Current NASCAR Cup Series Field Includes at Least 5 Future Hall of Famers

Jackson Wheeler
10 Min Read


  • There are currently 27 Cup Series champions who are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
  • Within a few years, though, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch almost certainly will join the other champions at the big table.
  • A handful of other former champions and Daytona 500 winners will show up on the Hall of Fame ballot by the end of this decade.

See that table over there? The little one with one chair, tucked away all by itself in the corner? That’s reserved for 1950 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Rexford. And that big, long, fancy, decked-out banquet table in the middle of the room? That’s reserved for the 27 Cup Series champions who’re in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

With one victory in 36 career starts, Rexford, who died in 1994 at age 67, remains the only Cup Series champion not in the Hall of Fame. At this point, 74 years after his championship season, it’s unthinkable the Hall would go back and induct him posthumously. That small table, then, will remain his for all time.

bill rexford

Bill Rexford, who ran just 36 races in his NASCAR Cup career, is the only season season champion—not including active and recently retired drivers not yet eligible—to not be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

RacingOne//Getty Images

Within a few years, though, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch almost certainly will join the other champions at the big table. Both retired after last season and must now wait two years before becoming Hall-eligible. Of course, there are no guarantees. Richard Petty won 200 times and easily was in the first Hall class in 2010; the late Wendell Scott won one race and waited five years to get the call in 2015. For the most part, though, the 65-person Voting Panel eventually gets it right.

While Harvick and Busch await eligibility, several eligible drivers/owners/mechanics remain on the Modern or Pioneer ballot. Among them: Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Ricky Rudd, Jeff Burton, Geoffrey Bodine, Greg Biffle, A.J. Foyt, and Ryan Newman. Plus, the late Neil Bonnett, Tim Richmond, Jim Paschal, Smokey Yunick, Harry Hyde, Sam Ard, Tim Brewer, and Banjo Matthews.

Harvick is a lead-pipe cinch, probably on his first try. He’ll be eligible for nomination in two years, with the Voting Panel considering him several months later on the Modern Era ballot. As 2001 Rookie of the Year and 2007 Daytona 500 champion with Richard Childress Racing, and 2014 champion with Stewart-Haas Racing, his Hall credentials are undeniable.

He won 31 poles and 60 races in 826 Cup starts with RCR and SHR, won another 47 Xfinity Series races (and two championships), and 14 more in the Craftsman Truck Series. Memorably, his first Cup victory was at Atlanta in March 2001, his third start for RCR following Dale Earnhardt’s death in the Daytona 500.

Harvick was thrown head-first into Cup, where team owner Richard Childress gave him Earnhardt’s still-grieving crew, assigned him car No. 29, and committed him to the full Cup and Xfinity schedules. Some feel Harvick’s last-lap victory over Jeff Gordon at Atlanta did as much as anything to help NASCAR begin healing from Earnhardt’s death.

nascar cup series 64th annual daytona 500 qualifying

Kurt Busch will be a slam dunk when his name comes up on the Hall of Fame ballot.

James Gilbert//Getty Images

Kurt Busch is somewhat more problematic, especially with only two candidates coming from the Modern Era ballot. His on-track resume is unquestionably Hall-worthy, but his off-track shenanigans might cause some voters delay for maybe a year. In truth, he wasn’t always a shining example of what a professional racing driver should be.

He won the 2004 championship with Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing and the 2017 Daytona 500 for Team Penske. All told, he won 28 poles and 34 races in 776 starts before his career ended due to head injuries suffered at Pocono Raceway in 2022. Notably, he won at least once with every competitive team on his resume: RFK, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas, Chip Ganassi, and Michael Jordan’s 23XI.

Few were as versatile. He won on 19 venues, including high-banked and flat short tracks, intermediate tracks, superspeedways, and road courses in Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, and a Toyota. He won by dominating – 175 of 200 laps at Pocono in 2007 — and by leading only the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2017.

But there were times when his personal and professional conduct crossed the line. Early in his career he was involved in a traffic dispute after a race near Phoenix. He was suspended three times for six races and put on probation twice for on-track incidents involving other competitors. In 2015, he was suspended from several early-season races because of domestic abuse charges. He was fined a handful of times for various off-track, media-related missteps. To his credit – and maturity – he cleaned up his act toward the end of his career.

nascar cup series championship qualifying

Joey Logano, just 33 years old, has already built a strong enough resume’ to guarantee himself a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

James Gilbert//Getty Images

Looking Ahead

A handful of other former champions and Daytona 500 winners will show up on the Hall of Fame ballot by the end of this decade. Several expect to retire long before then, leaving a logjam of Hall-worthy individuals at a time when only three candidates are accepted each year.

• Two-time Cup champion (2018 and 2022) Joey Logano enters the 2024 season with 32 Cup victories, 30 in Xfinity, and 2 in the Truck Series. He turns 34 during next season and figures to race another five or six years. He’ll likely be a Hall of Fame shoo-in when the time comes;

• Similarly, two-time Cup champion (2015 and 2019) Kyle Busch has 229 combined victories in NASCAR’s top three series: 63 in Cup, 102 in Xfinity, and 64 in Trucks. He’s 38, and has vowed to stay long enough to see his 8-year-old son, Brexton, reach 16 and join the Truck Series. Once Kyle finally retires, he’ll go into the Hall almost immediately;

• Former champion (2017) Martin Truex Jr. has frequently hinted at retirement… then always changed his mind. He’ll turn 41 during next season, so maybe the retirement talk won’t be hollow this time. He’ll eventually make the Hall, although not necessarily on the first ballot.

• Former champion (2012) Brad Keselowski hasn’t won in several years, but has worked wonders on the ownership team to return Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing to relevance. With nothing more to prove and approaching 41, he might retire within the next few years and become a Hall of Famer fairly quickly.

• Past champions Chase Elliott (2020), Kyle Larson (2021), and current champion Ryan Blaney figure to be around for a while, winning dozens of races and several more Cups. Elliott will turn 28 during next season, Blaney will turn 29, and Larson will turn 30, leaving each with eight to 10 more seasons near the top of their game.

Given all that, maybe someone at the Hall of Fame should begin looking for a bigger table.

Lettermark

Unemployed after three years as an Army officer and Vietnam vet, Al Pearce shamelessly lied his way onto a small newspaper’s sports staff in Virginia in 1969. He inherited motorsports, a strange and unfamiliar beat which quickly became an obsession. 

In 53 years – 48 ongoing with Autoweek – there have been thousands of NASCAR, NHRA, IMSA, and APBA assignments on weekend tracks and major venues like Daytona Beach, Indianapolis, LeMans, and Watkins Glen. The job – and accompanying benefits – has taken him to all 50 states and more than a dozen countries.  

He’s been fortunate enough to attract interest from several publishers, thus his 13 motorsports-related books. He can change a tire on his Hyundai, but that’s about it.

Share This Article
Follow:
Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
Leave a comment