(RaceTalkRadio.com; April 16, 2012)
This Wednesday race fans were looking forward to the big announcement from NASCAR about which five participants from the sports’ past would be added to the nomination list for the Hall of Fame. The event earned its own night on Race Hub on SPEED. Excitement was building all day! As the clock ticked down to 7pm ET we learned who was going to be eligible this year. At 8:01pm ET the criticism (And yawns) began among NASCAR Nation. We were waiting for this? Perhaps the entire way the NASCAR Hall of Fame process was established explains the reaction and also might explain the poor attendance too.
Drivers are the Stars
The drivers are the stars of NASCAR. This isn’t a fan saying this. Those were the words of Bill France Jr when the “50 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR” were released back in 1998. Specifically he said, “These are the men who define the competition of our sport. Their accomplishments are the benchmark that much of our history is identified by. Honoring them in this way, at the beginning of the NASCAR 50th Anniversary celebration, is one way of showing our true appreciation for them and the invaluable contribution they have given over the past 50 years. These are the drivers who made and make NASCAR fans stand on their feet and cheer. These are the drivers who are NASCAR history.”
Only 15 of the 25 people on the current nomination list for the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2013 were drivers. One of the drivers on the nomination list wasn’t considered one of NASCAR’s best 50 drivers 14 years ago. Either NASCAR screwed up on this list back in 1998 or that driver should wait until the 50 best get their turn to be inducted first. A Hall of Fame is for the best of the best in any sport. Individual seasons or ground breaking performances are honored with exhibits at the Hall of Fame not by inducting that one season or one win wonder.
France Family Values
NASCAR controls the Hall of Fame process from naming the nominating committee to handling the voting procedure. In other sports the sports writers take on that task and their word goes. Listening to NASCAR fans after Ann France was added to the nomination list should speak loud and clear to NASCAR that the system they established is wrong. This does not belittle the work by Ann France, she was important to the history of NASCAR but she was not a star. Some had the same reaction when Les Richter was added to the nomination list last year after he passed away.
The fans think this is just the France Family Hall of Fame for their important family members and participants that the family loved over the years. There is little truth to this but that doesn’t matter for NASCAR fans that are always looking at conspiracy theories. But when one of NASCAR’s famous pains in the France’s butt Smokey Yunick is left off the nomination list this long it makes you wonder if the fans are right. The drivers are the stars is what Bill France Jr said…shouldn’t more of the stars be elected first?
Fixing the System
Not that anyone from NASCAR is likely to listen to me any time soon but if I complain about a perceived problem I always come armed with a fix for that problem. The first thing that needs to be done is to turn the nomination process and voting procedure over to the National Motorsports Press Association. Yes many members of the NMPA cover racing types other than NASCAR but the NMPA involvement would make sure the fans can’t blame NASCAR for any moves they see. The second change is to who can be voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame by the NMPA. This should be limited to drivers, crew chiefs and mechanics/crew guys only. NASCAR would also add one “Founder” pick of their choice to the induction process.
Maybe if the fans see less direct control by the NASCAR hierarchy they will feel like it is their Hall of Fame. If nothing else these changes would limit the amount of criticism that is thrown at NASCAR every time a new class is announced. Maybe now the fans think this is a way for the France Family to thank those they love and punish those that gave them a hard time. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why attendance has been way below estimates since the day the NASCAR Hall of Fame was opened. Maybe the fans don’t look at the HOF as their own.
My Hall of Fame Picks
1) Leonard Wood- Revolutionized the pit stop and helped build one of the sports’ legacy teams.
2) Buck Baker- First back to back champion in the Cup division.
3) Herb Thomas- Impossible not to have him join his main rival Buck Baker.
4) Fireball Roberts- Became one of the first “Rock Star” type drivers and won 33 times with a winning percentage of 15% despite running part time schedule.
5) Fred Lorenzen- Twenty-six wins in his NASCAR career with a winning percentage of 16%.
Raymond Parks- There might not have been a NASCAR today without Mr. Parks.
Who are your picks for the NASCAR Hall of Fame? What did you think of the racing at Texas Motor Speedway and Rockingham Speedway over the weekend? Join Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen for Doin’ Donuts at 8pm ET on Monday and sound off! Quick Change featuring Jerry Bonkowski and Waid’s World with Steve Waid also are featured every Monday night on RaceTalkRadio.com’s Doin’ Donuts with Lori and Dennis.