by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.July 10, 2009 12:05 pm UTC 2 Comments
By now, everybody is aware of the list of potential inductees in the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. 25 of the sport’s biggest names, from the pioneers who laid the groundwork for the sport to the legends who helped advance it to where it is today, are up for induction. Certainly every one of them is deserving in his own way. Certainly every one should be inducted very soon.
Ideally, NASCAR would induct all 25 for the first year, and then continue with the 5 inductee-per-year trend it has set, but we all know that’s not going to be the case. And so we, the fans, as well as 50 other voters from within the sport, must choose the five most worthy of being in the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
This is where we have to decide what’s more important for a first class: do we vote for the biggest names available, or do we vote for the pioneers (i.e. the first ones involved with the sport are the first to be enshrined)? Certainly there’s a case for both sides. Raymond Parks and Red Byron, for winning the first championship, are just as worthy as any to go in. So is Cale Yarborough for his three consecutive titles, or Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for their seven apiece.
But fans, if you’re going to let anybody sway your vote, let them sway it for the pioneers.
Remember what the purpose of a Hall of Fame is: to make sure that the contributions of those important to the sport do not go forgotten. Until he donated a slew of trophies to the Hall, when was the last time you heard Parks’ name bandied about? How about Tim Flock – has he been on your mind often since Ol’ DW entered the Tim Flock Special in a 1998 race?
Obviously, Bill France Sr. needs to go in with the first class, for founding the sanctioning body. But I’m not sure that two of the other so-called “locks,” Petty and Earnhardt, should go in right away. Petty even said recently that the founders of the sport should be the ones to go into the first class. I’m sure that, if Earnhardt was still around, he’d probably say the same.
It’s pretty much a lock that the fan ballot will include Earnhardt, for all of the mystique he still inspires (and all of the merchandise his likeness still sells), but doesn’t that sort of defeat the aforementioned purpose of a Hall of Fame? Are we even close to forgetting about Earnhardt’s contribution to the sport? I think not.
Some of the big names of the 70s and 80s, like Yarborough, Petty, and Earnhardt should be inducted by year two, but the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame should be, symbolically, made up of the first men to help define the sport. I’m thinking Big Bill, Lee Petty, Flock, Parks, and Herb Thomas. Who’s with me?