Dale Jr. highlights NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join his father in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021, becoming the sixth father-son set to be enshrined.
Voters also selected modified ace Mike Stefanik and Red Farmer to join Earnhardt in the Class of 2021. Ralph Seagraves was selected as the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
Earnhardt, Stefanik and Farmer make up the 12th class to be selected to the Hall of Fame.
Earnhardt Jr. received 76% of the Modern Era ballot votes, Stefanik received 49%. Ricky Rudd finished third, followed by Neil Bonnett. Red Farmer received 71% of the Pioneer ballot votes. Hershel McGriff finished second. There has never been a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame.
Voting Day was held virtually on June 9 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The panel consisted of 65 former drivers, inductees, NASCAR executives, industry leaders and media members, plus one vote reserved for fan balloting. Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote were Neil Bonnett, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Red Farmer.
The induction ceremony date will be announced at a later date.
This also marked the first time the Hall class was reduced from five inductees to three: Earnhardt and Stefanik being chosen from 10 Modern Era candidates and Farmer chosen from five candidates considered from the Pioneer Era.
Here are the newest Hall inductees:
Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr., nicknamed Dale Jr., is a two-time Daytona 500 winner (2004, 2014). Voted as the sport’s Most Popular Driver for 15 consecutive years from 2003-17, he retired as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver following the 2017 season.
“It was great to see my face pop up on that screen,” Earnhardt said with a smile to NBCSN’s NASCAR America. “I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t really nervous. I had a root canal earlier today, so maybe I was more nervous about that. That was kind of distracting my thoughts.
“I also was understanding the fact I’m young, considering most people that are inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I had a lot of years that I could be patiently to hopefully see my name called. So I was going to be okay.”
But Earnhardt’s voice began to crack with emotion when he added:
“Once you started the show, man nerves set in and I got shook up and I was extremely emotional to be nominated. Not a lot of people are like this, but I really work off affirmation -- I succeed off affirmation -- and there’s no better compliment or affirmation than from your peers and the people that you work with and work around.
“This is such a great pat on the back for a lot of hard work and a lot of years in the sport, trying to do the right thing for the yourself, your sponsors but most importantly for the health of the sport. I’m feeling great about this experience and looking forward to what lies ahead, the evening itself and the ceremony. It’ll be a great experience and I’ll be excited.”
Earnhardt made 631 Cup starts between 1999-2017, earning 26 wins (tied with Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen for 30th in NASCAR history), 149 top-five and 260 top-10 finishes. His highest single-season finish was third in 2003.
He also made 142 career Xfinity Series starts from 1996 through this past Saturday at Miami, earning championships in 1998-99 when the series was known as the Busch Series. He earned 24 wins, 70 top-five and 94 top-10 Busch/Xfinity finishes.
Since his retirement from the Cup Series, the now 45-year-old Earnhardt has become a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports, but kept his hand still in racing, making one start per season in the Xfinity Series, with finishes of fourth in 2018 and fifth in 2019 and 2020. He said after Saturday’s race at Miami that it potentially may be his last race ever as a NASCAR driver.
Earnhardt’s father, seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt, was in the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class in 2010, along with Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty and Junior Johnson.
The other father-son pairings in the Hall are: Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr., Lee and Richard Petty, Ned and Dale Jarrett, and Buck and Buddy Baker and Bobby and Davey Allison.
“I don’t know the entire voting panel, but I know some of the folks that are in that. To think they have that respect and feeling for you, it really hits you in the heart, it really does.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know how I’m going to feel as we move forward, but it’s going to be a lot of fun reflecting on our past, our driving career, going to get to share a lot of great stories and it should be a good time.”
Michael Paul Stefanik was one of the most prolific NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers, earning seven championships. In 453 Modified starts, the Massachusetts native earned 74 wins, 223 top-five and 301 top-10 finishes.
Stefanik is the third driver who primarily raced modified to be enshrined in NASCAR’s Hall. He joins Richie Evans (inducted in 2012) and Jerry Cook (2016).
Stefanik was named the second greatest driver in NASCAR Modified history in 2003.
He won successive K&N Pro Series East championships in 1997-98, and finished second in 1995, 2003 and 2005. He also competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
Stefanik was killed in a plane crash on September 15, 2019, when the plane he was piloting experienced mechanical failure and crashed in Sterling, Connecticut. He was 61.
Charles “Red” Farmer is well into his 80s but is still competing, having gained notoriety primarily for short track racing, as well as being one of the charter members of the “Alabama Gang,” a group of drivers who settled in the area of Hueytown, Ala., and became legendary in all forms of stock car racing, from dirt tracks to NASCAR Cup.
Farmer’s career stretched for more than seven decades, although the numbers vary widely. He is estimated to have won between 700-900 races from the 1950s through the 2000s. He also won numerous championships at tracks in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
While Farmer made only 36 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, he excelled in the NASCAR National Late Model Sportsman division (now known as the Xfinity Series), earning three straight championships from 1969-1971.
Despite the few starts on the Cup Series, he was still named NASCAR’s most popular driver four different times, and was named one of the 50 Greatest Drivers In NASCAR History in 1998. Including Tuesday’s announcement, Farmer will now be a member of six different auto racing halls of fame.
Farmer is also known for coyly claiming he was born anywhere from 1928 through 1932.
And he’s still racing, having competed as recently as last weekend, finishing 10th. At the age of 87. He said he will race this weekend at Talladega Short Track.
Farmer was Davey Allison’s crew chief in the then-Busch Series and was with Allison when the helicopter they were in crashed while landing at Talladega Superspeedway on July 12 1993. The younger Allison died. Farmer suffered a broken collarbone and several fractured ribs. Farmer continues to race, primarily at the Talladega Short Track, a 1/3-mile dirt oval across the street from NASCAR’s Talladega Superspeedway.
William Ralph Seagraves has long been acknowledged as the architect who brought tobacco manufacturer RJ Reynolds into NASCAR as its title series sponsor.
Initially brought on as a sponsor for car owner Junior Johnson’s team, Winston was the first non-automotive sponsor to enter NASCAR on a full-time basis. Winston found a welcome home after the U.S. government banned TV cigarette advertising in 1970.
Realizing the impact and return on investment it could obtain would be greater in the overall sport, as opposed to sponsoring just one team, Seagraves and RJR made NASCAR an offer it couldn’t refuse and became the exclusive title rights sponsor in 1971.
From 1971-2003, NASCAR’s premier series – which was previously known as the Grand National Series – was renamed the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, becoming a marketing juggernaut that led to the sport becoming one of the most popular in the United States.
In addition to NASCAR, Winston – with Seagraves’ guidance and leadership as the company’s top sports marketing executive – would also go on to sponsor NHRA drag racing, golf, soccer, tennis and hydroplane racing before tobacco sponsorship was outlawed by the federal government.
Seagraves retired in 1985 and passed away on Sept. 27, 1998 at the age of 69.
Falling short of being voted in from the Modern Era were Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd and Kirk Shelmerdine.
Falling short of being voted in from the Pioneer Era were Jake Elder, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.
Not being chosen for the Landmark Award were Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton and Dr. Joseph Mattioli.