by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.October 15, 2009 1:20 am UTC No Comments
NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame class has been announced.
There were no surprises. It would be impossible to find fault with any of the picks. The Bill France’s, Senior and Junior were included along with Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt. All are deserving to be in The Hall. But were they the best choices as the inaugural class?
Big Bill France was a shoo-in; after all with out his vision and tenacity the rest would be irrelevant. Big Bill organized a bunch of rouge drivers and track owners and made a respectable show with them. No longer would drivers have to worry whether the track owner would be heading out the pit gate with the receipts two laps before the end of the feature.
Richard Petty was and is the most recognizable name and face in NASCAR. No one will ever come close to his two-hundred career wins. Yes, it was a different era; racing two or three nights a week. But that makes the feat even more impressive. The track variety in Petty’s early years proves his versatility.
Junior Johnson was the face of NASCAR in its earliest days. He was the true NASCAR pioneer; moving from the back roads with moonshine in his trunk to a true race car driver. Johnson’s wins as a driver and then as a car owner and crew chief makes his entry into the Hall of Fame a no-brainer.
Bill France, Jr. was instrumental in bringing the sport into the modern era. The pull out of manufacturer support in the early seventies could have put the sport into a tail spin that it may have never recovered from, but Junior was instrumental in bringing in a title sponsor and moving the sport into the television era.
The inductee with the most fan support is Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt’s championships and his fan polarization made him a natural to be inducted into the first class of the Hall.
Cases could be made for others to have been in the first class, but it is impossible to find fault with this group. The next five classes of five each will be pretty easy to fill as well. Just look at the drivers who were in the sweet sixteen of ON PIT ROW’s 64 Greatest Driver Tournament to see the best of the best. Add in the off track contributors and there is no dearth of candidates to fill the classes to come.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media Inc.