Woody: Waltrip Is Left Out Of Hall – Again
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments