October 13, 2010
NASCAR has elected its second Hall of Fame class, and if you thought last year's selection had plenty of controversy in selecting two members of the France family, that was just a warm-up for Wednesday's shocker.
David Pearson was named to the Hall, as expected. And the gentlemen who followed him -- Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore -- are all worthy of induction.
But those latter gentlemen aren't the real story. The true story is who got passed over this year: a couple guys by the name of Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.
"I didn't have a real good feeling about being up there today," Waltrip said, gracious in defeat. "I'm too young, daggone it!"
He's right. The Hall voters sent a clear message here that contributions to the sport's foundations would be the order of the day, even moreso than impressive championship runs later in the sport's history. A closer look at the nominees:
David Pearson: One of the finest drivers in NASCAR history, and a driver who should have gotten in last year. A three-time champion, he almost certainly would have won more had he run more. He and Richard Petty often dueled for wins, and if Pearson had run more often, who knows how many fewer wins Petty might have had?
Bobby Allison: The 1983 Winston Cup Champion was one of NASCAR's all-around best drivers, with 84 wins and 58 poles. He took down the Daytona 500 three times, in 1978, 1982 and 1988.
Lee Petty: He won the first-ever Daytona 500, and he was Richard's daddy. That alone is probably enough to warrant Hall of Fame status for him, but he also helped build NASCAR from the ground up, and launched Petty Enterprises, which still survives -- in highly modified form -- to this day.
Ned Jarrett: A curious choice; obviously a popular figure, Jarrett was a two-time champion with 50 wins. He retired at age 34, the only driver ever to retire as champion.
Bud Moore: A sentimental choice, the World War II vet and mechanic/crew chief/car owner did pretty much everything you could do in NASCAR without driving a car. Under his ownership, drivers notched 63 wins and 43 poles.
At this point, you'd have to figure that Waltrip (84 wins) and Cale Yarborough (83 wins) are mortal locks for the 2012 class. It also appears that the Hall is trying to induct its older legends while many of them are still around to accept the honor. Still, this has to rankle some people who value on-track achievement above all.
"It'll be sooner or later," Waltrip said. "I was hoping it would be sooner. But I'm OK with later."
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