Jeff Gordon leads 2018 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America class

Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon leads a seven-member class that will be inducted this year into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Jeff Gordon leads 2018 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America class
Jeff Gordon VIP Meet & Greet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Jeff Gordon
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, with multiple NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon
NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon in the Mercedes garage
Podium: race winners Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon, Wayne Taylor Racing
Race winner Jeff Gordon celebrates
Race winner Jeff Gordon celebrates
Jeff Gordon celebrates

The MSHFA held its first induction ceremony in 1989 and the facility was headquartered in Novi, Mich., from 1989 to 2015 and relocated to Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2016. It is the only hall of fame that encompasses the full spectrum of American motorsports – cars, motorcycles, off-road, powerboats and airplanes.

Joining Gordon in this year’s class are drag racing car builder John Buttera, Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl G. Fisher, record-setting pilot Howard Hughes, motorcycle great Fred Merkel, three-time Indy 500 champion owner U.E. “Pat” Patrick and sports car legend Bob Tullius.

The ceremony is scheduled for March 13at The Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach.

“Our inductee classes are always intriguing but this year is even more so,” said MSHFA President Ron Watson. “Howard Hughes and Jeff Gordon in the same class – that is probably the best example we’ve ever had to illustrate the breadth of our inductee roll.”

Gordon is third all-time in Cup Series wins (93) behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). He is fourth all-time in Cup titles with four (1995, ‘97, ‘98, 2001), behind seven-time champions Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson.

Gordon won Daytona 500s, five Brickyard 400s and six Southern 500s. He also set an “Iron Man” record with 797 consecutive starts. He was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.

The other inductees

“Lil John” Buttera  built championship-winning dragsters, funny cars and pro stocks for the biggest names in the sport in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Danny Ongais, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Tom “Mongoose” McEwen and Don Schumacher. Characteristics of a Buttera car were simplicity, elegant design, a wicked stance and flawless craftsmanship. Later, Buttera also built award-winning street rods and motorcycles and helped pioneer billet wheels and components. He was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.

Fisher is best known as the man who created the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Earlier, the Greensburg, Ind., native helped popularize the automobile by competing against Barney Oldfield and others in a series of lucrative exhibitions on Midwest fairground tracks beginning in 1902.

He repeatedly urged automakers to support plans for speedways, where they could prove the reliability of their products. When that failed, he persuaded three business associates to join him in the 1909 construction of IMS, serving as its president until 1923.

Hughes, one of the world’s richest men, formed Hughes Aircraft in 1932, set numerous records and built some of the world’s most advanced planes (Hughes H-1 Racer, H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” and XF-11. In 1935 he flew his H-1 to a landplane speed record (352 MPH). In 1937, he beat his own transcontinental record, (Los Angeles to New York), in 7:28:25.

In 1938, he circled the globe in 91 hours, obliterating Wiley Post’s 1933 mark. His aviation awards included the Harmon Trophy (1936, ’38), Collier Trophy, FAI Bibesco Cup (1938), Octave Chanute Award (1940) and a 1939 Congressional Gold Medal.

“Flying Fred” Merkel won two FIM Superbike World Championships (1988-89), three AMA Superbike Championships (1984-86) and set multiple records. In 1983, he registered the first of his 20 AMA Superbike victories, a record that stood until 1998.

In 1984 he won a record 10 Superbike races in a single season and his first of three straight AMA titles. That same year he teamed with fellow Honda rider Mike Baldwin to win the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race. In 1988, Merkel won the inaugural Superbike World Championship and successfully defended the crown the following year. He retired at the end of the 1995 season after a crash at Firebird International Raceway.

Patrick made his fortune as a wildcat oilman and made his mark in open-wheel racing. His teams won three Indianapolis 500s and two IndyCar titles. He began as a sponsor in 1967. By 1970 he was a partner in a team and by 1973 owned his own operation. His three Indy wins came with Gordon Johncock (1973, ‘82) and Emerson Fittipaldi (1989). The same duo brought him two championships, with Johncock in 1976 and Fittipaldi in 1989.

Patrick was also among the car owners who established the breakaway Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) sanctioning body. The directors, which included Hall of Famers A.J. Foyt, Jim Hall, Dan Gurney and Roger Penske, elected Patrick their first president.  

Tullius created the model for the modern American amateur sports car team and built Group 44 into one of the most successful. Group 44 was the first to combine manufacturer support (British Leyland), title sponsorship (Quaker State), immaculate preparation, ubiquitous branding (from transporter to cars to uniforms) and speed.

The two-time Trans-Am and four-time SCCA national champion began his career in the early 1960s driving white Triumph TR4s wearing No. 44. Over the next 25-plus years, green-and-white Group 44 cars would net more than 300 victories in club racing, Trans-Am and IMSA GTP competition, plus capture14 national titles and three Trans-Am championships, many of them with Tullius behind the wheel. 

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