NASCAR Hall of Fame ~ Selections and Elections
I bid you welcome gentle readers, to the 2017 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 vintage PattyKay 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 (since 1948), the Hall of Fame has only existed for eight 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 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 40 inducted members (or just over 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 gathered here today.
Each year, there are two committees involved in the selection/election process.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Nomination Committee Members - 2018 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
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
Then, as in several years past, with only one exclusion, there is a roadblock set up as to what names will make up the Voting Panel for the current year. Don’t ask, as I don’t know the answer. For whatever reason, it is almost impossible to find who will be voting on the current year’s nominees… in this case for the Class of 2018. Next year, the list will magically appear in time for the Class of 2019. Really… I don’t make this stuff up. Please go to this page:
When you get there, this is the listing you will see. Of the years listed, which for reasons unknown to me is not a complete list, all show the “Voting Panel Members” with the exception of the current year. Only once has it ever shown up where this scribe could find it before the actual Election Day came and went.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee Members
2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee and Voting Panel Members
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 2018, 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, hopefully to unconfuse!
I can’t make up the missing list, so the best I can give you is last year’s electors and point out that Jimmie Johnson replaces Kyle Busch as reigning Champion on the list, and I’d say there is a good possibility that Robert Yates may once again be recused as he continues to wage a battle with liver cancer. (Prayers are with you Robert)
Voting Panel (36) Total (58):
National Motorsports Press Association (1)
1. Kenny Bruce
NMPA President Eastern Motorsports Press Association (1)
1. Ron Hedger
EMPA President American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters (1)
1. Dusty Brandel
AARWB President Print & Digital Media (7)
1. Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
2. Jenna Fryer, AP
3. Brant James, USA Today
4. Tom Jensen, FOXSports.com
5. Al Pearce, Autoweek
6. Nate Ryan, NBCSports.com
7. Jim Utter, Motorsport.com
Broadcast Partners (7)
1. Rick Allen, NBC
2. Jeff Burton, NBCSN
3. Eli Gold, MRN
4. Jamie Little, FS1
5. Dave Moody, SIRIUS/XM
6. Doug Rice, PRN
7. Marty Smith, ESPN
Car Manufacturers (3)
1. Jim Campbell, Chevrolet
2. Edsel Ford II, Ford
3. David Wilson, Toyota
Former Drivers (3)
1. Ned Jarrett
2. Richard Petty
3. Ricky Rudd (recused)
Former Owners (3)
1. Junior Johnson
2. Bud Moore
3. Robert Yates (recused)
Former Crew Chiefs (3)
1. Buddy Parrott
2. Waddell Wilson (recused)
3. Eddie Wood
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion (1)
1. Jimmie Johnson
NASCAR Community Leaders (5)
1. Paul Brooks
2. Mike Harris
3. Tom Higgins
4. Ken Squier (recused)
5. 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 40 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees, the “Class of 2017”, included: Raymond Parks (Finally!), Benny Parsons, Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Mark Martin.
Replacing those gentlemen will be these five newly nominated candidates:
Among them are two owners who have each eclipsed the 100-win mark (Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske), a driver who combined for four championships in NASCAR’s Modified and Late Model Sportsman division (Red Farmer), an extreme talent who collected 19 wins before his too-soon passing (Davey Allison) and the 2000 premier series champion (Bobby Labonte). (More on each in the list below)
Following are the 20 nominees for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, listed alphabetically:
Ron Hornaday Jr
The five nominees for the Landmark Award for the Class of 2017 were:
H. Clay Earles
H. Clay Earles was your Class of 2017 Landmark Award Winner.
I bring that list back in order to show one of those little sleights of hand we should by now be accustomed to. In this year’s list of those eligible for the Award, not one, but two new names appear, and one gentleman… and he was most certainly just that… has been quietly removed from the list and no one has mentioned it anywhere that your scribe has heard or read.
The five nominees for the Landmark Award, listed alphabetically, are as follows:
The name gone mysteriously from the eligibility list is that of Raymond Parks. Yes, Raymond was finally inducted into the Hall last year, but the criteria for the award clearly states that a name may appear on both lists, so being already a member of the Hall of Fame does not preclude one from receiving the Landmark Award as well.
(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. The official vote this year will take place at the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 and will be announced live at the Hall and probably on NBCSN. Fan voting has not yet begun, but I suspect that will be remedied soon enough. Once nascar.com updates the page, you’ll be able to read more about each nominee and cast your ballot(s). In years past, they’ve hidden the vote rather effectively, but if it works as it always has, go to nascar.com, click on “more”, (the hamburger icon), then on “discover.” Scroll the list and eventually you’ll find “Hall of Fame Vote” or something similar. Go for it!
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 23, the day before the Official Voting Panel, whoever they might be, meets to decide the final nominees for the Class of 2018.
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 58 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 24, 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 almost 3 months this year, 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 50 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.
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 a 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 this week, let’s listen together to Part 2 of “Queens of Country Music.” Here is more of the Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry at their very best.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!