It was a huge Friday night for NASCAR as two legendary drivers and three highly successful car owners in the Class of 2017 were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina.
Among the inductees included 40-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner Mark Martin and the late Benny Parsons, 1973 Cup Series champion.
Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, and the late Raymond Parks were honored for their remarkable success as car owners through the years.
Childress, who started his NASCAR career as a driver, earned six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 286 starts between 1969-81. Founding Richard Childress Racing in 1972, he owned the No. 3 cars Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 career wins from 1984-2000.
“I am honored to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with my heroes,” said Childress. “Just look around this wall and look at the greats that we’ll be going in the Hall of Fame with. Unbelievable. And to go in the Class of 2017 with so many great inductees is quite an honor.”
Aside from his success with The Intimidator, Childress also became the first car owner to win championships in all three NASCAR series, as his 11 total championships are second all-time.
Childress looked back on his humble beginnings at Bowman-Gray Stadium on his way to being inducted into the Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
“Only in America can could a kid selling peanuts and popcorn dream of being a race-car driver one day,” he said.
Hendrick founded Hendrick Motorsports in 1984 and has earned a record 12 championship titles with three drivers, seven with Jimmie Johnson, four with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte.
In 3, 696 starts and counting, his organization has racked up 245 wins and 210 poles. Johnson clinched his record tying seventh title in 2016, while Gordon and Labonte combined to score four consecutive titles from 1995-98.
Hendrick dedicated the high honor to his wife, Linda, after she presented him with the Hall of Fame ring.
“This is probably more yours than it is mine. I love you,” Hendrick said.
During his speech, he also looked back on what was important to him during the highs and lows as a championship-winning car owner.
“It’s your faith, your family and your friends that get you through life,” Hendrick added.
Martin came close to winning a Cup title by finishing second in the championship standings on five occasions. A remarkable accomplishment in itself has in no way overshadowed his illustrious driving career.
The longtime Roush Fenway Racing driver complied 96 total victories throughout his NASCAR national touring series career, including 40 wins in Cup, 49 in the XFINTY Series and seven in the Camping World Truck Series.
At the induction ceremony, Martin dedicated his wife, Arlene, during his speech.
“We met in 1983, and every day since then, you’ve made me a better person,” said Martin, fighting back tears.
One NASCAR’s earliest and most successful car owners, Parks won his first NASCAR title with Red Byron in the Modified Series in 1948. Byron also earned the very first NASCAR Premier Series championship in a Parks-owned car.
Parks retired from racing in the 1950s and passed away in 2010 at age 96, as he was one of the last living members of the group who created NASCAR at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1947.
My granddad loved the sport, the cars and what he was doing,” said Patricia DePottey, Parks’ granddaughter who accepted the Hall of Fame ring on his behalf. “I honestly don’t believe he could have ever imagined it (NASCAR) would get to where it is today.”
Parsons’ hall of fame career included winning the 1973 Premier Series championship and the 1975 Daytona 500. In 526 career starts, he won 21 times.
But his incredible career goes far beyond the driver’s seat. After retiring from the sport, Parsons traded in the steering wheel for the microphone, serving as a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 85.
In an emotional moment on stage, Parsons’ widow, Terri, accepted the Hall of Fame ring on behalf of the late champion.
“Tonight is really a celebration of his life,” said Parsons. “This isn’t sad, this is happy.”
And the Parsons family has the perfect place to put the special ring in honor of his illustrious career.
“ We’re going to put it in the Hall of Fame on Benny’s behalf,” Parsons added. “We though we’d like to share this with the people of the Hall of Fame.”