CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jeff Gordon will headline the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame class that includes three former drivers and two current car owners.
The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who ranks third on the all-time list with 93 career victories, was named on all but two of the 57 ballots cast and will be enshrined Feb. 1 along with former drivers Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki and car owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.
The only surprising element of Gordon's selection was that it was not unanimous. Each of the 57 panelists (which includes one combined online fan vote) votes for five of the 20 nominees. The five nominees who appear on the most ballots earn induction into the Hall.
Gordon (96 percent of votes) was followed by Roush (70 percent), Penske (68 percent), Allison (63 percent) and Kulwicki (46 percent). The next top vote-getters were Buddy Baker, Hershel McGriff and Waddell Wilson.
"All that I've accomplished, the things that I've been able to experience, people I've worked with, people I've met, then now to go into the Hall of Fame is kind of surreal," Gordon said.
"I feel it was just yesterday I was driving a race car, so it's very surreal, but a huge honor. ... I'm so excited about going in with this class of inductees. Every one of them played a role in my life in some way, somehow, whether it be directly or indirectly."
Gordon laughed when asked about the two panelists (NASCAR doesn't release each individual's votes, just a total) who didn't vote for him.
"Working on getting some others in there maybe," Gordon said. "I don't know."
Kulwicki earned the 1992 Cup title, capturing the grassroots spirit of the sport as a driver who also owned his own car. He died in a plane crash on the way to the race at Bristol in 1993. He nearly made the 2018 class, having tied Ron Hornaday Jr. on the initial vote but then losing when the entire panel revoted to break the tie.
Allison, son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, won 19 races in 191 career starts. He died at age 32 in a helicopter crash at Talladega, a little more than three months after Kulwicki.
Roush, co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, has owned cars since 1988 with 137 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has won Cup titles as an owner with Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, and won titles in all three national series.
"Who would have thought? Back 31 years ago, when we got started, I was just hoping we could stay in the sport for a while," Roush said. "I can't imagine my name is up there with the 45 people who have already been inducted. ... It's rarefied air, and I've got to take a while to think about what it all means to me, but it certainly has taken my breath."
Penske not only made his name as a successful team owner but also as a track owner in the 1990s. His Cup teams have won 108 Cup races since 1972 as well as the 2012 title with driver Brad Keselowski.
The five-member class will be the 10th in the history of the Hall, which opened in 2010. NASCAR did not announce percentages of votes for its initial class (Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson), just saying none were unanimous. David Pearson (2011 class) and Robert Yates (2018) each earned 94 percent of the vote.
Drivers are eligible in the third year after their retirement, at age 55 (contingent on 10 years of NASCAR racing) or after 30 seasons of NASCAR competition. Gordon retired after the 2015 season, and NASCAR did not count Gordon's eight races in 2016 as a substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. against him when determining his eligibility.
The voters also selected former track president and public relations executive Jim Hunter for the 2019 Landmark Award for contributions to the sport.