(Current Hall of Fame members represent a wide cross section of NASCAR's history)
CHARLOTTE - Three classes have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the latest going in last Friday night. That quartet - Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Glen Wood, Dale Inman and Richie Evans - has set a precedent for perhaps some new thinking in nominating future classes.
The voting panel clearly made a statement in the 2012 class. The eclectic range of names that found their way into the Hall this time around represents an array of different contributions to NASCAR's history.
Waltrip and Yarborough are among the best drivers ever to compete at the sport's top level. Inman may be the gold standard of crew chiefs while Wood was a founding father of the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, one of NASCAR's original organizations. Finally Evans represents the short track racer who may not have made his way to the Sprint Cup Series but nevertheless made his mark on the sport.
So going forward the focus won't necessarily have to be on drivers who excelled in the Sprint Cup Series as conventional wisdom might have led some to believe when the HOF first opened its doors only three years ago. With 60 plus years of history to recognize, NASCAR is playing catch up to some degree in comparison to other professional sports who have enjoyed having Halls for a much longer period.
But limiting the thought process to simply the people who made their mark behind the wheel is not part of the criteria based on the first three years of voting.
My personal belief is even with that more wide open approach, the pioneers of NASCAR from whatever capacity should be recognized first. With each passing year the likes of Red Byron of Raymond Parks are not remembered the tougher telling the story of their legacy becomes.
I don't have a vote but if I did here are the next five members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the Class of 2013:
NASCAR’s first championship-winning car owner should not be overlooked any longer. Parks was part of the original committee that helped form the sanctioning body at the famed meeting held in Florida’s Streamline Hotel and won the 1949 championship with driver Red Byron. Without Raymond Parks there would be no Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Jack Roush, Joe Gibbs or other successful team owners of today. He’s a true pioneer of the sport and belongs in the Hall. It's been one of the most unfortunate casualties of the process that Parks remains on the united list.
He won NASCAR’s first race in 1948 and was the first champion in 1949 behind the wheel of Raymond Parks’ ride. A World War II veteran, Byron is NASCAR’s original hero and like his title-winning team owner a pioneer who is owed a debt of gratitude by the entire sport for paving the way. Someone who achieved what Byron did who made their living at baseball or football would have a spot in Cooperstown or Canton by now. It's a shame that NASCAR has not found a home for Byron among its HOF honorees.
He was the first driver to win back-to-back Sprint Cup championships (1956 , '57) and finished second in '55 and '58. Baker won 46 races in Cup and also won in the Modified and Sportsman (which eventually became Nationwide) divisions. An ex-moonshine runner like many early NASCAR stars, Baker made 631 Cup starts from 1949 to 1976. He's in six Halls of Fame and the next stop should be the one in Charlotte.
He won 32 races as a car owner and nine as a driver in Cup and also was NASCAR's Modified champion in 1953 and 1954. Owens was runner-up to Lee Petty for the 1959 Cup championship. He doubled up as an owner and mechanic in 1961 before going on to win the 1966 Sprint Cup title with David Pearson who went to victory lane fourteen times.
It's time to recognize some of the pioneers who helped bring NASCAR racing to millions more than those who bought tickets through the media. Hall has been the radio voice of the sport for more than 40 years and still anchors Motor Racing Network broadcasts today. The second you hear the voice of Barney Hall coming from your radio speakers you know you're listening to a NASCAR race. He's one of the sport's treasure and deserves to be recognized for his amazing contribution.For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed
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