Hall of Fame ballot names announced

                 July 2009                                                    Dale Wilkerson

 

Last Thursday, the ballot was announced for the first group of inductees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Of these 25 names, five will be enshrined next May. For the first class, five may not be enough.

                NASCAR has been holding races since 1948. A lot of drivers, team owners, track owners, officials, mechanics, and broadcasters have helped shape this sport over the years. With the Hall of Fame opening next year, perhaps the inaugural class should include ten, fifteen, or perhaps the entire first ballot.

                As I looked over the first ballot, there were a few names I questioned. First, three current team owners, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Richard Petty have been included.

                Yes, without doubt, Childress and Hendrick have earned their nominations. Both of these men have seen their teams win championships and numerous races. Their teams have raised the bar and other teams have scratched and crawled to compete with the racecars, and sometimes race trucks, from these two shops. With that said, aren’t these two men still active in the sport?

                The Hall of Fame should be left for folks, whether they are drivers or team owners, which have retired from the competitive side of the sport. Richard Petty would also fall under this category, since he is still a team owner. Petty would be going in for his driving record, not for his accomplishments as a team owner, and even the NFL Hall of Fame will put former players in the Hall even if they are current coaches.

                If a driver has to be retired to go in, I feel owners should be as well. So down the road, we could see someone inducted twice, once as a driver then later as a team owner.

                All 25 names have great credentials, and if they don’t make it in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, they will make it within a few years. If I was voting, here is my ballot: David Pearson, Bill France Sr., Bud Moore, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

                David Pearson was voted the Sports Illustrated Magazine Driver of the Century. He won 105 Sprint Cup races in just over 500 starts. Pearson won three championships, having never competing in a complete season, and every time Richard Petty, the man who is called The King of the Sport, is asked who the best driver is, he answers David Pearson.

                  Bill France Sr. is the man who made it all happen. He organized the group that became NASCAR. He built two of the greatest tracks in the world, Daytona and Talladega, and laid the foundation that made NASCAR the greatest form of motor racing in the world.

                Bud Moore became involved in racing not long after World War 2. His teams won championships at the Sprint Cup level and the old NASCAR Grand American Series. His safety innovations helped to revolutionize the sport.

                Richard Petty has seven championships to go along with seven Daytona 500 wins. Add those seven wins to his other 193 victories and that is why Richard Petty will be one of the cornerstone members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  In 1967 Petty won a record ten races in a row on his way to 27 wins for the year.

                Dale Earnhardt won the first of his seven championships, in his second full time year of racing, at the sprint Cup level. Earnhardt recorded 76 wins during his career. Earnhardt won races for Rod Osterlund, Bud Moore, and Richard Childress in Sprint Cup racing and he also recorded numerous wins in the Nationwide Series.

                So there is my first ballot with apologies to Junior Johnson (who should go in for his driving record and accomplishments as a team owner), Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Tim Flock, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough. Then like wise to Bill France Jr., Fireball Roberts, Richie Evans, Darrell Waltrip, and Herb Thomas.

                Then I think of the names that were not included on the first ballot, names that could have easily made this list; Dale Inman, Cotton Owens, Wendell Scott, Robert Yates, and Smokey Yunik. 

                Dale Inman is the only crew chief with eight Sprint Cup Championships under his belt. He had seven, with his cousin, Richard Petty and one with Terry Labonte.

                Cotton Owens was The King of the Modifieds with over 100 wins; he had several wins as a Sprint Cup driver including one on the old Daytona Beach track that was half beach and half Highway-A1A.

                Wendell Scott did more with less than most any other driver in the history of NASCAR. Like many other early NASCAR drivers, he honed his skills ‘running moonshine’ in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. Scott is also the only driver of African descent to win a Sprint Cup race.

                Robert Yates worked for the famed Holman and Moody team where his sharpened his engine building skills. Engine that Yates built has powered some of the fastest cars in the history of NASCAR. He purchased the Rainer-Lundy Racing team, and was able to win the Daytona 500 three times as an owner, to go along with 55 other Sprint Cup race wins. Davey Allison also won the All Star race in back to back years for Robert Yates.

                Smokey Yunik was one of the most innovative mechanics in the history of NASCAR. Once the mileage of one his cars was questioned after a race. NASCAR had Yunik’s crew remove the fuel tank. Yunik then told his driver to get in the car and drive it, remind you it does not have a gas tank right now, to the truck to load it for the trip home.

 

                You see, that is why I think the first class should include more than five. Many chapters have been written in the history of NASCAR, and it is nice to see NASCAR creating their own Hall of Fame, to honor the folks who have made this sport so successful.

                There can only be one race winner each week, and with the first class in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, all of the first inductee’s will be winners. But the real winner’s maybe the City of Charlotte and we the NASCAR fans that will get to tour this state of the art facility very soon. Opening day is just 10 months away!