2011 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class Represents The Heyday Of the Sport

Dustin ParksAnalyst IOctober 14, 2010

After missing out on last year's inaugural Hall of Fame class, David Pearson leads the 2011 class of inductees.
After missing out on last year's inaugural Hall of Fame class, David Pearson leads the 2011 class of inductees.Jason Smith/Getty Images

When the first class of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees were announced, they represented the beginning of a sport and the individuals that made it a phenomenon.

At the same time, the debate almost immediately began as to who should have been included. It was the first time that NASCAR had ever done such a process. It's not as though they had the concept of a hall of fame 10 years ago; this was something that was built in the last few years.

The hottest debate when that first class was enshrined was who would be next to be inducted. The drivers, owners, and personalities that missed out on the first class now had another chance to make it in.

This class can be described in a simple way: NASCAR's heyday.

The 2011 Class represents a time in the sport where horsepower also meant big sales for the auto makers.

Lee Petty and Ned Jarrett were competitive at a time when the muscle car era in the country was rampant. Petty was the patriarch of possibly the most famous name in NASCAR, and will always be remembered for how he won the first Daytona 500.

Meanwhile, Jarrett is a two-time champion and went on to be one of the best broadcasters in NASCAR's later years. Who can ever forget his call of the 1993 Daytona 500 when he witnessed his son, Dale, win his first Daytona 500.

To this day, people still think that on that last lap, Ned was almost in the radio telling his son what to do because Dale made every right move to hold off Dale Earnhardt.

But, Ned's accomplishments on the track are what got him to the Hall of Fame. Two championships and 50 wins by the time he retired from driving at age 34 are among the best of the sport. Jarrett certainly deserves it.

The era of the 1970s is represented by the only guaranteed inductee, considering he just missed last year. The "Silver Fox," David Pearson was on all but three ballots, practically assuring he would be in the 2011 Class.

His battle with "The King" Richard Petty in the 1976 Daytona 500 is considered one of the biggest moments in the history of NASCAR.

But, with 105 wins in his career, Pearson is well deserving of this honor.

The last driver to make it into this class is one of the creators of the beloved "Alabama Gang," Bobby Allison. He represents another famous name in the sport, as brother Donnie and his son, Davey, continued to make sure the Allison name is part of the sport.

Even after Davey lost his life in 1993, Bobby still talks about him as do the fans. His win over Davey in the Daytona 500 had to be one of the greatest races the Daytona International Speedway had seen.

It's those kind of moments that landed one of the original members of the "Alabama Gang" his Hall of Fame nod.

The final inductee, just like last year, was a car owner. Bud Moore had the privilege to be the owner for two of NASCAR's greatest. He first had the task of controlling Dale Earnhardt after his original car owner lost funding.

After Earnhardt switched to Richard Childress Racing in 1983, it was Ricky Rudd taking over the No. 15 Wrangler Ford.

Everyone can debate whether names such as Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, who both were barely outside the top-five votes, deserved to go in rather than some names on this list. But, rather than discuss who should or should not be in the 2011 Class, fans and media alike should be honoring a class that represents the heyday of the sport.

There's always a time to debate, but this is the time to praise five individuals who earned their spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.