Jan. 8, 2013 marked the induction of the fourth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I was fortunate to be in attendance as five of the sport’s legends were honored. The fact that this is only the fourth class inducted for a sport that has been around for over 60 years is unusual in the ranks of professional sports. Because the NHOF is so new, it gives the fans a unique look at the drivers, owners, crew chiefs, and other people that truly shaped the sport and made it what it is today.
The passion and drive that was on display on Friday night as Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood were inducted was absolutely incredible. The stories about the founders of the sport, before multi-million dollar sponsorships and purses existed, made it a great night to be a part of. To hear Herb Thomas say that the bonus for winning a championship in the 1950’s was $3,000 compared to the 2012 champions bonus of $5.7 million made you realize just how much these drivers and owners loved to race and loved the sport.
As a long time Ford fan it was good to see another Wood Brother join the hall of fame. I was also in attendance in 2012 when Glen Wood was inducted. I’m always impressed with their humbleness and loyalty to Ford Motor Company. Last year, Glen Wood made it a point to thank God, his family and Ford Motor Company as the three things that made his success possible in NASCAR.
My favorite speech this year came from the grandson of Cotton Owens as he recalled his grandfather putting his keys to success in similar order to Glen Wood: God, family, friends and the 426 Hemi.
– Jeff Gajewski