Opinion: Hall of a Life

NASCAR

Pistone: The Class of 2017 is an eclectic mix and one that depicts the very best in NASCAR. I’m honored to have witnessed so much during my life. (Photo: Getty Images)

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This year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Class is an eclectic mix of drivers and owners. It’s also one that has a personal touch to my life.

I’ve been around this sport my entire being and I’ve personally crossed paths with each of the five gentlemen to be honored Friday night in Uptown Charlotte - which probably just means I’m getting old. But it also demonstrates how lucky I’ve been to be around NASCAR so long, both personally and professionally.

I’ll start with Raymond Parks, the sport’s first winning team owner. Since the Hall of Fame process began, I’ve been a strong believer that Parks – and his driver, the sport’s first champion, Red Byron – should be inducted. It hasn’t happened for Byron yet, but the Parks family will have reason to celebrate this year.

I met Mr. Parks the first year the Hall of Fame opened and remember how gracious he was to at least be part of the discussion of being enshrined. However, my final memory was when he was pushed past my broadcast position in his wheelchair by a family member into a nearby elevator minutes after getting the news he was not to be inducted that year. Mr. Parks passed away only a couple years later and will not be there to bask in his moment.

Two other men who made their mark as team owners will also be inducted, Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress. Both have given their entire lives to the sport and deserve the honor, and each has been gracious over the years in the time given to interviews and broadcasts.

I’m always impressed by how much both Mr. Hendrick and "R.C." continue to respect the history of NASCAR while recognizing the need for change at certain points. It’s not hyperbole to say that without either of these extraordinary men’s dedication and contributions, the sport would not be what it is today.

Benny Parsons was that unique individual who made his mark on NASCAR in two disciplines, behind both a steering wheel and a microphone. The always-popular Parsons was a NASCAR champion with an underdog spirit who parlayed his engaging personality to become one of the sport’s most beloved broadcasters of all time.

Parsons regularly would stop to chat in the garage area or the media center whenever our paths crossed, starting the conversation with "Petey, what are you hearing?" before we’d launch into whatever the topic du jour. He was a one of a kind, to be sure.

Which brings me to Mark Martin, a driver I’ve been privileged to watch nearly his entire career.

I first heard of the teenage Arkansas hot shoe in my days as a young fan chasing short-track racing around the Midwest. I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the famous orange No. 2 Camaro I’d only seen in racing trade papers when it rolled into Rockford Speedway for a Tuesday night ARTGO late-model special. That night, Martin and Dick Trickle put on a show during a 100-lap main event that had every fan in the grandstands on their feet for the entire race.

Following Martin’s rise through the ranks to NASCAR stardom was a pleasure to watch and cover. While he never brought home a Cup title, his accomplishments are more than worthy of the Hall of Fame honor bestowed upon him.

The Class of 2017 is an eclectic mix and one that depicts the very best in NASCAR. I’m honored to have witnessed so much during my life.

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

Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, N.C. starting at 8 p.m. (ET) tonight with live streaming at MRN.com.

Photos

  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ken Squier
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ray Evernham
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Robert Yates
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Ron Hornaday Jr.
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class Of 2018 Inductee: Red Byron
  • Class of 2017
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  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Benny Parsons
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
  • Class of 2017: Mark Martin
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