Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Terry Labonte, a two-time Cup Series champion, and Speedway Motorsports Inc. executive chairman Bruton Smith were among those selected into the 2016 class of inductees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Jerry Cook, winner of six NASCAR modified championships, Bobby Isaac, the 1970 titleholder in NASCAR's premier series, and Curtis Turner, one of the earliest competitors in the sport, will join Labonte and Smith in the NASCAR HofF's seventh class.
Harold Brasington, the founder of Darlington Raceway, which became NASCAR's first sanctioned superspeedway in 1950, was named the second annual winner of the Landmark Award, which honors outstanding contributions to NASCAR.
The hall's voting panel met on Wednesday in Charlotte to vote on next year's induction class as well as the Landmark Award. The panel debated and voted upon the 20 nominees for the 2016 HofF class and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton announced the new inductees that evening.
The 2016 Inductions Ceremony at the NASCAR HoF is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Smith garnered 68 percent of the vote, followed by Labonte (61 percent), Turner (60 percent), Cook (47 percent) and Isaac (44 percent). The next top vote-getters were Red Byron, Benny Parsons and Rick Hendrick.
The voting panel included representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the second year, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion (Kevin Harvick). In all, 57 votes were cast, with two additional panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Cook and Robert Yates).
Labonte is a two-nickname NASCAR star. Early in his career, he was known as the "Iceman" for his coolness under pressure. But his demeanor belied his determination. Later in his career, he became known as the sport's "Iron Man," thanks to 655 consecutive starts in the Cup Series, a record which stood until 2002. Labonte winning two series titles, in 1984 and '96, is impressive because no other driver has won his first two titles that far apart. He is one of only six drivers with championships in two decades.
Smith promoted his first stock car race in Midland, North Carolina at the age of 18. His early endeavors included operating the National Stock Car Racing Association -- seen as an early competitor to NASCAR -- and building Charlotte Motor Speedway. Charlotte became the foundation of Speedway Motorsports, which currently owns eight NASCAR-sanctioned tracks hosting 12 Sprint Cup events as well as the all-star race. Smith took SMI public in 1995, the first motorsports company to be traded at the New York Stock Exchange.
Cook made his name in modifieds, winning six titles, including four consecutively from 1974-77. All the while, he was vying with another driver from his hometown of Rome, New York, nine-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans, for supremacy in NASCAR's open-wheel realm. After retiring from racing in 1982, Cook stayed with the sport and helped shape the series known today as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He served as the series director when it began in 1985 and remains with NASCAR as competition administrator.
Isaac's 49 career poles ranks 10th all-time in the Cup Series. He won 19 poles in 1969, which still stands as the record for most poles in a single season. Isaac, who began racing in the series in 1961, finished runner-up in the point standings in 1968, behind NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson. In 1970, Isaac won the championship, posting 11 wins, 32 top fives and 38 top 10s in 47 starts. He has 37 career victories in the series, ranking him 19th all-time.
Called by some the "Babe Ruth of stock car racing," Turner was among the fastest and most colorful competitors in the early years of NASCAR top racing circuit. He competed in the sport's first "Strictly Stock" race in 1949 in Charlotte. Turner posted his first of 17 career victories in only his fourth start on Sept. 11, 1949, at Langhorne (Pennsylvania) Speedway. He also won the Southern 500 at Darlington in 1965.