, they always meant a lot to him. So it was important that people liked him because he genuinely liked everybody in return. And I think he would be very pleased today knowing that this honor was bestowed upon him." Fellow Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, whose bond with Parsons dates back to his earliest experience in NASCAR, shared the sentiment. Parsons made his first start in NASCAR's top divison in August 1964 at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in western North Carolina. Jarrett won that Sunday in dominating fashion, but took time out of the race weekend to welcome the newcomer. That first chance meeting forged a friendship that extended beyond their driving careers and into television, where the two often shared a role as color commentator. "To have worked with him for so long on television and to see his dedication to the sport and the love for the fans, and the reaction of the fans over the years -- he was a people person," Jarrett said. "People could relate to him because he was one of them, just a down-to-earth type of individual who wanted the best for them, and they sensed that. With all of that, we became great friends." Jarrett said he had a strong gut feeling about Parsons on Wednesday, pointing also to the support he received in the voting room. Terri Parsons had a similar feeling, one that was somehow different than the previous seven votes -- all of which she faithfully attended. Maybe it was the overwhelming response she said she received from her persistent campaigning for her husband, reminding people every day to participate in fan balloting. Maybe it was her welcome upon her arrival at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon. "There was a man waiting for me at the parking place that said, 'Are you Mrs. Parsons? Hurry, hurry,' " she said with a laugh. "I felt a little different about that. They didn't care last year if I had a parking place or not." Benny Parsons now has a permanent place, one that will become official with his enshrinement in January 2017, close to the 10-year mark since his passing at age 65. "Somewhere tonight he's saying 'fantastic,' I'm sure, and we all know the smile that he'd have on his face, and there's certainly one on mine because I've been here for nine years waiting for this," Terri Parsons said, noting the time it's taken to cross the last item from her list. "All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you."