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Jeff Gordon joked at December’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 ceremony that he would ask Dale Jarrett to read his speech if he were to be inducted in the future.
He better get Dale on the phone now: Jeff Gordon highlights the list of five new nominees eligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2019. Harry Gant, John Holman, Ralph Moody and Kirk Shelmerdine join Gordon as the list of newest nominees eligible to be voted into the 2019 class.
PHOTOS: New Hall of Fame nominees
The addition of these five brings the total list of nominees to 20 for the 2019 five-member class. Voting is in May.
Esteemed NASCAR broadcaster Barney Hall and NASCAR executive and former Darlington Raceway President Jim Hunter also were announced as the newest nominees for the 2019 Landmark Award.
Gordon hinted at what his composure might be like for a possible induction speech last January, when he accompanied Ray Evernham — his longtime crew chief — during his induction into the Hall’s Class of 2018.
“When I see somebody that means a lot to me that I’m close to, like Ray, start to show a little emotion, that’s when it gets me,” Gordon said. “Then when I hear him say some of the things about me, then … so I don’t know how he did what he did. He did amazing. I’m just terrible at those types of things. I really … yeah, I don’t even want to think about that.”
Blessed with once-in-a-generation talent and charisma, Jeff Gordon helped take NASCAR from a regional sport to the mainstream.
RELATED: Jeff Gordon’s 93 premier series wins
He began his career racing quarter midgets and sprint cars at a young age in his home state of California, and later in Pittsboro, Indiana, when his family moved there for racing. He ran his first race in the Xfinity Series on Oct. 20, 1990 and his first start in the Monster Energy Series came at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Nov. 15, 1992, which also marked Richard Petty’s final race in the series.
Gordon would catch the eye of team owner Rick Hendrick, who signed Gordon to pilot the No. 24 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy Series beginning in 1993. To steer the No. 24, Hendrick also brought on crew chief Ray Evernham, who revolutionized the modern pit stop with a group of athletes dubbed the Rainbow Warriors.
Evernham, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January, and Gordon had met at a test at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Sept. 1990. They immediately connected.
“What I saw him do that day at Charlotte with a car that we had that wasn’t that special … and he was quick, I think second-quickest overall that day to Davey Allison, and he did some pretty amazing things,” Evernham said on Jan. 20 at the Hall of Fame ceremony. “The way that he spoke to me, the way that he described what the car was doing, what he needed in the car, I thought to myself, ‘This guy is way too young, that’s not experience. That’s pure talent and ability.’ ”
Gordon won his first premier series race from the pole in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In his 23-year career, he notched 93 wins — third highest on the all-time list. Gordon captured his first premier series championship title in 1995 and won three more in 1997, 1998 and 2001. He continues to hold the record for the most restrictor-plate wins (12, one more than Dale Earnhardt) and road-course victories (nine).
In 1998, Gordon led his No. 24 team to a modern era-record 13 wins. Gordon is a three-time Daytona 500 champion and won the Brickyard 400 a record five times.
Charismatic and gifted in front of the camera, he developed one of the sport’s fiercest rivalries with Dale Earnhardt. The confident, youthful Californian served as the foil to the wily, rugged Intimidator.
In January 2015, Gordon announced his retirement from full-time racing after the 2015 season. He began a career as a FOX Sports broadcaster in the booth in 2016 and is an equity partner at Hendrick Motorsports, the only team for which he raced full time in the premier series throughout his storied career.
The other new nominees:
• “Handsome” Harry Gant won 18 premier series races, including the Southern 500 in 1984 and 1991. The North Carolinian also registered 21 wins in the Xfinity Series.
In the five seasons from 1981 through 1985, Gant finished in the top five in points four times, including a runner-up championship finish to Terry Labonte in 1984. His accolades include four consecutive wins in 1991 at age 51.
• John Holman was considered the mastermind salesman and business manager of the famed Holman-Moody ownership duo. His foresight for the business aspect of NASCAR paired with competition-minded Ralph Moody’s mechanical and racing insights formed the foundation of a formidable — and legendary — race team.
Holman-Moody won back-to-back championships from 1968-69 with David Pearson.
• For Massachusetts native Ralph Moody, it all started with a Motel T Ford he built in 1935 and raced on nights and weekends. After driving a tank under the command of General George S. Patton in World War II, he moved to Florida in 1949 so he could race year-round.
Moody won five NASCAR premier series races from 1956-57. The mechanically skilled Moody paired with business-minded John Holman to form Homan-Moody Racing in 1957, forming the foundation of a powerhouse NASCAR team.
• 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.
And a scant three years later, he directed Dale Earnhardt to the 1986 premier series championship. More than a flash in the pan, Shelmerdine won four total premier 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.