Edwards, Keselowski, Kahne and others congrat Regan Smith and comment on their race in Darlington.
Four-time champion will start 18th in Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX) RELATED: Starting lineup in Charlotte With 92 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories and four championships, Jeff Gordon has said that NASCAR was "meant to be" for him. But Sunday afternoon, the former open-wheel prodigy also got to drive the path not taken, and lead the Indianapolis 500 field to the green flag as the official pace car driver. After a tutoring session from IndyCar great Johnny Rutherford, Gordon got the Chevy Corvette Z06 up to speed, took three laps in front of the field and then pulled off to watch the race's opening laps unfold before climbing on an airplane to fly back to Charlotte where he will start 18th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway this evening (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) -- NASCAR's nightcap to racing's famed Memorial Day weekend slate. The NASCAR champion was introduced to the crowd at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway just prior to the driver lineup Sunday morning. Carrying his son Leo and walking alongside his daughter Ella and wife Ingrid, Gordon stopped briefly to shake hands and speak with the legendary Mario Andretti before waving to the crowd which offered the NASCAR great a standing and rousing ovation. Moments later, Indy 500 starter and fellow California native Townsend Bell emerged wearing Jeff's neon-colored 24 on his driver's suit. His car will also carry that number as a tribute to Gordon. It was yet another recognition of Gordon's great contributions to racing and his special place in Indiana racing lore. Under green at #Indy500 , but @townsendbell gave @JeffGordonWeb a prerace tour of the No. 24 @TeamChevy . #IMSAatINDY pic.twitter.com/INrl7E0w0B — TUDOR Championship (@UnitedSportsCar) May 24, 2015 Calling it an honor and speaking often about the "energy" of Indy 500 race day, Gordon described Sunday's experience as "an opportunity of a lifetime." "To come down that front straightaway the first time and hear that crowd cheering for the cars, the drivers, and this amazing event …to be able to hear that from inside the pace car with the windows down is just amazing," Gordon said after getting out of the car. "Not to mention that the pace car has to get after it pretty good out here because that last lap is 100 mph and through the corners, maintaining that is something. So that was definitely cool. A huge thrill and a huge honor. "This whole year has just been incredible from the fan interaction, racetracks, this phone call (from stepfather John Bickford that Chevrolet offered Gordon the opportunity to drive the pace car), this moment. This is a very, very special year. Very cool experience being the pace car driver for #Indy500 . Thanks @TeamChevy & @IMS pic.twitter.com/PnQ5WvuMDx — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) May 24, 2015 "I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that one thing that maybe I feel like I've accomplished more than I ever expected or hoped to in racing, but the one thing that did kind of did allude me and we pursued -- I say 'we', my dad, my mom and myself -- when we were trying to go to the next level, was getting a chance to race here in the Indianapolis 500 . "I've said this many times, I still believe it. Winning the inaugural Brickyard 400, to me, fulfilled that dream. Now I've had a chance to win it four more times. This is a special place for me. I love getting a chance to race here." Gordon's five Brickyard 400 wins is the most for a driver at the speedway, tying him with the legendary Michael Schumacher, who has five Formula One grand prix victories. He'll have a chance to hold the record on his own in this July's running of the Brickyard 400 (July 26, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM). But for those hoping that the 43-year old Gordon may one day make a start in the Indianapolis 500 , he dashed those thoughts Sunday morning telling reporters that would not be happening. "I'll be in the FOX booth next year," Gordon said. "I'm so glad that deal worked out because I wouldn't have a better excuse for you." And further, Gordon revealed that although he had previously left open the door to compete in random NASCAR races that now seems less and less likely. "The way I set that up is because I've known too many drivers that I respect and have raced with that, you know, said, 'OK, I'm retiring, stepping away, then they come back,'' Gordon said. "I'm not quite ready, want to run a few more races. "That's why I didn't say this is my final year of ever competing at a single event. But it really, truly is. It really is. As I get further into the year, as things come together, I don't see myself doing any races. If I do a race, maybe a Martinsville or a short track." In the meantime, Gordon was intent to live in the moment Sunday. "To me, if every time I could attend something like the Indianapolis 500 and then go to my own race -- it would definitely be motivating," Gordon said. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sprint Cup stars take to social media to offer congratulations Juan Pablo Montoya 's second career Indianapolis 500 win elicited plenty of social media reaction from his former competitors and friends in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Tony Stewart and Joey Logano were among those to offer their congratulations. The victory came as he drove for Roger Penske, giving Penske wins in two of racing's marquee events this season: The Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 . Penske joins Chip Ganassi as the only other team owner to win both events in the same year. Fifteen years ago, Montoya won his first Indianapolis 500 driving for Ganassi. Since then, Montoya spent time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning two races and competing full-time in the series from 2007 to 2013. He made two Sprint Cup starts last season for Penske. Check out the sampling of reaction below. During his time in @NASCAR , @jpmontoya was always really cool to me. I looked up to him as a true wheelman. So good to see him win today. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 24, 2015 Congratulations to @jpmontoya that was a hell of a drive. — Mark Martin (@markmartin) May 24, 2015 Ole @jpmontoya was on it there at the end definitely was wheeling that thing more than any of them #Indianapolis500 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) May 24, 2015 Big congrats to @jpmontoya on the #Indy500 win!!!! — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) May 24, 2015 Hell yeah @jpmontoya . Awesome. Indy 500 & Daytona 500 to RP. That was awesome. Congrats @12WillPower in the runner up too. — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) May 24, 2015 Congrats @jpmontoya , massive effort!!! #Indianapolis500 — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) May 24, 2015 HELL YEAH! Great job my friend. Proud of my buddy Juan Pablo Montoya today at the #Indy500 — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) May 24, 2015
'Smoke' will run classic No. 14 scheme at Bojangles' Southern 500 BUY: Stewart throwback paint scheme and more " GO: Buy tickets to the event REVEAL: Retweet if you love @TonyStewart 's #14 @BassProShops Classic/ @Mobil1 Chevy for @TooToughToTame in Sept. pic.twitter.com/3oY2nWCWjn — Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) May 26, 2015 So, what do you think, race fans? With Darlington Raceway throwing itself back to the old days with a traditional Labor Day Bojangles’ Southern 500 (Sept. 6, 7 p.m. ET, NBC), Tony Stewart will run the retro paint scheme – one of many we're likely to see. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and the defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick unveiled his throwback scheme for Darlington earlier this month. The only question that remains now -- with that race being the penultimate chance for a driver to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , will we will see a Throwback Tony Stewart (currently winless) come through in the clutch to race in the postseason? FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kenny Wallace discusses if NASCAR needs a traveling safety team and more Dirt racing is a labor of love for Kenny Wallace , but you wonder if he makes any money doing it. So you ask him. "That is probably the number one question people ask me," Wallace said. "I make money but the way I make money is the exact same way Rick Hendrick makes money: sponsors. The only money you can make running the race car is maybe enough to break even. Maybe enough to pay the gas on the way to the track (laughs). I'm fortunate that I have great sponsors like Toyota and JEGS and UNOH." That's the great thing about Herman: Ask him a question and he gives you a straight answer. Now, onward we roll into this week's installment of Herman Unplugged. NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: Did you get a chance to watch any of the other races on Memorial Day? What makes for a great race in your mind and which did you enjoy the most? HERMAN: "By far, the Indy 500 . That's a great conversation. Me and my friends were talking about that. The Indy 500 was created in 1911 and NASCAR is relatively new. It didn't start until the '50s, so to me, even though I'm a hardcore NASCAR guy, the greatest race in the history of the United States is the Indy 500 . I'm just being real. I got goosebumps on Sunday when that Indy 500 was on. Those stands were almost near capacity; you had to look hard to find some empty seats. And the race was just fantastic, it couldn't be any better." NI: The debate about a traveling safety team for NASCAR was reinvigorated this week after the events leading into the Indy 500 . Where do you stand on that? HERMAN: "At FOX TV, we are lucky. We have a really nice sit-down meeting with everybody at NASCAR each weekend. Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, everybody. It's a meeting of the minds. I wish the fans could see what we do. Jamie Little brought that up and flat asked Mike Helton in our meeting. When we were done, I was really happy with what I heard. Nobody thinks about this: IndyCar only runs about 16 races a year. NASCAR has the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series and their point is very well validated. Do we treat the Cup drivers better because they're more famous? You'll have the Xfinity Series in Mid-Ohio and the Cup Series somewhere else. It's not as easy as it sounds because NASCAR is way more successful and we run way more races." NI: Did you have any direct experience in working with NASCAR's medical staff over the years? HERMAN: "I love NASCAR's medical liaison. When my heart started getting out of rhythm four or five years ago at Talladega, it scared me and they put me in an ambulance at about 4 in the morning. I'm being ushered down to Birmingham and come to find out I was drinking too much Mountain Dew, Coke and sweet tea. But here's what was neat: NASCAR's medical liaison was there when I got there at 5 in the morning. They were notified, jumped out of bed from their hotel rooms and were there for me. So when people say NASCAR doesn't have a traveling safety team, that's not exactly correct." NI: Kyle Busch spent a good amount of time running up front before finishing 11th in NASCAR’s most grueling race. Is it fair to say you were wrong about Rowdy coming back too soon? HERMAN: "110 percent wrong. You seen that on Twitter. I admitted I was wrong and said it loud on TV. I think what caught me off guard was medical rehab nowadays. Nobody jumped on me or was mean to me; it was basically the opposite. Everybody else was shocked, too. There were a lot of nice lady nurses that told me on Twitter that medical rehab has advanced so much. I had no idea somebody could have a compound fracture and then 10 weeks be walking around and driving a racecar at 200 mph. Once people got over the glory of telling me I was wrong, I think they themselves were in shock, too." NI: Jeff Gordon will be joining you as a colleague next year at FOX. What’s the biggest challenge he'll face in transitioning from competitor to TV? HERMAN: "I know exactly what it's going to be and he don't even know it yet: He's not gonna like being told what to do. When you go into the TV industry, you're just another employee. Darrell Waltrip has to call in Tuesday morning for conference calls. He has to be involved in these meetings at 7 o’clock in the morning. Jeff will think 'I can do what I want' but that's not the way it ends up. In the TV industry, they take those conference calls and production meetings more serious than when it's live and you're covering the race. The other thing is getting over that he's not racing anymore. That's brutally hard. The third thing is he is going to have to be really conscious of not showing any excitement for any Hendrick team. Actually, he's going to have to go the other way. He's going to have to be critical of the Hendrick teams to gain respect." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Take a look back as Jeff Gordon leads 400 of 500 laps, including the final 198, on his way to an easy victory in the 1995 MBNA 500 at Dover International Speedway.
Veteran driver set for pair of road events in No. 42 Chevrolet Justin Marks is giving up his Lamborghini to return to the wheel of a stock car, heading to the road courses of Mid-Ohio and Road America later this year to compete for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi in the two NASCAR XFINITY Series races. Marks, 34, will be behind the wheel of the team’s No. 42 Chevrolet, the same entry that’s been split between Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson and rookie Brennan Poole this season and is headed up by crew chief Mike Shiplett. While he has at least one official start in all three NASCAR national series, Marks' background is endurance sports cars, "so the road courses were always something that was circled on my calendar," he told NASCAR.com. "I've always felt like they were my best chances at winning." Marks ran the same two events last year for the team when it was branded Turner Scott Motorsports, finishing sixth at Mid-Ohio in the No. 31 Chevrolet and running in the top five late at Road America before running out of fuel. After co-owners Harry Scott and Steve Turner severed their ties at the end of the year, Scott and Sprint Cup Series team owner Chip Ganassi teamed up to continue fielding the XFINITY Series operation. "I tried to put my name in the hat as early as possible … for those road courses," Marks said. "I knew Kyle was going to be doing fewer races this year … and that Brennan was going to be coming on with his program. The gaps in the schedule just worked out perfectly." The Mid-Ohio race is scheduled for Aug. 15, when Larson, who has made four XFINITY Series starts this year, will be at Michigan International Speedway for the Sprint Cup race. The Road America race falls on an off-weekend for the Sprint Cup series. "Last year was the first time I'd been in a stock car on a road course in a little while," said Marks. "It was really the first time racing at that level since I quit racing full-time in NASCAR. So there was a little bit of an unknown going into those races. But we were a top-five car at Road America and I think we were the fastest car once it started raining. "At Mid-Ohio, we were just a solid car, fastest in final practice and in the top five or six all race long. So when I look at how we did, knowing I'm familiar with the team, going back to the exact same tracks and knowing my expectations, now having the added asset of Chip Ganassi Racing , all of their engineering and knowledge and expertise behind it will just make the cars that much better. "I think for both of those races, legitimately, we're going there to win. And I really think we can do it, if I do a good job and we make smart decisions, have a good strategy and nothing crazy happens like running out of fuel or get off (pit) sequence for some reason." As for the Lamborghini, it isn't his grocery getter -- Marks is competing full-time in the Blancpain Super Trofeo Series this season, a 12-race series for Lamborghini GT3 entries that is part of the Tudor United SportsCar program. Stops on the schedule include Laguna Seca (completed), Watkins Glen, Virginia International Raceway, Circuit of the Americas, Road Atlanta and Sebring. He and Scott co-own a five-car K&N Pro Series East organization that fields entries for William Byron, Scott Heckert, Dalton Sargeant, Rico Abreu and J.J. Haley. Ownership of the GoPro Motorsports karting complex in Mooresville, North Carolina, and an import/distribution company that supplies high-performance karting equipment also keep Marks on the go. "The K&N team was something that I sort of started talking to Harry about … if there was ever an opportunity for me to (be involved) that I was interested in it," he said. "Because it's a great series and I love trying to help the young guys, these young up-and-comers, and being involved in their careers." In his only NASCAR efforts thus far this season, Marks attempted to qualify for all three season-opening races at Daytona International Speedway with sponsorship from American Born Moonshine. He made the starting fields for the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races, but was one of six that failed to earn a starting berth in the Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series race. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
The Dover trophy uniquely ties in the track and mascot RELATED: Go behind the scenes to see the making of Miles " Learn more about Dover Trophies are the ultimate prize in sports. They come in all shapes and sizes, symbolizing a significant team or individual accomplishment. In some sports like NASCAR, they are awarded after a race. In other sports like Major League Baseball, the National Football League or the National Basketball Association to name a few, trophies are given out at the end of the season upon completion of each sport's championship round. The trophies themselves can be filled with storied history like the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup trophy. The trophy features every team to win the championship in the NHL, as well as the names of the players on the team and key management personnel. Upon winning the championship, a player gets to spend a day with the Stanley Cup and can pretty much do whatever they want with it. The rich history of trophies extends to the Green Jacket tradition for the winner of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. The green sport coat is the official attire of members of the club, and the ceremony is seen as a passing of the torch as the year's previous winner puts the jacket on the current winner. NASCAR has something similar with its blue blazer for the members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. WATCH: Learn more about the blue blazer NASCAR Hall of Fame members receive The Stanley Cup and Green Jacket are just a handful of countless examples we could mention. In some cases, the trophies do a magnificent job of tying the victory hardware to the event's history and heritage. One such place that does that well is Dover International Speedway , site of this weekend's NASCAR national series tripleheader and the headlining event of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The Delaware track has hosted NASCAR events since 1969 and carries the nickname "The Monster Mile" for its 1-mile oval layout as well as the track's mascot , "Miles the Monster." Miles is on everything from memorabilia, to tickets, to the trophy given to race winners. There's also the Monster Monument in Victory Plaza. The integration of Miles makes the mascot synonymous with everything at Dover on a NASCAR weekend. It's also why the Dover trophy is among the best in all of sports and one of the most unique in NASCAR. PHOTOS: Unique trophies in NASCAR " Miles the Monster trophy requires plenty of space Last year, before yet another win at Dover, Jimmie Johnson described the Dover trophies as ones that "stand out. They're a big trophy and they certainly draw a lot of attention." The Hendrick Motorsports driver should know, as he has the most career premier series wins at Dover (nine entering this weekend). It may not have as much storied history behind it, like winning a grandfather clock at Martinsville Speedway , nor may it carry the prestige of the Harley J. Earl Trophy for winning the season-opening Great American Race, the Daytona 500 . It certainly doesn't taste as good as a win in wine country at Sonoma Raceway or come with food like the lobster winners get at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . But does any other trophy hold the intimidation factor and menacing look that Miles the Monster invokes? In short, no. The trophy balances the right amount of track history, heritage and tradition, while keeping its hardware fun and interesting for the winners to display.
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
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