The Hall of Fame – regardless of sport – is there to honor the history, founders, integral contributors and past champions of that sport. But while this is true, the other thing it always seems to be is the focal point for debate. No matter who is in, who is nominated, and who is left …
I mentioned in the TV column a week or so back that the last time I was on a pit crew, we had side windows, quarter glass, and wing vents. That led to a phone call asking “When were you on a pit crew?” Well, this is really driven to the past, because the last time I was pressed into service by somebody who needed help was in 1985. I’ll admit that we didn’t have all those things then, but until then it had been at least 15 years prior since I’d done it.
Fireball Roberts was one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history to never win a championship. And while the biggest prize managed to elude him; Roberts, the 1957 Most Popular Driver, still managed to etch his name in the NASCAR record books. In 1958, he became the first driver to win two 500-mile races in the same season, winning at Trenton, N.J. and the Southern 500 at Darlington. Three times he earned victories in two of NASCAR’S most prestigious races; the 1958 and 1963 Southern 500s and the 1962 Daytona 500. Perhaps his lasting legacy came in one of the sport’s darkest moments, his death in the World 600 in 1964; which was the catalyst for the development and implementation of fuel cells, driver safety products, and fire retardant uniforms.
Fred Lorenzen got started early in racing’s golden era as well, having built his first car when he was 13 years old. His first race in NASCAR’s premier division was as at 1-mile dirt track in Langhorne, Penn. He took home a paltry $25 for his efforts, but it was the beginning of a very successful, if short-lived, career. USAC championships in 1958 and 1959 would follow; however, his career really took off in 1961. A 1960 Christmas present in the form of a December 24th phone call from John Holman, half of the legendary Ford affiliated racing team Holman-Moody, was the gift that launched Lorenzen into NASCAR.