Saturday, July 4, 2009

Inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Debate

Last Thursday night on SPEED, NASCAR unveiled the 25 nominees to be considered for induction into the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall Of Fame that is set to open in May 2010. What a list below and this list has to be huge, those five names that will be inducted in the inaugural class has to be the best of the best of who in one way or another have created and shaped this great sport known as NASCAR, this first class will set the stage for the Hall of Fame for years to come.

Everybody has their own suggestions, but I will say that I was a little surprised that one or two names where left off the list, I mean one name that was mentioned in the media and among a few drivers and crew chiefs before the 25 names were announced was Smokey Yunick, Yunick was a mechanic, builder, and crew chief. The second name that should be on this list in the next few years should be legendary crew chief Harry Hyde.

However, when it comes to picking these five names, most people will find that two names should be a lock, of course they would be 7-time champion Dale Earnhardt and 7-time champion Richard Petty, both would be perfect for the inaugural class just by their records in NASCAR, but the last three, those will be discussed at length, here are the 25 names and it’s very easy to pick at least 10 names from this list for the first class alone.

· Bobby Allison, 1983 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and winner of 84 races
· Buck Baker, the first driver to win consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships
· Red Byron, first NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, in 1949
· Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR's three national series
· Dale Earnhardt, won record seven NASCAR Sprint Cup championships
· Richie Evans, nine-time NASCAR Modified champion
· Tim Flock, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
· Bill France Jr., NASCAR president, chairman and CEO (1972-2003)
· Bill France Sr., NASCAR founder and first president (1948-1972)
· Rick Hendrick, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR's three national series
· Ned Jarrett, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
· Junior Johnson, 50 wins as a driver, 132 wins and six championships as an owner
· Bud Moore, 63 wins and two NASCAR Sprint Cup titles as a car owner
· Raymond Parks, NASCAR's first champion car owner
· Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
· David Pearson, 105 victories and three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships
· Lee Petty, winner of the first Daytona 500 and first three-time series champion
· Richard Petty, 200 wins and seven NASCAR Sprint Cup titles -- both records
· Fireball Roberts, won 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 1962 Daytona 500
· Herb Thomas, first two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, 1951 and '53
· Curtis Turner, first to win Daytona 500, Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600 in same year
· Darrell Waltrip, winner of 84 races and three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships
· Joe Weatherly, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
· Glen Wood, as driver, laid foundation for Wood Brothers' future team success
· Cale Yarborough, winner of three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, 1976-78

I believe it will be even more difficult to pick the second and third class into the Hall of Fame. Since I am a NASCAR fan and have been a fan of this great sport for over 17 years now, I have created my own top 5 favorites of who should be inducted in the inaugural class, of course everybody will have their own opinion and remember that this is my own opinion.

1. Bill France Sr.: Co-founder and manager of NASCAR

2. Dale Earnhardt: In 677 starts, Dale is a 7-time Cup Series champion, has 76 wins from his first victory in the 1979 Southeastern 500 at Bristol, his most memorable victory in the 1998 Daytona 500 to his last victory in the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Dale has 428 Top 10’s, 22 Poles, known as not only one of the best on Restrictor plate tracks, but is the name is black. One thing I loved about watching Dale Earnhardt on track was he never gave up, whether he was racing for first, tenth or 30th, he gave it everything he had, it was amazing watching him race and you never know what he was going to do next.

3. Richard Petty: In 1185 starts, “The King”, Richard Petty won a record 200 victories in NASCAR including winning the Daytona 500 a record seven times to his last and memorable victory in the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona which was right in front of the President of the United States Ronald Reagan, a record that will stand for a long time. The King has 555 top 5’s, 712 Top 10’s and is of course a 7-time champion. Richard Petty’s last race, the 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta was not only my first race, but also 4-time champion Jeff Gordon’s first Cup Series race.

4. David Pearson: The Silver Fox was one of the best drivers just about every time he came to the racetrack. Pearson is a three-time NASCAR champion (Those were his only three full seasons), has 105 wins that’s spans from 1960 to the 1980 Darlington 500 and is most famous for his 1976 Daytona 500 when he was battling Richard Petty on the final lap as they slammed into each other which ended with Petty and Pearson both wrecked in the grass, but Pearson was able to limp across the finish line for the victory.

5. Junior Johnson: Johnson won 50 races as a driver and 132 wins and six championships. I remember Junior Johnson more from the 1985 NASCAR All-Star race known at that time as “The Winston”, he was Darrell Waltrip’s car owner and the most of the field had already pitted for fuel and tires once their pit window had open and even though DW’s crew chief (Jeff Hammond) wanted to pit, Johnson said stay for now, finally Johnson said ok, bring DW in for fuel and tires. Once Waltrip got back on to the racetrack, Johnson got on the radio to DW and told him to get up on the wheel, of course Darrell Waltrip chased down Harry Gant on the final lap to win the first “The Winston” All-Star race. That was the same race that DW’s motor blew just past the start finish line. Johnson was known for building those short race engine, Junior Johnson was a driver, car owner, builder and more.

One note, for the second class, I would say that Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison will be among the front runners.

So what does everybody think, I know that by the end of the weekend, mostly everybody around will weigh in on who should be the first five names to be inaugural class, but I want to know what everybody thinks including my readers, who would you choose and why?