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Johnson, Knaus, and Donnie Allison officially join NASCAR Hall of Fame

The ceremony began by honoring Janet Guthrie with the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR. 

Guthrie was the first woman to ever compete in a NASCAR superspeedway race, finishing 15th in the 1976 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. She went on to become the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500, finishing 12th in the 1977 running of the event. Along with several appearances at the Indianapolis 500, she would go on to compete in the Daytona 500 a second time, finishing 11th in 1978.

Her best result was a sixth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. Although she wasn’t able to be present to accept the award, she sent in a video message. Here is an excerpt from her acceptance speech:

“First, I want to thank NASCAR and its voters for this extraordinary honor, which I never expected, and to apologize for not being there in person. I really love NASCAR Cup racing and will always regret that I wasn’t able to continue for longer than my 33 races.”

She went on to thank her car owner Lynda Ferreri, Humpy Wheeler, Junior Johnson, and even Cale Yarborough, who “put his stamp of disapproval on the car I was to drive in my first race at Charlotte in 1976.”

Janet Guthrie

Photo by: IMS LLC

Janet Guthrie

Donnie Allison was the first of the three Hall of Fame inductees to take the stage. He was introduced by his biographer, Jimmy Creed. A member of the historic Alabama Gang, Donnie joins brother Bobby and nephew Davey in the NASCAR Hall.

Allison earned ten wins during his NASCAR Cup Series career, and was one of the central figures in that sport-defining moment at the conclusion of the 1979 Daytona 500.

The 84-year-old had the longest speech of the night, going through his remarkable career both on the track and off. He made a point to acknowledge the France family, saying: “I want you all to think about this. Without Big Bill, where would we be? What would be taking place right now? The France family has done wonders for our world — the racing world and I want to commend them and thank them for that. For giving me the opportunity to do something i love to do all my life … I just can’t thank you enough.”

He spent some time during his speech to mention the young drivers he has mentored over the years, including the late Ricky Hendrick and two-time Cup champion Joey Logano.

Donnie Allison

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Donnie Allison

And yes, he still asserts that infamous fight after the 1979 Daytona 500 went differently than many claim. “I never fought. I don’t care what that thing says. I never touched the man [Cale Yarborough]. He never touched me. If he had. I would have probably killed him. Anyway, we’re not gonna talk a whole lot more about that.”

Next up was Chad Knaus. Still a prominent figure at Hendrick Motorsports, he was also the man that led fellow inductee Jimmie Johnson to all seven of his NASCAR Cup Series titles. The duo rewrote the history books, winning five consecutive titles from 2006 and 2010.

He was introduced by his wife Brooke and their children. Knaus told the story of how he got his first job at HMS. “I vividly remember the race in 1992 — Jeff Gordon’s first race and I was with the No. 49 team and we were in the garage next to the No. 24 car. And they had all these nice new toolboxes, brand new race cars. They had clean uniforms, and here I was a grungy young man with a team that we were just hoping to make the race. And I watched Ray Evernham lead that team that weekend and I was blown away. And I said to myself, one day I want to have that. I want to have those cars. I want to have that team. So in June of 1993, I cold-called Hendrick Motorsports. The receptionist picked up and I said, may I speak to Ray Evernham, and she said sure, one moment.

Chad Knaus

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Chad Knaus

“I was like, ‘did that really just work?’ I don’t think that works anymore, just so you guys know. A few moments later, Ray grabbed the phone in his New Jersey accent. He said, ‘Hello, this is Ray.’ And I was frozen for what seemed like seconds to me. And I told Ray who I was and how I had grown up and what I wanted to do. And I could tell he was in a hurry which he always is. And he said, ‘well just so happens that we let a guy go today. Can you be here tomorrow for an interview?’ And I said ‘yes.’ Not knowing how I would pull this off. I didn’t know how I was going to drive from Birmingham to Charlotte. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t know how to tell my boss that I needed to take a day off. So So I went back to work. I told my boss, I said, ‘Hey, I gotta take tomorrow off. My grandmother is sick, and I have to drive to Wisconsin.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh my God, shouldn’t you fly?’ And I was like, ‘No, I’ll be right I got a friend’s car.’ But nonetheless, obviously I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina and I arrived late that evening at Hendrick Motorsports. And with my appointment first thing in the morning, I just slept in the car. I know you guys heard this earlier, but I can remember waking up early the next morning and I’d had a fountain drink in the cupholder and I used the melted ice to kind of rinse off my mouth and brush my teeth and work on my hair. I wasn’t thinning quite as much then, I was working on it. And I put on a new polo and I went in and I spoke to Ray. And Ray asked, he said ‘well what do you do?’ And I told him I said ‘I do everything. I’m not a specialist at anything.’ And we banter back and forth for many minutes … He said, ‘well where do you want to be in five years?’ And I thought about it for just a moment. Because I was like this could go a couple of different ways. And I said ‘in five years, Ray, I want your job.’ And he smiled at me and he said, ‘be fearful for what you wish, for you may receive it.’ And he said ‘when can you start?’ And honestly, I started on July 23rd, 1993 working for that man and that racecar driver right there [Jeff Gordon]. It was the coolest thing, man.”

Knaus talked about working with Johnson and their incredible success together, as well as the infamous milk and cookies meeting. And yes, there was milk and cookies at the Hendrick table for the induction ceremony. He reflected on the tragic Hendrick plane crash in 2004, and his many run-ins with NASCAR officials. He concluded his speech with this: “I wasn’t always the best to Jimmie, but I can promise you that I always wanted the best for you. I will always love you and your family.”


Lastly, Johnson himself took the stage, introduced by his wife Chandra and their children. Johnson has a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series titles, as well as 83 Cup wins. His many victories include two in the Daytona 500, four in the Coke 600, four in the Brickyard 400, and two in the Southern 500.

Johnson spent some time in IndyCar after retiring from full-time Cup racing, and was part of NASCAR’s Garage 56 entry at the 2023 Le Mans 24. He is now the co-owner at the Legacy Motor Club, and will race part-time in 2024.

Johnson spoke on his humble beginnings as the son of a school bus driver and a heavy equipment operator. “We raced and we raced a lot on a limited budget with a lot of passion and dedication. The grit my parents instilled in my without a doubt helped mold my professional self. I’m so grateful for you both. With my humble upbringing, being noticed in racing was my only chance for success. I knew my opportunities would come via who I knew, and then someday what I could do.”

Kyle Petty, Jimmie Johnson

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Kyle Petty, Jimmie Johnson

His ten-minute speech included many thank yous for those who helped him get to where he is now, still shocked how he was ever able to secure a ride in the No. 48 car all those years ago. Johnson ended his time on stage with the following message: “Whether you’re looking up to your heroes, driving for them, competing against them. If you’re with us now or up in Heaven, thank you for being a crucial part of this incredible run. And what I run it’s been. This is beyond my wildest dreams. And I thought Christmas morning in 1979 was special,” he concluded, referencing how his was love for racing was born from a motorcycle he got for Christmas that year.

Shav Glick, who passed away in 2007, was also honored with the Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence. 

This article was originally published by a www.motorsport.com . Read the Original article here. .

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