Feb 25, 2014, 10:20 AM EDT
In a way, Terry Labonte being named as one of 20 nominees for the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class is like baking a cake.
Now all he needs is for the frosting to be applied, namely, being one of the five individuals who will be chosen for induction by the 50-member HoF voting panel on May 21.
Labonte, 57 and a two-time Winston Cup champion, competed in the 33rd and final Daytona 500 of his career on Sunday. While he wound up never winning the 500 in his illustrious career, he still showed he knows how to wheel a race car Sunday, starting 24th and finishing a respectable 20th.
Labonte was his usual humble self when discussing his nomination on Monday night’s edition of “Garage Pass” on the Performance Racing Network.
“It kind of surprised me,” Labonte said. “I didn’t really think about it, but that’s exciting to be named with those other guys that were named. That’s pretty cool.”
Due to changes in nominating rules this year, Labonte became immediately eligible for Hall induction consideration along with Bill Elliott, who was voted by fans as NASCAR’s most popular driver for 16 straight years.
By comparison, Sunday’s Daytona 500 winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has been voted most popular driver 11 years in a row heading into this year.
Even though they still climb behind the wheel on occasion, Labonte and Elliott became eligible for nomination for the Hall of Fame because of a new stipulation that drivers who have turned 55 years of age in the calendar year before nominating day, and who have competed for 30 or more years in NASCAR-sanctioned racing, are now immediately eligible for induction consideration.
Previously, drivers had to be retired from racing for at least three years. In another eligibility rule change, the Hall also reduced the number of nominees for consideration for next year’s five-person induction class from 25 to 20.
Labonte is honored to be up for induction consideration but in his typical humble, soft-tone manner, played down his chances.
“I don’t know,” Labonte said. “I can think of a lot of people I think that are more deserving than me to be in the Hall of Fame. There’s been so many people that have been in the sport for so many years that accomplished so many things back in the early days, whether it was drivers or crew members or team owners.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned in that category with those people, but there’s a lot of people I think that really made our sport great.”
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