NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France announces the newest members to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame .
Three bold predictions for the Class of 2016 induction
Cook, Isaac, Labonte, Smith, Turner comprise Hall's seventh class
Terry Labonte voted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame on Wednesday RELATED: See all seven Hall of Fame classes " Bruton Smith gets nod from Brian France MORE: Labonte's daughter, Kristy, talks about 'Growing Up NASCAR' CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A year ago, Terry Labonte postponed a trip overseas to attend the announcement for the 2015 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame . But the two-time premier series champion wasn't one of the five selected for induction. Wednesday, Labonte, 58, was in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, when the 2016 class was unveiled. And this time, Labonte's name was one of the five called. Labonte, Speedway Motorsports founder O. Bruton Smith, Modified champion Jerry Cook, 17-time race winner Curtis Turner and 1970 premier series champion Bobby Isaac will officially be inducted into the Hall Jan. 22, 2016. Reached by phone after the announcement, Labonte said he and his son Justin, "and a couple of other guys are out here in Dallas on a project we've been working on. ... We had just got back to the room, sitting down watching TV." Shortly thereafter, the Corpus Christi native said said his cell phone "started blowing up." Congratulations began pouring in. "I said, 'oh wow, I just got selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame ,'" Labonte said. "(Justin) said 'Oh cool. Is it on TV?' "I said 'I don't know,' so he started flipping the channels looking for it." It's no surprise to those who know Labonte that his reaction seemed somewhat understated. It's the same unassuming attitude that marked a NASCAR career that lasted nearly four decades. Labonte made his first premier series start in 1978 for car owner Billy Hagan, and up until he hung up his helmet for good last season, his approach never wavered. No fuss, no frills. Just show up and get the job done. His championship titles came 12 years apart, one won with Hagan in 1984 and the second with successful team owner Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports in ‘96. He won 22 points races, and on a variety of track layouts – short track, intermediate, road course and the bigger venues of Pocono (2.5-miles) and Talladega (2.66 miles). MORE: Hall of Fame Class of 2016 revealed " Our writers' predictions and ballot His 890 career starts is third highest among drivers in the series while his 655 consecutive starts was the most by any driver until it was surpassed in 2005. It was a run of such magnitude that earned him the nickname "The Iron Man." Labonte's consecutive starts streak had ended five seasons earlier, in 2000, when a particularly hard crash at Pocono Raceway left him with an inner ear injury. Forced to take himself out of the car the following week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a distraught Labonte went on to miss the road course race at Watkins Glen a week later before finally returning to competition at Michigan. "When you start out racing, it's not one of your goals you set," Labonte said of his selection to the Hall . "You set out to do as good as you can every weekend and try to win races and win championships. "To be selected to something like this is really, really an unbelievable bonus, something you never really expected or looked forward to, I don't think. So it's really quite an honor." Video from two of Labonte's victories are among the most often replayed when the series travels to Bristol Motor Speedway , where he earned two of his 22 victories. In the 1995 night race at BMS, contact from Dale Earnhardt as the two raced toward the checkered flag sent Labonte's No. 5 Chevrolet nose first into the wall – but only after it had crossed the finish line for the win. The 1999 night race also featured Labonte and Earnhardt dueling for the win, with Labonte taking the lead at the white flag. As the two cars entered Turn 2, a nudge from Earnhardt once again sent Labonte's Chevrolet spinning. This time, however, there was no recovery. "Didn't mean to turn him around; I meant to rattle his cage though," Earnhardt said in Victory Lane. "I don't think I ever had a cross word with Terry, not that I can remember, for anything," 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott said Wednesday. "We always raced and respected each other and went on down the road. "I can't think of a single time ever. I don't know of anybody that could say that. Except when he backed into Earnhardt at Bristol that time." Labonte was the second driver to win at least one race in all three of NASCAR's national series – Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. "Obviously this is a really proud day for the Labonte family," Bobby Labonte , Terry's younger brother and the 2000 Sprint Cup champion said in a statement issued by his Breaking Limits public relations firm. "I think back to when we were kids racing quarter midgets, and I always wanted to do what Terry was doing and be like him. He kind of blazed the trail as he advanced through different series, and I was fortunate to follow in his footsteps. "I never would've thought way back then that we'd both grow up to be Sprint Cup champions and now one of us in in the NASCAR Hall of Fame . It's a pretty special day." The younger Labonte won the season-ending race at Atlanta in '96 as his brother, who finished fifth, wrapped up his second championship. While Terry Labonte 's championships came 12 years apart, his final victory came 23 years after his first. Both came in the Southern 500 at Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway. "You think bout how you started and who the people were ... that helped you get started in the early part of your career," he said. "Winning your first race and the championship and then later I was able to drive for Rick Hendrick, the great team at Hendrick Motorsports and all the people that helped me win the second championship. "It's just really a lot of people that really were kind of part of this over the years that kind of help to get you where you're at. "It's hard for me to imagine, really, to be in the same class as some of those people that are in there because some of them I really looked up to over the years when I was growing up that did so much for our sport." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Longtime track mogul was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Wednesday The selection of race track mogul Bruton Smith to the seventh class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday came with a groundswell of support among the 57 votes that were cast. One of Smith's most vocal boosters came from what might be considered an unlikely source. Helped by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France's stumping, the 88-year-old Smith was Wednesday's top vote-getter, leading the 2016 list of inductees with a 68 percent approval rating in his third year on the ballot. The selection comes four days before the 56th annual running of the Coca-Cola 600 , an endurance race that Smith created as the hallmark event for the track he helped create decades ago -- Charlotte Motor Speedway . Though Smith's contributions to the sport as a tireless promoter and innovator in the realm of track ownership are immeasurable, so is his history of being at loggerheads with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and his son and successor, Bill France Jr., over how best to help the sport grow. That same adversarial relationship seems to have skipped a generation, according to 2011 Hall inductee Ned Jarrett, who said he named Smith on his ballot Wednesday. "I already had him in my mind before then, but I think that might've made a difference overall," Jarrett said of Brian France's statement. "I think some people might've been surprised with his support. Bruton and Brian have always gotten along real well, and just I think him showing his support was good." H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, a longtime Smith associate at the Charlotte track through a period of tremendous growth for the sport, said he was present for many of the former struggles between Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc., group and the first family of NASCAR , noting how conversations frequently went with Bill France Jr.: "We conked his head a whole bunch of times, but he was hard-headed enough that he let us have it back." Wheeler said he believed the younger France's push for Smith carried plenty of sway with the voting panel Wednesday, but beyond that, it may have also smoothed over any lingering hard feelings between the two factions. "Brian has never been a confrontationalist -- never -- like his dad was and like his grandfather was," Wheeler said. "He's live and let live, and let's move on and get this thing going like we're supposed to be, et cetera. It looks like he's got a pretty good way of doing things because a lot of things he's done have worked … "I think we found out today that one of the great things about this business is you can bury the hatchet and everything's fine. And the hatchets were flying so much 20 years ago, and you were wondering, when am I gonna get one right in the skull? I used to wonder and think I'm going to put a helmet on, but you've just got to learn to live and let live and bury that hatchet." Though the relationship between Smith and the Frances was at times antagonistic, the net result was to take the sport to new levels. Smith introduced luxury suites, condominiums and other modern features that were soon incorporated into speedways nationwide, and the expansion of the sport to new markets was a mutual goal for both the Frances and SMI. Friendly or not, the competition was healthy, and many innovations sprang from its intensity. "He was, I think, a big challenge to NASCAR and the France family along the way," Jarrett said, "and I think that's one of the best things that could happen to the sport because he made them better and make them do things better. It was good that they had that rivalry going on." Jarrett said his respect for Smith stemmed from a long-ago victory at a half-mile dirt track Smith had promoted in the Charlotte area. When Jarrett went to the pay window, he said that Smith was there to help explain that he could not pay out the purse. Since the attendance that night was more than adequate, Jarrett said he asked for reasons why, only to be told that the IRS had seized that night's gate to offset Smith's early financial struggles. Jarrett said Smith wrote him a check for his Friday night winnings -- $150, he recalled -- but was told there was no guarantee that it would clear Monday morning. It didn't, Jarrett said, but Smith vowed that he would make the situation right. Jarrett said he stuck to his word, an unusual circumstance in the sport's earliest days, when crooked promoters often skipped town with that night's proceeds. "Then the rest is history as far as all the other speedways and things," Jarrett said. "I mean, he has made major, major contributions to this sport." With contributions and recognition for seven decades in the sport come the setting-aside of any long-ago grudges. In a statement released Wednesday evening by the speedway that he bet the farm on back in 1960, Smith thanked not only the voting committee, but also NASCAR's fans -- the lifeblood of any track owner. Though he might not have known the behind-the-scenes process that potentially helped spur his induction, Smith could also give a tip of the cap to NASCAR's chairman, who opted not to let bygones cloud the panel's voting judgment. "Rivalries are what makes the sport," Wheeler said. "But sometimes, you've got to put the peanut butter back in the jar and put the lid on it." 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Kevin Harvick talks about his NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot and reveals what he's most excited about with the 2016 class of inductees.
Four-time champion makes announcement on FOX Sports 1 RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final full-time season, announcement CONCORD, N.C. – When Jeff Gordon steps out of the race car and into the television booth next season, he'll still be competing. Only this time it could be with himself instead of 42 other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. The four-time series champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver will be an integral part of the FOX NASCAR broadcast team full time next season as a race analyst. Gordon made the announcement Thursday on FOX Sports 1's "Race Hub" prior to LiftMaster Pole Night at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Gordon will join fellow analyst Darrell Waltrip and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy when FOX opens the 2016 season with the coverage of SpeedWeeks from Daytona International Speedway . He will help call races, practices and qualifying sessions for the network. Former crew chief Larry McReynolds, who currently works alongside Joy and Waltrip, will move to the on-site studio, known as the Hollywood Hotel, where he will be paired with Chris Myers and Michael Waltrip . "I will tell you that being up in the booth, there was an adrenalin rush … it's exciting," Gordon said after qualifying 18th for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR , 6 p.m.). "I enjoyed it. The competition might be with myself trying to always improve and be better, do the best that I can and push myself." According to a FOX release, Gordon has agreed to a multi-year contract that begins this season. He will serve as the in-race reporter during select Sprint Cup Series events for the remainder of the '15 season. He is one of four drivers so far to join FOX broadcasters in the booth for XFINITY Series races this season. Gordon's schedule saw him in the booth at Texas, Bristol and Talladega, where he joined host Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip . "I was very nervous the first race in Texas and I was not feeling well; I was under the weather unfortunately," Gordon said. "That one I was more nervous. The next one (at Bristol) I was a little more comfortable and Talladega, I got to enjoy it. The racing was fun to talk about, and I thought the experience was enjoyable and I was a little more relaxed. I look forward to gaining that confidence and being … more relaxed." SHOP: Gordon gear Gordon will end a stellar driving career at the season’s end, having won premier series championships in 1995, '97-98 and '01. His 92 career victories are tops among active drivers and third on the series' all-time list, trailing only NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). In addition to his television work, he is expected to continue to contribute to Hendrick Motorsports , where he has spent his entire Sprint Cup career. "I had already made the decision that I was going to step away (from competing full-time) because I have some good options," Gordon, 43, said, "my role at Hendrick Motorsports , my role with (sponsor) Axalta, not to mention some other partners that have interest. "… I didn't know if it was going to happen to be honest. It was going back and forth for a while whether it was going to happen. Eventually all the right things came together." The relationship with Hendrick won't be an issue, he said, but added, "it's going to be something that I'm going to have to respect. "It's something I would never want to overstep the boundaries. I'm going to be conscious of it. But I also feel like it's going to help me stay current and up to speed on the knowledge of what is going on. As long as I'm not sharing too many details, I think just speaking in general, it's going to be a huge advantage for me to have that tie … to be able to bring some of that to the booth." Erik Shanks, FOX Sports President, COO and Executive Producer, called Gordon "not only a champion but an icon of a racing generation. "We are thrilled he has chosen to become a part of the FOX family and pair his experience with Darrell. "Each is credited with helping elevate NASCAR to the popularity it attained during in his respective era, and alongside Mike Joy, this duo will treat fans to unmatched insights each and every week." Gordon’s familiar red No. 24 Chevrolet will be driven by 2014 XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott beginning next season. FOX Sports is in the first year of a new, 10-year media rights agreement that consists of coverage of each season's first 16 Sprint Cup Series points races as well as the first 14 XFINITY Series events and all Camping World Truck Series races. NBC holds the rights to the season's final 20 Sprint Cup events. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR .COM's Jonathan Merryman and Kenny Bruce break down a diverse set of nominees, whose careers practically span NASCAR's existence, as they are nominated into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
10-week summer program begins at NASCAR Sprint All-Star Weekend DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 15, 2015) -- Twenty of the best and brightest college students from across the country will descend on Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend as the sport introduces the 2015 NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP) class at NASCAR Sprint All-Star Weekend. The interns come to NASCAR from as far north as the University of Minnesota and as far south as the University of Puerto Rico, and will take part in the 10-week, paid program, created to expose multicultural college students to employment opportunities within America's No. 1 motorsport. As the NDIP grows in popularity, so has the number of internship roles at NASCAR and other companies within the industry, in the areas of engineering, finance, marketing, licensing and public relations. Hendrick Motorsports , Rev Racing, Pocono Raceway and Switch, a marketing agency, are among the companies participating in 2015. "Since 2000, the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has grown to become one of the premier internships in sports," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. "For NASCAR , the program is an important part of our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace." Nearly 300 interns have participated in the NDIP since its inception, and many secured full-time jobs in motorsports following their internships. Recent graduates have found roles at NASCAR , International Speedway Corporation, Octagon and Toyota, among other companies tied to the industry. "The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has proven to be an effective pipeline for hiring top talent across the industry," said Paula Miller, NASCAR senior vice president and chief human resources officer. "We have several former interns who now have key roles in helping to grow our sport." Pedro Mojica, a graduate of The University of Texas at San Antonio, completed his NDIP internship in 2014 and now works full-time as an engineer for Toyota Racing Development. "As an intern, I had the opportunity to become immersed in the world of NASCAR -- a sport I was passionate about," said Mojica, who also participated in the NASCAR Mentorship Program. "The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program provided me with a platform to launch my career in motorsports." Several former interns are now employed at NASCAR within multiple business units, including: Brandon Thompson, director, racing operations; Marvin Aylor Jr., manager, marketing; Lauren Houston, senior account executive, multicultural development; Kathryn Lee, senior coordinator, events; Jusan Hamilton, account executive, industry services; Ade Herbert, coordinator, communications; Jason Simmons, licensing assistant; and Cameron McCarty, pit road technician. This weekend, the 2015 class will experience NASCAR 101 and receive guided tours of the NASCAR Research & Development Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway before taking in Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET. The class includes the following students from colleges and universities across the country: Intern Internship Assignment College or University Hometown Kent Booze NASCAR Brand and Consumer Marketing Dartmouth College Spiro, Okla. Karl Bostick Octagon Marketing Elon University Englewood, N.J. Adrienne Bright NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Central Michigan University Flint, Mich. Nichole Dominguez NASCAR Weekly and Touring University of Central Florida Daytona Beach, Fla. Sydnei Fryson Rev Racing PR/Marketing Hampton University Charleston, W.V. James Harris Hendrick Marketing/Business Development University of North Carolina at Charlotte Apex, N.C. Zubin Jhambani NASCAR Marketing Research Syracuse University Udaipur (Rajasthan), India Giridhar Kathiresan NASCAR Digital Media University of North Carolina at Charlotte Chennai (Tami Nadu), India Victoria Kim Pocono Raceway Marketing Penn State University Horsham, Pa. Jordan Leatherman Switch Marketing Oklahoma State University Muskogee, Okla. Yuyi Li NASCAR Industry Services Duke University Chapel Hill, N.C. Bice Lizza NASCAR Human Resources Penn State University Montville, N.J. Jade McCrary NASCAR Member Services Florida A&M University Daytona Beach, Fla. Cole McGinnis NASCAR Licensing University of Iowa Davenport, Ia. Jasmine Neely NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Charlotte, N.C. Hakeem Onafowokan NASCAR Legal University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn. Alexandre Pendegrass NASCAR Multicultural Development Howard University Dallas, Texas Keyzza Plaza NASCAR Production Engineering University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez Toa Alta, Puerto Rico Tonya Vanderpool NASCAR Finance University of Central Florida Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands Ashleigh Young NASCAR Productions Oklahoma State University Santa Ana, Calif.
See how the rookie meeting has evolved over the years RELATED: Labonte's crash still impacts rookies " Youngest, oldest rookie winners One by one, before the first engine has fired and the first car has hit the track, they gather in the NASCAR hauler parked inside the garage. It's a scene repeated every weekend when NASCAR rolls into town. Their levels of experience often differ quite a bit. There are champions and those with numerous starts in lower series seated alongside those with limited experience and much less success. Yet here everyone is treated the same. And everyone carries the same label -- rookie. • • • "A lot of stuff happens fast here," Richard Buck, NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series managing director, tells the group that's gathered on a cool, damp Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway . Each driver has been given several sheets of paper showing diagrams that include the placement of timing and commitment lines, pit entrance and exit and the proper route to enter and exit pit road from the garage area. It's information that is track-specific. While the basic processes that take place during any given race weekend are relatively the same, there are certain details at each venue that those with limited experience need to know. Proper procedures are explained and advice is doled out. "Use your hand signals so you don't start to slow down and get all jammed up and have somebody's radiator in your backseat," Buck tells the drivers. Each week, a veteran driver will also attend the meetings to offer pointers and answer any questions a rookie driver might have. At Martinsville, 2004 premier series champion Kurt Busch was on hand. "Those of you that have made laps around here before, you know how quick it is," Busch said of the series' shortest venue. "It's an awkward track. There's no other place that really compares to this. So the thing you have to do is to get comfortable with the surroundings." Busch said he would often walk around tracks "even if I've been here before" to reinforce the information given during the meeting. "Have your spotters communicate to you where the holes are when you pull out ... your tires will be ice cold here ... they won't help you do much turning when you get into (Turns) 3 and 4 ... but if you're consciously making an effort to warm up your tires, somebody's going to be right on your bumper and it's going to be chaos," he said. Busch also urged them to take note of the commitment and blend lines at Martinsville. "It's the same Turn 2 line that's painted at Bristol," he said later. "But at Bristol, you have two pit roads (one on the frontstretch and one on the backstretch). It's the same line in the same place and it means two different things." Drivers' left-side tires must touch the blend line near Turn 2 at Martinsville before pulling up onto the track. A similar line at Bristol signifies the pit entrance on the backstretch -- touching any portion of it without proceeding onto pit road will result in a commitment line violation. "Now they'll go to Bristol (in two weeks)," Busch said, "and they need to remember." • • • So what constitutes a rookie in the eyes of NASCAR ? In most cases, it's up to the discretion of the series director and is based on the individual's prior experience. Matt DiBenedetto , 23, made his first Sprint Cup Series start this year after running the bulk of the races (29 of 33) in the XFINITY Series last season. Brett Moffitt , 22, made seven Sprint Cup Series starts in 2014. Between 2009 and 2013 he made just one XFINITY Series start and two in the Camping World Truck Series. Both are among those competing for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in Sprint Cup , along with Jeb Burton , Tanner Berryhill and Alex Kennedy . To be eligible for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, a driver must attempt to qualify in at least eight of the first 20 points races. A 10-1 point system, separate from the NASCAR championship driver points format, is used for scoring rookies in each race. The highest finishing rookie receives 10 points, second highest receives nine, etc. Only the top 17 finishes by each driver count toward his or her points total at the end of the year. Bonus points are also awarded for attempts, finishing inside the top 10 and upon the completion of the final race of the season. A panel then grades each rookie on conduct with officials, conduct and awareness on the track, personal appearance and relationship with the media. Points awarded by the panel are then averaged and added to each driver's total, and the driver with the most points is the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award recipient. Jeb Burton is one of five rookies this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. • • • Of course, it wasn't always that way. In 1959, Darlington Raceway , in conjunction with sponsor Pure Oil (later to become Union 76), debuted the Darlington Record Club. Members were those that had qualified highest for each auto manufacturer during time trials for the annual Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . Special recognition went to those that established track records there as well. While NASCAR had been selecting a rookie of the year for nearly a decade -- Rocky Mount, North Carolina's Blackie Pitt was the first recipient in 1954 –- the Union 76/Darlington Record Club was eventually tasked with monitoring the progress of rookie drivers on the uniquely shaped, treacherous 1.366-mile track. What began as an effort between driver Glenn "Fireball" Roberts and NASCAR official John Bruner Sr., to observe new drivers eventually evolved into a panel of Record Club members whose job was to either pass or fail those drivers attempt to make their Southern 500 debuts. (It's worth noting that the club also played a crucial role in requiring all drivers to complete a physical examination before being allowed to compete at Darlington. Today, a physical examination is mandatory for all three national series prior to the start of each season.) Before the Record Club came into existence, "you just went down there and run," said NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR premier series champion and winner of the 1967 Southern 500. "(The Record Club) was good public relations. It gave those (rookies) something they had to do. Indianapolis (home of the Indianapolis 500) always had a rookie test you had to pass before you could go out and run. Well, we said if they can do it, we can do it, too. "Back then, (Darlington) was a one-groove track through (Turns) 3 and 4, which is now 1-2. We'd explain what you had to do to pass people or let people pass you. Then you just said, 'OK, now go out and run.' " To pass the test, drivers new to the series were required to run within a percentage of a pre-determined speed. "If we were running 130 mph," Petty said, "they would have to run 125 or something like that. Then they'd go out and run six or eight laps on the track by themselves." "It was a little easier to show up at Daytona with a car even though you may not have that much experience and get in the race," three-time series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip said. "But they really observed you. If you were somebody new that they didn't know and you showed up at the track, they'd have some drivers that would kind of see how you did, see if you could handle the track and the speed and all that. There was always somebody watching you, but Darlington was the only official test we took." The panel would make its recommendations to NASCAR , but it was up to Bruner, a former flagman who eventually became Chief Steward for the sanctioning body, to make the final call. Richard Petty, who won the Southern 500 in 1967, used to show rookies the ropes at the iconic track. • • • In 1976, the Record Club's competition panel began overseeing the rookie program. Nearly a decade later, one of racing's greatest figures found himself labeled a rookie, and was required to go through the orientation process. Far from being a rookie, Anthony Joseph Foyt, better known simply as A.J., already had seven NASCAR premier series wins to his credit including a victory in the 1972 Daytona 500 . But Foyt, a four-time winner of the Indy 500 as well, had never raced at Darlington. "I am going to Darlington as a bonafide rookie. I don't want anything waived," Foyt told the press prior to his debut. "Why should I be different than anybody else? I know a lot of guys would have too much pride and ego to take the rookie test, but I'm not that type of person." NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd was the president of the Record Club at that time. Among the members of the competition panel were fellow drivers Waltrip and Buddy Baker. "Buddy and I and I forget who else, we observed A.J. Foyt and we flunked him his first day," Waltrip said. "Well, we told him we flunked him. "I told Buddy, I said 'Go down there and tell A.J. that we're going to have to have a meeting about his test because I'm not sure he passed.' Buddy looked at me and said 'Do you think I'm crazy? You go down there and tell him.' " Foyt passed the test, eventually finishing 25th in his only Southern 500 start. • • • Ken Schrader , a four-time race winner in NASCAR's premier series, was in that same rookie class with Foyt in 1985. Schrader posted three top-10 finishes that year en route to winning the Rookie of the Year title, beating out Eddie Bierschwale and Don Hume. Twice he served as president of the Record Club. "Yeah, I got elected president one time, then got elected president another time because at the banquet in Darlington I sat in the back and drank with the wrong group," the fun-loving Schrader said. "I was sitting with, I think, Phil Holmer and T. Wayne (Robertson) and some Unocal folks." Holmer was a Goodyear representative while Robertson headed up series sponsor R.J. Reynolds sports marketing arm. "They threw my ass right in," Schrader said of his election. "My acceptance speed, I stood up and said 'This is (expletive)!' "But the rookie meetings were neat. We'd just go in there, talk about the do's and don'ts for the tracks. Some of it was repetitious obviously but then there was so much about each individual track and it was the first time that some of those guys went to those tracks. Because back then not everybody then came through the Truck or ( XFINITY ) Series. "Now, hell, you're a rookie at a race, you've been to how many places (already)? You've probably raced there in some other series. "So it's a little different now." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule