Jimmie Johnson joins the ballot as NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees announced

NASCAR announced the nominees for entry to its Hall of Fame on Wednesday, with one big name making his first-ever appearance.

Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie is eligible to be inducted into the Hall for the first time this year after having been retired for two years, despite a few select starts this season.

He’ll also be joined on the ballot by someone with a close link to his career: longtime crew chief Chad Knaus, who’s now Hendrick Motorsports’ Vice President of Competition. He’s also making on the ballot for the first time alongside his driver.

DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – FEBRUARY 09: Chad Knaus during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2019 in Daytona International Speedway, United States of America. (Photo by Nigel Kinrade / NKP / LAT Images)

The two join a list of drivers and crew chiefs that also featured on last years’ Modern Era ballot without actually winning induction. Winning Cup Series drivers are Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, and Ricky Rudd are joined by short-track weekly series star Larry Phillips. Tim Brewer and Harry Hyde, who both won championships as crew chiefs, round off the ten nominees.

Nominees were chosen by a committee that includes directors of the Hall of Fame itself, NASCAR executives, and track presidents from current and historic racetracks.

The committee also nominated five individuals for the Landmark Award, to honor those who helped grow the sport. They are: Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete on a superspeedway; Alvin Hawkins, NASCAR’s first flagman; Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR’s female Executive Vice Chair; Dr Joseph Mattioli, the founder of Pocono Raceway; and Les Richter, a NASCAR executive who pushed for West Coast expansion.

HAMPTON, GA – JULY 09: NBC Sports reporters Jeff Burton (L) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. go over their notes prior to the running of the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 race on July, 09, 2023 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Besides the Modern Era ballot, which focuses on drivers within the last sixty years, there’s a Pioneer Ballot. This is nominated by a separate panel, including all living members of the Hall of Fame, and special award winners.

On that ballot are Cup Series winners Donnie Allison and open-wheel legend AJ Foyt, Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard, champion owner Ralph Moody, and famed builder Banjo Mathews.

Allison is the new driver to join that list this year.

Nomination is just the first step to induction into the Hall. The nominees will be voted on by a larger panel that includes Hall of Fame directors, NASCAR executives, manufacturer representatives, track executives, media personalities, and competitors, including last year’s Cup Series champion Joey Logano.

Fans also get to have their say via a fan vote, live now on the NASCAR website, which is factored in with the vote tallies. The fan vote will close on July 30 at 12:00 a.m. ET.

Last year, the inductees were Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, ARCA champion and Cup Series winner Hershel McGriff, and Kirk Shelmerdine, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt in his early career. This year’s inductees will join them and other legends of the sport in the Hall of Fame, which sits in Downtown Charlotte.

Owen Johnson