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Woody: Skimpy First Class Hurts The New Hall

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 20 2009
Cale Yarborough came up short in voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame's first class – but should not have.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Cale Yarborough came up short in voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame's first class – but should not have. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

If it was chatter that the NASCAR Hall of Fame folks wanted, it was chatter they got.

And – just as I predicted – much of it’s not good.

By limiting the first HOF class to five inductees – FIVE, to represent 62 years of racing! – they created a lot of bruised feelings and peeved fans.

It didn’t help that two Frances were among the first five. Both Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. were inducted, leaving some to wonder if it should be called the France Hall of Fame instead of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A grand total of three – count ‘em, THREE – drivers were inducted.

When the doors open next spring, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will consist of three drivers. The absurdity is mind-boggling.

The three drivers who were chosen were deserving – Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, although a case could be made that David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and even Darrell Waltrip should have been ahead of Earnhardt.

And nobody can dispute that Bill France Sr. deserved first-ballot induction. Without him there would be no NASCAR.

Likewise, nobody can argue that Bill Jr. didn’t deserve induction at some point because his vision and leadership propelled the sport to where it is today.

The problem began with the ridiculous HOF decision to open with a mere five inductees. Yes, I know that the Baseball Hall of Fame opened with an equally-skimpy class. But when it opened the baseball Hall didn’t have 62 years of history and heroes to try to condense in its inaugural class.

Sixty-two years. Three drivers.

I still don’t understand why the HOF was stuck on five. At the very minimum it should have inducted 10. My suggestion (as a non-voter) was to induct all 25 nominees and open the Hall with a resounding, positive bang.

What would have been the harm in that? Would Petty’s place in the Hall be diminished by the fact Pearson and Yarborough and Allison went in with him? Of course not. Not in the least.

My gripe is not with the five who were chosen, but about the 20 who weren’t.

Some of the greatest drivers in history got left out and you can bet that they – and their families and fans – aren’t happy about it. Oh, a driver like Pearson won’t publicly complain; that’s not his nature. But you can bet that down deep the sport’s second-winningest and wiliest driver is hurt by the omission.

I’m peeved too, and unlike Pearson I don’t mind staying it. The HOF snubbed a lot of great racing heroes and bruised a lot of feelings. And it was all completely unnecessary.

If the HOF remains stubbornly stuck on five inductees a year, fans of my generation won’t live to see half the deserving drivers and other racing personalities inducted. At this rate some will have to wait a hundred years to get their deserved recognition.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame was a terrific idea and ‘way overdue, but what should have been a time of celebration and good-will instead left a bitter taste in a lot of mouths.

I’ll bet more fans are griping about all the deserving drivers who were left out instead of celebrating the few who made it. I know I am.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 20 2009
8 Comments

8 Comments »

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  • Louise Diamond says:

    I agree that the inductees were deserving, but that the number of them was not. That beautiful building is probably going to showcase the exploits of all the many drivers who should be inducted. Unfortunately, at the rate this appears to be going, the majority of those who are still alive and would be able to bask in the glow of this honor…will probably receive their just due posthumously That is very sad.

  • Ronald Natzel says:

    Someone at the HOF should try to remember that the HOF is a business that is trying to make a profit. How many folks are going to spend their vacation and the $30 or $40 entrance fee to see 5 displays? How many would do that to see 10? This really seems like someone at NA$$CAR dropped the ball.

  • B Brady says:

    Should have been at least 12. You know Earnhardt, as the focus of the biggest marketing campaign ever, would be in there. He was a great driver too. But Yarborough, Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly…the list goes on and on. The France family will probably keep out Smokey Yunick, greatest car builder of all time, but they should recognize the teams and builders if they are to maintain any semblance of credibility.

  • Emil says:

    Yeah, ethically they are well on their way to ESPN-land, down in Disney-I mean-Daytona Beach.

  • Lee Smith says:

    I strongly agree with the opinion of this writer. NASCAR could have done a much better job with 10 plus inducties for the first class.

  • WOW, just three? I figured at least 10-15 to start off with. You’re right, it’ll be a century getting all the deserving people in the HOF at this slow poke rate!!! Geez….

    • Lee Smith says:

      I strongly agree with the opinion of Larry Woody. I am one of the upset fans that believe there should have been more drivers inducted in the first class.