Thursday, March 30 2023

The three 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees giving speeches Friday night were known for their fierce competitiveness and doing their talking on the racetrack.

They will have to do some talking about themselves and their careers Friday night.

Matt Kenseth, Kirk Shelmerdine and Hershel McGriff had eight months to prepare their speeches since the voting panel selected them in May.

On that voting day, Kenseth did a call with reporters and then had to tend to three of his four kids who were in the house.


“I’m going to go make them dinner,” Kenseth said about his celebration plans.

Kenseth headlines the class as a first-ballot honoree, as the selection committee saw his 2003 Cup championship and 39 Cup wins as certainly worthy of the honor. Kenseth won his title for Roush Racing and also spent several years at Joe Gibbs Racing during his 20-year Cup career.

He lost his JGR ride following the 2018 season, but Roush asked him to return in 2019 to split time with struggling Trevor Bayne. Kenseth again got called for a substitute role — this time in 2020 — when Chip Ganassi Racing needed someone to replace the suspended Kyle Larson.

Matt Kenseth passes Chase Elliott to win Cup race

NASCAR Cup Series Highlights: Matt Kenseth makes a late pass on Chase Elliott to win what was meant to be his second-to-last Cup start.

It was after he struggled in the CGR car that he knew his racing days in Cup were over. The Wisconsin native has raced occasionally since then, but the 50-year-old is retired from NASCAR racing.

“I remember the first time I went to the racetrack, working on my dad’s race car when I was 13, and the first time I ever drove I was 16,” Kenseth said following the vote.

“I remember going to the track with that old ’81 Camaro in Columbus, Wisconsin, and how crazy that it started there, and it ends with going to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

For Kenseth, it will be hard to mention all the people who helped him get there.

“There’s never really one person or one big break or one crew member – it’s a combination of all of it,” he said.

The other two inductees were known not just for their greatness but also for doing things their way.

Kirk Shelmerdine won four Cup titles as a crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, but then opted to leave that role for another racing job — as a driver. His best finish was 20th in the 2006 Daytona 500.

Shelmerdine’s induction will be a popular one. He was on the ballot in 2018, only to be left off it by the nominating committee in 2019. He was back on it in for three more years before his selection in May.

McGriff raced primarily on the West Coast in regional series but also had 87 Cup starts. He won four races in 1954 — and then didn’t race another Cup event until 1971. Why? He opted to focus on family and his timber and mill business, keeping his racing closer to home.

“I just raced where I wanted to race,” McGriff said.

McGriff, 95, raced occasionally in regional events throughout his 60s, 70s and mid-80s and came back for one start in 2018 at age 90.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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