The 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame will welcome four new members Friday night, including 2003 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Champion Matt Kenseth. This year’s class will also feature a legend of the K&N Pro Series West, a Cup Series Champion crew chief, and NASCAR’s former Vice President who had to deliver some of the most devastating news in the history of the sport.
The 2003 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup (formerly Winston Cup) Champion once looked like he would always be in the shadow of Dale Earnhardt Jr. After finishing second to Earnhardt in the 1998 and 1999 Busch Series standings, the pair moved up to the Cup Series together in 2000. But Kenseth would have the better Cup career, winning the 2000 Rookie of the Year and the 2003 Championship. In all, Kenseth won 39 races including two Daytona 500s, the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race.
Joining Kenseth as the other Modern Era inductee is Kirk Shelmerdine. He first tasted NASCAR success in 1983 at the age of 25 when he guided Ricky Rudd to victory as his crew chief. Shelmerdine would then team up with Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, where he would serve as the Intimidator’s crew chief for four of his seven Cup series titles. Shelmerdine won 46 races as a crew chief over 16 seasons before pursuing a career as a driver in 1992. While Shelmerdine’s driving career is nothing to write home about, his career as a crew chief is worthy of a Hall of Fame induction.
Herschel McGriff is the 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame Pioneer inductee. McGriff first raced in NASCAR back in the 1950 Southern 500 at the tender age of 22. He had a respectable career at NASCAR’s top level, appearing in 85 races over 28 seasons and winning four times. But McGriff made his name in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, now known as the ARCA Menards Series West. He won 37 races, good enough for third on the all-time wins list, and won the series championship in 1986. McGriff races in the series until 2018, finally retiring at the age of 90. He was also named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998.
NASCAR’s former President and current Vice Chairman, Mike Helton, is the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Helton has worked in racing for nearly five decades, starting as the public relations director at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Once reaching NASCAR, Helton took the lead on revolutionizing the sport. He was influential in the NASCAR Research and Development Center.
But Helton is, unfortunately, best known for delivering the news of Dale Earnhardt’s death following the 2001 Daytona 500. As NASCAR President at the time, the responsibility fell to him. No racing fan will forget when he said “We’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.” It’s one of the darkest days in sports, but Helton took the lead and helped guide NASCAR through the tough times and into greater heights in the mid-2000s.
These four will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night. The ceremony will air live on Peacock at 8 pm Eastern.
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