Rudd says NASCAR career felt incomplete without Hall of Fame nod

Ricky Rudd has often faced the question of whether his NASCAR career was complete, given he never won a championship.

Rudd, who won 23 races at the Cup Series level, including the Brickyard 400, would say no. But it had nothing to do with his on-track accomplishments.

“It’s from not being in the Hall of Fame,” Rudd said after his name was called for the 2025 class this week. “I felt like maybe I left stones unturned, I guess, or I didn’t produce good enough because a good period of time goes by, and you try not to get too excited about it. But to this day, I always know when it comes up and I always made a point if we’re traveling to make sure I was in town, just in case I got a phone call.”


Tuesday, it was an anonymous text message that tipped Rudd off. He was raking leaves around the swimming pool equipment and trying not to get bitten by a snake when it came in. The message told Rudd he might want to be in downtown Charlotte by 5pm ET.

“And I’m thinking, ‘Downtown? It’s Hall of Fame day,’” Rudd said. “It didn’t take long; hopped in the shower, jumped into some clothes and here we are.”

Rudd was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame after eight long years on the ballot, and having become numb to the hope of being chosen by the panel. On the previous seven Hall of Fame announcement days, Rudd was not in attendance.

“I was close by,” he said. “Normally, without traffic, I’m usually about 35 minutes away. (Tuesday), I think we drove it in 15 minutes.”

Known as NASCAR’s Ironman, Rudd had a reputation for being one of the toughest drivers the sport has ever seen. He wasn’t intimidated by the competition. He was a talented and hard-nosed competitor.

When Rudd taped his eyelids open after one of the most violent crashes the sport has ever seen (the 1984 Busch Light Clash), it added to the legend. But Rudd was also very proud of the 788 consecutive starts he made in the Cup Series, a record Jeff Gordon broke in 2015.

Rudd, seen here battling Kevin Harvick at Daytona in 2001, is renowned as one of the toughest competitors in NASCAR history. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

As a driver, Rudd claimed Rookie of the Year honors in 1977 and won at least one race for 16 consecutive seasons. Rudd, not Dale Earnhardt, earned Richard Childress Racing its first victory. Childress is one of the legendary car owners Rudd drove for, with the others being Rick Hendrick and Robert Yates.

There was also a stint during the 1990s when Rudd drove for his own team. Rudd Performance Motorsports fielded an entry from 1994 through ’99, during which time Rudd won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis (1997).

Rudd will be enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with Carl Edwards and Ralph Moody. He received 87% of the vote from the Modern Era ballot, while Edwards received 52%. Moody received 60% of the vote from the Pioneer ballot.

“It’s just a tremendous honor however you get in vote-wise,” Rudd said. “I actually was a voting member until my name went on the ballot fairly early on in the process. I miss the camaraderie of hanging out with all those guys, and I almost wanted to say, ‘Well, I’ll probably never make the Hall of Fame. Can you take me off the ballot so I can come back and vote? I miss seeing all those guys.’

“Once you retire, the Hall of Fame means so much more because you can catch your breath and you hopped off that bullet train heading 200mph. You look around and say, ‘That was a nice ride.’ I couldn’t stay on that train; it would wear you down age-wise. But being a part of it and looking around, you say that was a very neat deal and I’m fortunate I was a part of it.”

Story originally appeared on Racer