Richie Evans and Jerry Cook, arguably the two greatest modified racers in history, have been nominated to the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. SPEED will announce all 25 nominees at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday in a special live television show from Daytona.
Today through Thursday, NASCAR will release the names of two Hall of Fame nominees each day at Noon ET. The other 19 names will be released during the live SPEED broadcast Thursday night. SPEED.com also will feature extensive coverage of the 2011 class.
Evans was nominated in the first Hall class, but Cook is being nominated for the first time.
The recognized “king” of Modified racing, Evans captured nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-85.
In the first year of the current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour format in 1985, Evans won 12 races, including a sweep of all four events at Thompson, Conn.
During his career, Evans captured an amazing 26 championships on 11 different tracks in four states. He is believed to have won at least 475 races at 38 different tracks.
Evans ranked No. 1 in the 2003 voting of the “NASCAR All-Time Modified Top 10 Drivers,” and he was named one of NASCAR’s “50 Greatest Drivers” in 1998. He perished in a crash at Martinsville, Va. in October 1985 at the age of 44, but left behind a huge legacy of success.
One of his former cars currently is on display along Glory Road in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. So respected was Evans that his No. 61 is the only number retired by NASCAR in any division.
Cook’s record is equally impressive.
In one of the more dominant runs in the history of NASCAR's Modified division, Cook captured six national championships during a seven-year span from 1971-77. His six titles are the third-most in the 60 years of the division.
Cook was a consistent contender for the NASCAR Modified title throughout his career. From 1969-82, he finished in the top three in the national standings in each season. That span included six titles and six championship runner-ups.
Following a third place finish in the championship standings in 1982, Cook retired as a driver and went to work for NASCAR.
In his second career, Cook has overseen the weekly tracks in the northeast and was instrumental in the development of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 1985 and the NASCAR Camping World Series East in 1987. He now lives in Mooresville, N.C., and is a competition administrator in the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord.
Cook was named to the “NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers” list in 1998 and the “NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10” list in 2003. Cook is also enshrined in the National Motorsports Press Association and New York Stock Car Association Halls of Fame. Last year, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.