NASCAR announces updates to Hall of Fame voting panel

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Some changes came down the pipeline today in terms of who’s on the voting panel for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. A full release from NASCAR indicating the changes is below:

NASCAR today announced several revisions to the NASCAR Hall of Fame (NHOF) Voting Panel. The 58-member panel will vote for the NHOF Class of 2016 on Wednesday, May 20 in Charlotte, North Carolina, to be announced that afternoon in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Great Hall.

For the first time, new NASCAR broadcast partner NBC will be represented on the Voting Panel. Below are the eight new members of the NHOF Voting Panel.

  • Ron Bennett, Holland (New York) Motorsports Complex
  • Jeff Burton, NBC Sports Network
  • Steve Byrnes, FOX Sports 1
  • Brent Dewar, NASCAR
  • Eli Gold, Motor Racing Network
  • Kevin Harvick, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
  • Marty Smith, ESPN
  • Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer

A full list of the panel members can be found below.

“These eight new voters collectively hold a vast array of NASCAR knowledge from all disciplines of the industry,” said Brett Jewkes, NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer. “Each new member brings a unique background and passion for the history of NASCAR and will contribute greatly to the Hall of Fame voting process.”

The 22-member Nominating Committee – which includes the additions of Bennett and Dewar – will meet on Friday, Feb. 20 in Daytona Beach, Florida, to discuss, debate, and vote for the 20 NHOF Class of 2016 nominees and five nominees for the second Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The results will be announced that afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

Additionally, Dr. Jerry Punch will move to the voting panel for the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. The fifth recipient of the award will be announced during the July race weekend at Daytona.

The NHOF Class of 2015, which includes Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White, will be officially inducted on Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. ET live on NBCSN.

NOMINATING COMMITTEE

NASCAR Hall of Fame: Executive Director Winston Kelley; Historian Buz McKim.

NASCAR Officials: Chairman / CEO Brian France; Vice Chairman Jim France; President Mike Helton; Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar; Executive Vice President / Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell; Executive Vice President / Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps; Senior Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton; Competition Administrator Jerry Cook.

Track Owners/Operators: International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa Kennedy; Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell; Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage; Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark; former Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George; Dover Motorsports CEO Denis McGlynn; Pocono Raceway board of director member Looie McNally; Bowman Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis; Holland Motorsports Complex operator Ron Bennett; Rockford Speedway operator Jody Deery; West Coast representative Ken Clapp.

Media: Mike Joy, FOX.

VOTING PANEL

The Voting Panel consists of the above 22-member Nominating Committee and the following 36 representatives. In addition a Fan Vote is the 59th – and final – vote.

American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association: Dusty Brandel, AARWBA President.

Eastern Motorsports Press Association: Ron Hedger, EMPA President.

National Motorsports Press Association: Brian Nelson, NMPA President.

Print & Online Media: Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com; Jenna Fryer, Associated Press; Al Pearce, Autoweek; Jim Pedley, RacinToday.com; Bob Pockrass, Sporting News; Nate Ryan, USA Today; Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer.

Broadcasters: Rick Allen, NBC; Jeff Burton, NBCSN; Steve Byrnes, FS1; Eli Gold, MRN; Dave Moody, SiriusXM; Doug Rice, PRN; Marty Smith, ESPN.

Manufacturers: Jim Campbell, Chevrolet; Edsel Ford, Ford; David Wilson, Toyota.

Retired Drivers: Ned Jarrett; Richard Petty; Ricky Rudd.

Retired Car Owners: Junior Johnson; Bud Moore; Robert Yates.

Retired Crew Chiefs: Buddy Parrott; Waddell Wilson; Eddie Wood.

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion: Kevin Harvick.

Industry Leaders: Former NASCAR Senior Vice President Paul Brooks; MRN announcer Barney Hall; Retired Associated Press writer Mike Harris; former motor sports journalist Tom Higgins; former broadcaster Ken Squier; former Charlotte Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994