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Another Class, Another Debate For Hall Of Fame

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 23 2011

Should Leonard Wood go into the Hall of Fame without brother Glenn? (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

With the announcement of the latest five nominees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte comes the renewal of the debate over the wisdom of inducting just five people each year.

Much of the focus the past couple of years has been on who gets left out, focus that instead should be on the ones going in.

The inaugural class left out David Pearson, the man many consider the most talented driver of all time. The second class slighted Darrell Waltrip, who has not only a distinguished record as a driver but who also has carried the banner for the sport from the TV booth.

Now the debate – for many – turns to who will be left out this year. And there’s a new wrinkle this time around as the induction process pits two brothers against each other. With Leonard Wood joining his brother Glen on the nominee list, the only real happy outcome for the Woods and their fans is for both of them to go in at the same time, which is unlikely given that only five are chosen.

The solution would have been to bring in a big class from the start – 25 or even 50 people to kick it off.

If the Hall had been started 25 or 50 years ago, five a year would have been fine, but the sport has too much history to cover with just five nominees a year. It seems likely under the current scenario that

Will Herb Thomas ever make it into the Hall? (Photo by RacingOne/Getty Images)

many of the sport’s pioneers will never be inducted. You don’t read many articles pushing for Fireball Roberts or Tim Flock or Herb Thomas to be inducted, but already there’s an article on the Internet making the case that Rusty Wallace should be among the nominees.

And the Hall seems to like having living inductees in the group each year, people who can spend time helping promote the Hall. That raises the question of whether the goal is to recognize the people who made the sport or whether it’s to promote the Hall and have a big publicity splash once a year.

NASCAR president Mike Helton, in a SPEED press release, weighed in on some of the issues being debated, such as whether organizations like the Wood Brothers and Holman-Moody should go in as one.

“There was great debate as we were creating this structure with Winston (Kelley, Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame) and the folks at the Hall of the Fame and the media on how we would select the 25 that were eligible and the five that would be voted in,” Helton said. “There was talk about you do have these combinations of the Wood Brothers or Holman and Moody.  There also was conversation around why don’t we think about categories like – it would be three drivers and one industry individual and one mechanic or something like that – and I think there’s going to be things in the future that may be different than they are today.

“But I think to get the Hall of Fame and the inductees up and going, this is the right way to do it.”

It may have looked like the right way in the beginning to the folks at NASCAR and the Hall who came up with the procedures, but it doesn’t seem to be the best now.

NASCAR hasn’t been shy about changing the way of doing things at the race track, as evidenced by lucky dog rules, past champion’s provisionals, guaranteed starting spots for owners in the top 35 and rules preventing drivers from competing for championships in more than one division.

Maybe it’s time to do some similar tinkering with the Hall of Fame selection process.

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 23 2011
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Mr. Racing says:

    There are simple answers to the issue of “getting the numbers up before they all die”-add more categories per yearly induction!

    My suggestion is the NASCAR HOF adopts model used by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the major sports halls. Categories must be created for ALL worthy contributors, with a max number, but no minimum in any given category per year.
    Anyone inducted is a member of the Hall of Fame, the distinction is only their specific category.

    The R&R HOF divides the inductees into Performers (band members = drivers); Non-Performers (songwriters/producers/label owners = car owners, promoters, like Bud Moore, Humpy, T. Wayne; Early Influences (Non R&R performers like Nat King Cole = early beach or pre-NASCAR racers, such as Donald Campbell or Lloyd Seay; and Sidemen (studio musicians) = crew chiefs or crews, safety and/or mechanical innovators like the Wood Brothers or Bill Simpson, for example.

    Using this model, David Pearson would have been properly recognized in the first class of inductees, as well as the Frances, Raymond Parks and worthy notables such as Ralph Seagraves, Leo Mehl or Smokey Yunick.

    Personally, I think the numbers per category should be 5 drivers, max, per year, plus 1-2 in each of the other categories-with more individuals allowed for exceptional circumstances, i.e., The Wood Brothers, Holman-Moody.

    Members of the media should be honored by the HOF with a named award, but not inducted, similar to baseball’s Ford Frick Award. Thus, a Chris Economaki is honored, but not at the expense of the competitors.

    As for the issue of Glen and Leonard Wood, induct them as the “Wood Brothers”, for indeed that’s what they were, and are.

  • Stephen says:

    Agreed, Rick. I thought it was a real shame Pearson was not among the inaugural inductees

  • f1kartracer says:

    ENOUGH with cup people already!!! We need some short track legends. My vote would be for RICHIE EVANS I wathced him race way before I ever had any intrest in cup. Besides he has 9 national championships 8 of which were in a row the last he won despite being killed at martisville.

  • SB says:

    I think Nascar whould have originally inducted the founders of the sport, many of whowm no one remembers these days. I think there should be a category for drivers, and another for crew chief’s, owners, promoters, etc. With 62 years of history, it shouldn’t have been that difficult to start with those who helped build Nascar. besides, why would I want to go pay $20 to tour a ‘HOF’ that only has 10 people in it? It was he perfect opportunity to show newer fans how Nascar began, and they blew it.