CHARLOTTE, NC ( Associated Press) — Matt Kenseth was doing yardwork when wife Katie came out with her phone in hand, telling her he had just been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
After a while, Kenseth “celebrated” by making dinner for his daughters.
“I never really thought about it,” even Kenneth said on a conference call about his chances of making the Hall of Fame.
Fellow driver Herschel McGriff and crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine were also inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Mike Helton was named a Landmark Award winner for his outstanding contribution to the sport.
He will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in a ceremony on January 20.
Kenseth was a first-ball selection, Shelmardine was voted on in his third attempt on the modern-day ballot. McGriff voted pioneer on his seventh attempt.
Kenseth, 50, who most recently ran the Boston Marathon, has run 18 full seasons on the NASCAR circuit and retired in 2020 with 39 cup wins and 20 poles. He is ranked 21st on the list of career wins with 39.
“I never looked ahead (for the Hall of Fame) when I was running, and I never really looked to win something,” said Kenseth. “It was always the next race and what can I do better in the next race?”
Calling the selection an honour, he said, “I am really grateful for everything this place has done for me and my family.”
Kenseth reached almost every major milestone in NASCAR.
He won the Daytona 500 twice, the Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race. They also captured the 2003 Cup Series championship, in which they led the points table for the final 32 weeks of the season. He made the NASCAR playoffs in 13 of 14 seasons and was runner-up twice.
Kenseth made an impact right from the start, winning the Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2000. He also won 29 Xfinity Series races.
McGriff, 94, won this first race at the age of 22 in the second season of the NASCAR Cup Series in the 1950 Southern 500. His last NASCAR race was in 2018 at Tucson Speedway in Pro Series West – at age 90.
He had the longest driving career ever in NASCAR.
“Racing has always been in me,” McGriff said. “It’s always been about the game.”
McGriff started 85 races in parts of 28 NASCAR Cup Series seasons, recording four victories—all of which were to come in 1954.
He was one of the best drivers of what is now known as the ARCA Maynards Series West. Competing in parts of 35 seasons, McGriff won 37 races – an all-time third on the list of West Series wins. His signing came in the year 1986 when he won the series title.
McGriff defeated 87-year-old AJ Foyt, who made 128 Cup Series starts in 30 years, won seven races and finished in the top 10 36 times.
Schelmerdine, 64, served as a crew chief from 1977–92 and won 46 races with 15 poles and helped Dale Earnhardt capture four Cup Series championships (1986, ’87, ’90, ’91) . In his 16-year crew chief career alongside Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, James Hilton and Richard Childress, he won 46 races and posted top-10 finishes in more than half of his starts.
Shelmardine said he was “shocked” that he came in, adding that he thought “it would be a few more years before that happens.”
Schelmerdine said it is special to be reunited with Earnhardt and car owner Richard Childress in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“It’s always been a real thing for me to be in the midst of all these legends,” Schelmerdine said. “As the years go by, the statistics pile up and you end up living in sentences with all of this.”
Everyone has their own role to play on winning teams, Schelmerdine said, just that fit together well. “Everything just clicked together,” he said.
Helton was the first person outside the France family to be named president of NASCAR.
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