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Pedley: Some Random Thoughts On Election Day

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 15 2011

The debate center at the Charlotte Convention Center on Tuesday. (Photos courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Charlotte, N.C. – Some notes and thoughts from a day at NASCAR Hall of Fame voting:

First, in the interest of transparency and out of respect to fans, here is who I voted for on Tuesday and a breif explanation of why.

Darrell Waltrip. On numbers alone, he inarguably belong in the Hall. (So let the arguing begin.) Three championships, 84 victories, 59 poles, etc. But there is more to Waltrip. He was and is a personality. A polarizing one, but a personality. Waltrip will be a superb, tireless ambassador for the Hall of Fame. To be honest, he should have been elected last year.

Cale Yarborough. Again, the numbers are there for Yarborough. Eighty-three wins, three-straight Cup championships, four Daytona 500 victories and was a participant in a huge moment in the sport. The one when he and the Allison brothers beat up on each other – without their cars –on the back stretch at the 500.

Glen Wood. There were some in the debate phase of voting who said it would not be right to put Glen in and not his brother Leonard. That they should go in as a package. The fact is, Glen and Leonard were not a package when they made pit stops an art form in racing. The Wood Brothers are and were Glen’s team. Leonard and the other brothers were there, but Glen was the top dog on the team. And what a team.

Dale Inman. Inman was not just a crew chief. He was the man who helped guide Richard Petty and

Dale Inman fields questions about his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Petty Enterprises to seven championships and 193 wins. More than that, he is the Godfather of crew chiefs. Those who learned the trade at his side include people like Robbie Loomis, Tony Glover, Robin Pemberton and Steve Hmiel. Petty was most emphatic during the debate about the role Inman played in his success. Inman still spends his Sundays on pits boxes.

Cotton Owens. This choice was not a numbers thing as he had only nine wins as a drver and 38 as a team owner. This is a roots of the sport thing. Cotton was there at the beaches; in fact, he is only one of two surviving winners of beach races in Daytona. He is part of that South Carolina crowd which played such a great role in the development of NASCAR. Owens is the truest of the NASCAR pioneers who lives on to tell about it. Easy choice for me.

Second, I did not vote for Richie Evans.

That should not be construed as a feeling that one of the top Modified series drivers ever should not be in the Hall. People like Evans and Jerry Cook and Dick Trickle and Jack Ingram and Larry Phillips thrilled as many people, had as many fans, played as important a role in building stock car racing in this country as did Dale Earnhardt, Waltrip, Petty or any of the big-name guys who are and will be in the Hall.

My feeling on Evans and Cook, who was also on the ballot and in the room was: Not quite yet.

Third, the not quite yet argument made the rounds in that room at the Charlotte Convention Center a

Darrell Waltrip talks about being a Hall of Famer.

lot on Tuesday. With rules stating only five per class, many voters I talked to were doing what I was doing the whole day: exercising mental triage. That is, putting candidates into the categories of must go in now, not quite yet and not yet nor the next five years.

The focus of that triage was the middle group. There was a healthy number of candidates who will get in and get in soon but, not quite yet. On that list are drivers who are in the 30 to 50-win group or who played big roles at pivotal times. Drivers like Herb Thomas, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner and Fred Lorenzen.

Some did get votes Tuesday, I believe, but not enough just because: Not quite yet.

Fourth, three classes have been elected and there still has not been a unanimous choice. This one I don’t get, but I do get.

You would think that people like Richard Petty and Bill France Sr. and even Waltrip this year would get unanimous consent for entry. But, the voters in that room are human beings. Somewhere along the line, everybody in the world has offended somebody in the world.

The snubs on voting day in Charlotte could come from a media member who was blown off in an interview request or it could come from a former driver who thinks a candidate had at one time, done him wrong.

My guess is that when Jimmie Johnson comes up for a vote the first time, he will not get every person in that room to vote for him.

Fifth, some are probably asking why Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have not been voted in.

My contention is that while they already have big numbers as owners, and both have played big roles in the sport, it would actually not be fair to them to vote them in now. They are ongoing stories. Both will win more championships and certainly win lots more races.

Let them build on their bodies of work before even putting the on the ballot.

I’m sure it was not by design and that it happened for business reasons, but I do not like the fact that Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton did their car swap thing on the day when the 2012 Hall vote was held and announced.

A lot of fans looked forward to the swap – Stewart took laps in Hamilton’s Formula 1 car and Hamilton drove Stewart’s Cup car – and a lot of media attention focused on it.

It’s probably just me but I think it showed disrespect to all that was going on at the Hall and a handful of drivers and NASCAR pioneers for whom Tuesday represented the biggest day of their professional life.

Finally, one more personal note on Cotton Owens. He sat three chairs down from me in the debate

Cotton Owens, a true pioneer.

sessions. Between us were writer Rea White and Bud Moore.

Bud, voted in last year, was terrific during the debate. Terrific stories and inside info on candidates. And Cotton, I had never met him before.

After turning in my ballot I went over and introduced myself. Had to. And not just because Cotton, Bud, The King and I were the only four in room not wearing jackets and ties.

Not wanting to bother him, I just said how much I thought his career meant to the sport and that I hope the new fans, the ones who define themselves by whom they hate rather than by whom they follow, will someday appreciate his contribution as well.

We shook hands and walked away. A couple minutes later, Owens came back over to where I was standing and drinking a free Diet Coke, and we pressed on with the conversation. For quite a while.

I realized afterward I had made a mistake: Bother Cotton Owens by talking racing with him? Forget it.

Rip away at me for voting for Cotton. I’ll just smile. Cotton Owens became a kind of friend on Tuesday. And, he made making my choices for next year’s vote one-fifth easier.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 15 2011
6 Comments

6 Comments »

  • John says:

    These first few classes are very difficult for the panel to vote on. I think you did a good job defining how the difficult decisions are reached. Having known many of you well, I have to say that you all take your responsibility very seriously. There are so many candidates and most, if not all, have very compelling reasons to be elected.

  • Mr. Racing says:

    Jim, nice column, and very correct on Cotton, Evans and Hendrick/Childress.
    The truest statement about “not quite yet” is NASCAR and the HOF better figure out a way to get more people in, by developing new categories for honorees.
    That said, I disagree with you on Glen Wood, it’s WOOD Brothers racing-and has always been portrayed as such. Any rationalization otherwise is contrary to Glen’s own statements on the subject. Though I am sure the money-pit will love an extra opportunity to honor a Wood Brother, in the future.

    As for Tony and Lewis: Get over it. It was just “bidness”, something that NASCAR, the HOF and the France’s would surely appreciate. And perhaps commemorate.

  • mr clause says:

    I have to ask this. Why did you make an issue of Stewart and Hamilton doing their thing on the same day as the voting? It was a closed room deal, the results were not given out until late afternoon, where is the issue? I think the “Hall” deal got plenty of coverage and a lot of it was redundant to say the least. Are you saying that “Hall” day should become sacrosanct or something. To say that an event in New York took away from something happening in North Carolina is a bit of a stretch. To expect the fans to spend the entire day doing nothing except concentrating on the “Hall” vote is asking a bit much. By voting day the fans have had the “Hall” shoved down their throats for a month or more and any interest they have left is the results.

    As for the Ritchie Evans types that you for some reason want to delay entry keep this in mind. Take away from NASCAR all the owners,drivers, crew chiefs, mechanics, that came to Sprint from the Modifieds, Late Model Sportsman, Busch, and see the hole that you’d have to fill. The name NASCAR Hall of Fame say’s it all. It doesn’t say Sprint Cup Hall of Fame. I think this years inductee’s are what should be a pattern for future voting. It should include owners, drivers from all divisions along with crew chiefs. The voting should be all inclusive not elitist.

  • Randy says:

    Nice story!

    I grew up in the sport and while Cotton’s kids, my brother and I played with toy cars in the sand in front of the Dunes Court in Daytona, our fathers raced down the beach a few miles away.

    There are dozens of pioneers who will never make it “officially” into the NASCAR HOF but are in some small ways remembered through photos and pieces of their careers inside those walls. It’s a fine place to remember them. And while the NASCAR HOF gets a lot of coverage, don’t forget the National Motorsports Press Association HOF in Darlington, Memory Lane Muesum in Mooresville and all the other museums and Halls of Fame dedicated to the pioneers of the sport we all love.

    Randy Myers

  • Terry says:

    Jim you did a great job…….well…. as you alway’s do.
    Takes for putting me inside the room …..by reading your story.

  • Jonathan Ingram says:

    Interesting day. Great story and well told. I’m glad you were there to give the RacinToday readers some much needed background on the NASCAR Hall and guys like Cotton Owens.