Zipadelli competed for 10 seasons with Tony Stewart at Joe Gibbs Racing, guiding the driver to a pair of championships and 32 wins. They won the Brickyard 400 twice and the Rookie of the Year award. He then remained at JGR when Stewart left and helmed the team of young talent Joey Logano, who has already nabbed his first career win and his own Rookie of the Year honor. He's now reunited with Stewart, working as competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame's 2013 class has been selected, setting up the first 20 members of the elite crowd. Certainly, it will be some time before many of the competitors, executives and officials now roaming the tracks week to week will be part of the selection process. But why wait to figure out who that will be? Who are the future Hall of Famers fans can see in their realm right now? Here is a look at several current stars of NASCAR who could one day be inducted into the prestigious Hall.
He's been first in the sport five times, so why not make him among the first in the line of drivers who could someday be inducted? Already a five-time NASCAR Cup champion, and the winner of 56 races, Johnson has changed the way champions are viewed in the sport. He has also finished on the lead lap in 77.8 percent of the Cup races he’s ever run, a stellar accomplishment.
No one compares to Busch when it comes to overall racing in NASCAR. The 27-year-old has quickly made strides in NASCAR’s upper tiers of racing. He has 24 Cup, 51 Nationwide and 30 Truck wins to his credit, for an overall total of 105 career victories. He has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup five times and is a Nationwide Series champion. Busch has also taken on a new role in the sport, that of a team owner in both the Nationwide and Truck series.
Perhaps best known for his work with Dale Earnhardt, Childress has long been a fixture in the sport. He's won owner titles in all three major NASCAR touring series. He also has six titles — all with Earnhardt — 100 wins in the Cup ranks and 11 titles in NASCAR’s top three tiers overall. Childress has three owners titles and 58 wins in the Nationwide Series and the 1995 and 2011 titles, along with 25 victories in the Truck series.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Earnhardt's career has been marked as much by his phenomenal fan following as his success on the track, but he's found his share of that as well. A two-time Nationwide Series champion, Earnhardt also has 18 career Cup wins on his resume. He possesses 23 Nationwide Series wins and is now a team co-owner in that series.
Edwards has shown the promise of a championship favorite in his career and the tenacity to gain ground on the competition. He has 19 Cup wins to his credit and five top-10 finishes in the championship standings. In addition, he's consistently pulled double duty running in the Nationwide Series where he has won 37 races and the 2007 title. He had five consecutive seasons of finishing third or better in that series. Edwards also has six Truck victories.
Fennig returns with Matt Kenseth after finishing fourth in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup and fifth the previous season. He has worked with several drivers at Roush Fenway Racing, including Kurt Busch, whom he joined in 2002 and went on to lead to the 2004 Cup championship. He scored 14 wins in four seasons with the young driver. Prior to that, he earned 14 wins and nine pole positions in five seasons with Mark Martin. He won the 1988 Daytona 500 with Bobby Allison and the 2012 Daytona 500 with Kenseth. He launched his crew chief career in 1986 with Martin. Overall, Fennig has 34 wins and 16 pole positions, as well as the 2004 championship, to his credit.
France picked up where his dad left off as chairman and CEO of the sanctioning body, playing a role in International Speedway Corp. and its string of tracks as well. France worked on the landmark television deal that took NASCAR to a new audience and in adopting the Chase format that pitted first 10 and now 12 drivers against one another in the championship. He handled NASCAR through a growth spurt and as the sport adjusted to the economic downturn in the country, relied on his business savvy in making decisions to guide NASCAR into the future.
The football coaching great must have been questioned mightily when he made the foray into racing, but it certainly has paid off for him. He earned his first win in his second full-time season, taking the Daytona 500 with driver Dale Jarrett. He won a championship with Bobby Labonte and two more with Tony Stewart. He brought youngster Joey Logano into the sport, winning Rookie of the Year, and he's won the Brickyard 400 three times. He has 96 Cup wins as well as the 2009 Nationwide title with Kyle Busch and has 71 wins in that series.
Gordon’s stats cover both driver and ownership roles. As a driver, he’s won four championships and sits third all time with 85 NASCAR Cup wins. As a co-owner, he’s earned five championships with Jimmie Johnson’s team. In addition, Gordon's won 71 pole positions in his career. He's finished in the top 10 in the overall standings for 17 of the last 18 seasons, with his one non-top-10 finish an 11th. Gordon has more than $125 million in career earnings — and he's not done yet.
Harvick may not have the Cup championship yet, but his overall NASCAR performance has been stellar and his team is improving, so there's certainly more room for future Cup wins. He's also a championship Camping World Truck Series team co-owner and one of two guys most likely to challenge Martin's record number of wins in the Nationwide ranks. He’s also a Nationwide champion. In addition, Harvick has won some of the Cup series' biggest events, including the All-Star race, the Coca-Cola 600, the Brickyard 400 and the Daytona 500. Overall, Harvick has 18 Cup, 37 Nationwide and 14 Camping World Truck series wins, giving him 69 victories in NASCAR’s top three series — that makes him one of the winningest drivers overall in series history.
The first non-France family member put in charge of the France empire, Helton took NASCAR through some of its most trying days in the modern era. He was president of the sanctioning body when the sport embarked on an aggressive television package, when it changed a slate of competition rules to tighten the racing and when it went to a new points system. He was also at the helm through a year of tragedy in which NASCAR lost bright young stars as well as seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, then underwent a series of safety initiatives. His personal and professional demeanor through all the setbacks and successes has been one that will mark his legacy as one of the greatest leaders in the sport's history.
Kenseth already has one title to his credit — and certainly seems capable of adding to his tally. The 2003 series champion has two Daytona 500 victories as part of his 22 career Cup wins. Kenseth is one of NASCAR's most consistent performers and has made the Chase field in all but one season since the format was introduced. He also has 26 career Nationwide wins and finished second and third in the standings in consecutive seasons when running there full time. He won the International Race of Champions title in 2004.
The wizard behind Jimmie Johnson's success is the only crew chief to earn four consecutive titles — and now has five overall. Knaus has been with Johnson for the driver’s entire career and has shared in 54 of his Cup wins. Viewed as a mechanical genius with an eye for detail, he has that ability to craft a crew that shares the chemistry and talent needed to remain among the sport's best year after year. He has led his team on a tear this season, as his team won the annual Pit Crew Challenge and the All-Star race as well.
Labonte’s career may be in its twilight years, but he’s certainly enjoyed plenty of success over the years. Not only was he a perennial threat to win races in his heyday, but he also helped build Joe Gibbs Racing into a championship organization. Labonte gave the organization its initial title in 2000. He has 21 career Cup victories, won the 1991 title in the Nationwide Series and also owns a Truck win.
Definitely the greatest among the active racers to never win a Cup championship and one of the best racers the sport has ever seen. Martin's won races in three decades and in three series. He has 40 Cup wins to his credit and is going as strong at age 53 as drivers less than half his age. He has 49 Nationwide wins, seven Truck wins and five International Race of Champions series titles to his credit. Martin is definitely one of the most talented and gracious drivers to ever compete in the Cup ranks.
While Penske is a legend in other forms of racing, he still seeks his first NASCAR Cup championship. That doesn't mean he has been without success, though. Penske earned 10 wins and a runner-up championship finish with driver Rusty Wallace. He won the Daytona 500 with Ryan Newman in 2008, and he won the Nationwide Series title with Brad Keselowski. In Cup racing, he has 64 wins overall with six additional wins in the Nationwide Series.
Roush has competed in a variety of motorsports, but he made his mark in the NASCAR arena. Roush raced with Mark Martin for years, then an assortment of drivers won races for him. He has 127 career Cup victories to his credit and won back-to-back titles with Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth. He is the only owner to have ever put five drivers in the Chase field — a feat that will never be matched because of current team limits. Roush has also been an innovator in parts and sponsorships. He has a pair of Nationwide championships (Greg Biffle, 2002; Carl Edwards, 2007) with 127 wins in the series as well as the 2000 Truck series title (Biffle) and 50 wins there.
Personable and outspoken, Smith (right, with John Force) has always been much more than just a track owner/operator. He, like the Frances, has created a track dynasty in the sport with his Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and its arm of radio and amenity companies. He's sparked controversy with his clashes with NASCAR from time to time and had a shareholder file a suit challenging the lack of a second date at his Texas track. Seemingly unwilling to withhold an opinion or comment, Smith has long been a fan and driver favorite.
Stewart is the only driver to win championships under NASCAR's old points system and its new Chase for the Sprint Cup format. He won his first two titles with Joe Gibbs Racing while also competing in a handful of Nationwide races annually. He ramped up his involvement in the sport in 2009 when he became 50 percent owner in Stewart-Haas Racing, then went on to win the Cup title as an owner/driver in 2011. Stewart has 46 Cup, 10 Nationwide and two Truck victories in his driving career.