Opinion: Hall of a Decision

Hall of Fame Vote

The voting process for the NASCAR Hall of Fame is an inexact science, as displayed once again when the Class of 2014 was announced Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images)

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The voting process for the NASCAR Hall of Fame is certainly an inexact science, as displayed once again when the Class of 2014 was announced Wednesday evening.

That’s probably a good thing.

Setting up specific criteria that relies on numbers and statistics would suck half the fun out of the proceedings.  Rather than follow a defined plan, each year’s five inductees are voted in by a 54-member nominating committee with a fan vote factored in.  It's a free-form forum that provides great debate, passionate discussion and a little controversy.

All of it came together again this week in Charlotte.

It’s cliché to say everyone on the list of nominees is deserving of consideration but at least at this stage in the NASCAR HoF process, that statement is very true.  When a sport has more than sixty years of history before opening the doors to a Hall of Fame, worthy candidates are plentiful.

This year’s five inductees - Tim Flock, Fireball Roberts, Maurice Petty, Dale Jarrett and Jack Ingram - are most certainly a fine representation of NASCAR’s storied history.  But at the risk of sounding disrespectful and raining on the well-deserved parade that went on in uptown Charlotte after the announcement, I’m more than a little confused and even disappointed at the turn of events.

Once again, the voting panel ignored two true pioneers of the sport.  Another year has passed and trail blazers such as Raymond Parks, the sport’s first championship-winning car owner; and Red Byron, who won the inaugural NASCAR stock car title in 1949, were snubbed.

The more time that passes and these legends aren’t recognized for their accomplishments, the more difficult their road to the Hall becomes.  "Bigger" names and contemporaries have already overshadowed these deserving individuals and it will only be compounded in the coming years when more become eligible for consideration.

It’s a shame.  Without a Raymond Parks, there would not be a Rick Hendrick or Richard Childress.  Dale Inman, a championship crew chief many times over, blazed a trail that's been followed by better-known names such as Ray Evernham and Chad Knaus, two HoF slam-dunks in coming years.  Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough wouldn’t have had their chances to shine or be inducted into the Hall without the exploits of early stock car stars Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner and Fred Lorenzen.

The time for those who made their mark on NASCAR in more recent years will come.  But the expiration date to remember those who truly helped create the sport is going to run out unless they receive the honor they deserve in a much more timely fashion.

Sadly, those thoughts weren't considered again this time around and with each passing year, these contributions by such amazing men will continue to fade.  Thankfully, Flock and Roberts represented NASCAR's old guard this time around.

Voters also chose to go outside the Cup Series ranks this year for the second time and induct Late Model Sportsman and Busch Series champion Ingram into the Hall of Fame.  The "Iron Man" was the Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt of his day running in the highly competitive series.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ingram belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame - but not as one of the first 25 names inducted.

I understand the Hall is not a Sprint Cup-only shrine and the entire history of NASCAR should be represented.  But at this early stage in its formation and with so many other names that have made significant contributions to the top level of the sport who are not yet enshrined, it makes little sense to me to recognize a driver who - quite honestly - excelled at the regional level rather than the full national level.

Judging by the vote percentage, many inside the nomination room agree as Ingram was on just 53 percent of the ballots.

Please don’t misunderstand my opinion as disrespect to any of the inductees.  My perspective and criteria may be different, but it is certainly no better than those who actually had a vote.  The debate and interaction around the sport this time is good for NASCAR and this year is no different.

The conversation will again become heated a year from now when the Class of 2015 is announced.  There will be some sure things, a couple long shots and most certainly a surprise or two when the next five names are unveiled.

And there’s a very good chance I won’t agree with all of the inductees.

Yep, that’s probably a good thing.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Hall of Fame

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