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NASCAR: Hall of Fame class of 2015 announced

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On Wednesday, May 21, NASCAR announced the 2015 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Members of the Voting Panel met behind closed doors in Charlotte, N.C. to choose five inductees from a group of 20 nominees.

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According to NASCAR, the five inductees for the 2015 Hall of Fame are: Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White. NASCAR also announced that Anne B. France won the inaugural Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

Voting for the 2015 class was as follows: Bill Elliott (87%), Wendell Scott (58%), Joe Weatherly (53%), Rex White (43%) and Fred Lorenzen (30%). Other nominees on the slate for this year were: Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Larry Phillips, O. Bruton Smith, Mike Stefanik, Curtis Turner, and Robert Yates.

The five nominees for the inaugural Landmark Award were: H. Clay Earles, Anne Bledsoe France, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier.

Bill Elliott took 44 wins in a 37-year career, ranking 16th all time and his 55 poles rank eighth. In 1988, he won the NASCAR premier series championship with six wins, 15 top fives and 22 top 10s in 29 races. In addition, he won a record 16 Most Popular Driver Awards, in part because of his excellence on the big stage; he won the Daytona 500 twice and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway three times.

NASCAR describes the rest of its 2015 inductees' accomplishments this way:

"Fred Lorenzen was one of NASCAR’s first true superstars even though he was a 'part-time' driver, never running more than 29 of the season’s 50-plus races. Lorenzen got his start in NASCAR as a mechanic with the famed Holman-Moody team in 1960, but was elevated to lead driver by the end of the year. Lorenzen won three races in only 15 starts the following season. Lorenzen’s best overall season came in 1963 as he finished with six wins, 21 top fives and 23 top 10s in 29 starts. Despite missing 26 races that season, he finished third in the standings. In 1965, he won two of NASCAR’s major events – the Daytona 500 and the World 600.

One of NASCAR’s true trailblazers, Wendell Scott was the first African-American to race fulltime in NASCAR’s premier series, as well as the first to win a NASCAR premier series race. Scott posted a remarkable 147 top 10s and 495 starts during his 13-year premier series career. He won more than 100 races at local tracks before making his premier series debut, including 22 races at Southside Speedway in Richmond, Virginia, in 1959 en route to capturing both the Sportsman Division and NASCAR Virginia Sportsman championships. Part of Scott’s NASCAR legacy extends to present day with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, the leading youth development initiative for multicultural and female drivers across the motorsport industry since 2004.

Joe Weatherly won two championships (1962-63) and 25 races in NASCAR’s premier series. But that’s only part of his story, which is long on versatility. A decade earlier in 1952-53, he won 101 races in the NASCAR Modified division, capturing that championship in 1953. He even tried his hand in NASCAR’s short-lived Convertible Division from 1956-59 winning 12 times. When he won his first NASCAR premier series championship, in 1962, he drove for legendary owner Bud Moore. When he repeated as champion a year later, he drove for nine different teams. Those were the only two years Weatherly competed in the premier series full-time.

Consistency was the hallmark of Rex White’s NASCAR career. He finished among the top five in nearly a half of his 233 races and outside the top 10 only 30 percent of the time. White was a short track specialist in an era in which those tracks dominated the schedule. Of his 28 career wins in NASCAR’s premier series, only two came on tracks longer than a mile in length. Driving his own equipment, White won six times during his 1960 championship season, posting 35 top 10s in 40 starts. He finished in the top 10 six of his nine years in the series including a runner-up finish in 1961.

Anne Bledsoe France, paired with her husband, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., would create what today is one of the largest and most popular sports in the world. Anne played a huge role in the family business. Bill organized and promoted races and she took care of the financial end of the business. She first served as secretary and treasurer of NASCAR, and when Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, she served in the same roles for International Speedway Corporation. She also managed the speedway's ticket office. France remained active in family and business life until her passing in 1992."

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is not just an honor, but a place. The actual Hall is located in Uptown Charlotte, N.C. and comprises 150,000 square feet. It is open to visitors.

Induction Day for next year's Hall of Fame group is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015 and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network from Charlotte, N.C.

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