The Frontstretch: Hall of Fame Voting Day: Did They Make The Right Calls? by Mike Neff -- Thursday October 14, 2010

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Hall of Fame Voting Day: Did They Make The Right Calls?

Mike Neff · Thursday October 14, 2010

 

The NASCAR Hall of Fame voting is unlike any other sport. The current procedure puts all of the people who have a vote, with the exception of the fans, in one room and allows them to discuss, debate, deliberate, and declaim the merits and flaws of each and all of the 25 nominees. The opinions and ideas of the people in the room can be moved, swayed, and altered throughout the time they’re there before they cast their ballots. Ultimately, after the stories are told about the lives and impacts of the nominees, the panel casts their individual votes, Ernst and Young tabulates them, and the new class is announced to the world.

Darrell Waltrip won 84 races, more than all but two drivers in a career that spanned four different decades – and that’s BEFORE he spent the last ten years as one of the sport’s main TV analysts. He’s one of several people that could claim they got snubbed in a voting session some thought was more politics than professional behind the scenes.

Just like NASCAR races, the entire process is settled in one day and the outcome is known by everyone before they go home. Also, similar to a day at the track, the media in attendance gets to speak with the players after the event, and the fans are also able to see and talk to them as they leave the venue. While the voting takes place, there is a celebration of the people involved, a look at the history and accomplishments of the group individually and as a whole. Once the checkered flag drops at the end of the day, everyone who is a part of it knows they got to see something special.

As a member of the media, by far the greatest part of the day is getting the opportunity to speak with people who are legends in the sport. Listening to Ned Jarrett beam about the fact that he is truly pleased, not only about being in the Hall of Fame, but also because his son Dale is able to be there and celebrate this moment with him was special – something they really didn’t get to do very much in earlier years. When Jarrett retired, Dale was only 10 years old, so most of the success that Ned achieved was when Dale was too young to truly appreciate it. There was no doubt that today this family bond grew stronger, a duo immensely proud of both the accomplishment and the moment that each were sharing together.

Bobby Allison was the true ambassador of the sport that he has been his entire career. Allison not only is third on the all-time wins list, whether NASCAR chooses to acknowledge the 85th victory or not, but he is constantly a reminder of what a great sport NASCAR is that we all love. Listening to Allison recount a race in Asheville, NC where the “Alabama Gang” nickname originated is doubly enjoyable when you see the smile come across his face when he shares that he, his brother Donnie, and Red Farmer finished first, second, and third. The excitement is equally evident when he recounts his first win in a modified car, or his last Daytona 500 win when his son followed him to the finish line. Allison’s not only a great race car driver, but his salesmanship of the sport most certainly played a role in why the man was selected this year.

NASCAR’s second Hall of Fame class included: David Pearson, Bobby Allison (pictured above), Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore.

David Pearson may have an image to people who don’t know him as an old school racer, a hard driver with no time for those things that stand in his way. That might be how he was back in the day – for those of us who weren’t there, we can’t say one way or the other – but talking with him at the Hall of Fame today he was as real and engaging as ever. The man was laughing, joking, and truly as excited about being elected into the Hall as anyone would expect him to be. After the disappointment of not being in the inaugural class, many people might have thought that Pearson would hold a grudge, but he looked at the entire thing very pragmatically. He feels as though making it into the Hall was going to happen; the “Silver Fox” just didn’t know what year that would be.

The actual announcements of both the inaugural and this year’s class are actually the one part of the last two years that were somewhat forgettable. While speaking with Pearson, he made the comment that he knew three weeks before last year’s meeting that he was not going to make it into the Hall. When someone told him that the vote was taken the day of the announcement, he said, “Not only did the TV folks already have the information all set up and ready to show, but Earnhardt’s old lady had a room rented across the street to celebrate after the announcement. Why would she do that if she wasn’t positive he was going to get in?”

Those may be the words of someone who is holding some bitter feelings over the disappointment of last year, but even sour grapes have a glimmer of truth couched within.

There was also quite a bit of talk and speculation that there are some sort of politics at play when the voting process takes place. People are wondering if Darrell Waltrip or Cale Yarborough might have some bias against them because of differences or problems they had with other people in the garage. Others are thinking that the fact that Yarborough has not been active within the sport much at all since he stepped away lessens his impact, a telling factor Wednesday as voters talked about off-track initiatives and support that made the difference. Listening to the television program that led up to the announcement reminded us that there are several people in the room during the vote that worked for Bud Moore and that may have played a role in him getting in before Dale Inman, Raymond Parks, and several others.

Is that the right way to handle a process where only the best of the best should get elected? Call it naivete if you want, but fans should be able to expect that past history and personal feelings would be swept aside when something as important as voting on a Hall of Fame came into play. However, Humpy Wheeler said it best today: “There has never been and there never will be a vote that doesn’t involve personal feelings.” It’s going to be hard to find a better setup for this process, one where emotions are stripped, voting commenced through nothing more than stats on paper.

The other factor that also plays into it is that the entrance into a Hall of Fame is a subjective thing. The Baseball Hall of Fame used to be a lock when someone had 400 home runs. Then, the steroid era came along and Dave Kingman hit 400 without doing much else, and the number switched to 500. Now, there’s no telling what number will get you in. The NASCAR Hall is the same way. It isn’t 80 wins or 50 wins. It isn’t four championships or two. The committee is doing the best they can to select people who have made a lasting impact on the sport through what they did both on and off the track. During the voting process, someone suggested that everyone use this acid test: When you look at the person, where would the sport be today if they had not been involved? If each of the members of the Hall uses that, and doesn’t hold some petty grudge because someone told them to pound sand or take a hike back in the day, the people that are inducted will be the kind whom we should all be proud of representing our sport.

At the end of the day, getting to rub elbows with men who are legends in the sport is without a doubt one of the coolest perks of being a member of the media. Finding out that the superstars of NASCAR’s past are real people, ones who will talk to you just like you are the guy next door is what keeps us coming back when the racing isn’t like we remember. So debate all you want this year’s final class, but know all 25 of those finalists will get in at some point; they’re the cream of the crop, the perfect selections for a Hall of Fame that’s truly for the best of the best.

For me, just getting to see all of them in person, together once a year reminds you of how special this whole process really is – regardless of who gets in a year ahead of someone else.

Contact Mike Neff

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phil h
10/14/2010 01:37 AM
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good read.There are so many deserving souls that should be in the Hall,I’m thankful this is a Hall of Fame that I can look back on and say I remember the day it all started.Telling future Nascar fans about all the old timers and drivers they’ve never heard of.Its’ gonna be kewl to tell them we were there from the start. ;)

Jacob
10/14/2010 09:01 AM
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It’s funny that you suggest that Cale Yarborough’s disappearance from the sport makes it more difficult for him to be inducted. As I was reading that paragraph, I was thinking how Darrell Waltrip’s horrific post-driving career should prevent him from even being mentioned on the ballot.
Although, when you consider that Cale didn’t even show up at Homestead last year to see his “3 consecutive championships” record fall, you have to wonder if Cale is one of the people that no longer cares about or has any use for the “new” na$car.
I never got the impression that Cale was an overly sentimental guy, and at this point the Hall of Fame is more likely to become the “Hall of Who Cares”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying anyone that has been inducted doesn’t deserve it. They ALL do, and many more besides them. But one has to wonder how interested the ADD crowd will be in going to see some pictures of drivers that they have never even heard of, while they make their disdain for the history of the sport so abundantly clear.

Anyway Mike, your article was well written, and I wish I could have been there to hear these legends speak.

AncientRacer
10/14/2010 10:47 AM
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Jacob

I really do not care if the ADD crowd even knows who is or is not in the HOF. I care.

As for the choices, etc.
I liked every choice, but I, personally, will not be happy until Red Byron, Fireball Roberts and Cale get in. It will happen. Just a matter of time.

My only real question is where did Brian Duh Clueless get that hair? Did not look so bad under the lights when he was at the desk with KP, DW, Mike Joy and Ken Squier but onstage it was Bozo Orange. I know it fits, he is a Bozo after all, but Jezze, you would think he could afford better.

Splendid article. Does make me wish I could have been there.

Shayne
10/14/2010 11:41 AM
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Why didn’t Danica get inducted?

DoninAjax
10/14/2010 11:52 AM
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The NASCAR Hall of Fame is losing money bigtime. Big Surprise. Must be one of Emperor Brian’s “brilliant” ideas. It might be closed before he has a chance to induce himself into it.

Jacob
10/14/2010 12:12 PM
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AncientRacer, I agree wholeheartedly with you. But the ADD crowd is very important to the HoF’s future.
If na$car can be compared to a human body, then it is losing fans the same way a body hemorrhages after being shot point blank from a 12 guage.
I approve of, and applaud, every person selected for the HoF. I WILL NOT go and see it, because my admission fee would just put that much more money in the France family’s collective pockets. I am sure that I am not alone in this sentiment. Why else has attendance number been so sluggish.
The numbers would seem to imply that the hardcore fans are staying away, and the ADD crowd doesn’t care. With the harcore fans so pissed off, it would seem that the ADD crowd is what will keep it afloat. That’s all I was saying.

680Apple
10/14/2010 12:35 PM
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If one is honest, the Nascar HOF lost all credibility and legitimacy before it was even open, when the France family placed two of their own amongst the deserving. Even if they were both deserving (which they were not), wisdom would of provoked the family from looking self-righteous. It hardly merits conversation at this point of who is deserving and who is not of the HOF. Quite honestly, it is more surprising Brian France did not put himself or JD France on the docket rather than discussing Cale or DW not getting in.

Doug in eastern NC
10/14/2010 01:08 PM
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680Apple I agree with you. The Farce family is so full of themselves.

The Mad Man
10/14/2010 01:31 PM
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When Raymond Parks Jr and Red Byron get overlooked so that the France family can enjoy their Hall of Fantasies, something is very wrong. The HOF is already taking on the atmosphere of the WWE HOF. It won’t matter how good you are or what your record is, the “what have you done for me lately” attitude and the political BS is going to keep some very worthy racers, owners, and crew chiefs from ever being inducted.

Rick
10/14/2010 02:04 PM
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Happy to see Lee Petty got in.

Susan
10/14/2010 02:09 PM
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The HOF voters got it right this time. This partly makes up for the colossal screw-up of year one. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt – easy. The France family – I suppose they “contributed,” although that is not necessarily a good thing. Junior Johnson? NO WAY on earth, heaven or hell should that man EVER be in a Hall of Fame. Hall of Shame, yes. A complete loser as a human being and vastly overrated as a driver and team owner (destroyer).

Sadesworth
10/15/2010 01:22 AM
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Ok Susan i’ll bite. I always saw JJ as a family man and a hard racer. What did he do?

phil h
10/15/2010 02:08 AM
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I wouldn’t care if Bruton Smith owned the Hall of Fame! What matters to me,is that the greatest sport on the planet has a venue for fans to see how it all began.If you love racing,you’ll want to see it.I visited in the summer and was pleased with the effort Nascar has put into it.

mikeyfan5599
10/15/2010 10:40 AM
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No one has contributed more to the sport of NASCAR and brought it more to the forefront than in the Modern Era than Darrell Waltrip. He has more wins in the Modern Era (1972 – Present for those that don’t know) than any other driver. It was Darrell that gave an audience a reason to come back and watch the sport on TV week to week. Whether it was because you wanted to see him win or wreck. It was DW who brought the sport from just a “Southern Thing” to a Nation, and I dare anyone to show me a driver who has done more for this sport than DW has and for him to be left out of the 2nd class was a sham, If he is left out of the next class, then those who didn’t vote for him should have their credientials revoked. Without DW where would this sport be?

 

Contact Mike Neff

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