Each January, five of NASCAR’s best are put in a category like no other in the sport. Those five then get inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame where their achievements will live forever.
This year’s class included Terry Labonte, a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion; Bobby Isaac, a record-breaking pole-sitter and 1970 Cup Series champion; Curtis Turner, a multi-time winner, and a man thought to be the one of the best racers of his generation; Jerry Cook, a northeastern Modified legend and founder of NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour; and Bruton Smith, owner of Speedway Media Incorporated, and arguably one of NASCAR’s greatest race promoters.
At 88-years-old, Bruton Smith is a man who has been around NASCAR virtually since its inception, and even ran a rival series at the beginning, so Smith has no shortage of stories that could be told for hours. Smith told only a few of those incredible stories on the stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame today, even inadvertently giving the Hall a new name — “House of Fame,” but those stories prompted many laughs from the audience, including Marcus Smith, who said he was “losing a bet” because the elder Smith’s speech had passed eight minutes and the people watching and listening from home.
In his speech, Smith told stories of the financial struggles of building Charlotte Motor Speedway and making sponsorship deals with Coca-Cola, and failed attempts at sponsorship with PepsiCo.
Bruton Smith did what Bruton Smith does whenever he gets the chance — he joked around, had fun and made people laugh. He poked fun at Rick Hendrick, saying that if his speech went over 12 minutes, which he did, Hendrick would pay him. Smith also took the opportunity on stage to sing the praises over fellow 2016 inductee Curtis Turner, whom Smith had quite a rivalry with in the early ’60s while building the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Smith said Turner was “the greatest race driver.”
In addition to the five inducted today into the Hall of Fame, there were two honorees. The late Steve Byrnes, who died of cancer in April of 2015, was awarded the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Byrnes was one of the most respected media members in NASCAR from the time he stepped into the garage to cover the sport, and still is to this day. Byrnes became the fifth recipient of the award following the namesakes Ken Squier and Barney Hall, Chris Economaki and Tom Higgins, the 2015 recipient.
Harold Brasington was awarded the NASCAR Landmark Award for building Darlington Raceway, a staple in NASCAR since 1950. Brasington’s grandson accepted the award on his behalf.
With this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the books, five truly deserving people are inducted for life. All five of these men played a role in what NASCAR is today and that is why every year, the NASCAR community sees five more inducted. With names like Benny Parsons, Red Byron and Harry Hyde still waiting in the wings, it’s only a matter of waiting until next January to see five more legends earn their spot in the elusive NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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