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.
Bruce : Dale Earnhardt unchallenged for title of best driver ever
NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce compares Jimmie Johnson to the 'Intimidator' RELATED: Johnson wins at Dover for 10th time The greatest NASCAR driver of all time is … Jimmie Johnson ? That's the word on the street, or in this case the voice on the radio, and since the bluegrass channel was on a commercial break I decided to stick around long enough to hear how that particular conclusion was reached. Such comparisons are inevitable – it's the sort of thing that arises when one is chasing legends. No different than when Jeff Gordon was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. No different than when Earnhardt was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Petty. And no different than when Petty began piling up wins and titles on his way to overtaking a host of former champions, including his father, Lee, the first to win three NASCAR premier series championships. What the 39-year-old Johnson has managed to accomplish in little more than 13 full seasons in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series certainly puts him in the same league with Petty and Earnhardt, NASCAR's only seven-time champions. There's no doubt that Johnson, fit and trim and now only two wins away from matching Earnhardt's career win total of 76 victories, is one of the sport's greatest drivers. But is he No. 1? From a numbers standpoint, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will undoubtedly surpass Earnhardt's win total, and it's likely he'll eventually capture a seventh championship. He could, in fact, become the first driver to win more than seven titles. That would make him the most successful driver from a championship standpoint (neither he nor anyone else will come close to Petty's mark of 200 career wins), but will that make him NASCAR's greatest driver? No. That designation, without question, belongs to Earnhardt. Statistics are a great way to gauge success. But it takes more than numbers to measure greatness. Johnson has managed to excel during what some claim is the most competitive era in the history of NASCAR. Yes, there are more winners, on average, today. But there are also more races on the schedule, thus also more opportunities. A larger number of teams run the full schedule today, although that doesn't necessarily mean there are more "better" teams competing. Earnhardt never ran a season consisting of 36 points races; Johnson's never run in fewer than 36. Earnhardt never had the opportunity to compete at Kansas, Chicago or Kentucky; but by the same token, Johnson never raced at North Wilkesboro or Riverside. I have a strong feeling both could have won at those tracks given the chance. I'll argue that the talent pool Earnhardt often faced was just as deep – with lineups including drivers such as Petty and Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Geoff Bodine and Harry Gant. Eventually Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Tim Richmond and others took their place. Most were champions; many are already members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson is one of the greatest drivers that today's fans will ever see. What he has done has been nothing short of amazing. If one wants to argue that he would not have won 74 races and six championships had it not been for Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus, the same could be said of Earnhardt, who owed much of his success to Richard Childress Racing and the talented group he worked with there. But what elevates Earnhardt above the rest is more than the fact that he was so successful. He provided fans with some of the sport's most memorable moments during his two-plus decades. Among them: winning the pole at Watkins Glen in '96 (and setting the track qualifying record, to boot) just two weeks after suffering a broken collarbone and sternum in a vicious crash at Talladega; climbing from his damaged car and into the ambulance, only to quickly exit and return to his car once he realized it would still run, at Daytona in '97; his first and only Daytona 500 victory the following season, a win that erased 19 years of heartbreak. There was the "rattle his cage" incident with Terry Labonte en route to victory in the night race at Bristol in '99; the wrongly-termed but aptly promoted "pass in the grass" on his way to winning the 1997 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ; and the charge from 18th to first in the final five laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . For two decades, greatness drove a Chevrolet and it carried the number 3. They were memorable moments that elevated the sport and defined the man. Johnson can win more races and win more championships, but he can't match that. He needn't worry – no one else can, either. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Michael McDowell and wife adopt son from China
WELCOME, N.C. -- While NASCAR driver Michael McDowell was at the Richard Childress Racing shop recently, making preparations for an upcoming XFINITY Series start with the organization, McDowell's wife was thousands of miles away. In China. When Jami McDowell returns next week, she will arrive with the newest member of the McDowell household, 3-year-old son Lucas. "I wish I could be there," Michael McDowell said. "I have obligations here and need to make sure I can provide for my family, too." The McDowells already have three children -- Trace (pictured above in 2009), Emma and Rylie -- but were first-time parents when they initially decided to go the adoption route. "That was our plan," McDowell said. "We were going to have one and then we were going to adopt one. We felt like with our lifestyle and travel and everything, two is manageable. But God had other plans, and while we were waiting we had two more, so now we'll be at four. And four is not manageable on the road and all those things. But at the same time, I'm very thankful to be in this sport and have the opportunities that I have. "My wife does a great job of caring for our children when I'm out racing around, and I work really hard to be there and be available during the week when I'm not at the shop and not taking care of my (racing) obligations. "It's not going to be easy; it's going to be a challenge. We knew that and were aware of that, but at the same time, it's going to be worth it." McDowell currently splits driving duties in the No. 95 Chevrolet fielded by Circle Sport Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR). The single-team organization has an alliance with RCR, and Ty Dillon is the driver when McDowell isn't in the car. Dillon, who also competes full time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for RCR, has five Sprint Cup starts this season with a top finish of 15th in the No. 95 entry. McDowell has 13 starts, including a season-best 10th earlier this month at Daytona International Speedway . The CSLFR organization fielded two entries for the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. The family's faith started the McDowells down the road to adoption. And while it has taken longer than expected -- six years -- that faith never wavered. Even as their family continued to grow. "It was just something that we felt like that God really led us to this opportunity," the 31-year-old McDowell said. "There are over 200 million orphans in the world. You can't save them all, you can't fix everything. But we have a great home that we can save one. "Our son Lucas, he's 3 now, but he was left in the street at five days old because he has cleft hand and feet. Something here that would be very small, something that ... you can operate and help them be able to walk and grab and do all the things that your other kids can do. But over there, it's 'Well, he's not perfect. There's something wrong with him.' "We're really thankful that we have the opportunity to do it and be a part of his life and him be a part of our lives. It's going to be great for our kids. A crazy, cool opportunity."
NASCAR looking to limit XFINITY tandem drafting
NASCAR implemented rule changes two years ago in its Sprint Cup Series aimed at limiting the action known as tandem drafting, the ability for two cars to lock up and advance past another competitor. Changes now are being considered to halt the activity for the XFINITY Series after a one-day test at Daytona International Speedway July 2. "You no longer see that in the Sprint Cup Series and that's what we wanted to try and accomplish," XFINITY Series Director Wayne Auton told NASCAR.com. "We stayed in Daytona and tested several things to make sure two XFINITY Series cars can't lock up. Then NASCAR doesn't have to try and police the cars locking bumpers in an effort to beat another competitor. "We have a rule that says two cars cannot lock bumpers in an effort to push another car. As we saw in the past, the Sprint Cup cars used to be able to push, but the aerodynamics of their cars today don't allow them to do that. "We're trying to get our cars more like the Sprint Cup cars to where they can't lock bumpers." NASCAR outlawed the practice of tandem drafting, the process of two cars hooking up nose-to-tail to increase overall speed, by implementing changes that affected engine cooling, thus increasing the likelihood of overheating the engines if the practice continued. Cars still use the draft, run nose-to-tail with minimal or no contact to advance, but they are not allowed to lock onto the back of another car and push the car in front around the track. Auton called policing the practice of locking up "the hardest thing I've ever done at a race track by far. "There's a way we can fix the cars after what we saw Sunday to not have to worry about it, go back to Daytona and have great racing," he said. Officials worked with three drivers and teams at Daytona during the four-hour test – Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota), Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 22 Ford) and Brandon Jones (Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet). "You can find out a lot about the aero package with just three cars," Auton said. "The way we did the test, we had two cars that went out and tried to hook up with the aero packages that we put on them. And we had another car with all kinds of devices on it to see what the air was actually doing with the car. "We then took all that off and put all three cars out there together. We found that the third car is very instrumental in getting the second car to the car up front. "The drivers could tell you whether it was possible to get locked up. We put the spoiler on that we ran Friday night with one of the configurations on the front end and it didn't take them two seconds to get locked up. "We put a device on the front and reduced the spoiler on the rear end and they couldn't get locked up. So you don't need a lot of cars." Specific changes likely won't be announced until the 2017 rules package for the XFINITY Series is unveiled, but it is possible that some of what was learned during the test could be implemented across the board for the series. NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series rules package, which features a reduction in downforce, has improved competition and XFINITY Series teams appear willing to go down a similar road. The XFINITY series will not compete in a restrictor-plate race again until it returns to Daytona in February 2017. "I'm pretty confident that it was a very successful test," Auton said. "With everything we threw at it, we found out a lot of information about our cars in four hours. "We made multiple, multiple runs. Mid-30 to 40-lap runs (again and again) on the race track to accomplish the goals we had. The drivers hardly ever got out of the cars."
Kentucky: The missing track for Chevrolet drivers
Of the 23 tracks that currently host one or more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, Kentucky Speedway remains the only venue that hasn't seen a Chevrolet driver celebrating in Victory Lane. The 1.5-mile track, which will host Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Presented (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) held its first Sprint Cup race in 2011. This weekend's race will be just the sixth premier series event at the facility, which is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota) has a pair of victories there, as does Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford). Matt Kenseth (JGR No. 20 Toyota) is also a former Kentucky winner. Keselowski, last week's Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola winner at Daytona International Speedway, won at Kentucky in a Dodge (in 2012) as well as a Ford (2014). The lack of success at the track isn't something Chevrolet officials and teams take lightly. "Our teams are very aware that we haven't won at this race track," said Alba Colon, program manager for Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "It's a big deal." Chevrolet drivers have finished second twice, Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) in 2012 and Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) the following year. But perhaps the automaker's most difficult loss to swallow was the '13 race, one that saw Jimmie Johnson dominate only to lose the lead, and the race, following a late caution. Johnson (HMS) led 182 of 267 laps before a fuel-only stop by Kenseth put the JGR driver out front on a restart; Johnson's chances faded when the No. 48 entry spun moments later. There are tracks where Chevrolet teams have been dominant. They have won six straight at Phoenix International Raceway, for example, and 12 of the past 13 events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thus far, Kentucky has been a tougher nut to crack. “We have had only five races so far (at Kentucky)," Colon said, noting runnerup finishes by McMurray and Kahne. "We've won the pole three times. Top-five and top-10 finishes. We haven't been able to close it." That could change this weekend. For just the second, and final, time this season teams will be competing with a lower downforce aerodynamic package. The track has been repaved and Turns 1 and 2 have been reconfigured with the banking increased three degrees. "I really believe that with the new rules and everything being so equal right now … this is a great chance for us to do it," Colon said. Fourteen teams tested at Kentucky June 13-14. Fastest through the two days of practice was the Chevrolet entry of 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Harvick has yet to lead a lap at the track, but has finished 10th or higher in his last three starts there. It's one of only four tracks, along with Pocono, Sonoma and Texas, where he has yet to win. Ditto for Johnson, who counts Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Homestead and Chicagoland as tracks where he has yet to visit Victory Lane. And three-time champ Tony Stewart is winless at only two current tracks – Kentucky and Darlington. The three-times series champion will close the book on his Sprint Cup Series career at season's end. Going out with a win at each track, he said, would make his departure all the more memorable. Chevrolet teams have 758 wins in NASCAR through the years, most of any automaker. "But it's a goal," Colon said, "to have a win at every track. "We have been very successful. And we still have one more track to win."
Take a look at the 2017 NHOF Inductees
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and Kenny Bruce take a closer look at the five new NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees for the 2017 class.
Staff picks for GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : If Joe Gibbs Racing can get organized in the same way it did at Daytona in February, the No. 11 could be the winning ticket at Talladega. -- Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Series' best plate racer has had three runner-up finishes this season. He's due. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : This will mark the 10th Talladega race since Johnson last won here and, quite simply, it's time. While his teammates will grab the lion's share of the attention, "Six-Time" will ultimately hold the winner's trophy -- his third. -- Holly Cain Joey Logano : Entering the weekend, I'd already pegged Joey Logano as the favorite -- then he went out and topped final practice. Seemingly due for a win and with a pair of restrictor-plate victories in his back pocket from last year, what more are you looking for? -- Pat DeCola Ryan Blaney : His best Cup finish came in this race last year and Penske, with whom Wood Brothers is affiliated, has taken two of the last three 'Dega races. -- RJ Kraft Dale Earnhardt Jr .: I'm jumping on the Junior bandwagon. He's always the one to beat at the 2.66-mile track and he'll make it difficult for the rest of the field en route to his seventh Cup win here. -- Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The 2012 premier series champion spoils the recent Hendrick-JGR show of power, thanks to his own racing ingenuity and plenty of fast Fords with which to partner. -- Brad Norman Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver earned his first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega and has won twice more since. Couple that with he and teammate Joey Logano 's history of working closely together on-track -- a crucial element to plate racing -- and 'Dega Victory Lane could be calling Keselowski's name. -- Jessica Ruffin Matt Kenseth : All the bad luck that the No. 20 team has had this year has masked impressive speed. Talladega is about both luck and speed. With the former in hand as shown by his fourth-place qualifying effort, Kenseth is due for a more auspicious turn of his fortune. -- Kathy Sheldon Denny Hamlin : Hamlin saw Victory Lane two years ago at Talladega and with his 2016 Daytona 500 win under his belt, the JGR driver seems ready to dominate another superspeedway this season. -- Taylor Starer Chase Elliott : His dad won here twice and the man who drove the No. 24 before him won here six times. Talladega has been known to produce dramatic moments, so let's root for another one to happen Sunday. -- George Winkler Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
Sour string of finishes ends for Kenseth at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Matt Kenseth led just three laps of Saturday's GoBowling 400 at Kansas Speedway , but the No. 20 spent much of the night knocking on the door. After two late restarts and a four-car crash that Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota avoided, he finished fourth behind winner Kyle Busch , Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch , respectively. A fourth-place finish is Kenseth's best mark of the season -- a season sprinkled with bad luck and simply bizarre circumstances at times. "You always want the finishes," Kenseth said after the Saturday night race. "We've run up front, terrible finishes. A lot of races we haven't even finished this year. So you always want to get the finish. "I felt like we ran better than all three cars that finished in front of us so that part I guess is a little bit disappointing. The 78 ( Martin Truex Jr. ) had us covered but those other guys I felt like after 10 laps we were probably better than they were. Still didn't quite get the finish." Martin Truex Jr . and the No. 78 team know about bad luck. After dominating much of the race and leading 172 laps, a tire problem sent the Furniture Row Racing Toyota down pit road for an unscheduled stop that put them a lap down. "I don't know what the racing gods have against me," Truex radioed to his team after coming on Lap 216 in to fix a vibration after something got jammed up in a wheel. "Did everyone search their souls and figure out who's livin' wrong?" Truex's team radioed on a subsequent caution as Truex fought to a 14th-place finish. Kenseth has seen his share of rotten luck this season, but despite race-ending crashes at Las Vegas and Talladega and a tangled black-flag situation at Atlanta -- where he had dominated before a pit road violation and communication mixup -- Kenseth doesn't feel like dark forces are to blame. "All our problems we've had all year haven't necessarily been luck," Kenseth said. "I feel like everybody did a good job tonight. We executed everything good. We just weren't quite fast enough and weren't quite in the right positions. We got a decent finish so that was good." Kenseth comes out of Kansas up one place in the drivers point standings to 14th, 121 points behind series leader Harvick. Kenny Bruce contributed to this report.
Staff picks for Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte
Kasey Kahne : The Coca-Cola 600 is such a different animal that rewards mental acuity, pure tenacity and physical fitness. Kasey Kahne has those qualities and won NASCAR's endurance event three times, and with two top-five finishes already this season, this is where he breaks out of his 59-race winless rut. -- Kathy Sheldon Joey Logano : It'll be a clean Charlotte sweep for Sliced Bread, who got his mojo back during the Sprint All-Star Race. Last week's $1 million win probably felt spectacular -- the feeling may be equal Sunday night when Logano celebrates his biggest NASCAR victory to date. -- Brad Norman Carl Edwards : He's the defending race winner and has posted five straight top 10s at Charlotte. Kevin Harvick is the only other driver who can say that, but the No. 19 pit crew gives him the edge -- by a footlong Subway sandwich at the finish. -- George Winkler Kevin Harvick : This one's an easy pick for me. There's a reason why Harvick sits atop the standings and that's exactly where he'll stay after cruising to another Coca-Cola 600 win. -- Maggie MacKenzie Joey Logano : The most recent Charlotte winner, Logano's No. 22 Ford seems ready for 600 miles of action, as he topped two of the three rounds of qualifying, scoring a second-place starting position. With a fast car and plenty of momentum after his All-Star win, look for the Team Penske driver to punch his ticket to the Chase Sunday with his first '16 victory. -- Jessica Ruffin Martin Truex Jr . : Forget about what has gone wrong late in races for the No. 78 team, Truex has consistently been one of the best on the intermediate tracks this season. The Furniture Row Racing driver will cash in on his pole run and strong pit spot for his first win of 2016. -- RJ Kraft Joey Logano : Becomes first driver to sweep All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 since Kurt Busch in 2010. Logano drives the No. 22 Ford for team owner Roger Penske, Busch's team owner in '10. -- Kenny Bruce
NASCAR Hall of Fame voter Kenny Bruce reveals ballot
Whittling list down to just five always a tough task