NASCAR Hall of Fame: Behind the scenes at Induction Ceremony

Credit: CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 19: (L-R) NASCAR Hall of Famers (front-row) Bobby Allison, Leonard Wood, Matt Kenseth, Hershel McGriff, Kirk Shelmerdine, Jerry Cook, Jack Roush (back-row) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Red Farmer, (back-row) Ray Evernham, Dale Jarrett and Ron Hornaday Jr. pose for photos during the Blue Jacket Ceremony at NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 19, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)

You see what happens on-air, but here’s what happens behind the scenes of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sunlight bounced off the windows of neighboring buildings and poured into the main atrium of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Panels adorned with the hall’s insignia lined the rails of “Glory Road.” Against the outer wall of the “High Octane Theater” laid a red carpet and velvet rope.

The 2023 ceremony honored three individuals: Matt Kenseth, Kirk Schelmerdine, and Herschel McGriff, as they took their place alongside 55 other legends in the Hall. But now let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at the activities of the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony night.

The Red Carpet

The 95-year-old McGriff and his walker strolled the red carpet, posed for photos, and talked to the media and fellow inductees/members (most of whom he raced against). Shelmerdine with his wife in tow, while Kenseth brought the entire clan. That’s not an exaggeration, either.

Current members of the Hall strolled the red carpet as well. 2018 inductee Ray Evernham came polished with his buttoned-up blue jacket and dress shoes. Meanwhile, fellow 2018 inductee Ron Hornaday stood next to him with his jacket unbuttoned and loafers. Then again, would you expect less from Hornaday? After all, when he came into the media workroom for his press conference, he shouted, “Come on, let’s go. I got beer to drink!”

2014 inductee Dale Jarrett arrived dressed up, like Evernham, but also wore a Coca-Cola pin on his jacket. “Always a Coca-Cola guy,” he said. “That was always the first thing. Before they paid me, I wanted a Coca-Cola when I climbed up out of the car.”

Everyone shuffled into the Crown Ballroom for a dinner of black Angus-seared ribeye and Faroe Islands Salmon. Kyle Petty spoke with each inductee, on on-stage.

The Ceremony

Everyone got up to converse before the ceremony started. A smoky haze filled the air, while music blared and lights danced around the room. Most of the who’s who of NASCAR stood in that room on Friday. Even on a night to honor legends of NASCAR, fans approached their favorite member to ask for an autograph.

Finally, the ceremony commenced. On air, you witnessed Shelmerdine, McGriff, and Kenseth take their place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Reading their acceptance speech off of a giant teleprompter in the back of the room.

Furthermore, NASCAR awarded the Squire-Hall Award for media excellence to the late T. Taylor Warren, who photographed the photo finish of the 1959 Daytona 500. Later in the night, NASCAR awarded longtime executive, Mike Helton, the man who would both chew you out like nobody else could and congratulate you (sometimes, in the same speech), the Landmark Award.

Off-air, those in attendance watched Jarrett predictย Ryan Blaney would win next month’s Daytona 500 andย Kurt Busch reveal he’s not been medically cleared to return to competition. Finally, the show ended and everybody went home. Except for the press. We walked back to the media workroom in the convention center next door for a press conference with the 2023 inductees.

Sure, this wasn’t “The Wizard of Oz” levels of revealing, but I like showing people what happens off-camera.

Featured Image Credit: David Jensen/Getty Images