Wednesday night after the NASCAR Hall of Fame announced their new nominees for the 2020 class a name was noticeably absent.
WHAT HAPPENED TO KIRK SHELMERDINE?
A fair amount of new/younger NASCAR fans have no idea who Kirk is. They see that name and they scoff at it as if he’s some fringe NASCAR character who only made the list because he’s got an in with the committee. In retrospect Kirk Shelmerdine is one of the best crew chiefs people don’t know about/forgot.
A quick Google search could tell you what he did but if you’re too lazy to fire up the old search engine and read some stats I’ll break it down for your ADD self real quick. Before we start when it comes to championship crew chiefs there are only two guys that rank ahead of Kirk. Chad Knaus and Dale Inman? Ever heard of them? Just two guys who have guided Jimmie Johnson and Richard Petty to seven championships. Hell Inman has 8 because Texas Terry Labonte nabbed him one in 1984.
So what did Kirk Do?
- Led Dale Earnhardt to 4 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championships. 1986,1987, 1990 and 1991. Back to back both times a feat in itself that is rarely matched, Kirk and Dale did it twice.
- 46 career wins as a crew chief including 44 with Dale Earnhardt, the other 2 came with Ricky Rudd
- The youngest crew chief to win a Winston Cup race at the age of 24
- The youngest crew chief to win a Winston Cup championship at the age of 27
- In 272 races with Dale Earnhardt, they had 44 wins, 188 Top 10s, and 126 Top 5s.
- Kirk and Dale had an average finish of 10.23
That’s what Kirk did. He retired from being a crew chief after the 1992 season to pursue a career as a driver. At the age of 33, he stepped away to become a driver, imagine if he would have stayed with Dale. The guy put up Hall of Fame numbers before his mid 30’s. You could arguably say Kirk would have won #5 and #6 with Dale further solidifying him as one of the sports all-time great crew chiefs. It’s the same argument for Ray Evernham staying with Jeff Gordon.
Shelmerdine’s driving career was nowhere near as successful as his career on top of the pit box. Shelmerdine’s #27 made the Daytona 500 in 2006 following four consecutive failed attempts. Coincidentally it was also his best career NASCAR Cup Series finish in 20th place. Shelmerdine did win 3 ARCA series races including his last career win in 2003 driving for Hylton Motorsports which if you follow ARCA now you scoff at the thought of that team rolling into victory lane.
Kirk Shelmerdine deserves to be in the Hall of Fame at the very least he deserves to be on the damn list. He managed Dale Earnhardt which could not have been an easy task. Four Winston Cup Series Championships is a remarkable accomplishment and one that will be matched again but it won’t happen often. If Bill Parcells is a Hall of Famer, Kirk is too. He might not be a first ballot HoFer to some but he makes a damn good case.
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