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Steve Kinser, Terry Labonte and Brock Yates lead 2017 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America inductees

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Steve Kinser. Photo courtesy Tony Stewart Racing.

Seven stars representing a variety of racing disciplines have been elected to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America for 2017, their enshrinement announced this week in the run-up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. As chosen by a panel of electors (including your humble author), the 2017 class will be inducted on June 28 at ceremonies in Daytona Beach.

The newest inductees consist of:

Steve Kinser (Open Wheel), arguably the greatest Sprint car driver in the history of auto racing, with victories in 577 World of Outlaws A-features, an even 20 WoO championships and a dozen victories at the Knoxville Nationals, Sprint car racing’s most prestigious event. Kinser is also a Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 veteran, and in five decades of driving, has amassed 876 Sprint car feature event wins.

Richard “Dick” Klamforth (Motorcycles) is perpetually associated with the Daytona 200 motorcycle classic. At age 20 in 1949, he scored a surprise victory on the old beach course in his very first attempt at the race. He won it again in 1951 and 1952, becoming the Daytona 200’s first three-time winner.

Terry Labonte

Terry Labonte at Daytona in 2011. Photo by Nigel Kincade, Autostock, courtesy Ford Motor Company.

Terry Labonte (Stock Cars) finished in the top five of NASCAR’s premier series seven times in a career that spanned 25 years, including season championships in 1984 and 1996. Labonte broke Richard Petty’s record of 513 consecutive starts in 1996 and continued on as NASCAR’s Iron Man until August 2000, when he was forced to miss the Brickyard 400 due to injuries. He and Bobby Labonte are the only two brothers to have won NASCAR’s biggest title.

Paula Murphy (Drag Racing) was a pioneer, the first woman ever licensed to drive a Funny Car. A successful competitor, she ran through 1972 with backing from STP, at a time when few other drivers had any sponsorship. Beginning in road racing, she caught the attention of Andy Granatelli, who dubbed her Miss STP and brought her to the Bonneville Salt Flats. There, she set a woman’s land speed record aboard a Studebaker Avanti. She later jumped that record up to 243.44 using Walt Arfons’ Avenger jet car.

Scott Pruett

Scott Pruett. Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company.

Scott Pruett (Sports Cars) owns a veritable slew of major race victories and championships that make him one of racing’s most accomplished modern sports-car drivers. His five wins in the Rolex 24 tie him with fellow MSHFA inductee Hurley Haywood. Pruett achieved 11 major sports car titles from 1986 through 2013, was an Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year, won two Indy car races, and also notched six top-10 finishes in 40 NASCAR starts.

Herb Thomas (Historic) was NASCAR’s first two-time champion (1951 and 1953), and will be ever linked with the exploits of his crew chief, Smokey Yunick. His career statistics include 48 NASCAR Cup wins, 39 poles, and a serious run at a third title that was cut short by injuries. Thomas, who died in 2000, was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers and like Labonte, is also enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Brock Yates

Brock Yates. Photo by Richard Lentinello.

Brock Yates (At Large) was the longtime executive editor of Car and Driver magazine, and the intellectual father of some outrageous promotions, led by the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. He won the second running of that outlaw race aboard a Ferrari Daytona, paired with fellow MSHFA inductee Dan Gurney. Yates, who passed away last year, was a prolific book author, an amateur race driver, wrote the screenplays for the Cannonball Run movies, and was a pit reporter during race telecasts on several networks.