Tough Decisions Greeted Voters At The Hall
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Selecting the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees wasn’t easy for the 54-member voting panel and some said Wednesday they expect picking the five to only get tougher with each passing year.
“In the past, you had several that were slam dunks,” Ned Jarrett said when asked why the voting was so difficult. “The first one – the Frances, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt – that’s a no brainer. The second class had Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Lee Petty, so that’s some slam dunks in that situation. Last year we had Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and they were slam dunks. This time they were all up near the top. There were a solid 10 or 12.
“I came here with a list of eight. Four of those got in that I came here with. That’s what made it so tough; so many deserving candidates. It was the toughest class to date that we had to vote on.”
It was announced Wednesday evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame that Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood would comprise the fourth induction class. However, before the announcement the voting panel had to produce a second ballot for the first time in order to break a tie between Baker and Fireball Roberts for the fifth inductee. Seven-time NASCAR champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty said he lobbied for Baker. He gave a speech to the panel on why Baker, the first driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR’s premier series, should receive the honor.
“I was looking at Buck Baker, Herb Thomas and Tim Flock as the three that came along at that time that raced each other and put us in an era,” Petty said. “I felt like all three of those were equal deals and they should have all gone in at the same time.”
Jarrett admitted he was “swayed a little bit” by the speeches given during the voting process.
“The five I leaned towards, I changed my mind on one of them after the discussions,” Jarrett said.
NASCAR President Mike Helton described the 2013 class as a “good balance of our whole heritage.”
When asked if he felt the class started to validate the NASCAR Hall of Fame a little more, Helton said he believed it did.
“I think there’s still some that deserve to be in there to help continue to validate it,” Helton continued. “There’s Raymond Parks. He was our first champion car owner and Red Byron who was out first champion driver. There are a lot of individuals still that played a huge role in launching the sport and growing the sport. We’ll be busy for several years.”
Some outsiders were surprised that Wallace received the honor the first time his name was on the ballot when such drivers as David Pearson and Darrell Waltrip didn’t. Jarrett explained it quite simply “there were more candidates in that category in the early voting.”
“Rusty, even though he’s had some controversy in his career, he’s done a lot for the sport,” Jarrett said. “That was discussed and that was good. He continues to do good things. He loves NASCAR. It’s obvious in what he does. I think that’s the reason he got in now.”
NASCAR Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton, who was Wallace’s crew chief 1995-2001, said the 1989 NASCAR Cup champion and winner of 55 races was “worthy of my vote all along.”
“I’m more tuned up on Rusty than a lot of the other people that don’t know him like I know him,” Pemberton said. “Rusty was very detailed oriented. He would never give up and he would never quit working on the car. The short track, the way you ran them at the height of his career, was driver feel and running long distances, taking care of the car and the tires. Many times when we thought we had the most perfect car, Rusty was still going to make it that one notch better. More times than not he was right in his attention to detail and what he needed in a car was second to none.”
Wallace, Baker and Thomas are the championship drivers in the 2013 class, while Owens claimed a title as an owner in 1966 with Pearson as his driver. Wood was the chief mechanic on the Stuart, Va., family team that has been in the sport for 62 years. Known as a “tinkerer”, Wood developed the fast pit stop for which the Wood Brothers received international fame and ran the team’s race winning engine shop. Wood’s older brother, Glen, was in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2012 class.
Some thought Wood might not be selected for the 2013 class, due to not wanting brothers to enter the Hall of Fame back-to-back, and he admitted he figured that philosophy might come into play in the voting.
“Just because he (Glen) got in, didn’t mean I was going to get in,” Wood said. “Glen wanted me to get in and I knew that. My nephews, Eddie and Len, and niece, Kim, have been behind me 100 percent. That meant a lot to me. I thought I might have a shot at it, but you never know how people are going to vote.”
Pemberton says the “beauty of this whole thing [voting process] is everybody has a difference of opinion on what the criteria needs to be.”
“Some think about stats, some think about the total body of work inside and outside the car,” Pemberton continued. “So there are a lot of things that go into that. That’s really the cool thing, because it allows so many different opinions to be shared during that process because it is so open. I believe people that needed to hear about what went on outside the car, those people that could share that with the group or needed it to cast the vote, whether Rusty this time or someone else another time, that’s what was great about that.”
The induction ceremony for the five men selected Wednesday will occur on Feb. 8, 2013.
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment