It's NASCAR Hall of Fame night on Friday in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, as five new members get inducted into the Hall, bringing the total number of inductees to 20.
It's a star-studded group which provides a nice balance between the pioneers in the sport and the heroes of racing's modern era. And all played a prominent role in NASCAR's rich history.
Herb Thomas began racing in NASCAR as soon as it was started in 1947, winning 48 races in 230 starts. His first win came at Martinsville in 1950. Thomas and his Hudson Hornet were the inspiration for the character Doc, in Disney Pixar “Cars” movie.
Cotton Owens gets the call as well. Owens’ driving career spanned 15 years, 160 races, 9 wins and a second place finish to Lee Petty in the 1959 Championship. He later went on to quite a career as a car owner.
Buck Baker was one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest drivers. Known as a hard charger, Baker won 46 races in the middle and late 50's.
That brings us to Leonard Wood who perfected the modern day pit stop and made Wood Brothers Racing among the sport's most successful first families. Wood joins brother Glen who went into the Hall of Fame last year. The pride of Stuart, Virginia, and Patrick County is certainly a popular selection.
But the most popular just might be Rusty Wallace. The 1989 Cup Series champ won 55 career races, including seven at Martinsville. Never at a loss for words, Rusty was a fan favorite and now works for ESPN as a racing analyst. He's honored to be inducted alongside some of his childhood idols.
“Those guys are definitely pioneers. Those guys are the guys that started NASCAR,” 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace said. “A lot of them are involved in the development of the cars and it' popularity, things like that. One of my best friends out of the group is Leonard Wood. Leonard and I raced together and he's still working with the Wood brothers on cars. He was very much a part of that Trevor Bayne win in the Daytona 500 a couple of years ago. I was telling a story earlier, my very first victory back in 1986 at Bristol, Tennessee, when I came down pit road after winning that race the first guy to put his hand up in the window and congratulate me was Leonard Wood and he's a hero of mine. For him to do that for me on the pit road was something I'll never forget.”