Three-time NASCAR Cup champion and current TV analyst Darrell Waltrip heads the list of the Top 20 Finalists for induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005, but there is an awful lot of talent right on his bumper.
Waltrip, who won championships in 1981, 1982 and 1985, led all candidates in the first round of voting in his first year on the ballot. In all, seven nominees made the Top 20 for the first time. In addition to Waltrip, drag racers Joe Amato and Bob Glidden, Grand Prix champions Rene Dreyfuss and Nigel Mansell, powerboat superstar Chip Hanauer and Indy 500 winner Tommy Milton all made the finals.
The rest of the list of finalists have been there before. Among them are the first NASCAR champion Red Byron, six-time Modified champion Jerry Cook, AAA champion Pete DePaolo, stock car great Harry Gant, versatile Janet Guthrie, Modified and Sportsman champion Ray Hendrick, and five-time Late Model champ Jack Ingram.
Also on the final ballot for the Class of 2005 are sprint car legend Jan Opperman, stock car driver/owner Cotton Owens, Superbike and 500cc motorcycle champion Wayne Rainey, innovative promoter Humpy Wheeler of Lowes Motor Speedway, and 1960 NASCAR champion Rex White.
“Our finalists have two common threads each year. In addition to excelling in the field of motor sports, each group has a wide diversity, and this year is no exception,” said Executive Director Jim Freeman. “The group has competed in at least a dozen major sanctioning bodies, and the finalists represent drivers, owners, car builders and promoters.”
THE TOP 20 FINALISTS FOR THE CLASS OF 2005:
Joe Amato – #9 on NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers list, 54 Top Fuel wins, Five Top Fuel championships.
Red Byron – First NASCAR champion (Modifieds 1948, Grand National 1949), one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest.
Jerry Cook – Six-time NASCAR Modified Champion, one of NASCAR’s Greatest Drivers.
Pete DePaolo – Won two AAA titles, 10 AAA wins, and 1925 Indy 500. His car won ’35 Indy 500.
Rene Dreyfus – Grand Prix driver who had 36 victories and 106 finishes in 148 starts.
Harry Gant – 300+ short track wins, 18 Winston Cup wins, 21 Busch Series wins, ’85 IROC champion.
Bob Glidden – 84 career wins in Pro Stock drag racing, #4 on NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers list.
Janet Guthrie – Drove primarily sports cars, but competed in three Indy 500’s and 31 Winston Cup races.
Chip Hanauer – Seven-time Unlimited Hydroplane champion, 61 wins, including record 11 Gold Cups.
Ray Hendrick – 500+ wins in NASCAR Modified and LM Sportsman, one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest.
Jack Ingram – Five NASCAR Late Model/Busch Grand National titles, one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest.
Nigel Mansell – Won both Formula One (1992) and CART (1993) championships.
Tommy Milton – AAA national champion in 1920 and 1921, 23 wins including Indy 500’s in 1921 and 1923.
Jan Opperman – Won hundreds of races in sprint cars, midgets under several sanctioning bodies.
Cotton Owens – Won 400+ Modified and LM Sportsman races, nine Cup races, and 40 more as car owner.
Wayne Rainey – Two-time AMA Superbike champion, won three 500cc GP World Championships.
Ralph Seagraves – Special events director that developed R. J. Reynolds’ involvement in motorsports.
Darrell Waltrip – Won 3 NASCAR Cup championships, 84 wins/54 poles, 3-time Driver Of The Year.
Humpy Wheeler – Innovative promoter at Lowes Motor Speedway, former Racing Director for Firestone.
Rex White – 1960 NASCAR Cup Champion, 26 wins, 35 poles.
The Class of 2005 will be announced in late fall of this year, with the induction ceremony set for April 28th, 2005.