NASCAR Hall of Fame ~ How the Election Process Works
I bid you welcome gentle readers, to the 2016 version of my annual NASCAR Hall of Fame lecture on how it works and maybe how it doesn’t. Please note that ALL data quoted within has been gathered directly from the pages of the NASCAR Hall of Fame website.
Opinions are my own unless otherwise credited.
If you are not familiar with the workings of the Hall, it helps to know that although NASCAR has been a race-sanctioning body for almost 70 years, the Hall of Fame has only existed for seven of them. Some gold-star calculus student decided that 5 would be a nice round number to induct annually, so somewhere around the year 2525, if man is still alive, things may even out, providing that very few new stars appear in the racing sky between now and then. (In this scribe’s considered opinion, a whole host of racing pioneers will simply be forgotten eventually under this failed system. Those men and women from the early days made the sport of stock car racing, and should… in the perfect world according to PK, be grandfathered into the Hall as a group before another year passes, then another, and then another…)
To date, the Hall consists of 35 inducted members (or roughly half an inductee per year that NASCAR has raced), and as Mike Helton would say, “It is what it is.” Our purpose today is not to say who should or should not be in that number, as that is something no two people can agree upon, let alone many thousands of us. That’s why they have a voting process, and that, dear hearts and gentle readers, is why we’re here.
Each year, there are two committees involved in the selection/election process.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Nomination Committee Members - 2016 Nominating Committee (22):
NASCAR Hall of Fame (2)
1. Winston Kelley
2. Buz McKim
NASCAR officials (8)
1. Brian France
2. Jim France
3. Mike Helton
4. Brent Dewar
5. Steve Phelps
6. Steve O’Donnell
7. Jill Gregory
8. Scott Miller
1. Lesa Kennedy
2. Clay Campbell
1. Ed Clark
2. Eddie Gossage I
1. Tony George
1. Denis McGlynn
1. Looie McNally
Historic short track operators – one representative from each track: (4)
1. Bowman Gray Operator – Dale Pinilis
2. Rockford Speedway Operator – Jody Deery
3. Holland Motorsports Park – Ron Bennett
4. West Coast Short Track Representative – Ken Clapp
1. Mike Joy, Fox
Then, gentle readers, we come to a roadblock that has become ever so familiar over the years. Whoever’s job it is to update the Hall of Fame site should be doing it without pay, as it is almost never current. Last year in fact, I took time to congratulate them, as it was the first time ever that all that I sought was there and current. This year, upon navigating to http://www.nascarhall.com/inductees/induction-process
where one finds the nominating and election data, this is what I found:
NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee
2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and Voting Panel Members
2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and Voting Panel Members
2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and Voting Panel Members
2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and Voting Panel Members
The data pertinent to our conversation here is dated 2017, which refers to when the eventual 5 nominees chosen in May will be inducted into the Hall. Yes, the dating system is confusing, but that’s why I’m here, to unconfuse!
As you can clearly see because I left the other years there for comparison, something is missing from the 2017 data… the members of this year’s Voting Panel. Well, I can’t make them up, so the best I can give you is last year’s electors and point out that Kyle Busch will replace Kevin Harvick as reigning Champion on the list, and that Steve Byrnes will definitely not be casting a ballot this year, though I wish he were. At least you have the links, so updates should be easier to find.
Voting Panel (37) Total Votes (59)
National Motorsports Press Association (1) 1. Brian Nelson, NMPA President
Eastern Motorsports Press Association (1) 1. Ron Hedger, EMPA President
American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters (1) 1. Dusty Brandel, AARWB President
Print & Online Media (7) 1. Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com 2. Jenna Fryer, AP 3. Tom Jensen, FOXSports.com 4. Al Pearce, Autoweek 5. Jim Pedley, RacinToday 6. Nate Ryan, NBCSports.com 7. Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer
Broadcasters (7) 1. Rick Allen, NBC 2. Steve Byrnes, FS1 3. Jeff Burton, NBCSN 4. Eli Gold, MRN 5. Dave Moody, SIRIUS/XM 6. Doug Rice, PRN 7. Marty Smith, ESPN
Manufacturers (3) 1. Jim Campbell, Chevrolet 2. Edsel Ford, Ford 3. David Wilson, Toyota
Former Drivers (3) 1. Ned Jarrett 2. Richard Petty 3. Ricky Rudd
Former Owners (3) 1. Junior Johnson 2. Bud Moore 3. Robert Yates (recused)
Former Crew Chiefs (3) 1. Buddy Parrott 2. Waddell Wilson 3. Eddie Wood
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion (1) 1. Kevin Harvick
NASCAR Community Leaders (6) 1. Paul Brooks 2. Barney Hall 3. Mike Harris 4. Tom Higgins 5. Ken Squier 6. Humpy Wheeler
Fan Vote (1)
Well gentle readers, that’s the best I’ve got on that part of the process. Let’s now take a look at who’s eligible for what this year. Those whose names were added this past January to the list of now 35 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees, the “Class of 2016”, included: Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. (It’s about time Pops!)
Replacing those gentlemen will be these five newly nominated candidates:
Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier and Waddell Wilson. (More on each in the list below)
Following are the 20 nominees for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, listed alphabetically:
Buddy Baker, won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Sprint Cup) series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500
Red Byron, first NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949
Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series
Ray Evernham, three-time NASCAR premier series championship crew chief
Ray Fox, legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner
Rick Hendrick, 14-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series
Ron Hornaday, four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion
Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR premier series championship crew chief
Alan Kulwicki, 1992 NASCAR premier series champion
Mark Martin, 96-time race winner in NASCAR national series competition
Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR west series champion
Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner
Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR premier series champion
Larry Phillips, only five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion
Jack Roush, five-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series
Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR’s premier series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400
Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner/namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence
Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships
Waddell Wilson, won three NASCAR premier series championships as an engine builder
Robert Yates, won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner
Added to this year’s list of Landmark Award nominees is Janet Guthrie – the first female driver to compete in a NASCAR premier series superspeedway race. The four returning nominees for the Landmark Award are H. Clay Earles, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Squier (more on each below).
The five nominees for the Landmark Award, listed alphabetically, are as follows:
H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway
Janet Guthrie, the first female to compete in a NASCAR premier series superspeedway race
Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner
Ralph Seagraves, formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence
(Potential Landmark Award recipients include competitors or those working in the sport as a member of a racing organization, track facility, race team, sponsor, media partner or being a general ambassador for the sport through a professional or non-professional role. Award winners remain eligible for NHOF enshrinement.)
And there, guys and gals, are your 20 nominees eligible for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the 5 names eligible for the Landmark Award. Fan voting has already begun, and it didn’t take long for a few folks to come looking for this column. It’s gotten kind of like Easter; it comes every spring without fail, but not always on the same day.
The official vote this year will take place at the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, May 25 and will be announced live at the Hall and on NBCSN. The “Fan Vote”, as mentioned, is already in progress. To read more about each nominee and cast your ballot(s), you can go to nascar.com and find the Hall of Fame Vote listed under the caption “Discover.” Or, you can just save this URL and get there quicker:
There is no limit to the number of ballots any one person can cast, and I guess that means that those really techie folks can rig their computers to vote continuously, 24/7 until the deadline, which I haven’t been able to find in print, but would guess might be at midnight on Tuesday, May 24, the day before the Official Voting Panel meets to decide the final nominees for the Class of 2017.
Please allow your scribe to say a word or two about the Fan Vote by way of explanation, in case anyone was thinking that their vote actually counts for more than a cat’s whisker. There are 59 total votes cast in one day, and the five receiving the most votes will be at the induction ceremonies next January. The Fan Vote is counted as ONE vote, and yes, you will be competing with those kiddies that will be attempting to weight and control that single vote with machines and technology that might get one to the moon. Is it any wonder that NASCAR does not allow the fans to actually control the bulk of the voting?
Vote all you want. Come May 25, you’ll find out how much your millions and millions of votes do for you. Yours, mine, theirs, everyone’s, all cast over a period of over 6 weeks, will be rolled up into a teeny little ball and cast as one single vote. In that room, among the members of the voting panel, are three members of the France family and many highly placed NASCAR officials, all carrying fancy titles. In fairness, I am acquainted with and have questioned a couple of the folks on the Voting Panel, albeit not in recent years, and they swear there is no coercion to vote one way or another, and there probably is not… at least that’s verbal or verifiable. Still, I know that if I were sitting in a room with the aforementioned people, and my job depended on NASCAR in any way, I’d at least be paying attention when pleas were made in favor of this or that person. It doesn’t take much to get one’s point across, if one is seated at the head of any table, anywhere.
In conclusion, unless I think of more to say, I want to make mention of the usual elephant in the living room… the name that is not, and may never be on the list of nominees. There was a man; a very intelligent and ambitious man; a man who cared more about the lives of the drivers than some of the drivers themselves. He worked and worried and invented all manner of automobile-related things; he built cars and he built engines. Those engines, coupled with the cars he built, won races… lots of races. His racing stable included many of the best and most recognizable names in early racing. As I look over those 20 good folks on this year’s list, I see several crew chiefs’ and engine builders’ names… Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Harry Hyde, Waddell Wilson, and Robert Yates… some of the very best, from several different eras. Still, I would guarantee that everyone I named would defer his place to that one man, and do so with complete understanding that he was at one time, better than any of them. I know it; they know it, but that man, that genius, known nationwide as probably the best mechanic ever to turn a wrench in an engine, quarreled with Big Bill France, and some 60 or so years later, the newer generation of the France family does not allow his name mentioned as a possible nominee for the Hall of Fame that bears the NASCAR name.
His name? Why, his name is Smokey Yunick. You’ve all heard of him. He is legendary in NASCAR and IndyCar as well. He has been inducted into every meaningful Racing Hall of Fame that doesn’t require one to be born in a certain state to qualify for membership, yet his name may never appear on the list we deal with today. Fair? No, of course it’s not fair, but it is true.
So very many slights and oversights occur with the politics of any Hall of Fame. Eventually, they all become controlled and sometimes downright unkind, but this one started out that way. I have a picture I’d like to show you gentle readers. It is one of the saddest pictures I have ever seen. The gentleman in the wheelchair is Raymond Parks. The setting is the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Mr. Parks is staring up at a more than life-sized statue of himself… NASCAR’s token to the man without whom there would be no NASCAR today. Shortly after that picture was taken, Mr. Parks passed away. He was 96 years of age and just couldn’t wait any longer to see himself inducted into the Hall of Fame that bore the name of the sanctioning body he’d not only raced under, but supported in its entirety for several of the early years. To date, he remains “in waiting.”
I apologize for my digression, but it is stories such as this one that make it so very difficult for folks of my generation to take this particular Hall of Fame seriously. Just that single mass-induction of a given number of our pioneers… the folks that made the wheels turn and the engines hum with the sweat of their brow, the blood from their cracked knuckles and not much more… would have changed so many bad things to good things, and it still could. It’s not too late. It’s never too late to do what’s right.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and one of my young readers has asked for something “Happy” this time around. Well, Heaven knows, I love to smile or even laugh out loud, so let’s see what’s good for some smiles today.
When I hear “Happy”, my first thoughts go to Eddy Arnold. Yes, Eddy did some tear jerkers, but he also did some really upbeat, neat stuff… like this one. It’s called “The Richest Man in the World.”
Here’s another happy song from Eddy. This one is called “Cuddle Buggin’ Baby.” Please enjoy!
Here’s one of Eddy’s from the early 50s. This one was one of my favorites as a young teen. This is “I Wanna Play House with You.”
This one is from around the same time period, and I guess I related to it then because of my age. I still love to listen to it though. Here is, “There’s Been a Change in Me.”
Darn, I really hate to close this one. I hope y’all are having as much fun as I am. This is a song the likes of which I think are pure Eddy, as I’ve never heard anyone else do anything like it. It is simply called “Eddy’s Song.” See if you can recognize how many of Eddy’s songs are found in the lyrics.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!