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Crew members work on pit road under threatening skies during practice for Sunday's NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup series auto race in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte, a pair of Cup champions, are among the first-year eligible nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Drivers Mike Stefanik and Buddy Baker, and engine builder and team owner Robert Yates also were selected for nomination in their first year. The honorees were announced at Daytona International Speedway on Friday by a 22-person committee of representatives from all over NASCAR.

"You think about where Robert started, literally sweeping the floors and he became the premier engine builder," said Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett, who drove for Yates. "His knowledge of everything about a racecar, and then running a race team and making it a winning race team is just incredible. I could sit here all evening and talk about why he should be, and hope will be, into the Hall of Fame."

Mark Martin, winner of 96 races across NASCAR's three national divisions, failed to make the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Elliott and Labonte both benefited from a series of sweeping changes NASCAR made last year to the Hall of Fame election process.

Drivers are now eligible if they have competed for 30 or more years in NASCAR or turned 55 in the calendar year before nominating day. Previously, drivers were not eligible until they had been retired for three years, so drivers can continue to compete and still reach the hall.

Elliott, winner of the 1988 Cup title, is 58 but raced as recently as 2012. Two-time NASCAR champion Labonte ran in five races in 2013, but is 57 and has competed in Cup for 36 years. He'll start in his final Daytona 500 on Sunday.

The ballot included only 20 nominees, down five from the first five classes. Five inductees will be elected for enshrinement by the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel, which includes a nationwide fan vote on NASCAR.com.

Results will be announced May 21.

Les Richter, Ralph Seagraves, Annie B. France, T. Wayne Robertson, and Clay Earles were dropped from the ballot.

Seagraves, Frances and Earles moved to the new "Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions" ballot that begins with the 2015 class.

The complete list of nominees for the Hall of Fame include: driver Red Bryon, owner Richard Childress, modified champion Jerry Cook, engine builder Ray Fox, owner Rick Hendrick, driver Bobby Isaac, former Daytona 500 winner Fred Lorenzen, car owner Raymond Parks, driver Benny Parsons, driver Larry Phillips, the first black driver to win a NASCAR race, Wendell Scott, track owner Bruton Smith, personality Curtis Turner, driver Joe Weatherly, and driver Rex White.

Also up for induction for the Landmark Award include owner Raymond Parks and radio announcer Ken Squier.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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