NASCAR Hall starts as too elite

Published 11:48 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

The inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame was announced this week and the first five chosen offered no surprises. The first class of the new Hall of Fame is Bill France, Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Junior Johnson.

Considering the 50 years of NASCAR and the truly outstanding performers through the years, this first class should have included more than five inductees. Although there is no way to argue against any of the five chosen for this class, other candidates would have been just as deserving.

If this first class would have been say, 10, instead of five, how about including David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Fireball Roberts, and Darrell Waltrip? I don’t see how you could argue against any of those guys, just as is the case with the five that were chosen.

In NASCAR’s official selection process, only five inductees will be selected each year. Those five will be chosen from a maximum field of 25 nominated candidates. There is a nominating committee that consists of 20 members that will select the list of candidates and then a 47-member voting committee will choose the five inductees.

To be eligible for induction, a driver must have competed for 10 years and be retired from competition for three years. Any non-driver nominee must have spent at least 10 years working in the NASCAR ranks.

Because of the tremendous list of deserving drivers and owners, the non-driver inductees will be minimal for the first few years. But, choosing those non-driver candidates should be interesting. Think of engine builders, crew chiefs, pit crew members, or media members. Guys like Smokey Yunick, Dale Inman, Chocolate Myers, or David Poole. None of these guys competed on the track, but each had a huge influence in the history and legacy of NASCAR.

The actual Hall of Fame in Charlotte will not open until May 2010, but the first class is in the books and will be debated and talked about for a while. But, it’s not necessarily who was included, but why so few.

Jimmie Johnson won last week at California and jumped Mark Martin to take a 12-point lead going into Lowe’s Motor Speedway Saturday night. The points chase still remains tight with only 105 points separating first and fifth, but the field should fear Johnson opening up a wide gap and walking off with his fourth championship.

Johnson is as strong as new well rope at Charlotte and is a streaky driver on top of that. After winning last week, Johnson starts this race on the pole and if he wins, he will be very tough to get past during these last five races.

But, I don’t think he wins Saturday. I think his car owner and teammate, Jeff Gordon, takes the checkers at Lowe’s and makes the chase interesting down the stretch.