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Harris: Their Time Will Come

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 18 2010

Cale Yarborough's time will come for enshrinement. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for Darlington Raceway)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

It may sting for a while, but Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough – and their fans – should not get too upset over their failing to make it into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in the first two five-man classes.

There’s little doubt in my mind that both of them will make it into the still-new stock car shrine next year, just as I – and just about everyone else – was convinced that David Pearson would make it this year after losing out to Junior Johnson a year ago by a narrow margin.

Pearson did in fact lead the voting this year, joining NASCAR pioneers Lee Petty, Bud Moore and Ned Jarrett, as well as Bobby Allison in the second class to enter the Hall.

I and quite a few others assumed that longtime competitors Allison, Yarborough and Waltrip would go into the Hall as a group. For years, they were the drivers to beat every week, putting on some epic battles.

I’ll never forget the race at Michigan when Yarborough and Waltrip engaged in a fender-banging duel to the finish of a rain-delayed race. After crossing the finish line on the almost dark track – no lights back then – behind Yarborough, an incensed Waltrip tried to knock his rival off the track.

Waltrip missed, sending himself spinning into the muddy infield, where he had to be hauled out by a tow truck, much to the delight of those in the crowd who stuck around to watch.

It was Yarborough who gave the outspoken and sometimes controversial Waltrip the nickname Jaws.

Allison, who preceded the other two into NASCAR, had plenty of on-track run-ins with both Waltrip and Yarborough, often pointing out to members of the media how his rivals had “backed into his front bumper.’’

Their overall records are amazingly similar. Waltrip and Allison both are credited with 84 Cup victories, while Allison had 83. Waltrip and Yarborough are both three-time Cup champions, while Allison won one and had five runner-up finishes. Each of them won the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s crown jewel race, at least once.

So, yes, the three of them going into the Hall together would have seemed somehow right. But, the way it is working should not be deemed a slight by the two still on the outside looking in.

Only five people can be elected to the Hall each year and, considering the 60-year history of the stock car sport, I think the nominating and voting committees have done a very good job getting things started for a Shrine that should be in place for many, many years.

A year ago, some people were downright angry that a couple of administrators – Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. – went into the Hall before some of the famous drivers. But, whatever your argument against voting them in the first year, there’s no doubt the two Frances belong in the Shrine.

The biggest uproar in 2009 was over Pearson’s failing to get in the same year as his famous rival, Richard Petty. Even Petty was upset by the way the first-year vote went. But a year later, Pearson is going to be inducted into the Hall and, a few years from now, nobody is going to be asking which class he was in. They’ll just know he was one of the best that ever wrestled a steering wheel in NASCAR.

The same will be true for Waltrip and Yarborough, obviously two of the greatest drivers in the sport’s history.

Instead of feeling slighted or angry that they weren’t in the first two classes, both Waltrip and Yarborough – and their fans – should be happy to know how much of a fuss their omission has caused and how likely it is that it will be rectified 12 months from now.

Meanwhile, with the election of Lee Petty, Jarrett and Moore, the voters have also continued the process of honoring roots. There are a lot more names that need to be added to the list of Hall of Famers. People just need to be patient. All those that deserve the honor will get there eventually.

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

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 18 2010
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