NMPA names 2016 Hall of Fame inductees

Three of the most legendary names in motorsports have been selected for induction into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.

NASCAR multi-championship team owners Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs, along with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IndyCar champion driver Al Unser, make up the 2016 NMPA Hall of Fame induction class.

The three motorsports giants will be officially inducted on January 16, 2016, at the Embassy Suites in Concord, North Carolina.

• Born in 1949, Joseph Riddick "Rick" Hendrick III was raised on the family farm near Palmer Springs, Virginia. At 27, he was the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the U.S., and built an empire that has grown into the sixth-largest automotive group in the country.

But it is in NASCAR where Hendrick and his Hendrick Motorsports organization have made the biggest impact.

Since its first race in the 1984 Daytona 500 (finished eighth) and its first win seven races later by Geoff Bodine at Martinsville Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has amassed countless NASCAR records in its 32-year existence.

Among the most notable: 14 NASCAR driver championships, including 11 in the premier Sprint Cup Series and 14 owner championships across three national series.

"I have such great respect for the people who cover our sport and the role they play in keeping our fans informed," Hendrick said upon learning of his selection by NMPA members. "The NMPA has done so much to give back to the NASCAR community and highlight people’s contributions through programs like The Myers Brothers Award and Driver of the Year. It takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice to do what our media members do every week. To be recognized by that group of people is very humbling."

• Known simply as "Coach" — even his wife and children call him that — Joe Jackson Gibbs' eye for talent and the ability to mold individuals into champions has made him a legendary team builder in both the National Football League and NASCAR.

In 16 seasons as an NFL head coach, the Mocksville, North Carolina, native compiled an overall record of 171-101 and three Super Bowl championships.

In 23 seasons as a NASCAR team owner, Gibbs’ teams have won four Sprint Cup championships, including the 2015 title with Kyle Busch, and 128 Sprint Cup race wins. JGR has also compiled four XFINITY Series owner (and one driver) championships and 112 race wins.

Gibbs also owned a team that won two NHRA Pro Stock drag racing championships, as well as two runner-up season finishes in Top Fuel in the 1990s.

• The Unser family has long been synonymous with open-wheel racing, from Jerry to Bobby, Robby, Johnny and Al Jr.

But no one ranks higher on the family tree of racing success than Al Unser.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native enjoyed a career that most racers only dream about, including being one of only three drivers (others are A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears) to win the legendary Indianapolis 500 four separate times.

Unser drove for some of the most notable teams in the open-wheel world including Penske, Foyt and Granatelli, and is the only driver to have both a brother (Bobby) and son (Al Jr.) as fellow Indy 500 champions.

In 337 career Indy Car starts, he earned 40 wins, 127 podiums, 29 poles and three championships.

He even dipped his toe into NASCAR, with three top-10 finishes in just five starts.

No matter what he was called, be it "Big Al" or "Al Sr.", one phrase will always offer the best description: "A racer's racer."

Hendrick received 88 percent of votes cast by NMPA members, Gibbs received 76 percent and Unser received 66 percent.

Others receiving votes were four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IndyCar champ Rick Mears, as well as NASCAR Winston Cup championship-winning crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine.

The NMPA Hall of Fame is located on the grounds of Darlington Raceway and has been in operation since 1965. Hendrick, Gibbs and Unser become the 96th through 98th members of the Hall.

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