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Minter: Here Are Five For Class No. 2

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 15 2010

David Pearson's election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year should be a given. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

It’s been a few weeks now since the new nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame have been announced, time for fans – and media types – to ponder the list and decide who deserves to be among the next five inductees. And there’s no Cup race this week to occupy everyone’s mind.

So here’s my take on the second Hall class.

This year’s list of 25 includes 20 who were on last year’s nominee list along with five newcomers – Dale Inman, T. Wayne Robertson, Jerry Cook, Jack Ingram and Fred Lorenzen.

Inman is the long-time crew chief for his cousin Richard Petty and also won a championship with Terry Labonte. He remains an active – and highly respected – person in the garage.

Robertson, through his role as a senior vice-president at R.J. Reynolds tobacco company, brought NASCAR to new heights by engineering the Winston sponsorship of the series now known as Sprint Cup.

Cook is a six-time Modified division champion who went on to become a NASCAR official. Ingram is the “Iron Man” of the series now known as Nationwide, where he was a two-time champion, and Lorenzen is the Cup circuit’s original “Golden Boy” and a winner of 26 races.

But looking over the list, it looks like the best five choices come from the 20 who didn’t get picked last year.

Hopefully, this time around there will be more emphasis on the on-track accomplishments of the nominees. There already are two Frances among the five in the inaugural class.

The slam dunk No.1 choice would have to be David Pearson, a three-time Cup champion and winner of 105 races. Many in the sport, me included, believe it was a great injustice that he was omitted from the inaugural class. A good argument can be made that he’s NASCAR’s most talented driver ever. If you disagree, track down some of the people who raced against him or saw him race and see what they think.

Raymond Parks, who passed away several weeks ago, is deserving as well. His resume looks somewhat weak on the surface, as he won just one championship as a car owner. It was the first of the series now known as Cup, back in 1949. Parks’ greatest contribution to the sport was the way he ran his race teams back in stock car racing’s infancy. He employed the best of drivers and mechanics.

Without his cars and his money, Bill France likely wouldn’t have been able to make a go of NASCAR in the beginning.

Parks’ cars were immaculate every time they appeared at a race track, and he fielded multiple entries at tracks up and down the Eastern seaboard before dropping out of racing to make money instead of spend it.

In the days after he left the sport and before NASCAR decided to own up to its moonshining heritage, Parks was largely ignored. Even with some strong backing from people like Junior Johnson, it was well into the 1990s before he even got into the original NASCAR Hall of Fame at Darlington. Even though he won’t be there to witness it, he shouldn’t have to wait again.

Glen Wood, who at age 84 is still active in the sport, deserves to be in the Hall. He was a stand-out short track driver who went on to transform his family team into a NASCAR powerhouse. In the 1970s, David Pearson ruled the superspeedways in Fords and Mercuries from the Wood Brothers’ shop in Stuart, Va.

The complication for Wood is what to do about his brother Leonard, the man who was the mechanical genius behind those fast Fords. Maybe just make an exception and induct them together. They deserve it. They represent as much as anyone who ever walked into a garage all that is good about NASCAR.

Darrell Waltrip seems like an obvious choice. As a driver, he was articulate and successful, just what NASCAR needed as it began a strong growth period and began to attract mainstream fans and sponsors. He won 84 Cup races and three championships, and continues to represent the sport as a TV commentator.

And if Waltrip goes in, it would seem only fair that one of his main rivals, Bobby Allison, be right there too. Allison, the 1983 champion and an 84-time winner as well, represents what many like best about NASCAR. He was a hard-worker, fiercely independent and as dedicated to racing as they come.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 15 2010
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