NASCAR Hall of Fame announces 20 nominees for sixth induction class

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday announced the 20 nominees for its sixth induction class, set to be voted upon on May 21.

New rules for this year’s field of nominees included reducing the size of eligible candidates from 25 to 20 eligible drivers, as well as making drivers 55 or older as of Dec. 31, 2013 and with a minimum of 10 years of racing immediately eligible for Hall induction.

Also, any competitor with 30 or more years of NASCAR competition, regardless of age, is also automatically eligible to be voted upon.

Among nominees for the sixth class include two-time Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte, who will start his 33rd and final Daytona 500 on Sunday. Other luminaries include 1988 Cup champ and 16-time Most Popular Driver Bill Elliott, nine-time champion (across Whelen Modified Tour and K&N Pro Series East) Mike Stefanik, 19-race winner Buddy Baker and championship team owner and engine builder Robert Yates.

The five nominees receiving the most votes will make up the 2015 Hall of Fame induction class.

The Hall also announced the five nominees for the first Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: H. Clay Earles, Anne B. France, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier. The nominee with the most votes will win the award.

Parks is the only individual to be included as both a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and a Landmark Award nominee.

The 20 nominees for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame are:

* Buddy Baker, won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Sprint Cup) series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500

* Red Byron, first NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949

* Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

* Jerry Cook, six-time NASCAR Modified champion

* Bill Elliott, 1988 premier series champion, two-time Daytona 500 winner and 16-time Most Popular Driver

* Ray Fox, legendary engine builder and owner of cars driven by Buck Baker, Junior Johnson and others

* Rick Hendrick, 14-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

* Bobby Isaac, 1970 NASCAR premier series champion

* Terry Labonte, Two-time NASCAR premier series champion

* Fred Lorenzen, 26 wins and winner of the Daytona 500 and World 600

* Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner

* Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR premier series champion

* Larry Phillips, only five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion

* Wendell Scott, NASCAR trailblazer was the first African-American NASCAR premier series race winner, and first to be nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame

* O. Bruton Smith, builder of Charlotte Motor Speedway and architect of Speedway Motorsports Inc.

* Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships

* Curtis Turner, early personality, called the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing”

* Joe Weatherly, two-time NASCAR premier series champion

* Rex White, 1960 NASCAR premier series champion

* Robert Yates, won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner

The five nominees for the inaugural Landmark Award are:

* H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway

* Anne Bledsoe France, helped build the sport with husband Bill France Sr. Affectionately known as “Annie B.,” she is the first woman to be nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame

* Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner

* Ralph Seagraves, formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

* Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner/namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.