Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, the NASCAR Hall of Fame honors the history and heritage of NASCAR, and each year a Voting Panel of the sport’s insiders selects five new inductees based upon their contributions to the sport of stock car racing. For 2020, the class will be driver and commentator Buddy Baker, team owner Joe Gibbs, driver Bobby Labonte, driver and team owner Tony Stewart, and engine builder and crew chief Waddell Wilson.
Buddy Baker spent more than three decades behind the wheel, and despite his imposing 6-foot 6-inch frame, was known as the “Gentle Giant.” His record-setting pace of 177.602 mph in winning the 1980 Daytona 500 stands today, and over the course of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Baker posted 19 victories in 699 starts. He retired as a driver in 1992, making the transition to color commentator for the Nashville Network and CBS, and served as a host on SiriusXM Radio’s NASCAR channel. Baker died of lung cancer in 2015, age 74.
Joe Gibbs came to racing after a successful career in football, one in which he amassed three Super Bowl victories as coach of the Washington Redskins. Started in 1992, Joe Gibbs Racing has since won four championships in NASCAR’s Cup Series and five in the Xfinity Series, and his drivers (including fellow inductees Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart) have amassed 164 Cup Series wins to date. Fittingly, Gibbs is known as “Coach” to his NASCAR peers and staff.
Bobby Labonte worked his way up the racing ladder, starting with quarter midgets at age five. He began racing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series in 1982, but wasn’t able to fund a full season for his Labonte Motorsports team until 1990, and three years later landed his first full-season ride in the Cup Series with Bill Davis Racing. Labonte has earned 21 Cup Series wins, and in 2000 captured the series championship for Joe Gibbs Racing. (Labonte also earned an Xfinity Series championship with Labonte Motorsports in 1991.) He remains active today, driving in the NASCAR Whelan Euro Series and serving as a NASCAR analyst for FOX Sports.
Tony Stewart, known as “Smoke” to his fans, kicked off his rookie 1999 Cup Series season with a trio of victories for Joe Gibbs Racing. Three years later, in 2002, Stewart earned his first Cup Series championship, a feat he’d duplicate in 2005 and 2011. Over his 17-year NASCAR career as a driver, Stewart amassed 49 wins. In 2009, he added “team owner” to his resume, partnering with Gene Haas to create Stewart Haas Racing.
Waddell Wilson tried his hand at stock car racing, but earned his fame as an engine builder, first with Holman Moody. In 1963, he built the engine that powered Fireball Roberts to victory in the Southern 500, and later, his engines helped earn championships for David Pearson (1968-’69) and Benny Parsons (1973). As a crew chief, he helped Buddy Baker score a win in the 1980 Daytona 500, and Cale Yarborough in the 1983-’84 Daytona 500. In total, Wilson helped orchestrate 22 victories in his role as crew chief, plus an additional 109 wins as an engine builder.
The list of potential inductees for the class of 2020 also included Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Harry Gant, John Holman, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Ralph Moody, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Mike Stefanik, and Red Vogt.
As part of the induction ceremony, Edsel Ford II will be given a Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The ceremony will take place on January 31, 2020, and this year’s inductees represent the 11th class voted into the hall since its founding in 2010. For additional information, visit NASCARHall.com.