Being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame is an honor only a small percentage of those competing in the sport will ever achieve. The first class (whose induction coverage begins Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on SPEED) carries a lot of weight and represents both drivers and those who helped build the sport to its current national prominence. Keeping faith with that type of class, here's a look at 10 drivers who should one day be gracing the Hall of Honor in NASCAR's new Charlotte facility. -- Rea White
Edwards has shown the promise of a championship favorite in his career and the tenacity to gain ground on the competition. He has 16 Cup wins to his credit and three top-10 finishes in the championship standings. In addition, he's consistently pulled double duty running in the Nationwide Series where he has won 25 races and the 2007 title. He has five consecutive seasons of finishing third or better in that series. Edwards also has six Truck victories.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr.'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 Jr. also has 18 career Cup wins on his resume. He has 22 Nationwide Series wins and is now a team co-owner in that series.
Kenseth heads a list of drivers whose continued success in the series will be key to making the hall. The Wisconsin native won the 2003 championship, the last season prior to creation of the Chase, and has 18 career Cup wins to his credit. Kenseth is one of NASCAR's most consistent performers in most seasons and has made the Chase field in all but one season since the format was introduced. He also has 25 career Nationwide wins and finished second and third in the standings in consecutive seasons when running full time there.
Labonte is in the waning years of his Cup career, but older race fans remember when he was a threat to win each week as well as being the driver helping to build Joe Gibbs Racing into championship form -- Labonte gave the organization its initial title in 2000. He has 21 career Cup victories, won the 1991 title in the Nationwide Series and one Truck win.
No one compares to Busch when it comes to overall racing in NASCAR. The 25-year-old has won 17 Cup races and made the Chase in four of his five full-time seasons. He also has 33 Nationwide wins, where he is the defending series champion, and 17 truck wins for a total of 67 NASCAR victories in his young full-time racing career.
Harvick may not have the Cup credentials that some do, but his overall NASCAR performance has been stellar and his team is improving so there's certainly more room for Cup wins in the future. 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. Overall, Harvick has 12 Cup wins, including victories in the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and All-Star race, with 36 wins and two driver championships in the Nationwide Series and eight in the Truck ranks.
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 both of his 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 the 50 percent owner in Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart has 37 Cup wins, nine Nationwide and two Truck in his driving career.
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 51 as drivers less than half his age. He's the winningest driver in Nationwide history and has seven Truck 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.
A four-time championship driver and a four-time championship co-owner through his role with Jimmie Johnson's team, Gordon won his first 50 races faster than anyone in the history of the sport. With 82 wins to his credit at this point, he ranks sixth on the all-time list. He's finished in the top 10 in the overall standings for 14 of the last 15 seasons with one 11th-place finish in that mix. Gordon has more than $111 million in career earnings – and he's not done yet.
He's been first in the sport for four years so why not make him first in the line of drivers who could someday be inducted into the hall? Already a four-time defending champion and the winner of 50 races, Johnson has changed the way champions are viewed in the sport. In his ninth full season, he's raised the bar on expectations and potential for success.