Kenseth, McGriff and Shelmerdine Highlight 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 21: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #6 Performance Plus Motor Oil Ford, sits in his car during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on September 21, 2018 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

NASCAR announced the 2023 Hall of Fame Class Wednesday night.

The three that make up this year’s inductees are Matt Kenseth, Kirk Shelmerdine and Hershel McGriff. In addition, Mike Helton was named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

“It feels good,” Kenseth said during an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s obviously a huge honor just to be on a list or to be under consideration, but to be voted in really means a lot to me. It’s kind of like the bookend of your career.

“It’s not for anything you did today, but what you did throughout your career. Kind of like the perfect bookend. To go into the Hall of Fame when everything is said and done and all over, to kind of look back at it, it’s pretty neat.”

Members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met Wednesday in an in-person closed session for the first time since 2019 at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote on 15 nominees for the induction class of 2023 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award.

Ten of the nominees appeared on the Modern Era ballot, which was selected by the traditional Nominating Committee. The same committee selected the five Landmark Award nominees. The Pioneer ballot, which included five nominees whose careers began in 1963 or earlier, was selected by the Honors Committee. Beginning with the Class of 2021, each Hall of Fame class features two inductees from the Modern Era ballot and one from the Pioneer ballot.

The Voting Panel was made up of representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs) and recognized industry leaders. There was also a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and the last two NASCAR Cup Series champions (Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson). In all, 61 votes were cast, with two additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Jeff Burton and Ricky Rudd). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes.

Kenseth received 69% of the Modern Era ballot votes, Shelmerdine received 52%. Harry Hyde finished third, followed by Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant. Hershel McGriff received 31% of the Pioneer ballot votes. A.J. Foyt finished second.

“I always loved the sport,” McGriff said, “but I couldn’t go full-time because I had to raise a family… I started when they didn’t have go-karts—we just drove street cars. Right after World War II, September 16, 1945, I ran my first race (on a dirt track).

“I borrowed my dad’s 1940 Hudson, got a couple of friends to help me and finished 12th or 13th.”

The two inductees came from a group of 10 nominees that included: Neil Bonnett, Tim Brewer, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Matt Kenseth, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd and Kirk Shelmerdine.

Nominees for the Pioneer Ballot included: Sam Ard, A.J. Foyt, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff, Ralph Moody.

Nominees for the Landmark Award included Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Lesa France Kennedy, Dr. Joseph Mattioli.

The Class of 2023 Induction Ceremony is set for Friday, Jan. 20, 2023 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Class of 2023 Inductees:

Hershel McGriff

TUCSON, AZ – MAY 05: Hershel McGriff driver of the #04 car is interviewed before the first race at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Twin 100’s at Tucson Raceway Park on May 5, 2018 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Hershel McGriff’s 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.

Matt Kenseth

Over 18 full-time seasons Matt 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.

Kirk Shelmerdine

TALLADEGA, AL – April 28: Kirk Shelmerdine, driver of the #27 Chevrolet, waits in the garage during the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Aaron’s 499 practice at the Talladega Superspeedway on April 28, 2006 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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. 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. 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.

Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR:

Mike Helton

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 working in a wide variety of jobs. After working briefly as a radio sports director he earned his first big job in racing as the public relations director at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Five years later he was promoted to general manager of the facility and almost immediately was hired away to work at the famed Daytona International Speedway. 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.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – DECEMBER 05: Mike Helton attends the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Music City Center on December 05, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)