CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Drivers Benny Parsons and Mark Martin and car owners Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Raymond Parks were inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Parsons, the 1973 NASCAR premier series champion, was the first driver to eclipse 200 mph. Parsons, also a longtime broadcaster, died in 2007 at age 65.
Martin won 96 races across NASCAR’s national series competition, including 40 on the Sprint Cup level.
Hendrick won 14 owner championships, and Childress 11 across NASCAR’s three series.
Parks was the first car owner to win a title. He died in 2010 at 96.
Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the 2017 Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR.
None of the living inductees was present for the announcement.
Parsons received 85 percent of the votes — the most of the five inductees — followed by Hendrick (62 percent), Martin (57), Parks (53) and Childress (43).
Parsons was referred to by some as the “everyman’s champion” and was known for his consistency.
He won 21 times in 536 starts but finished in the top 10 in more than half of his starts (238). His biggest victory might have been in the 1975 Daytona 500, and he is recognized as one of NASCAR’s top 50 drivers. Following his racing career he made seamless transition into television and was a commentator for NBC and TNT until he died of lung cancer.
“This is the biggest honor of Benny’s life,” said Parsons’ widow, Terri. “It summarizes everything he has ever worked toward. Every job he has ever had be it as a race car driver in all divisions, host of a NASCAR radio shows, NASCAR color commentator for TV networks each were just as important to him as the next. He lived his life for NASCAR fans.”
Martin was described as “the greatest driver to never win a championship,” finishing second in the Sprint Cup standings five times. Martin’s 96 career wins across NASCAR’s three national series are seventh-most on the all-time list.
Hendrick, the founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports, has won 11 of his 14 titles on the Sprint Cup circuit — six with Jimmie Johnson, four with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte. He was part of a remarkable run from 1995-98 where Gordon and Labonte combined to win four straight championships.
Childress’ name is synonymous with Dale Earnhardt, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. Earnhardt won six championships with Childress’ cars and 67 races between 1984 and 2000. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three national series.
Parks was one of stock car racing’s earliest team owners. He began as an owner in 1939 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall and his cars went on to dominate in the 1940s. Red Byron won the first modified NASCAR title in 1948 and his first premier series title in 1949 in a Parks-owned car.