By admin | October 28, 2009
By Richard Allen
Back in July I wrote a piece in which I stated the belief that the first class to be inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame should be made up of Bill France, Sr., Bill France, Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson. As it turns out, those were the five chosen
My arguments in favor of those five inductees are the same now as they were in July.
The France family created the NASCAR organization. Without Bill France, Sr. there would be no such discussion as to who should be inducted. He supplied the vision and took an enormous risk in starting the sport. And more, he built the track that serves as the sport’s centerpiece, the Daytona International Speedway.
Bill France, Jr. took the sport his father handed him and brought it to the attention of a national audience. Major sponsors, television exposure and overall growth marked his reign as NASCAR boss. Like his father, without this France, there would be no Hall of Fame to discuss.
Petty is NASCAR’s all time winner. His 200 career victories are unmatched in the sport. Among those wins are seven Daytona 500s as well as virtually every other major event in stock car racing. Also, this driver is one of only two in the sport’s history to have amassed seven championships.
Earnhardt is the other of those drivers to have won seven titles. That alone is enough to qualify a driver as one of the first class in the HoF. However, his accomplishments did not end there. Wins in Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte and Bristol have been written into the legend of ‘The Intimidator’.
Johnson was highly successful as a driver and a car owner. He gave up his driving career at an early age but had still managed to make his mark in the field. Then, as a car owner he won big races and championships with drivers such as Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Bill Elliott among others. More than that, Johnson was instrumental in bringing the first major corporate sponsor, R.J. Reynolds, to the sport.
There were many worthy candidates for the Hall of Fame who were passed over.
David Pearson, Glen ‘Fireball’ Roberts, Curtis Turner, Ned Jarrett and numerous others should most definitely make the HoF as soon as possible. And none of these would have caused controversy had they made the initial class.
Perhaps it would have been more fitting had the first class been made up of ten or even twelve members since the Hall has been so long coming. But since the first class was limited to only five members, I believe the five selected were the proper choices.
One of my fears in regard to this Hall of Fame is that some of those personalities like the ones mentioned above may go unrecognized as more recent drivers such as Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett become eligible.
I would like for NASCAR’s Hall of Fame to establish something like the baseball HoF’s old timers committee with the power to nominate and elect those who made their names thirty or forty years ago.
But that is a topic for another day. For now, the right five are going into the Hall on the first ballot.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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