DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte, a pair of Cup champions, are among the first-year eligible nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Drivers Mike Stefanik and Buddy Baker, and engine builder and team owner Robert Yates also were selected for nomination in their first year. The honorees were announced at Daytona International Speedway on Friday by a 22-person committee of representatives from all over NASCAR.
"You think about where Robert started, literally sweeping the floors and he became the premier engine builder," said Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett, who drove for Yates. "His knowledge of everything about a racecar, and then running a race team and making it a winning race team is just incredible. I could sit here all evening and talk about why he should be, and hope will be, into the Hall of Fame."
Mark Martin, winner of 96 races across NASCAR's three national divisions, failed to make the ballot in his first year of eligibility.
Elliott and Labonte both benefited from a series of sweeping changes NASCAR made last year to the Hall of Fame election process.
Drivers are now eligible if they have competed for 30 or more years in NASCAR or turned 55 in the calendar year before nominating day. Previously, drivers were not eligible until they had been retired for three years, so drivers can continue to compete and still reach the hall.
Elliott, winner of the 1988 Cup title, is 58 but raced as recently as 2012. Two-time NASCAR champion Labonte ran in five races in 2013, but is 57 and has competed in Cup for 36 years. He'll start in his final Daytona 500 on Sunday.