NASCAR HoF inducts its fourth class

The 2013 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame was inducted during a ceremony on Friday night at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Herb Thomas, Cotton Owens, Leonard Wood, Buck Baker and Rusty Wallace were voted into the NASCAR HOF's fourth five-member class last May. Thomas, Owens and Baker were inducted posthumously.

In a ceremony which lasted just over two hours, Thomas was the first person to be enshrined. He was inducted by 2011 Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, while Thomas' son, Joel, accepted the honor.

"This is such a wonderful night, and I am honored to be here on my father's behalf to accept his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2013," Joel Thomas said. "My father would have been very honored and humbled in receiving this recognition."

Thomas was the first driver to win two Cup championships, doing so in 1951 and '53. He won both his titles driving self-owned cars. Thomas also finished second in the point standings in 1952 and '54.

Everett "Cotton" Owens enjoyed success as both a driver and owner in NASCAR. As a driver, he won nine times in the sport's premier series, including the 1957 Daytona Beach, Fla. beach/road course race. Owens also collected 38 victories as an owner. He passed away this past June at age 88.

David Pearson, also a member of the 2011 class, inducted Owens.

"My grandfather was one of the most humble, most loyal, hardest working men I ever met," Owens' grandson, Kyle Davis, said while accepting the induction on behalf of his grandfather. "He took great pride in the fact that he could build a race car from the ground up, engine, chassis, transmission, it didn't matter. You name it, he did it."

Wood, part-owner and former crew chief for Wood Brothers Racing, revolutionized pit stops in NASCAR. He figured out ways to get the race car serviced in the least amount of time. The team used a light-weight jack in place of a 100-lbs. floor jack found in the repair shops during the early days of stock car racing.

Wood's brother, Glen, was inducted into the NASCAR HOF in 2012.

"It's certainly an honor to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, especially behind brother, Glen, and two of our drivers, David (Pearson) and Cale (Yarborough)," Leonard Wood said. "Glen and I always did things together. We learned together, and we won together."

Wood was inducted by his nephew, Eddie Wood, who is the co-owner of the family-owned team.

Elzie Wylie "Buck" Baker established himself as one of NASCAR's early greats, becoming the first driver to win consecutive championships in its top series (1956-57). His 46 victories rank him 14th on the series' all-time race winners list.

Buddy Baker, a 19-time race winner in Cup, including a victory in the 1980 Daytona 500, inducted his late-father, while Buck's widow, Susan Baker, accepted the induction.

"I am proud and deeply honored to accept this award on behalf of my husband," Susan Baker said. "I only wish that Buck was here tonight, and he would have something very witty to say. However, I know that he is here in spirit."

Rusty Wallace, the 1989 Cup Series champion, was the last person enshrined. He won 55 races during his 25-year career. Wallace's influence on the sport continued after his retirement when he became an analyst for ESPN's coverage of NASCAR.

Brad Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, introduced Wallace, while Wallace's son, Greg, inducted him.

"I'm telling you, this is pretty emotional tonight," Wallace said while he wiped tears away from his face. "I'm humbled that I've made it here and standing up here. I can't thank everybody enough for selecting me to be in the Hall of Fame.

Legendary broadcasters Ken Squier and Barney Hall were also recognized during the induction ceremony. Last year, NASCAR and the HOF announced the creation of a new award to honor the media's contributions to the sport. Squier, who was one of NASCAR's original broadcasters, and Hall, a longtime announcer on the Motor Racing Network, were recognized as the first recipients of the award that bears their names.