Wallace and famed car Midnight headed into Hall
"Back then I'd have driven for nothing," said Pearson. "I didn't have a regular car. He asked if I'd like to run more races. It was the first factory ride I'd ever had. I knew I'd be in the best equipment."
Winless in their first season together, Pearson and Owens teamed to win eight races in 1964 and finish third in the standings. There were two more wins in 1965, and using a Dodge Dart station wagon dubbed the "Cotton Picker," the duo won 15 races and the championship in 1966.
"He was not like a boss, it was like working for a friend," said Pearson. "We just had a great time working together."
Wood, part of the famed Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford team, is considered with his older brother to be a NASCAR pioneer.
"He's the most dedicated, talented all-around mechanic NASCAR has ever seen," said nephew, Len, co-owner of the current Wood Brothers team. "He fit the term 'chief mechanic.' He could do anything with the car."
As crew chief of the No. 21 for 990 races, Wood's drivers won 96 races. His cars won 117 poles and revolutionized the pit stop.
Hired by the Ford Motor Co. to pit Jim Clark's Lotus at the 1965 Indianapolis 500, the Woods spent 41.9 seconds on pit road servicing the car Clark drove to Victory Lane. They used a modified gas can that made the fuel flow faster.
"We turned that thing on and it put in 58 gallons in 15 seconds," said Wood. "It just sucked the fuel out of there. We knew we were going to be under 20 seconds on the pit stops. We got the most publicity in the least amount of time we ever got in our lives," he added. "We hit a home run for sure."
Baker won 46 Cup races and was the series' first back-to-back champion. His career spanned portions of four decades and began in part because he honed his skills running alcohol after he couldn't find a job following his discharge from the Navy.
His final victory came at age 44 in the 1964 Southern 500, and Baker was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
Thomas won premier series titles in 1951 and 1953, and finished second in two other seasons including 1954, the first of Hall of Famer Lee Petty's three championship seasons.
"He was as good as they come," said Richard Petty, who headlined the first Hall of Fame class. "There have been very few guys who had more confidence in what he could do than Herb. He was so strong-minded that he 'willed' his wins and what he was doing on the track. He was going to beat the guys on the track no matter what was going on. That was his mindset."
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