The NASCAR 2023 Hall of Fame class is full of champions, and Matt Kensett, crew leader Kirk Shelmerdain and Herschel McGreef will be commemorating next year.
On Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, voted for the recruits. In addition, Mike Helton was selected as a laureate of the Landmark Award for external contributions to NASCAR.
A nominee for the first year, Kensett was a model of consistency on his way to victory in the 2003 Cup Series Championship, led by Jack Rush. Kensett won earlier in the season on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then put 25 places in the top 10 to become the champion a week before the reserve and the final margin of 90 points from Jimmy Johnson.
A rookie of the year in the 2000 Cup, Kensett spent 697 races at the Cup Series with 39 career wins. Among these victories are races of crown gems, such as two in the Daytona 500 (2009, ’12), Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.
Kensett was also successful in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he won 29 races in 288 starts.
“It’s not something I really thought about until the last few days, and then I really thought about it a lot,” Kenset said. “I was on the street, doing some work in the yard, and went in, and (wife) Katie gave it live on her phone, so I had to watch. I’m just very, very grateful for everything this sport has done for me and my family.
“It’s pretty cool to be even on this list, let alone be elected to the Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor. “
Shelmerdin was the head of the crew that led Dale Earnhardt to more than half of his championships, capturing the title in 1986-87 and again in 1990-91. The duo won a total of 44 races, including three Southern 500s and two Coca-Cola 600s. In the 1987 season, Shelmerdin and Ernhardt won 11 races, including four in a row and six out of seven.
Shelmerdin won 46 races as the crew leader of the Cup Series with 15 awards. Ricky Rad was the racer that Shelmerdin won his first two races in 1983.
“I’m still shocked,” Shelmerdin said. “I participated in the vote before and I thought there were a lot of other well-deserved names in this group as well, and yes, I just thought it would be a few more years before that happened. It’s great, and it definitely means a lot to me. “
McGreef became a legend in what was once known as the Winston West Series, where he became champion in 1986. Starting his driving career at the age of 22, McGreef last participated in NASCAR in 2018 at the age of 90.
Named one of 50 outstanding NASCAR drivers in 1998, McGreef is credited with having the longest career at NASCAR. In 28 seasons he has won four of the Cup series. In 1991, he was also awarded the Bill France Prize for Best Practice.
McGreef is taking part in Kyle Petty’s charity trip this week. He heard his phone go off with text and a call, but couldn’t answer right away. When he was able to watch, he shared his pride with the other riders and his wife who ran up.
“I’m very happy,” said a crushed McGreef.
Kensett received 69% of the vote, and Shelmerdin – 52% in the ballots of the modern era. McGreef received 31% of the vote in the Pioneer ballot.
Helton is one of the most famous faces at NASCAR and has led the sport through some of the darkest times, such as the deaths of Dale Earnhardt and 9/11. The third president in NASCAR history, Helton was the first person outside the French family to hold the post.
Helton began his career in 1980 and has held a variety of positions, including as an operator on the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. He was also one of the influences at the NASCAR Research and Development Center as a person who was constantly striving to improve safety in sport. Today, Helton is a senior NASCAR advisor and a member of the NASCAR Foundation Board of Directors.
The entry ceremony will take place on January 20, 2023.