By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Between the Modern Era ballot, Pioneer Era ballot, and the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR, four legends of the sport were named to the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class.
Making up the Modern Era ballot is seven-time Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus. Donnie Allison, a 10-time Cup Series winner and member of the famed ‘Alabama Gang’ was voted to the Pioneer Era ballot. Janet Guthrie, the first woman to start the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 was named the recipient of the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR.
Modern Era Ballot
While being a seven-time champion, an 83-time race winner, philanthropist, and now a team co-owner, Johnson was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. He received 93% of the 57 votes cast. Johnson was unfazed by the stat but was curious about those who didn’t vote for him.
In addition to his championships, Johnson won multiple marquee NASCAR events with Hendrick Motorsports including two Daytona 500s (2006 and 2013), four Brickyard 400s (2006, 2008, 2009, and 2012), four Coca-Cola 600s (2003-2005 and 2014), and two Southern 500s (2004 and 2012). He also won the All-Star Race four times and the Busch Clash twice. All of those stats made Johnson one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers.
“(I’m) just so honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and to have this opportunity with Chad, we accomplished the 83 wins, the seven championships and all that together,” Johnson said. “To go in, it’s just so fitting and very special and unique. When I knew my name was going on the ballot and Chad’s was as well, this has been in the back of my mind really hoping this opportunity would come about.
“I know I’m very, very proud of what we accomplished and the fact that we get to enjoy this moment, relive all those memories and go all together makes us all more special.”
Along the way with Johnson for 81 of the 83 victories was his crew chief, Knaus. That distinction makes the Rockford, IL native the only crew chief to earn five consecutive Cup Series titles. Knaus picked up his final victory as a crew chief with William Byron.
He now leads the Hendrick Motorsports team as the Vice President of Competition. Knaus received 81% of the Modern Era ballot vote.
“I, honestly, I was a little surprised, I didn’t know,” Knaus admitted. “I obviously felt Jimmie was a lock, but the other people that were for nomination obviously very, very worthy and contribute to the sport in many, many different ways.
“I really didn’t know, but I can tell you there’s a flush of emotions as I was watching the video that played once Jimmie was nominated and saw the way we grew up together and as I sat back, and I was watching him, I was thinking, ‘my gosh, how much I’ve learned throughout my career just because of Jimmie.’
“I was really proud of that and probably (prouder) of the fact that he’s in there than I actually I am. For me personally it’s a huge day, very proud of everybody that’s helped me and it’s an honor to be here with Jimmie. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jimmie Johnson in a lot of different ways, so it’s pretty awesome.”
Pioneer Era Ballot
At a glance, Donnie Allison’s 10 wins seem low in comparison to other NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees. However, he dominated several Daytona 500s and was a part of the famous fight between Cale Yarborough, himself, and his brother Bobby Allison in the 1979 Daytona 500.
Donnie Allison is also one of just two drivers to complete every lap of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same year, Tony Stewart accomplishing the feat on the same day. Unlike Stewart, Allison won the 1970 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after finishing fourth and earning Rookie of the Year honors at ‘The Brickyard.’
Allison is the latest member of the ‘Alabama Gang’ to be recognized in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Bobby Allison, Davey Allison, and Red Farmer have all already been inducted into the hallowed halls in Charlotte, N.C. The last remaining member of the original group yet to enter the Hall of Fame is Neil Bonnett. Allison earned 53% of the Pioneer Era ballot vote.
“It’s hard to answer because I’ve been here (in NASCAR) since it started,” I watched my brother be inducted, I watched the nephew be inducted and I felt like maybe one day down the road I might get inducted,” Allison explained. “It’s probably the combination of a lot of hard work, a lot of love, and a lot of patience by that lady (Donnie’s wife, Pat) sitting right back there that we’re here.”
Joining the three legends as the Landmark Award recipient is Guthrie. Though she didn’t compete in NASCAR on a full-time basis, the legacy she left after retiring still lives on today. Guthrie inspired a generation of women to compete in motorsports, not just NASCAR, and that generation is inspiring the next.
The Class of 2024 Induction Ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C.