In Wednesday's newspaper and online, I advocated five driving pioneers of NASCAR to comprise the fourth class at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Then the Hall of Fame voters went out and did what they wanted to, which was to induct only one of my favorite five (Herb Thomas) although, to be fair, they also did put in my honorable-mention choice (Buck Baker).
My other four choices, were not selected. They were Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Wendell Scott and Tim Flock. The Hall of Fame panel instead went with Rusty Wallace, Leonard Wood and Cotton Owens to join Thomas and Baker. Fireball lost a tiebreaker to Baker for the fifth and final spot, so that at least means it is almost certain Roberts will go in with Class No.5 a year from now.
I have no argument with Wallace, Owens and Wood going in at some point. They are all Hall-worthy. Now I do wish the Wood brothers had been a joint entry and had both gone in as a team last year (when Glen Wood got the nod). The brothers who revolutionized the pit stop have always been linked together, and it made little sense to separate these two fine owners last year.
As for Owens, he was a fine driver and owner. And it's hard to criticize someone from my hometown of Spartanburg (he's the third from Sparkle City in the 20-man Hall now, joining David Pearson and Bud Moore). And Wallace certainly deserved entry -- although I wouldn't have put him in this year -- with 55 wins in NASCAR's premier series and the 1989 series title.
But my point was this, and I stand by it: NASCAR's hall of fame continues to be under-represented in drivers from its earliest, wildest era.
Turner, Roberts and Flock were great characters and great winners. Scott deserves entry for persevering through all he had to deal with as NASCAR's first -- and still only -- African-American winner at the highest level.
Thomas and Baker certainly address that under-representation to a degree. Thomas had the highest winning percentage in NASCAR history. Baker won two series championships. They both were stars of the 1950s.
But there are so many more driving trailblazers still on the outside looking in: Fred Lorenzen and Red Byron, to name a couple more. NASCAR was built upon the backs of its earliest drivers. I just wish more of them from the old days would be honored sooner rather than later.
9 months ago