Everyone knows that NASCAR was long overdue in establishing a Hall of Fame (HOF) when the effort finally got underway a few years ago. From the onset of this endeavor, they have chosen a curious and excruciatingly slow route to select nominees and ultimately inductees. When the initial list of 25 candidates was proposed it was evident that each of these candidates would one day be in the HOF. From the start, it’s been evident that this enterprise is lagging. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to not ‘rush to judgment’ NASCAR decided to induct five members at a time. Normally, that would be ideal, IF the HOF was up to speed, as it were, with all those who should be in it already inducted. However, since this effort should have been an initiative of NASCAR's at least 25, perhaps more, years ago, it is disconcerting to see such slow going in this effort to honor the many who so richly deserve to be in the NASCAR HOF.
Why do the folks running NASCAR have to make everything so convoluted? Other HOFs for major sports don’t have this problem. When the HOF initiative started, I felt that NASCAR should have grandfathered in the first 25 nominees to get a start on what has been missing all these years. Actually, I would have like to have seen a ‘full field’ of 43 entered. If categories are recognized, then that number would not seem so large, particularly while the HOF is being established. It might take a bit away from the pomp and circumstance of induction, but since this effort is so woefully behind, something needs to be done to get the much needed inductions rolling at a better rate. There has to be a better method of selecting and adding HOF members.
Ideally, in a HOF, there should be divisions, first and foremost, among the nominees. Something along the lines of: Drivers, Car Owners, Executives (such as NASCAR executives, Corporate Executives and Track owners), Crew Chiefs & Crew, and Media. Additionally, there could be a Special Selection Committee to handle nominations that do not easily fit these categories (e.g., a well known pit crew, such as the Flying Aces, The Alabama Gang (as a group), and the Racing Wives Auxiliary. Also, recognize a Sponsors section, for the various well-known racing sponsors such as R.J. Reynolds/Winston, Unocal, etc. to be acknowledged. There could even be a Pioneers Committee. There are ways to organize this effort that are so much better. Women and minorities certainly should have a recognized spot in the sport – Louise Smith and Wendell Scott immediately come to mind – recognition for those who were ground breakers in the sport. Wendell Scott was a racer long before ‘diversity’ became a buzzword. And, women like Lynda Petty, Judy Allison, Flossie Johnson, to name a few, were part of the fabric and backbone of the sport as we know it today.
To get things rolling, in the categories, up to five Drivers, two Executives, two Crew Chiefs, and one Media (writers and broadcasters) inductee should be selected from each category. It’s so patently obvious that many of the veteran drivers should have already been grandfathered into the NASCAR HOF—at the rate things are going it’ll be NASCAR’s 200th Anniversary before half of those who should be in the HOF are enshrined. After all, this effort is approximately 63 years behind already – comparable to running 63 laps down, if you will.
A further step I would like to see is to NOT allow nominations of ACTIVE drivers, owners, crew, etc. A HOF is for career accomplishments. I firmly oppose ANY ACTIVE member of NASCAR being enshrined in the field in which they are active. Were Richard Childress to be nominated as a driver—that would be one thing. But, if he were to be nominated as an owner, then he should not be eligible until he no longer is a team owner. Ditto Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, etc. Likewise with, say, Darrell Waltrip. Nominate him as a driver? Yes, he is retired from that (we think.) Nominate him as a broadcaster? No. These are all commonsense guidelines that the other sports adhere to.
Financially, the HOF is taking a beating as well. But, what would you expect? A trip to Charlotte to see 10 or so plaques is not exactly on the top of my list for a racing HOF/museum and I am sure others feel the same way. It’s going to be quite awhile, at this rate, before a visit there is a memorable event. Just think Cooperstown and Canton. You get the idea.
NASCAR has a chance to do something timely and remarkable with their HOF. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a little fast-tracking (pun intended) to get it where it should be? By the time NASCAR finally gets around to some of the potential inductees, they will likely have to be posthumous ceremonies. Not a great idea, really. It’s far more rewarding to induct someone while they are still around to receive the recognition and accolades!
Come on NASCAR—you can do so much better than you are on this. It IS a race for time, in a sense. Long overdue and past time to make up ground for those who deserve to be in the NASCAR HOF now. Get your feet off of the brakes and make a charge for the finish line. Put away the red flag. You don’t need a caution flag right now – get out the green flag and go for the checkers. Your fans – and even more important – your pioneers who built this multimillion dollar sport – deserve it.