Johnson wins NMPA Richard Petty Driver of the Year
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jimmie Johnson , who won a record-tying seventh NASCAR championship this past season, has been voted the winner of the 2016 Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award presented by the National Motorsports Press Association. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast for the award of the NMPA membership. Others receiving votes were Carl Edwards ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Joey Logano ( Team Penske ). Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Johnson are the only NASCAR drivers to win seven titles in what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . The announcement was made during the NMPA's annual Convention and Awards Dinner held in Concord, North Carolina. It marks the seventh time Johnson, 41, has received the Driver of the Year honor. He also won the award in 2004, '06, '07, '09, '10, and '13. Johnson won five races in 2016, including the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that clinched his seventh championship. He ended the year with 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 36 races. The award is named in honor of Petty, NASCAR's win leader in its top series with 200 victories. It has been presented annually by the NMPA since 1969. Twenty-three different drivers have won the award since its inception. Other awards: Veteran motorsports journalist Al Pearce was named the 2016 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Pocono Spirit Award. Pearce raised more than $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet bearing the signatures of the 20 living World Driving Champions as well as those of Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project, which took nearly four years to complete, went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation. ... Veteran public relations representative Dave Ferroni was named the 2016 recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award. Ferroni has been involved in various forms of auto racing for more than 30 years. His company, DMF Communications, currently handles public relations for Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex, Jr. in NASCAR's premier series. ... ESPN.com motorsports writer Bob Pockrass was named the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Joe Littlejohn Award for 2016. The award is named after the former track owner from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and is presented annually by the NMPA in recognition for outstanding service to the organization. Pockrass recently completed his eighth year as secretary treasurer for the NMPA. Richard Petty Driver of the Year Determined by vote of the membership, the Richard Petty Driver of the Year award has been presented annually since 1969 to recognize the season's most outstanding driver. It is named in honor of the seven-time NASCAR premier series champion: 2016, Jimmie Johnson ; 2015, Kyle Busch ; 2014, Kevin Harvick ; 2013, Jimmie Johnson ; 2012, Brad Keselowski ; 2011, Tony Stewart ; 2010, Jimmie Johnson ; 2009, Jimmie Johnson ; 2008, Carl Edwards ; 2007, Jimmie Johnson ; 2006, Jimmie Johnson ; 2005, Tony Stewart ; 2004, Jimmie Johnson ; 2003, Ryan Newman ; 2002, Tony Stewart ; 2001, Kevin Harvick ; 2000, Bobby Labonte ; 1999, Dale Jarrett; 1998, Jeff Gordon ; 1997, Dale Jarrett; 1996, Terry Labonte ; 1995, Jeff Gordon ; 1994, Dale Earnhardt; 1993, Rusty Wallace; 1992, Davey Allison; 1991, Harry Gant; 1990, Dale Earnhardt; 1989, Mark Martin; 1988, Rusty Wallace; 1987, Dale Earnhardt; 1986, Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt; 1985, Bill Elliott ; 1984, Terry Labonte ; 1983, Bobby Allison; 1982, Darrell Waltrip; 1981, Darrell Waltrip; 1980 Dale Earnhardt; 1979 Cale Yarborough; 1978 Cale Yarborough; 1977, Cale Yarborough; 1976, Darrell Waltrip; 1975, Richard Petty; 1974, Richard Petty; 1973, David Pearson; 1972, Bobby Allison; 1971, Bobby Allison; 1970, Bobby Isaac; 1969, LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Bruce: Family theme flows through 2017 Hall of Fame inductions
RELATED: Class of 2017 enters Hall of Fame CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The name on the card for Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony read "Forever Legends." But after watching and listening to the Hall's eighth class as each was welcomed into the Hall, perhaps "Forever Family" would have been more fitting. "How great is that, to have your wife and your two grandsons to induct you into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?" asked Richard Childress, who rose to prominence as the owner of Richard Childress Racing , his teams winning 12 championships across NASCAR's three national series. Childress, fellow car owners Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks, and drivers Mark Martin and Benny Parsons made up this year's Hall of Fame class. And much like Childress, others paid tribute to family and the family atmosphere that has permeated NASCAR practically since it's 1948 incorporation. NASCAR drivers Austin and Ty Dillon introduced their grandfather on the special night. Although Childress is 71, Ty Dillon noted that he doesn't believe his grandfather "will ever stop pursuing his passion." "He will continue to live his life, fighting to keep this ground which we stand on tonight the best in the world," Dillon said. "He will always keep going to the track because that is what he loves to do, but most of all, he loves his family." Family was also what drove Mark Martin to never give up on his dream, returning to the sport to rebuild a career that was halted almost before it began. With a wife by his side and four young children, Martin feverishly worked his way back into NASCAR to earn a second chance. More than three decades later, after 96 wins in NASCAR's three top series and five runner-up finishes in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points battle, Martin stood on stage and officially joined the list of racing legends. "Tonight," he said, "for me is about recognizing the VIPs that made this happen. But the MVP is Arlene Martin. "We met Christmas 1983, and Arlene, from that day, that day and every day since then, you have made me better. It's incredible what we've seen and what we've done to get here." RELATED: Martin recalls second chance, relishes induction Emotions were kept in check, somewhat. Voices did crack on occasion. No surprise there. This was, after all, a big, big deal. "We are like a big family, even though it's a lot of us, we care about each other, and I don't care if people think that's corny," Hendrick, who was a racer himself long before he built a successful auto dealership empire, said. "That's the way I was raised. It's worked for me, and it's worked in our companies, both of them." When Hendrick arrived at the Hall prior to the ceremony, one of the first people he saw was executive director Winston Kelley. Kelley, Hendrick said, told him that there was one thing he could tell the car owner and auto dealer about both his companies, that it was clear that his employees loved their boss. "And I said, 'You know what? Your telling me that means as much to me as getting into the Hall of Fame,'" Hendrick replied. It was every bit as much validation for what he had strived to become as the Hall of Fame ring he would receive just a few hours later. "I feel like 'job well done,'" Hendrick said, "because you look after your people and they look after you." Martin was still riding the adrenalin of the moment when he sat down with the media afterward. "I feel like I've had a cup of coffee or I've been playing some Gucci Mane," he said, grinning. Retired from racing since 2013, he now spends his days focused on more mundane matters. "How shiny can I get my motor home," he said. "I've got to get that trash and take it out. That lightbulb is burned out, damnit. ... "You know I just do all the things that I used to pay people to do. I still go like hell every day. That's the same ol' me." It had been an emotionally draining week for others. Those still entwined in the never-ending cycle of competition, where forward focus is key and there's no time for looking back. "It really was," Hendrick, a leukemia survivor, said. "... This has been the toughest week, besides losing a family member. "We're all emotions up and down, and we had a little champagne toast before I went in there, and the two doctors, the doctor that invented the medicine that saved my life was in there, and I lost it. I mean, Jeff Gordon said, 'I've never seen you that emotional in there since I've known you.'" NASCAR is one big extended family. Full of the quarrels that divide them and the emotional ties that draw them back together. "I meant what I said tonight about all the people in the sport," Hendrick said. "There are some great folks. Hendrick and Childress had spoken earlier in the day. Joe Gibbs phoned, unable to attend Friday's function but happy for his fellow team owner. So did Roger Penske. Just three short months earlier, Penske, Gibbs and Hendrick met with the media in Homestead, Florida, each having drivers competing for the championship. "We're racing each other and we're paying each other compliments," Hendrick said. "You wouldn't see that in the NFL. We want to beat each other just as bad as anybody, but it's really strange. It's a different deal. "I don't know what it is, but it's pretty special." Forever Legends? Sure. But forever family? There's no doubt. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
All jokes aside, Gordon eager to atop Rolex 24 podium
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon humbly conceded that he was absolutely prepared to learn and absorb from his new Wayne Taylor Racing teammates in preparation for the WeatherTech SportsCar Series' season opener, the Rolex 24 -- Gordon's first drive in the great race since 2007. What he wasn't counting on, however, was the practical joke initiation. Actually it was more of an homage to the great NASCAR champion from 25-year old Jordan Taylor -- one of Gordon's three teammates for the Jan. 27-28 Rolex race. "I had the idea as soon as I learned he would be driving with us to come up to him in the garage as a super fan," Taylor explained with a smile Friday afternoon as the team met with the media following the first practice session of the Roar Before the 24 three-day test. "I figured he had seen that exact person, the jacket, the shorts, the mustache … I figured he'd seen that a million times and I would just blend in with the crowd. But, he saw it coming and kinda ruined my day." Gordon laughed hearing Taylor relive the scenario. For all the high jinks in getting to know one another, however, this team is absolutely a serious favorite when it comes to the twice-around-the-clock race on Daytona's 3.56-mile road course. This will mark only the second time the newly-retired Gordon has competed in this prestigious event. Yet he looked quite comfortable walking around the paddock and more importantly, sitting behind the wheel of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA Cadillac DPi prototype -- which was second fastest in Friday's opening practice session. Dressed in Wayne Taylor Racing team blue, he led his co-drivers Jordan Taylor, Taylor's older brother Ricky, 27, and veteran Max Angelelli onto the stage to meet the press as part of the annual "Roar" test session. "I am having a blast," Gordon said. "It's been a dream of mine not just to drive a car like this but to compete out on track with a team and car like this. "It's a lot of fun for me. I treat this like I'm a rookie, having only run this race one other time. I just tapped into this team and the teammates listening and talking to (team owner) Wayne and Max and last two months really getting to know Ricky and Jordan testing with them. It's been an amazing experience but I must say getting behind the wheel of a car that brakes like that and corners like that is kinda eye-opening to me, but also at the same time, so much fun." Before the fun, however, Gordon has methodically prepared himself -- mentally and physically training for this 24-hour test. He has immersed in Equinox training, snow skiing and more cardio workouts in general. "It's not as hot as inside a stock car," Gordon said, "But it definitely puts a lot more loads on your body. I'm trying to get myself in as good a shape as these young kids I'm chasing around." Out in Daytona's vast garage area, it was easy to locate the Wayne Taylor Racing hauler. Several people crowded outside hoping for a glimpse of Gordon , or even better: an autograph. Maryann Danker, 67, of nearby Seville, Fla. stood outside holding a diecast NASCAR car of Gordon's . She is a 20-year member of the Jeff Gordon Fan Club and attending her first Rolex test session "only because of Gordon ," she said. Earning the prestigious Rolex watch later this month would put Gordon in historic company. Only Jamie McMurray has won the Daytona 500 , Indianapolis' Brickyard 400 and the Rolex 24 -- an impressive congregate of some of the world's greatest races. And Gordon is up for achieving that honor too. Even if it's not something he’s specifically focused on. "I'll be honest, that would be special but that's like icing on the cake," Gordon said. "I haven't thought a lot about that." Then looking at his young teammates, Gordon added, "These kids force me to have fun because -- especially this one (Jordan) I have to watch out for him and was happy to get one over on him yesterday. "I'm a very serious competitor and they are, too, but they like to mix it up and have fun and I love that. I want to have fun, but I really am only going to have fun and a smile on myself if we're up on that podium in the number one position when this race is over." &lt;/p&gt;
Gordon , Ganassi teams headline stout field at Roar Before the 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will headline the list of drivers participating in this weekend's Roar Before the 24 on Daytona International Speedway 's road course. And the traditional three-day test for IMSA's WeatherTech SportsCar Series' season-opening Rolex 24 once again features a talented and diverse driver lineup. For only the second time in his renowned career, Gordon will be among those testing at Daytona in preparation for the Jan. 28-29 race, widely seen as the traditional start to America's big league motorsports season. Gordon will co-drive the No. 10 Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing -- the same team he finished third overall with in his only other Rolex start in 2007. The laps this weekend will be crucial for the team -- which also includes drivers Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli -- since it got limited time on track in a less formal test session at Daytona in December. "I had so much fun the first time I did this," Gordon said. "And at this point of my life and career (winning the Rolex 24) would be huge. When I came here in 2007 I was just kind of along for the ride. When you really realize how important this race is, is on race day when you see the hype and buildup and then the challenges you face over 24 hours. That's what makes this race so thrilling. I'd be very proud (if we won)." This year's Rolex 24 will mark the debut of new racing classifications for IMSA. Gordon's car will be among 12 vying in the headline Prototype class. In all, 50 cars representing four classifications are expected at Daytona this weekend and later this month competing in the twice-around-the-clock race. Some of NASCAR's other big name drivers who previously competed in the Rolex -- Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson , for example -- are not participating. However their NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi still has three cars entered in the GT LeMans (GTLM) class. This team won in class at LeMans last year, and Chip Ganassi Racing is already the most decorated team in Rolex history with six overall victories. Former NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year Andy Lally as well as popular drivers Boris Said and Scott Pruett will be competing alongside IndyCar greats such as Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais. Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and IndyCar championship contender Graham Rahal will team up as well. Five-time Rolex champion Pruett will be steering the new Lexus in the 25-car GT Daytona class. A sixth Rolex watch would make him the winningest driver in the great race's history, breaking a tie with the legendary Hurley Haywood. The traditional Roar Before the 24 gets underway Friday. Teams return to the World Center of Racing on Thursday, Jan. 26 for practice and pole qualifying in preparation for the green flag at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 honored, inducted
RELATED: Recap induction night, watch more speeches CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The enshrinement of three car owners of paramount importance to stock car racing, a driver who proved a prolific winner in NASCAR’s top-two series and a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion who would become one of the most beloved storytellers in the history of the sport highlighted Friday night’s induction of the Class of 2017 into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Not only did the emotional proceedings usher one of NASCAR’s first car owners, Raymond Parks, into the Hall. Also recognized were the ongoing accomplishments of two owners -- Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick -- whose efforts have helped to produce a pair of seven-time champions. Friday night also brought the induction of driver Mark Martin, who won 40 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , another 49 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and who finished second in the championship standings at NASCAR’s highest level no less than five times. WATCH: Martin enters the 'grandest Victory Lane' Perhaps the most gripping moment of the night was the enshrinement of 1973 Cup champion Benny Parsons, a man of indefatigable good humor who flourished after his driving career as one of the most beloved broadcasters the sport has known. Parsons lost his life on Jan. 16, 2007 after a courageous battle against lung cancer. Appropriately, Parks was first to be enshrined. Introduced by Kevin Harvick and inducted posthumously by family friend Kyle Petty, Parks was a close friend of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and a pillar of the sport in its formative years. Born in the mountains of north Georgia, Parks shares "moonshine" roots with such NASCAR pioneers as Junior Johnson. Parks later grew successful jukebox and vending machine businesses in Atlanta before venturing into NASCAR ownership. Parks won NASCAR's first two championships, in modifieds in 1948 and in Strictly Stock (NASCAR's top division) with Red Byron behind the wheel and Red Vogt as crew chief. RELATED: 'Lost' films restored, reveal Parks' talent "He put his money where his mouth was, investing in our great pastime as an owner," Harvick said. "The World War II veteran captured NASCAR's first premier series championship in 1949 and nearly 70 years later has earned the highest honor from the sport he always believed in." "Without Raymond Parks, there would be no Richard Petty -- there’s nothing to build on," Kyle Petty said. Introduced by fellow Michigander Brad Keselowski , Parsons won his only championship in 1973, an achievement that came during a string of nine straight years (1972-1980) in which Parsons finished in the top five in the final standings. All told, Parsons won 21 races, including the 1975 Daytona 500 , during a career whose hallmark was remarkable consistency. In 526 starts at NASCAR’s highest level, Parsons finished in the top 10 283 times, an enviable 54 percent. "He's from Detroit, and he came from being a Michigan taxi driver to a NASCAR champion," Keselowski said. "Think about that. That seems like the script from a Hollywood movie. "But that is exactly what Benny Parsons accomplished in 1973." WATCH: Childress says his story's possible 'only in America' Childress’ grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon -- both of whom are racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this year -- introduced their "Pop Pop," the car owner with whom inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class member Dale Earnhardt won six of his seven championships. "My brother and I are so proud and honored to introduce Pop Pop," Austin Dillon said. "There are countless family stories I could share of his true grit, persistence, determination, and love for others." Including Earnhardt’s six with RCR, Childress has won 11 titles combined in NASCAR’s top three touring series, second only to fellow inductee Hendrick’s 15. "I’m honored to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with my heroes," said Childress, who was inducted by his wife, Judy Childress. "Just look around this wall and look at the greats that we'll be going in the Hall of Fame with. Unbelievable. And to go in the Class of 2017 with so many great inductees is quite an honor." Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and four-time titleholder Jeff Gordon did the introduction honors for Hendrick, their car owner. "The stats speak for themselves: 15 national series championship, 245 Cup wins, certainly impressive numbers, but more important than the wins and the championships is the person behind them," Gordon said. "He's the most loyal man I know. He'll take the shirt right off his back for you. His accomplishments are endless, and his character is unrivaled." Hendrick accepted induction from his wife, Linda Hendrick. WATCH: Hendrick thanks NASCAR family "I humbly accept this tonight, and all the drivers that have been involved in our company, all the mechanics, everybody that's ever been a part of it, I accept this on your behalf, past and present," Hendrick said. "I know my son (Ricky Hendrick, killed in a 2004 plane crash) is watching tonight, and he's so proud. Congratulations to Jimmie for winning No. 7, dedicating it to him … "But I can tell you that the feelings that I have for this sport and for all the people in it, all the sponsors -- and I've got so many here tonight I can't name them all, don't want to do that -- but it's your faith, it's your family and your friends that get you through life, and that's the most important thing. When it's all over, it's the people that you touch and the lives you change that make a difference in this world." Introduced by former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth and inducted by team owner Jack Roush, Martin chronicled a career that began in 1981 and ended at Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013. In between, Martin finished second in the standings four times with Roush -- the first in 1990 -- and once with Hendrick, in 2009, during Johnson’s run of five straight titles. Martin won 96 races across all three NASCAR national touring series, currently seventh all-time. He credited Roush with giving him a welcome opportunity to drive RFR Fords in 1988, after his career had stalled. "He was hell-bent and determined as I was to make a name for himself winning races and competing for championships at NASCAR's highest level," Martin said. "Jack Roush gave me that second chance." During Friday night’s ceremony, Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles was recognized with the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Opened in 1947, Martinsville is the only track to have hosted races at NASCAR’s highest level since the sanctioning body’s formation in 1949. The late Benny Phillips, former reporter and sports editor for the High Point (N.C.) Enterprise received the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Overcoming polio to pursue his career as a journalist, Phillips also wrote for Stock Car Racing magazine for 27 years and spent 12 years covering racing with TBS. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon prepares for Rolex 24 at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon announced his retirement, a lot of folks thought he would be done with racing when the 2015 season was over. The truth, however, has proved to be just the opposite. Gordon resumed NASCAR driving duties in numerous fill-in roles for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet throughout the 2016 season. At the beginning of this month, it also was announced that Gordon would return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, after a 10-year hiatus. For the 2017 Rolex 24, Gordon will join Wayne Taylor Racing in the team's brand new Daytona Prototype international (DPi), the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, where he will compete alongside Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli. Gordon turned his first laps in the car at in an IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona on Tuesday afternoon. "Oh man, that was a lot of fun," Gordon said after finishing his stint in the car. "I'm thrilled to be here, and to finally get some laps in. It didn't disappoint. To be able to drive a car that has that kind of downforce, and the kind of braking and cornering it's capable of, it's just an amazing piece of machinery." In 2007, Gordon's lone previous Rolex 24 experience, he drove alongside Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen in a Corvette Daytona Prototype. Despite a few setbacks during the race, the quartet ended up finishing on the overall podium in third. Back then, the DPs were far more similar to a Cup car than the new batch of DPi models are, so Gordon has been meticulous in his preparations. "I've been working so hard because I want to give these guys everything," explained Gordon . "I told Wayne years ago that I wasn't going to come back to run this again unless I can put in the necessary amount of time and effort. I might be working harder this year than I think I've ever worked. "Every lap I've made in the car has been helpful, as has the time I spent in the Dallara simulator in Indianapolis -- that was big. I've definitely spent some time getting familiar with the seat, the steering wheel and how the car reacts. I anticipated feeling more comfortable here at Daytona than I did on the Charlotte road course, and that's exactly what happened." For much of Tuesday, the team was working through a few software gremlins with the engine. However, once they hit the track, all the drivers were able to get some valuable seat time in on the high banks. Gordon feels there is definitely great room for improvement in setup, but he's looking to step aside and listen to the experts on that topic. "That's for Ricky and Jordan and Max," he said. "I mean, I'm just trying to keep up with those guys. I felt like there were some areas where I could have been more aggressive, but we'll see." Gordon finds great amusement in some of the reaction to the announcement that he would be returning to the Rolex, as he wasn't exactly private about his interest in partaking in the race. However, despite alluding to it on numerous occasions, much of the surprise makes him feel that not everyone took him seriously on the matter. He's looking forward to showing everyone just how serious he actually was by chasing a win in the twice-around-the-clock enduro. "At this point in my life and career, that would be huge," Gordon said. "I think you really realize how important this race is when you're here on race day and you see the hype and the buildup and it doesn't disappoint. The challenges that you face, going for 24 hours to compete at that level against your competitors, that's what makes this race so thrilling." Everyone will get a chance to experience that thrill on Jan. 28, when the green flag drops on the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Hendrick humbled by NASCAR Hall of Fame selection
RELATED: Everything to know about Friday's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction Rick Hendrick is going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the owner of Hendrick Motorsports might be the one most surprised by his selection. "It is more than just 'Hey, this is cool,'" the 67-year-old said recently. "It's more than that to me. It's humbling; it's just very humbling to me that I could even be looked at." Hendrick will be inducted into the Hall Friday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), along with fellow team owners Richard Childress and Raymond Parks and drivers Benny Parsons and Mark Martin. There hasn't been much time for reflection, Hendrick said, as he continues to oversee an organization that fields four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams in addition to one of the nation’s most successful automotive sales groups. "I think when you are in the day-to-day and in a day-to-day race and you are going to the track and you are trying to win races … or you are running for a championship, all that other stuff is kind of back there, but it doesn't come to the forefront," Hendrick said. "But then when you get to an event like this and you are going into the Hall of Fame with Raymond Parks and Benny and Richard and Mark and all these guys and you look at who is in there and you look at what the sport has meant to you and your family, it is really special and it's very emotional. "You think about those things. It's humbling. I think the word is humbling because … I never thought I would ever race in NASCAR. I never thought I would ever win a NASCAR race. I never really thought we would win a championship and now to be in the position we are in to win as much and have the success we have had and to be recognized as doing something in the sport to get into the Hall it's a tremendous honor.” Parsons and Martin each drove for Hendrick at one time. Childress and his Richard Childress Racing organization were the benchmark when Hendrick arrived on the scene in 1984. RELATED: Racing lifer Childress ready for induction "Really when I first started I didn't think anybody would ever beat them," Hendrick said of Childress and his driver, Dale Earnhardt. "I thought they were just, basically, unbeatable." That changed with Jeff Gordon 's arrival at HMS in the early '90s, and for nearly a decade, the two organizations were the best in the NASCAR garage, winning seven championships between themselves from '93 through '01. The Hendrick organization continues to set the pace today, with Jimmie Johnson winning the 2016 championship to become just the third driver to win seven titles. Officially, HMS teams have won 12 championships in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 245 races. Previous programs in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series produced nearly 50 more victories and three additional championships. It's almost overwhelming for Hendrick, who built his first car (for drag racing) when he was a teenager with help from his father. "When you get something like this in life, when someone recognizes you, you think about going to Hillsborough (North Carolina) to watch a race on dirt," he said. "You think about all the sacrifices your Dad made to get you in the cars and your son's love for the cars, your brother, (engine builder) Randy Dorton, all those guys that aren’t here now that gave it all. "It's super emotional for me because I know how much they loved it, how much they sacrificed for it and this is almost like the culmination." Sixteen drivers have won at least one race while competing for HMS at the NASCAR Cup level. Johnson, Gordon and Terry Labonte won championships as well. RELATED: Johnson's seventh title leaves him speechless, but peers say plenty In spite of all his accomplishments and those of his organization, Hendrick said he still feels a bit awed by his selection. "I think it feels a lot like the first time I went to New York after I won a championship, the first championship," he said. "You feel … it's an unbelievable accomplishment when you dreamed about being involved in a sport or just watching the sport and to think that now you are being recognized in the Hall of Fame, it's a really emotional and a very special feeling." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon to join Cadillac team for Rolex 24 at Daytona
Four-time NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon will make his return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time in 10 years as Wayne Taylor Racing on Thursday confirmed Gordon alongside full-season co-drivers Jordan and Ricky Taylor and endurance driver Max Angelelli as the driver lineup in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona. The race opens the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season on Jan. 28-29, 2017. Gordon's lone previous Rolex 24 appearance in 2007 came with the same team. He co-drove the No. 10 Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype with Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen to a third-place result. "When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event -- with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing -- with the hopes of winning it this time," Gordon said. "I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination." Gordon , now an analyst on NASCAR on FOX telecasts, and the No. 10 team will be part of the debut race for the brand-new Cadillac DPi-V.R, which was officially unveiled Wednesday by the manufacturer. "I think it is exceptional to have Jeff back with us after 10 years," Angelelli said. "I look forward to sharing our new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar with him, discussing our setup and race strategy. It was great the first time -- we might have won that race if some things would have gone our way. Now that it's happening again, with the new car, it's going to be absolutely great." Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who finished third in the 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype standings, are also looking forward to running with the NASCAR legend. "It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but, over recent years, it's become less and less frequent," Jordan Taylor said. " Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. I can't wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It's going to be an experience of a lifetime." "Having Jeff Gordon join the team is really a dream come true for all of us," added Ricky Taylor. "It is a huge compliment to how well-respected the team has become over the years for someone with the history and career of Jeff Gordon to want to be a part of it. I'm sure he will be a great addition to the lineup and hopefully we can all get our first Rolex 24 win together." The No. 10 entry will compete for the overall Rolex 24 race victory in the WeatherTech Championship's Prototype (P) class. It will be one of three Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars in the field, as three-time defending series champions Action Express Racing confirmed its plans to field a pair of the new race cars earlier Thursday morning. Gordon , who has participated in private test sessions with the team in recent weeks, is expected to join the team for the upcoming IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway in Dec. 13-14, as well as the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test on Jan. 6-8, 2017 prior to the race on the final weekend of January. &lt;/p&gt;
Jeff Gordon reflects on Johnson's legacy as he runs for a seventh title
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend Jimmie Johnson . A worldwide household name, Johnson has reached remarkable feats in the racing world. This weekend could represent a pinnacle in his racing career, as he runs for his seventh championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the opportunity to tie the great Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most all-time Sprint Cup Series championships within reach. But "Six-Time" wasn't always that way: Former Hendrick Motorsports teammate and No. 48 car owner Jeff Gordon recalls when Johnson wasn't a world champion, a race winner or even a Sprint Cup Series driver. He was just Jimmie. • • • Gordon remembers a tremendously fast, red, white and blue car that took the track at an XFINITY test at Darlington Raceway back in 2000. "I was helping Ricky Hendrick -- (team owner) Rick (Hendrick’s) son -- who was getting in the XFINITY Series and wanted to run a few races and Darlington was one of the races on that schedule," Gordon told NASCAR.com on Thursday. "… So, I went down to Darlington for a day of XFINITY testing and I remember going out there on top of a truck … and a car was out there -- it was a red, white and blue car. Really had a nice line, carrying a lot of speed, right up next to the wall. You know, Darlington's a very intimidating track and usually it takes not just a lot of skill but experience to understand the track." Gordon complimented the driver's style, telling Hendrick "that's pretty much how you need to do it." Then he asked who the driver was. " Jimmie Johnson ," Gordon recalls Hendrick answering. With his seemingly experienced motor skills, Gordon wondered how many times Johnson had raced at "The Track Too Tough to Tame." Hendrick surprised Gordon by telling him he thought it was his first time. Gordon wanted to meet him. "I remember going down to the garage and Jimmie was sitting in his car and I went over there to him and said, 'Hey, what's up, how are you?' and introduced myself," Gordon said. "I said, 'So, have you ever been here to Darlington before?' And he said, 'Nope, today's the first time I ever saw the place.' "That to me in itself kind of floored me -- it looked like he had been there for years; tremendous speed," Gordon admitted. " So, I started watching him from that point forward. "… To me, (he) was an overachiever for the team and the equipment." Jimmie Johnson : A 24-year-old "overachiever" without a future ride, Sprint Cup win or championship to his name. Sounds about right for someone who would later be christened "Six-Time." RELATED: Johnson through the years in photos • • • The date is August 19, 2000. The now- XFINITY Series heads to the rolling Irish Hills of Michigan International Speedway . Already a three-time now- Sprint Cup Series champion under the Hendrick Motorsports umbrella, Gordon is making his fourth XFINITY start in the No. 24 Gordon -Evernham Motorsports ride. After the drivers meeting, Johnson approaches Gordon . "(He said), 'Hey, I've got some opportunities and some people talking to me and I'd love to pick your brain about it and get your opinion,'" Gordon recalled. "So, I was impressed that he was willing to come up and ask me and I felt honored that he thought to do that." The veteran driver was even more impressed during the race. "I was running, I think third or fourth or something on a late restart," Gordon said. "… I had a faster car than him all day long, but on that final restart he made a big, bold move and passed me, and I was like, 'Whoa!' I was like, 'This guy's got some real skills here.'" GALLERY: How Johnson became 'Six-Time' During that time, Hendrick Motorsports was a three-car team, fielding the Nos. 5, 25 and 24 cars out of three-separate shops on the Concord, North Carolina, campus. But soon, more teams began to adopt the four-car team concept, where each of the cars worked together to share information and were seeing positive on-track results. "When I left that Michigan race, I remember calling Rick (Hendrick) and I said 'You know, I was just racing in the XFINITY race -- Jimmie Johnson is extremely impressive … I really think that we could build this fourth team and hire him,'" Gordon said. Hendrick had met Johnson through his son Ricky, as the pair were friends. But he worried about a lack of sponsorship for a no-name rookie out of El Cajon, California. But Gordon was relentless. "Maybe a week or two went by and we talked some more about it," Gordon said. "and Rick said to me … 'Listen, if you're that adamant about it, why don't you be a partner with me on it and we'll go in together?' "I said, 'Done.'" On Sept. 22, 2000, Jimmie Johnson officially signed with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet part-time. He made his first start behind the wheel of the No. 48 ride less than 13 months after that, signed with the team full-time in 2002 and earned his first Sprint Cup Series race 10 races into his rookie year. Less than five years after that, Johnson was celebrating his first Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway . • • •
Will Jeff Gordon's second final race really be his last?
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Similarities abounded Sunday at what could be Jeff Gordon 's second final race of his NASCAR career. Like his most recent farewell last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway , he posed for a pre-race team photo with Hendrick Motorsports personnel. And though there was far less fanfare in Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway , Gordon wound up with the same result -- a sixth-place finish in his final start before heading back into retirement. Or is it? Gordon said "based on the information I have in front of me," it was. "But I didn't see me running eight races this year, either." The four-time premier series champion's capable relief stint this season in place of injured Dale Earnhardt Jr . came to a close Sunday at the .526-mile track where he's enjoyed many successes -- nine of his 93 career wins. Among active Sprint Cup Series drivers, only teammate Jimmie Johnson has as many Martinsville triumphs, tying Gordon's benchmark with a victory in Sunday's 500-lapper. The 45-year-old Gordon showed plenty of pep in his Martinsville swan song, logging loads of laps among the top five. A slight fade over the final green-flag stretch left him with a top-10 effort and the best result of his interim tenure in the No. 88. "Well, I would rather have won," Gordon said. "I felt like we had a fourth- or fifth-place car the run before that so I always wanted to get the most out of it. I was a little disappointed it didn't take off there at the end. … But I was proud of this team, proud of my performance. Best finish I've had in this car, so all in all, it was a good way to end our run here this year in (the) 88 car, and I think it's going to be the last one. We'll see." If team owner Rick Hendrick has his say -- and he joked Sunday that he typically does -- Gordon may still have some racing left to do. When Earnhardt's concussion-like symptoms first were diagnosed this summer, Hendrick said Gordon was atop his list as a possible replacement. The longtime car owner and NASCAR Hall of Fame electee said Sunday's performance did little to sway that notion, confirming that "absolutely" Gordon would be his first call from the bullpen. "In the middle of the race, he was coming. Man, he could win this thing," Hendrick said. "It's really tough to be out of the car and jump back in and race with these guys without having the week-to-week input into the car. "Don't you guys agree, he's too young to retire? I mean, he's too good. Maybe we'll vote him back in. Maybe we can come up with a new deal." New driving assignments notwithstanding, Gordon will head back to the broadcasting booth with FOX Sports in 2017. But before making that transition, the future Hall of Famer took time Sunday to savor another celebrated send-off. "Just like Homestead, you don't really know how special some of those moments are until years down the road," Gordon said, "or maybe that's just my personality when I can reflect on it, go back through my career. This has really done a lot for me integrating into the team and the organization. … It's memorable, certainly, but I think it's ironic that this is the last one."