Top-10 List: The Wrenches
by Tom Jensen January 23, 2021
Ten of the first 50 inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame who were mechanical geniuses.
The newest NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit, “A Legendary Decade: The First 50 Inductees,” will look at the individuals inducted into the Hall from 2010 to 2019. Scheduled to open on Feb. 5, the Great Hall exhibit salutes the pioneers and superstars who launched NASCAR and helped turn stock car racing into America’s most popular form of motorsports.
“A Legendary Decade: The First 50 Inductees” will include 10 historic race cars, one each from the first 10 classes at the Hall, as well as photos of each inductee and descriptions of their respective classes.
While most of these legends were drivers, some made their mark under the hood and not behind the wheel. So this week’s Top-10 List features engine builders, mechanics, crew chiefs and innovators who were inducted between 2010 and 2019, and who left their mark on the sport. For this list, the 10 are ranked by induction year.
10. Jack Roush (2019)
Although best-known as the founder and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, Jack Roush is a college-educated engineer and a brilliant creator of new ideas. Roush is responsible for pioneering the roof flaps used to keep NASCAR vehicles on the ground during high-speed spins. He’s also co-founder of Roush Yates Engines, which builds engines for Ford Motor Co.’ NASCAR teams.
9. Robert Yates (2018)
Prior to forming his Robert Yates Racing NASCAR team, Robert Yates was an accomplished engine builder at Holman-Moody Racing, Ford Motor Co.’s factory-backed NASCAR team. Yates also built motors for Bobby Allison (2011) and DiGard Racing during their 1983 championship season and later partnered with Jack Roush (2019) to form Roush Yates Engines.
8. Ray Evernham (2018)
One of the most innovative minds of his era, Ray Evernham was the crew chief for the first three premier series championships won by fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (2019). Gordon drove Chevrolets fielded by team owner Rick Hendrick (2017) and in the 1990s, this was the most successful team in NASCAR. After leaving Hendrick, Evernham formed his own team and brought Dodge back into the sport.
7. Wendell Scott (2015)
A former Army mechanic in World War II, Scott and his sons did all the prep work and upkeep on the NASCAR premier series cars he owned and raced in the 1960s and 70s. Scott famously decaled his race cars with the phrase, “Mechanic: Me” to show fans and competitors that he was the one responsible for doing the hard work necessary to go racing.
6. Maurice Petty (2014)
Known to all simply as “Chief,” Maurice Petty built the engines that powered his brother Richard (2010) to a record 200 premier series victories. Maurice helped develop the Chrysler Corp. 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine that debuted in 1964. He also had stints as a driver and crew chief, most notably in 1970, when he was atop the pit box for Pete Hamilton’s Daytona 500 victory and sweep at Talladega Superspeedway.
5. Leonard Wood (2013)
Crew chief, engine builder and all-around tinkerer, there’s almost nothing Leonard Wood couldn’t build better or make go faster. Among his myriad accomplishments, Wood designed the quick-flow refueling system that helped Jim Clark win the 1965 Indianapolis 500. He also is credited with inventing the modern choreographed pit stop to allow teams to gain spots on pit road as well as the track. Wood has also built a number of excellent recreations of Wood Brothers Racing cars from the 1960s and ‘70s.
4. Cotton Owens (2013)
There’s no question that Cotton Owens enjoyed considerable success as a driver and a team owner, winning the premier series championship with Hall of Famer David Pearson (2011) in 1966. But one of Owens’ most important contributions was convincing Chrysler Corp. to build a new version of its Hemi engine and then working with Chrysler to make it competitive, starting in 1964.
3. Dale Inman (2012)
The only individual with eight premier series titles to his credit is Dale Inman, who won seven as crew chief for cousin Richard Petty (2010) and an eighth with Terry Labonte (2016) in 1984. Inman also holds the crew chief records for career victories at 193, and most wins in a single season at 27 in 1967. Petty’s first and last championship cars from 1964 and ’79, respectively, are on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of our “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit.
2. Bud Moore (2011)
A champion as a crew chief and a team owner, Bud Moore was adept at building fast cars that won races. In 1957, Moore was the crew chief for Buck Baker (2013) during Baker’s second premier series championship run. In 1961-62, Moore gained a pair of championships as team owner and car preparer for Joe Weatherly (2015). Moore’s drivers, who also included Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (2010), David Pearson (2011) and Bobby Allison (2011), won 63 races and 43 poles.
1. Junior Johnson (2010)
A member of the inaugural Hall of Fame Class, Johnson excelled as both a driver, where he won 50 races, and as a car owner, where he won six championships, three each with Cale Yarborough (2012) and Darrell Waltrip (2012). But perhaps Johnson’s greatest legacy was as an innovator who figured out how to use the rule book to his advantage. He is also credited with being the first driver to master the draft at Daytona International Speedway, where he won the second Daytona 500 in 1960.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to nascarhall.com/tickets.