It's that time of year again -- Hall of Fame announcement time to be specific.
With the biggest heavyweights like Earnhardt, Petty (Lee and Richard), Pearson, Allison, Waltrip and others already enshrined, now comes the hard part.
See, there's a ton of other drivers, car owners, crew chiefs, and mechanics who deserve to be recognized among the sport's best ever, but the question now is: Who gets in first?
That was decided Wednesday, and overall I like the class that was chosen, but I have a couple complaints -- Dale Jarrett got in too soon and yet another Petty was chosen so quickly.
The numbers on the voting went as follows: Tim Flock (76%), Maurice Petty (67%), Dale Jarrett (56%), Jack Ingram (53%) and Fireball Roberts (51%). The next three top vote-getters were Jerry Cook, Joe Weatherly and Wendell Scott.
Here are my thoughts on Wednesday's selections.
Tim FlockYou have to honor the early superstars in the Hall. It's easy to forget about them since they raced so many decades ago, but a guy like Tim Flock, who rattled off 39 victories back in the earliest days of the sport -- including 18 in one season while driving for owner Carl Kiekhaefer -- was wisely chosen by the voters this year. Before Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson dominated the wins column, Tim Flock did it. And to top it all off, he even drove with a monkey in his car sometimes -- that alone makes him cool enough for the Hall in my book.
Before it was Nationwide, it was the Busch Series. And one of the names that personified that series in its early years was Jack Ingram. Over 10 years, Ingram won two Busch titles (1982, 1985), and rattled off 31 wins. He was a short-track ace, with most of his wins coming on the short tracks. And his accomplishments don't end there, as back in the 1970s, he took home three titles in the Late Model Sportsman Division of NASCAR (this was an early version of the Busch series).
I'm glad to see Ingram get honored. It's not all about Cup. There are other forms of racing in NASCAR's history that should be recognized too. Eventually I'd like to see NASCAR include Sam Ard in the Hall, as he was another dominant Busch Series drive in the early years of that series.
Dale JarrettRegarding the Dale Jarrett spot, I don't doubt he is Hall of Fame worthy, but I don't see why he got in so quickly. I understand that he won a lot of big races (3 Daytona 500s and 2 Brickyard 400s, for example), but he wasn't so impressive in his career stats that I see him as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Maybe second or third year at best.
He has 32 wins in the Cup series, which is a good number but not the sign of a dominant driver. I have nothing bad to say about Jarrett; he's a very talented racecar driver (I remember watching him destroy the competition in a caution-free race at Michigan Speedway in 1999) and seems like a great guy, but to see him make the Hall this soon is kind of strange to me; and speaks more to how well his colleagues think of him. After all, in the end the Hall of Fame voting is really a type of popularity contest when you really think about it. Dale Jarrett's a pretty likeable guy, so he got in the Hall sooner than he probably should have.
Dale joins his father Ned in the Hall of Fame.
Maurice PettyOn this one I'm standing on principle: I don't support any other engine builder being in the Hall until NASCAR puts legendary wrenchman Smokey Yunick on the ballot. To this day, NASCAR holds a grudge against Smokey because he was able to outsmart Big Bill France so often. It was a different era, not like today with a thousand templates you had to meet. And Smokey always seemed to get that little extra something out of a car. They didn't call his place the "Best Damn Garage in Town" for nothing.
If NASCAR is at the point in the nominee list that they are starting to nominate engine builders and put them in the Hall, Smokey Yunick should have been the first one on the ballot. Nothing against Maurice Petty, the chief engine builder behind Richard Petty's legendary career and a big reason Richard won a record 200 races, but Smokey's name being absent from the nominees makes me question Petty's entrance. Not to mention, his brother Richard, father Lee and cousin Dale Inman are already in the Hall. What is this, a family reunion?
Fireball RobertsUntil his tragic death on the track in the 1964 World 600 at Charlotte, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts had a career that is a bit like fellow inductee Dale Jarrett's. There were only a couple years that he was dominant, and the rest of the time he ticked of a win or two or three each year, ending up with 33 wins in 206 races. Fireball is one of those NASCAR figures people will always talk about, and who would have continued to add to that win total if he hadn't lost his life at the age of 35, so it's fitting that he has been chosen to join the Hall.
Previous inductees to the NASCAR fame are:
-- 2013: Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood.
-- 2012: Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Inman, Richie Evans and Glen Wood.
-- 2011: David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore.
-- 2010: Bill France, Sr., Richard Petty, Bill France, Jr., Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson.
What about next year?The 20 nominees who missed the cut this year but remain on the ballot are:
Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, H. Clay Earles, Ray Fox, Anne Bledsoe France, Rick Hendrick, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Larry Phillips, Les Richter, T. Wayne Robertson, Wendell Scott, Ralph Seagraves, O. Bruton Smith, Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly and Rex White.
Of this group that didn't make the cut for the 2014 class, I hope they get around to voting Wendell Scott into the Hall next year. He may have only won a single race in the Cup series, but that wasn't the true tale of his career. The struggle he had to endure due to the fact he was a black NASCAR driver is something no other nominee can relate to, and the fact that he was even able to get a win is remarkable in the face of all the racism and disavantages he faced throughout his career (though sadly, they wouldn't even let him celebrate that win after the race). Wendell Scott's story is a truly important part of NASCAR history, and his dedication and tenacity should be celebrated with a Hall of Fame admission.
I would also like to see Alan Kulwicki nominated in the new batch of five names that will fill out the 25 nominees next year, and of course Smokey Yunick. Team owners like Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress deserve their place in the Hall eventually, but if they choose a team owner next year, I hope the choice is an old-timer like Ray Fox or Raymond Parks. Curtis Turner, a colorful figure from NASCAR's early days, would be another great choice, as would 2-time champ Joe Weatherly.
And my final wish: Don't ever vote in Anne France, as that would be a very ridiculous prospect at any point in the Hall's history.
Matt Myftiu lives in Michigan, has been a walking encyclopedia of NASCAR since immersing himself in the sport over 15 years ago, and has worked as a journalist for two decades. His blog on the sport, NASCAR: Beyond the Track, has been published by The Oakland Press for the past 5 years. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu.
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- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Dale Jarrett
- Maurice Petty
- Tim Flock
- Dale Earnhardt
- Wendell Scott
- Joe Weatherly
- Fireball Roberts