CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rusty Wallace will headline the fourth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and his famed car “Midnight” will be part of his induction.
Wallace, winner of 55 races and the 1989 Cup championship will be inducted tonight along with champions Buck Baker and Herb Thomas; championship car owner Cotton Owens; and innovative crew chief, mechanic and engine builder Leonard Wood.
Part of Wallace’s display in the Hall of Fame will be the car he dubbed Midnight and drove to 13 victories from 1992-94. Wallace led for more than 5,000 laps in the car, which was raced as both a Pontiac Grand Prix and a Ford Thunderbird out of Penske Racing South.
“Back then, it was Dale Earnhardt and I racing for the win all the time,” Wallace said. “I remember every week when we got to the track, he’d come up and ask me, “What car you got? It’s not that darn Midnight is it?” If it was, he knew he had his work cut out for him.”
Wallace drove Midnight in 38 races, notching 30 top-fives with the car. He led nearly one-third of all possible laps in the events he raced with the car, and Midnight’s 13 wins comprise nearly 20 percent of Penske Racing total.
Midnight was restored last year by former Penske Racing fabricator Chuck Gafrarar and other team members, and the car will go into the Hall in race-ready condition as a 1994 Ford Thunderbird featuring the noted black and gold Miller Genuine Draft paint scheme.
“I’m really excited to have Midnight in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, that car was such a huge part of my career,” Wallace said. “Every time I sat in it, it just felt right; it fit like a glove. I’ll tell you what, if we had Midnight at the race track, everyone else there knew that they had a long day ahead of them – Midnight was just that good. The black and gold MGD paint scheme was the coolest one we ever had too. It just looked mean and the fans really loved it.”
Wallace is a fan favorite heading into the Hall as part of a class with only one other living inductee, Wood, who enters a year after older brother Glenn’s induction.
Owens died just weeks after he was voted into the hall last June at the age of 88.
Known as the “King of the Modifieds” for more than 100 victories, Owens was part of the post-World War II racing scene around Spartanburg, S.C.
Wood, part of the famed Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford team, is considered with his older brother to be a NASCAR pioneer.
Baker won 46 Cup races and was the series’ first back-to-back champion.
Thomas won premier series titles in 1951 and 1953, and finished second in two other seasons including 1954.