Bill Elliott is among a handful of legends now eligible for nomination into the NASCAR Hall of Fame after racing officials announced procedural changes in December intended to broaden the slate of available candidates.
Any driver that competed for 30 years is now eligible for induction in to the hall of fame, as are drivers that have reached their 55th birthday after competing for 10 years.
"If you've competed in our sport for 30 years and you have a hall of fame resume, there's no reason you shouldn't be considered for nomination," said Brett Jewkes, NASCAR's chief communication officer.
The previous rules made drivers eligible after they had been retired for three years. Terry Labonte and Mark Martin are also now eligible.
At 58, Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup Champion, meets both criteria and is considered by many in racing circles to be a frontrunner for nomination into the 2015 class.
With 44 wins in the series, including two Daytona 500 victories and a record four consecutive wins at Michigan International Speedway, Elliott holds the track records for fastest qualifying speed at Daytona International Speedway (210.364 mph) and Talladega (212.809 mph), which holds the fastest speed ever set in a NASCAR event.
He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2007 and selected most popular driver for 16 consecutive years before removing his name from contention.
Although semi-retired for more than a decade, Elliott last month tested a car at Daytona with JR Motorsports, and finished the Jan. 11 practice second, only to son Chase, with a speed of 197.974 mph.
While he does not plan to compete this season, doing so would not compromise his eligibility into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, according to the new rules.
"We have some legends that have done some incredible things on the track that may want to run a race or two, may want to run a whole season. We feel if they've met those minimum criteria, God bless them. Let them keep racing," Jewkes said.
The number of new Hall of Fame members selected each year, five, remains unchanged.
The hall of fame's 2014 class was inducted Jan. 29 in Charlotte, N.C.
Drivers Dale Jarrett, Tim Flock, Jack Ingram and Fireball Roberts, as well as former engine builder Maurice Petty, join legends such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Junior Johnson.
"These guys that are going to be there are treasures for all of us for a long, long time," Jewkes said.
The hall of fame nominating committee will meet Feb. 21 to select the 20 nominees that will be considered for the 2015 class.