Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class Is ...

David Pearson: Pearson is a three-time NASCAR champion whose career total of 105 victories is second on the all-time list (behind only Richard Petty). Pearson won his titles in 1966, '68 and '69. He also won the sport's biggest event, the Daytona 500, in 1976. In 1998, he was named one of NASCAR's "50 Greatest Drivers." Many argued that he should've been included in the inaugural Hall class, and if the class had been larger, he would've been enshrined alongside the likes of Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Bobby Allison: Allison, winner of the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship, ended his career with 84 victories, tied with Darrell Waltrip for third on the all-time list. In 1972, he won 10 races, had 12 second-place finishes, finishing second in the championship to Richard Petty. Allison captured the NASCAR Modified Special Division championship in 1962 and '63, and then went on to win the Modified Division the following two years. In 1998, Allison was named one of NASCAR's "50 Greatest Drivers."

Lee Petty: Richard Petty's father became the sport's first three-time series champion after winning titles in 1954, '58 and '59. He also was the winner of the first Daytona 500 in 1959 over Johnny Beauchamp, decided after three days of reviewing the classic photo finish. His 54 career victories stands ninth on the all-time list and he never finished lower than fourth in points from 1949-59. In 1998, he was named one of NASCAR's "50 Greatest Drivers." Petty is also the founder of Petty Enterprises; as an owner, he had more than 2,000 starts and 268 victories.

Ned Jarrett: Jarrett was a two-time NASCAR champion (1961 and '65) and two-time Sportsman Division champion (1957 and '58). Through his career, he totaled 50 premier series victories, tied for 11th all time. In 1998 he was named one of NASCAR's "50 Greatest Drivers." After retiring in 1966, Jarrett helped grow the sport through his second career as a broadcaster. Much of NASCAR's growth coincided with Jarrett's presence in the booth, for multiple outlets including ESPN and CBS. Perhaps his most famous call came in 1993, when he sat in the CBS booth while son Dale Jarrett captured his first Daytona 500.

Bud Moore: A decorated World War II infantryman, Bud Moore became a successful Cup owner almost immediately upon fielding a team in 1961. Moore won back-to-back championships in 1962-63 with Joe Weatherly. Earlier, in 1957, Moore -- who referred to himself as "a country mechanic" -- was crew chief for champion Buck Baker. Among those who have driven for Bud Moore at some point in their careers: Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Isaac, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Geoff Bodine, Ricky Rudd and Donnie Allison.

Now, before I get into the debate over who should've gotten in but didn't, let's remember that the NASCAR Hall of Fame is still in its first year. We're still at the point where we're talking about nominees who are virtually guaranteed enshrinement; it's not a matter of if a lot of these guys will get in, but when.

Good luck convincing me guys like Red Byron and Darrell Waltrip won't soon find themselves in the Hall of Fame. Same goes for Dale Inman and Cale Yarborough.

At this point, all arguments over Hall of Fame induction boil down to the order of enshrinement; who should go first -- legendary drivers who captured fans' imaginations or those who pioneered the sport and made stock car racing what it is today? It's an interesting debate, one I'm not sure I have an answer for.

I find it interesting that Allison was enshrined, but not Waltrip -- who's tied with him with 84 career wins -- or Yarborough, who has 83. Waltrip and Yarborough each have three championships -- Yarborough three straight -- to Allison's one. I'm not saying Allison doesn't deserve enshrinement -- he certainly does -- but ahead of two guys with more titles?

Waltrip also has the "ambassador to the sport" angle, given his TV work over the past decade. If we're going to factor that into Jarrett's induction, then it has to work in DW's favor.

And what of the pioneers? Guys like Byron and Raymond Parks? Parks was the Rick Hendrick of his day, owning the first championship-winning car in 1949, and his enshrinement seems inevitable. Still, the sooner the pioneers are enshrined, the better -- after all, how can we truly understand NASCAR's present if we don't constantly remind ourselves of its past?

I'm also vehement in suggesting Inman deserves enshrinement ASAP. The winningest crew chief ever with eight -- he won seven with Petty and another with Terry Labonte in 1984 -- Inman was as much a pioneer as the names mentioned above. People like to talk about Ray Evernham or Chad Knaus being eventual Hall of Famers, but it would be a travesty if they're inducted before Inman.

Like I said, we're still talking about people who will be enshrined -- we're still a few years away from truly starting to debate whether or not someone deserves to be inducted -- but I think it would behoove NASCAR and the Hall of Fame voting panel if we started recognizing the pioneers and a few of the more accomplished drivers.

All in all, though, this year's inductees are fine additions to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The 25 nominees were excellent candidates, and to whittle them down to five couldn't have been easy. Here's hoping some of the names I mentioned above are called next year.

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