by Michael Lowrey
Not because I’m a NASCAR fan, because I’m analytical.
The basics: There are 20 nominees to get in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The top five vote getters get in, the other 15 names stay on the ballot for next year when five new names will be added (announced in February in the run up to the Daytona 500).
Analysis: The NASCAR HOF voting process is a ranking problem. It’s not a question of whether someone is good enough — by definition, because they’re on the ballot, they’re good enough. The question is rather which are the best five names of those currently on the ballot.
Traditionally, the selection committee has really liked drivers that did well in NASCAR’s top division, electing 19 of them in the first six HOF votes and very logically working down the all-time winner list in the process. That pattern may change… next year. For now, there are a number of drivers that have Spring Cup championships and/or a lot of Sprint Cup races on the ballot: Bobby Isaac (1970 champion, 37 wins), Benny Parsons (1973 champion, 21 wins), Terry Labonte (1984 and 1996 champion, 22 wins), and Mark Martin qualify (five-time second place finisher, 40 wins). Curtis Turner would also be a possibility. The issue with Martin and Labonte are whether they have been retired long enough for voters tastes.
Among those who weren’t top division drivers, owner/engine builder Robert Yates and modified division champion Jerry Cook stand out. They finished sixth and seventh last year respectively. I expect both to get in this year along with three of Isaac/Labonte/Martin/Parsons.
I don’t expect either Richard Childress or Rick Hendrick to be voted in tomorrow. The issue isn’t whether they have done enough for the sport to merit induction; rather both are still very active in the sport as team owners, which apparently has caused the voting committee to look elsewhere. Bruton Smith doesn’t get in this year for the same reason.