Class of 2023 Inductees:
A quick glance at Matt Kenseth’s resume would prove his brilliance behind the wheel.
Over 18 full-time seasons Kenseth quietly filled his trophy cases, conquering every major milestone on the Cup Series schedule including two Daytona 500s, the Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race. His 39 Cup wins tie for 21st on the all-time list and include wins at 19 of the 23 tracks at which he competed more than once.
His crowning achievement was his 2003 Cup Series championship, a thoroughly impressive season in which he led the points standings for the final 32 weeks of the season. And though he ‘only’ captured that one title, Kenseth was consistently in championship contention – he made the Playoffs in 13 of 14 seasons and finished runner-up twice.
Success came early to the 2000 Cup Series Rookie of the Year. He finished sixth in his first Cup Series start and finished runner-up in the standings in his first Xfinity Series season. Kenseth has 29 career Xfinity wins, eighth-best all time.
Not many reach the pinnacle of their professions as quickly as Kirk Shelmerdine.
At age 25 in 1983, Shelmerdine guided Ricky Rudd to victory at Riverside, the first of two wins during that season. And a scant three years later, he directed Dale Earnhardt to the 1986 Cup Series championship.
More than a flash in the pan, Shelmerdine won four total Cup Series championships with Earnhardt (1986, ’87, ’90, ’91). Over his 16-year crew chief career with Earnhardt, Rudd, James Hylton and Richard Childress, he won 46 races and posted top-10 finishes in more than half his starts.
In 1987, Shelmerdine won 11 races with Earnhardt, including four in a row and six of seven.
Shelmerdine retired from life as a crew chief in 1992 to pursue a career as a driver. In the cockpit, he made 41 starts across all three NASCAR national series.
His first race was the 1950 Southern 500, in the NASCAR Cup Series’ sophomore season, at the age of 22.
His final NASCAR race was at Tucson Speedway in the NASCAR Pro Series West – in 2018 at the age of 90.
McGriff started 85 races in parts of 28 NASCAR Cup Series seasons, capturing four wins – all in 1954, when he finished sixth in championship points.
But McGriff was one of the best drivers in what is now known as the ARCA Menards Series West. Competing in parts of 35 seasons, McGriff won 37 races, good for third on the all-time West Series wins list.
His signature year came in 1986 when he won the series title, part of a string of 10 consecutive seasons with finishes in the top 10 of championship points.
In 1998, McGriff was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR:
Mike Helton is easily one of the most familiar faces and names in the NASCAR community.
The first person outside the France family to be named NASCAR President (in 2000), he started his leadership career with the sport back in 1980 and now serves as Vice Chairman of NASCAR.
His nearly five-decade long career in the sport has been spent in a variety of jobs. He was a track operator at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, and even raced a little himself, before joining NASCAR.
During his time as President, Helton cemented NASCAR’s presence in major markets both within the United States, as well as Mexico, Canada and Europe.
His hard work on the competition side of the sport included a push to increase safety standards – something NASCAR took the lead on and continues to revolutionize today. His influence is also seen in the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. – the first such facility owned and operated by a racing sanctioning body.
Helton currently serves as a member of the NASCAR Board of Directors as well as the Board of Directors for The NASCAR Foundation.