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Harris: Five Not Enough For Hall This Year, Either

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 12 2010

David Pearson tops the list of candidates for entry into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this week. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

One of the great honors of my professional  life is being part of the voting committee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But, in this case, along with honor comes great responsibility.

A year ago, voting for the first class to go into the HoF, there was a great debate over whether Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. should be included in the five honorees.

The key argument for inclusion of the Frances in the first group going into the Hall was that there would be no NASCAR without Big Bill and the sport might still be nothing more than a regional attraction without the acumen and drive of Bill Jr. that built it into a ‘90s phenomenon.

The debate in the committee room was respectful but furious. But the argument that finally won the day for the France faction was that a Mt. Rushmore of NASCAR would have to include the two administrators.

In the end, both Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. were enshrined, along with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson.

The other big debate last year was whether Johnson or David Pearson should be part of that first group. In the end, Johnson got the nod, but there were a lot of unhappy Pearson fans.

The vote for the second five-person class will take place Wednesday in Charlotte, the home of the Hall of Fame. My feeling is that the only absolute lock to get in this year is Pearson, second only to Petty in overall race wins and without question one of the all-time greats in the sport.

After that, the debate in the committee room should again be long and passionate. The list of deserving drivers, crew chiefs, team owners, etc. is long and everybody has his or her favorites.

The big problem is that NASCAR and the Hall of Fame have decided to limit each class to five persons. I wish they had at least begun the process with a couple of bigger groups – perhaps 20 or 25 the first year or two.

What I’m most fearful of in the current process is that some of the early stars and important characters from the first 20 or 30 years of NASCAR are going to get lost in the shuffle and wind up waiting many years to get in.

It’s only natural that most of the voters will be looking at the people they watched, dealt with and competed against before thinking about names from those early years.

This year’s class, besides Pearson, is almost certain to include Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.  Darrell Waltrip is certain to get some support, as is Rusty Wallace. After that, I’d like to see support for some of the older names in NASCAR – people like Red Byron, Ned Jarrett, Lee Petty, Herb Thomas and Tim Flock, among others.

I doubt if it will happen, but – if the powers that be persist in limiting the classes to five – I’d like to see the voting divided into three from the modern era (after 1971) and two from the historic era.

Meanwhile, as long as I’m a member of the voting committee, I’ll do my best to see that the old-timers are not forgotten.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 12 2010
6 Comments

6 Comments »

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  • Brooks says:

    You are right on point with the Ned Jarrett choice. Junior Johnson got in on the first ballot for the same reasons Jarrett should get in on the second. Johnson was a very good driver, especially in the early years of NASCAR, as was Jarrett, but it is the contributions outside of that which got him in, bring Winston in as the sponsor. Jarrett’s contributions in the broadcast booth, along with his championship should get him in.

    I also believe Ken Squier should be in as well. Maybe they need to look at a formula, at least for the next two years, in which there are 4 drivers, 2 crew chiefs, an owner, and someone for contributions to NASCAR, this way you could ensure the deserving people get in first.

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  • Joe says:

    I’ve said it before when Woody wants to let everyone in, and I’ll say it again: The first group should have included maybe up to 10. Pearson was a lock first class choice, in my opinion, and Waltrip has claim to that honor as well. I don’t disagree with any of the first five on their merits. BUT, if you put in 20-25 the first couple of years, it’s not long until you have no annual ceremony because every deserving Hall of Famer is already in or you turn it into a Hall of Pretty Good real quick.

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