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Woody: Waltrip Is Left Out Of Hall – Again

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 20 2010

Junior Johnson will have to wait at least one more year before he is joined by his driver, Darrell Waltrip, in the Hall of Fame. (Photo by RacingOne/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Another NASCAR Hall of Fame class, another snub.

Last year David Pearson was left out. This year it was Darrell Waltrip.

In last year’s inaugural five-person class the selectors incredibly omitted Pearson – No. 2 in victories and considered by many the greatest driver in the sport’s history – in favor of a couple of NASCAR executives.

In last week’s balloting they corrected their initial gaff by finally adding Pearson. The other four top voter-getters were Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett, and Bud Moore.

Waltrip was left out, even though he is tied with Allison for third in all-time victories and won three championships to Bobby’s one.

He was left out even though for four decades has was – and continues to be – one of the mostinfluential individuals in the sport.

I rank Waltrip’s impact on stock car racing behind only that of Bill France Sr., Richard Petty and Junior Johnson – all of whom were inducted in the inaugural HOF class.

Now, after two rounds of selections, Waltrip’s still not in.

Some of us older chronicles of the sport aren’t surprised at the snub – disappointed, but not surprised. We remember the 1973 Rookie of the Year “selection process.” That year’s award was bequeathed to Lennie Pond, a pleasant guy and journeyman driver, over Waltrip, a super-talented racer but unabashed blabbermouth.

Back then the Rookie of the Year Award was purely subjective – like today’s HOF voting. The Rookie award was based as much on deportment and popularity as performance. In 1973 Lennie was a nice guy who made no waves, while D.W. was a mischievous pot-stirrer who once referred to venerable dictator Bill France Sr. as “our Great White Father in Daytona.”

NASCAR was not amused, and nobody – including Darrell – was surprised when he didn’t get the Rookie of the Year Award that he obviously deserved.

Last week’s snub is harder to understand. Since his retirement as a driver following the 2000 season, D.W. has been a model NASCAR citizen. For millions of fans he has become the face and voice of the sport through his duties as a Fox Sports commentator and other media activities.

During his driving days Waltrip was the perfect persona for NASCAR’s new TV era, a sophisticated bridge from the backwoods to Broadway. He did for the sport in the 1980s what Richard Petty did for it in the 1960’s. 
Even during Waltrip’s boat-rocking early years he was a softie beneath his rebel exterior. He and wife Stevie were instrumental in founding NASCAR’s ministry program, and Waltrip was always at the forefront of fund-raising efforts for indigent drivers.

On and off the track, few have contributed greater.

Understand, this is in no way a criticism of the chosen inductees. Lee Petty is one of the sport’s most influential pioneers, “Gentleman” Ned Jarrett is class incarnate and Bud Moore – a battle-scarred WWII combat vet – has always been one of my heroes. I interviewed and wrote about all three over the years and admire them greatly.

The same goes for Bobby Allison, one of the most determined drivers ever to strap on helmet, and also one of the bravest. Nobody has sacrificed more for the sport than Allison.

My gripe, for the second year, is not who went in but who was left out. It left a sour aftertaste last year and an equally sour aftertaste this year. Race fans don’t like to see their heroes snubbed, and that could explain why Hall of Fame attendance has been well below expectations.

It’s all so unnecessary. With 64 years of rollicking history and colorful characters, it is illogical to attempt to distill these initial classes down to five a year – and not even five drivers. The first two classes contain a grand total of seven – SEVEN – drivers.

At this rate it will take a half-century to induct a fraction of the most deserving.

Instead of honoring the giants who built the sport, the HOF is shunning them.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 20 2010
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Terrell Davis says:

    I believe there is a lot of jealousy involved in DW’s non-selection. I was totally surprised when he wasn’t chosen for the second group of inductees. But, as I think more about it, I can see why Lee Petty, Bud Moore and even Ned Jarrett were inducted before DW….it’s called politics, pure and simple. Not taking anything away from any of these fine gents, they definitely deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but not before DW. DW added more to the sport, overall, than Lee, Bud or Ned. He was more successful, but this is another example of NASCAR politics. Plus, there are a lot of folks that simply resent the success that DW has had and, in fact, continues to have.
    If NASCAR doesn’t begin allowing more than five Hall of Fame inductees each year, DW and Cale may not be inducted for several more years.
    So far DW has “turned the other cheek”. Wonder how many more times DW has to be snubbed before “Jaws” resurfaces. Now that’s one thing NASCAR does not want to happen. DW actually telling the truth about how lame NASCAR has become. But, Jaws can only take before he will bite back, even if it is the hand thats feeds him.

  • Terry says:

    When it comes to DW…..it is personal.This is just what I think he has to overcome….
    1/3 of voters never liked him from his driving “JAWS” days.
    1/3 can’t take his booth style….like the “boogity boogity nonsence ”
    1/3 won’t or can’t admitt it ….but they are old school FORD-GM-MOPAR……guys who see him and Mikey as sell-outs like Gibbs….
    Like it or not ….this is what I thnk…..
    He will get in …..
    Hell… BABE RUTH had 2 writers not vote for him….