Throughout NASCAR’s storied 72-year history, many icons of stock car racing have been known for their hard work, tireless dedication and tremendous talent as drivers, mechanics and team owners.
They are among the legends who forged the sport during its formative years and built the foundation for the NASCAR Cup Series of today.
Beginning with the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2021, these individuals will be honored in a slightly different way.
The number of inductees has been reduced from five to three with potential nominees separated into two ballots — one for contemporary stars and one for the sport’s pioneers. Two contemporary stars will be inducted each year along with one from the pioneer category.
Five of the incredible personalities featured on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Pioneer ballot are championship-winning crew chief Jake Elder, championship driver Red Farmer, car builder and driver Banjo Matthews, driver Hershel McGriff and driver, crew chief and team owner Ralph Moody.
“When we opened the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, we had to catch up on more than 60 years of NASCAR history,” said NASCAR President Steve Phelps. “Our plan has always been to evaluate the process as the Hall of Fame matured. With 55 of the sport’s greatest competitors enshrined, we felt the time was right to move to three inductees, which will help maintain the high standard of enshrinement that’s been set.”
The pioneers on this year’s ballot truly are a remarkable group with amazing backgrounds.
Jake Elder, a NASCAR Cup Series championship-winning crew chief with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson and the Holman Moody team, was born on Nov. 22, 1936, in Statesville, N.C.
Despite having a limited education, he was considered one of the most talented mechanics in NASCAR history. His knowledge of race cars and how they performed came with a commonsense approach and tools described as prehistoric by those he served.
Known as “Suitcase Jake” because he frequently changed jobs, Elder won 43 Cup Series races with a who’s-who of American race car drivers, including three-time Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip.
“The thing that always amazed me was how Jake did all this without any notes. He didn’t keep a notebook,” Waltrip told FOX Sports. “He didn’t have every setup for every track we went to written down. It literally was all in his head.
“… Jake’s biggest problem was he was a perfectionist. It made it hard for him to work with other people. He was so meticulous about his cars that he didn’t trust anyone else to work on them. After everyone else was done working on the car, he would go back and put the Jake Elder finishing touches on it. Every bolt had to be Jake-tight. Every part and piece on that race car had to be checked off by Jake.”
Red Farmer’s career has spanned seven decades. He began racing in 1949 and won his first feature that year. He earned the NASCAR Modified championship in 1956 and then claimed Late Model Sportsman (now Xfinity Series) titles in 1967, ’70 and ’71. The four-time Most Popular Driver was also named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
The Florida native entered 36 NASCAR Cup Series races, with a best finish of fourth coming twice. While detailed records were not kept, it is believed Farmer claimed as many as 800 short-track victories.
Farmer feels he has raced against many of the NASCAR greats during the past 70 years.
“I look back at that list now and I think there was only one guy I never raced against, and that was Red Byron, who won the first NASCAR championship in 1948,” Farmer said. “But he quit in 1951 or 1952, and I started in 1953.
“But all the other great drivers in there — Lee and Richard Petty, Buck and Buddy Baker, Junior Johnson, Ralph Moody and all those guys that made that 50 Greatest Drivers list, I raced against all of them at one time or another. It was quite an honor, it really was.”
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