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Matt Kenseth, Hershel McGriff and Kirk Shelmerdine selected to NASCAR Hall of Fame

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Matt Kenseth, Kirk Shelmerdine, and Hershel McGriff are the newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Kenseth and Shelmerdine were elected to the Hall on Wednesday through the modern ballot while McGriff made it through as one of the five nominees in the pioneer category. Longtime NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton was named the Landmark Award winner.

Kenseth won 39 races over 22 seasons and 697 starts at NASCAR’s top level. As the 2003 Cup Series champion, he is famously known for winning the last pre-playoff title. Kenseth won the title that season with one win and 11 top fives but had the title wrapped up before the final race of the season. A season later, NASCAR introduced what was then known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup and hasn’t reverted from its playoff title format.

The Wisconsin native got 24 of his 39 Cup Series wins with Roush Racing. He left the team after the 2012 season to join Joe Gibbs Racing and he won a career-high seven races in his first season at JGR. Kenseth then won five races in 2015 and was first in the playoff standings through four races in the postseason before he went spinning after late-race contact with Joey Logano at Kansas following a 42nd-place finish at Charlotte.

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)
Matt Kenseth won 39 races in his NASCAR Cup Series career. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kenseth was eliminated from the playoffs at Talladega a week later and took out Logano as he was laps down at Martinsville. The intentional crash ruined Logano’s playoff hopes and earned Kenseth a two-race suspension.

Kenseth was elected to the Hall in his first year on the ballot. He was eligible for the Hall of Fame this year despite filling in for Kyle Larson for 32 races in 2020 at Chip Ganassi Racing after Larson was fired for saying a racial slur during a video game race.

Shelmerdine won four championships as the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt. The seven-time champion won the 1986, 1987, 1990 and 1991 titles with Shelmerdine on the box and won 29 races in those four seasons.

The last two titles Earnhardt won with Shelmerdine were part of a run of four titles in five seasons as he tied Richard Petty in 1994 with seven Cup Series titles. Shelmerdine’s drivers won 46 races in 460 starts in his 16-year career as a Cup Series crew chief. Before serving as Earnhardt’s crew chief from 1984-1992, Shelmerdine was Ricky Rudd’s crew chief for two seasons and had an 11-race stint as Earnhardt’s crew chief in 1981.

Younger fans may know Shelmerdine more as a driver as he made 24 Cup Series starts over seven seasons driving for himself in the 2000s.

McGriff, 94, won four races in 1954 as he finished sixth in the standings despite starting just 24 of 37 races. He last attempted a Cup Series race in 1994 at 66 years old.

The Oregon native’s most success came in what’s now known as the K&N Pro Series West. McGriff won the 1986 title and scored 34 wins in just 271 starts and finished in the top 10 in over half of his races in the series.

McGriff got into the Hall thanks to a fractious vote on the pioneer ballot. He received just 31% of the votes as voters were clearly split among McGriff, AJ Foyt, Banjo Matthews, Sam And and Ralph Moody. Kenseth got a nice 69% of the votes off the modern ballot while Shelmerdine got 52%. There were 15 people eligible on the modern ballot.

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