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Who's missing from NASCAR hall of fame nominees?

Published September 11, 2009


All eyes will be on Saturday night's final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup "regular season" at Richmond. The results of the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 will determine the last one or two of the 12 drivers who will race in the Chase for the Championship.

But I'm interested in another NASCAR race that's nearing the finish line — the one to determine the first five people who will be inducted into the new NASCAR Hall of Fame next May.

We, as fans, can participate in the selection process. It's important that we do, and I'll tell you why.

Whenever decisions are made as to who qualifies for induction into a hall of fame — hockey, football, baseball, whatever — there are undercurrents at work. Politics enters into the equation, as does personal bias on the part of selectors. Political correctness (distinct from politics) is always a factor. And so on.

So, if selecting people for induction is left entirely to a sport's power brokers, it's possible that some worthy people might be left out for the reasons outlined above.

Example: One of the 25 people nominated is Curtis Turner. Turner was a total pain in the ass so far as NASCAR was concerned. He was a hard-drinking, hard-living racer who tried to start a drivers' union and once landed his airplane on the main street of Easley, S.C., because he and his passengers were "running dangerously low on whisky" and needed to replenish their supply. That Easley didn't have an airport was of no concern to Turner.

I will bet you all the money you have that NASCAR doesn't want Turner to make the cut because he was a corporate embarrassment.

But we, the fans, know differently.

Turner, who died in 1970, was an entertainer of the first degree. He was also a helluva race driver and won more than 300 races in a varied career that included the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, the NASCAR Convertible Division and the NASCAR Grand National Division.

He also was a hard-headed, successful businessman who, in 1961 built the Charlotte Motor Speedway, probably one of the three most famous speedways in the world (Indy and Daytona being the others).

Turner is why it's important for us, the fans, to let those suit-with-vest folks making the decisions know exactly how we feel about who should get in and who shouldn't. Our voice will still be a minority, but if enough people get involved, it can be a loud minority.

You only have a few weeks left to cast a ballot. Go to to do it. You can only vote once but they'll tabulate the results and pass the fan ballot on to the 47-member Selection Committee, which will make its decisions known on Oct. 5.

Inductions will take place when the Hall of Fame is opened in Charlotte next May.

I have a couple of nits with that list of nominees.

1. Where is Wendel Scott? Scott was the first black man to compete in NASCAR and did it when the Ku Klux Klan still exerted influence in America. NASCAR talks constantly about its diversity programs but, when the chips are down, it's the same old, same old.

2. Junior Johnson is on the list for possible induction. He's also on the selection committee. It should be one or the other.

3. Dick Foley of Montreal raced with NASCAR on the beach at Daytona and was the first Canadian to make the field for the Daytona 500, in its inaugural year in 1959. He also triggered the biggest crash in NASCAR history (Click here to watch it). Because a huge part of NASCAR's appeal is the Big One, I think the guy who created the Biggest One Ever should get some recognition.

Here's who I'm voting for from the list under consideration:

1. Bill France Sr. He started the whole thing in 1947, so if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have this wonderful racing organization to both love and hate today.

2. Turner. For all the hell-raising reasons I outlined above. He was a true original.

3. Richie Evans: There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of top-notch short-track racers who, for reasons known only to themselves, never went on to the Big Time.

It was more of a pleasure to watch Evans, Jerry Cook, Maynard Troyer, George Kent, Jimmy Spencer (okay, he moved up) and Reggie Ruggierro going at it, hammer and tong, on the short tracks of the U.S. Northeast than it was to be at a place like Michigan to watch a parade of big names not doing very much of anything.

Evans won nine NASCAR modified championships, including eight straight. He is worthy.

4. Ned Jarrett. He won 50 races in a seven-year career — that's an average of seven a year and how many of today's superstars can boast that? — and two Winston Cup titles.

"Gentleman Ned" then carved out a successful career as the original driver-turned-broadcaster.

Without him, we might not have had Benny Parsons in the booth, or the boogity-boogity-boogity boy himself, Darrell W. Jarrett's TV voice helped pave the way for NASCAR to become the roaring success it is today.

5. Richard Petty. His 200 victories at the top level will never be matched or beaten. But he's also been the face (and cowboy hat and sunglasses) of NASCAR for 50 years.

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