One of the greatest things about sports is not only enjoying the entertainment it provides today, but also reflecting on the past. Whether it’s looking at record books or debating players from different generations, the history of sports is always a topic of discussion as fans are quick to recall their favorite athletes or moments that they were fortunate enough to see.
There are a plethora of ways in which we remember players, coaches and owners, but typically it is their accomplishments on the field of play that help define their career. When it comes to coaches and owners, we normally think of team successes such as overall wins, and even more importantly,
For players, however, there are numerous individual statistics and awards going beyond wins and losses that we use to measure the stature of an athlete during their playing days. Whether it’s a league MVP award or rookie of the year, these different achievements may alter the way an athlete’s career is remembered long after their playing days.
But perhaps the highest of honors is bestowed upon a sports figure after they retire. No matter what sport, being elected into the Hall of Fame is greatest accomplishment for a player, owner or coach. It symbolizes that a person has reached the absolute pinnacle of their sport, and gives them a chance to be a permanent part of their respective sport’s history, whether it be in Canton, Ohio where the National Football League’s Hall of Fame is located or in Charlotte where you can find NASCAR’s Hall.
Just this past week, in what has now become a tradition during the week of the prestigious Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR announced its Hall of Fame Class for 2020. The five men who will be inducted on January 31, 2020 are Buddy Baker, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson.
For the late Baker, he was a pioneer of speed. In 1970 he became the first driver to exceed 200 miles per hour mark during a testing session at Talladega Superspeedway. Later in his career, he again made history in his 1980 DAYTONA 500 victory with an average race speed of 177.602 mph, a record that still stands today.
Wilson was known for his dual role in NASCAR as both an engine builder and a crew chief. He supplied the engines for fellow Hall of Famers David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough, and amassed 109 wins and 123 poles as an engine builder. In fact, Wilson assembled the engine that powered Baker to the aforementioned DAYTONA 500 record.
For the remaining trio of inductees, Homestead-Miami Speedway is a track that holds a special place in each of their careers as each had key moments unfold right here.
In 2000, Labonte clinched the Cup series championship at the Speedway. Although at the time, we weren’t the site of the season finale, Labonte’s fourth place finish secured the title, his only Cup championship of his career. Labonte would go on to have another memorable moment at the Speedway as he won his final career Cup race here in 2003, as a member of Joe Gibbs Racing.
When looking at the careers of Stewart and Gibbs, it’s nearly impossible to talk about one’s success here in South Florida without bringing up the other. Stewart won three Cup races here at Homestead-Miami Speedway, including our inaugural Cup race in 1999. Stewart also went on to capture three drivers championships and one owners championship at our track, making him one of the most decorated drivers in our track’s history.
Of course, two of Stewart’s titles and race victories were as a member of Joe Gibbs Racing, who has experienced a great deal of success during their annual trip to the Speedway. As an owner, Gibbs has accounted for six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins and three MENCS championships at the Speedway, and it doesn’t stop there. On top of all the Cup series success, Gibbs has also tallied five NASCAR Xfinity Series championships at the track as well.
At the track, it’s really exciting to know that so much history has taken place here, particularly as the host of Ford Championship Weekend for the past 17 years. As I read the names of the inductees last week, I instantly recalled many of the aforementioned moments that I got the pleasure to either be a part of as the track’s president or enjoy as a race fan.
So as these five legendary icons of racing await to be enshrined in January, take a moment to reflect on their careers, especially the moments that happened right here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After all, that’s part of what makes NASCAR so special. Unlike other sports, any time you go to a race you’re seeing every competitor the sport has to offer. So keep in mind that when you come to a race at the Speedway, you’re likely seeing a future Hall of Famer, which is a memory you’ll savor forever.
NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND
Sunday, June 2 at 2:00 PM (ET)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway
Saturday, June 1 at 1:00 PM (ET)
NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons at Pocono Raceway
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off this weekend and will return to action June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.
UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
May 31-June 1 Xtreme Xperience
June 14 Fast Lane Friday
June 15 Performance Driving Group
June 16 Miami Exotic Auto Racing
June 22-23 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA)
Nov. 15 Ford EcoBoost 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship Race
Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race