The Frontstretch: The Hall of Fame Votes Are In - And The Committee Got It (Just About) Right by Tommy Thompson -- Thursday October 15, 2009

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The Hall of Fame Votes Are In - And The Committee Got It (Just About) Right

Thompson In Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Thursday October 15, 2009

 

Now with 60 years of NASCAR history to draw on, the sport has selected its first five inductees to the soon-to-be completed Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. A 50-member blue ribbon panel representing a broad spectrum of the sport voted from a list of 25 that the 21-member Nominating Committee had previously chosen, coming up with the final cut for the inaugural Class of 2010.

With the votes in and counted, the first five members to be enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame are:

Dale Earnhardt (4-29-1951 to 2-18-2001) – Given the nickname “The Intimidator” for his hard-charging and aggressive driving style, Earnhardt won 76 Cup races in his 677 races over a span of 27 years. His win total ranks sixth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list for a career, while “The Intimidator” is tied for the most Cup championships in the history of the sport with seven.

Both Dale Earnhardt’s career and life were cut short when he was involved in a wreck on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. The untimely death of the most successful driver in the “modern era” of NASCAR Cup racing was mourned not only by those within the sport, but nationally, as well.

Bill France, Sr. (9-26-1909 to 6-7-1992) – Bill France was the founding father of NASCAR, ruling the sport with a firm hand through its formative years following its humble beginnings in the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, FL in 1948.

France’s vision and pioneering spirit is simply the reason for the existence of NASCAR racing. Big Bill served as Chairman and CEO of NASCAR until 1972, when he entrusted the future of the sport to his son. Big Bill also formed the International Speedway Corporation, building numerous tracks along the way — including Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

The France family is well represented in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, with both “Big Bill” and “Bill, Jr.” inaugural inductees.

Bill Clifton France (4-4-1933 to 6-4-2007) – Known as Bill Jr., he took over the reins of NASCAR from his father in 1972 and ushered in what is considered the “modern era” of NASCAR. Boosted with a lucrative sponsorship deal from R.J. Reynolds during his first year, the Grand National Series became the Winston Cup, beginning an era of unparalleled growth in the sport. Prize money and the level of competition improved significantly during the ensuing years under Bill Jr’s. leadership while NASCAR evolved from a regional curiosity into a full-blown national phenomenon.

In 1979, France brokered a deal with CBS to have the sport’s biggest race, the Daytona 500, televised live and flag-to-flag. Television ratings for the broadcast were impressive, enabling NASCAR to begin showcasing most of its events live to a national audience. Partnerships with ESPN, TBS, and other networks soon followed, with increasingly more lucrative contracts agreed to by NASCAR and numerous broadcasters culminating in the billion-dollar TV deals of 2001 and 2007.

Richard Petty (7-2-1937 to Present) – Richard “The King” Petty holds claim to the most impressive numbers of any driver in the history of NASCAR. Petty is credited with the most wins (200) in the history of the sport, along with a record-tying seven championships and 10 consecutive races won.

The second-generation driver competed in 1,185 Cup events between 1958 and 1992. Still involved to this day as a partner in Richard Petty Motorsports, Petty is still a fan favorite and perhaps the greatest ambassador for NASCAR of all time.

Junior Johnson (6-28-1931 to Present) – Born Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr. he is known simply as Junior by generations of NASCAR fans. Johnson’s driving career began in 1953 and earned him 50 wins in 313 starts before retiring as a driver in 1966. Perhaps even more impressive than his driving accomplishments, though, was the success that the former moonshine runner had as a NASCAR team owner.

Drivers Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip each won three Cup Championships driving Junior Johnson-owned race cars. In all, Johnson is credited with 132 wins as a car owner, with drivers running his equipment reading like a Hall of Fame roster in itself: Lee Roy Yarbrough, Neil Bonnett, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott, and A.J. Foyt, among others.

The nomination and voting process that NASCAR adopted for selecting the first five Hall of Fame inductees was a laborious one, to be sure, and one that appears to have succeeded in arriving at five well-deserving honorees. The Nomination Committees consisted of 21 members from the sport that included the Director and Historian of the HoF, eight NASCAR present and former executives, and 11 track owners/managers of venues presently on the Sprint Cup Series or nationally recognized short tracks.

Following the Nomination Committee’s compilation of 25 finalists in July, the Voting Committee (consisting of the 21 individuals of the Nomination Committee, along with another 29 people from a diverse range of the sport) were assembled to vote for the five inaugural inductees. Included in this committee were eight members representing the print media, six television broadcasters, and one executive from each of the four manufacturers participating in the Sprint Cup Series.

From the garage, former crew chiefs Barry Dodson, Waddell Wilson, and Buddy Parrott were part of the Voting Committee, while former owners Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, and Junior Johnson participated in the election process. Rounding out the Voting Committee were three longtime NASCAR Cup drivers: Ricky Rudd, Harry Gant and Ned Jarrett.

There were a total of 51 votes: 50 from the Voting Committee, as well as the fan vote.

In the end, there could not have been five more deserving individuals voted in to the inaugural class of inductees into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. The selection process left little room for criticism, as it was truly comprised of a broad cross-section of folks with varying perspectives and knowledge of the sport.

Surprises? Possibly, depending on one’s own perspective.

Certainly, there were arguments that could have been made, especially for other drivers. Those are, of course, the stars of the sport, and some may believe that their accomplishments overshadow that of an executive.

Where does one rate, say the great David Pearson, with his 105 wins, and enviable winning percentage, if not in the top-5? And how about Cale Yarborough with his three championships back-to-back-to-back? Or two-time Champion Ned Jarrett who contributed so much to the sport, even after his driving days had long ended?

The truth is, they all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. And they will be.

But two extraordinarily effective executives, one that founded the organization and one that took it to unbelievable heights, is a good start. Two seven-time Champions that captured the hearts of untold millions of fans are certainly deserving. Likewise, there certainly is room in the Hall for one of the toughest and most talented drivers in the sport’s formative years, one that also stayed on to become one of the most successful team owners of all time.

So the Voting Committee probably got it right; and if not, they didn’t miss by much. Congratulations to the France family, the Earnhardt family, Richard Petty, and Junior Johnson for adding yet another accomplishment to the sport’s great and glorious history!

And…that’s my view from Turn 5.

Contact Tommy Thompson

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Fred
10/15/2009 02:00 AM
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While I think Bill France Sr. and Jr. should be well credited with their creation of NASCAR, I don’t think they should be in the NASCAR HoF. Hall of Fame’ers should be the guys that participated in the sport, not the guys who created it. The France’s should have their own section of the HoF devoted to them, but not as inductees.

That’s kind of like throwing a Halloween party and giving out prizes for the best costume… and giving yourself a prize for throwing the party.

At least I agree with the other 3 choices.

Fred
10/15/2009 02:01 AM
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BTW, Who really cares? :)

Bad Wolf
10/15/2009 02:11 AM
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Hard to pick 5 from the list of candidates, but all five should be in the hall of fame. It just seems to me that David Pearson should have gotten in also, but a can’t see denying any of the other 5 to do it.

The ’70s were all about Petty vs Pearson and their battles were legend. That was real racing.

My number one pick for the Hall of Shame is Brain France.

Bill B
10/15/2009 07:13 AM
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I thought limiting the inaugural class to 5 was a mistake. It probably should have been at least 20. There are certain people that are no brainers to get in.

The Turnip
10/15/2009 07:34 AM
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I agree 110% with Bill B.

Limiting the very first “class” to only five (5), with two (2) of those places taken by “FRANCE’S”, is really a slap in the face to many who really & truly put NA$CRAP on the map!

This “hall of fame” crap is now sounding more like a France benefit than any resemblance to an honest and true “HALL OF FAME” to honor the best of the sport!

Actually, (holy crap, am I going to say this?), the France family in total should have MADE SURE that the family did not preempt the REAL HEROES from getting in on this inaugural class!

But of course we know that NO CURRENT FRANCE FAMILY MEMBER HAS ANY CLASS!

Mike
10/15/2009 07:53 AM
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While Bill France Senior. and Junior made sense, along with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, I can’t understand how Junior Johnson got the nod over Rick Hendrick. Rick Hendrick is THE greatest team owner ever in the history of NASCAR, and will be a powerhouse for years to come! Nobody, but nobody is any where near a match for Mr. H.! Everyone complains (wrongly) about him being a felon! Well, wasn’t Junior Johnson also a felon? Didn’t he do time? Give me a break!

Michael
10/15/2009 08:30 AM
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There were only 5 picks so it would seem important .

FunkyD
10/15/2009 08:32 AM
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Rick Hendrick a felon who was convicted of mail fraud. Johnson was a felon for doing what a lot of the original NASCAR drivers did, running moonshine! Both were subsequently pardoned.

Junior Johnson also had 50 wins as a driver in addition to his 6 championships as an owner. No way Hendrick gets in before Junior Johnson.

My only real gripe about this class is a 6th spot should’ve been created for David Pearson!

M.B. Voelker
10/15/2009 08:48 AM
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Bill B has it right. The inaugural class should have been expanded.

There are others as worthy to have been in the first class, but none more worthy than those who made it.

Margo
10/15/2009 09:09 AM
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THe picks weren’t bad , but i really don’t see the need to put both Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. in on the first year . Of course since its a France idea , a France building , a France run sport , and the votes by the press for inductees could mean no credentials unless the votes went the Frances’ way , the induction of two family members out of 5 picks was pretty much a done deal .
Now regarding Hendrick , do you really suppose that the silly , self indulgent movie hes been hawking for months just happened to come out right before voting for the Hall of Fame ? The man actually believes he is so important to the history of NASCAR that he has to pay for a movie to be made to prove it to everyone . Hendrick is WAY down the list of important car owners in the history of NASCAR . Not even in the top ten . While Childress , Bud Moore , the Woods , Junior Johnson , Smokey Yunick fought their way to the top with nothing more than hard work and talent, Hendrick bought his way in by purchasing the services of Harry Hyde to start his program . Hendrick is WAY down the list of deserving car owner inductees . In fact , the constant , unchecked spending spree by Hendrick is a lot of whats wrong with the sport

Walt B
10/15/2009 10:14 AM
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Not putting David Pearson in is just wrong. Maybe Pearson’s outspoken comments did him in.

Carl D.
10/15/2009 10:29 AM
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I agree that David Peason should have been voted in, even if it cost Little Bill his inaugural spot.

If Pearson and Cale Yarborough don’t make it in the HOF next year, then you might as well demolish the place.

Mike… I wouldn’t worry too much about Rick Hendick. I’m sure he’ll buy his way in eventually.

Joe W.
10/15/2009 11:36 AM
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I agree with Bill B. on the 1st class. It should have been around 20 people to get started then 5 per year. However if we are limited to 5 for the 1st class then I would have put David Pearson in that 1st five and left Bill Jr. to be in the second class. Now that Pearson has been left out, surely he and Cale should be the 1st two for class number two.

Blix
10/15/2009 12:24 PM
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So many others should have been voted in before Dale.

As usual Dale gets the pass. Or could we say that, once again, Dale knocked out somebody to come in first.

What a missed opportunity.

Bill B
10/15/2009 12:27 PM
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Another reason for making the number 20 instead of 5…
It’s real hard to get excited about visiting a HOF that only has 5 inductees. I would like to visit the HOF some day but I will be waiting until many more are inducted so there is a real attraction there. Five people??? Why bother. I’ll wait a few years until there is more substance.

Ray
10/15/2009 12:56 PM
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I get so sick of Hendrick Haters! Pure jealousy is all it is! Get a life moronic idiot fools!!!..and please stop breathing smart people’s air!

Carl D.
10/15/2009 01:42 PM
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Blix…

Who are the “others” that should have been voted in before Dale? Richard Petty made it in with seven championships, and last time I looked, there were no other seven-time champions other than Dale. There aren’t even any five-time or six-time champions. Dale was lock for the first HOF class before the shovel ever even broke ground.

Dyno Dave
10/15/2009 02:30 PM
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The first class should have been ten instead of five. My pics for the other five: Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, Waltrip and Lee Petty. That would give much more deserved representation to those who really and truly made the sport what it is: the drivers.

steve s
10/16/2009 12:37 AM
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I picked the top 5 before the vote.

Bill jr. and Junior Johnson may have been a surprise to those new to the sport but if you look at a little history you will see those 2 men MADE the Winston Cup series happen.

Junior and Bill JR got sponsorship from RJ Reynolds and refined what
Bill SR had started.
The Winston Cup series was the result.

I believe the intent of the HOF is to honor those who helped build the sport and helped it get recognition.

I think the first 5 reflect that.

There are 100’s more
and their time will come.
But when limited to 5,I think pretty good choices.

Chris W.
10/17/2009 11:05 PM
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Bill France, Jr. but not David Pearson? Looks like the HOF is just another NASCAR ego-gratification project….

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