The NASCAR Hall of Fame nominations usually make me yawn. Year after year, mostly because of the Hall’s policy of only naming a few to the Hall and the fact that it includes drivers, owners, mechanics, and the front office people, it seems that those truly deserving of getting in the Hall aren’t accepted. This year was different. The five who will be inducted in January—Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Rex White, Joe Weatherly, and Fred Lorenzen—are all drivers for the first time. It is the process that I have always thought made no sense.
First of all, there is no earthly reason why drivers, owners, crew chiefs, front office people and the media should not be grouped separately because each segment does very different things. There should be nominations in each category and separate voting. Maybe NASCAR should look at Major League Baseball and the National Football League. I feel sure that would be a better system.
I know little about the NFL Hall mainly because I’m not a big football fan, but I can speak about the MLB Hall. Players and managers have to be retired for five years. Terry Labonte has two starts this year and Bill Elliott last raced in 2012. Both are worthy of induction. In fact, you won’t find a bigger fan of either driver than this writer, but the rule of “what have you done for me lately” has seemed to influence voters. What logic is it that Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett should be inducted before Fred Lorenzen, Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and others? Why were legends like Dale Inman, Maurice Petty, Cotton Owens and Bud Moore forced to compete with more visible drivers? It makes no sense, even though each person mentioned is very worthy of induction into the Hall.
There are many who deserve to be honored. Having segments would allow many deserving people to have a chance at gaining Hall membership. At its present rate, some greats will never have a chance to enter the hall in their lifetimes. I find this to be a shame. There should be a segment or section for the lesser series stars and the media. Newspaper writers like Tom Higgins, David Poole, Monte Dutton, Thomas Pope and many more were as big a part in making the sport grow as others. Car owners—they’ve already entered the Woods and the principals in the Petty organization as well as Moore and others, but shouldn’t that be a different category? Why are the founders, current team owners (Rick Hendrick), track owners (Bruton Smith), and others competing with the stars of the sport? Why are present owners with no retirement in their future being considered? I cannot find a logical explanation.
Regardless of my problem with the only five person induction and the lack of categories or segments, I was pleased this year. The five to be inducted are very worthy. If you’ve never had a chance to go to the Hall of Fame, I highly recommend it as a venue to be seen. I learn something every time I go, and I’ve been following this sport for the better part of 50 years. I just wish they would take my suggestions. The voters got it right this year. Elliott, Scott, White, Weatherly, and Lorenzen should be in the Hall and now they are. That’s a great job.