NASCAR Hall Of Fame: Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough Wait On Past To Catch Up

Hank EptonCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

NASCAR Hall Of Fame: Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough Wait On Past To Catch Up

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    The NASCAR Hall of Fame has named its second class to be inducted in May 2011, rounding out the first ten inductees to be enshrined in the Hall.

    The sport faces a dilemma in the coming years as it tries to walk a delicate tightrope between the recognizable stars of the last 20 years while honoring those who made their names in the sport's infancy.

    While Darrell Waltrip in Cale Yarborough are sure inductees in the next couple of years, other drivers may have to wait as the sport tries to catch up with its long and colorful past.

    Here's a look at several personalities from NASCAR that could have their ticket punched for the Hall of Fame before some of the more familiar names of the modern era.

Raymond Parks

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    Raymond Parks was the original architect of the multi-car team concept so popular today. Parks fielded cars built by Red Vogt that were second to none in the era before and after World War II.

    His early drivers were his cousins, Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, who in their day were among the most popular drivers in the stock car races of the rural South. Seay was killed in a moonshine related dispute in 1941. Hall continued to drive for Parks after NASCAR's formation in 1947.

    Parks was also was the owner of the car that won the inaugural NASCAR championship in 1949.

    He died in June of 2010.

Red Byron

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    Red Byron was NASCAR's first champion in 1949 at the age of 34. He drove cars fielded by Raymond Parks.

    A genuine hero from World War II, he was wounded when his aircraft was shot at over Europe.

    Mechanic Red Vogt created a special clutch that Byron could depress with his wounded leg.

    He won two of the eight races run that year and won a pole, with an average finish of 7.7.

    Byron died in 1960.

Herb Thomas

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    Herb Thomas was NASCAR's 1951 champion. He posted seven wins in 34 starts in the beginning of a trend that would continue throughout his career.

    He just won.

    Over his NASCAR career, he won a staggering 21.15 percent of his starts. He leads all drivers with more than 100 starts in that category to this day.

    Thomas died in 2000.

Tim Flock

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    In terms of taking care of his equipment, Tim Flock was a master.

    "To me, he was a cool customer. You would see a bunch of them drivers running sideways and doing all. Tim would just be running around. When the race was over, Tim won," Richard Petty told ESPN a few years ago.

    Flock won a lot. He's second on the winning percentage list at 20.74 percent of his starts, right behind the great Herb Thomas. He ultimately won 40 races and two championships.

    One distinction that Flock will never lose is that he's the only driver ever to race with a monkey as a copilot. There's no evidence that the monkey was a competitive advantage, but he did wave at other drivers as Flock charged to the front, improving communication between drivers.

    Jocko Flocko rode shotgun with Flock for eight races in 1953, before the monkey panicked in the car after being hit in the head with a pebble. The monkey climbed on Flock's head and the driver had to pit and literally get the monkey off his back.

    Tim Flock died in 1998. 

Fireball Roberts

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    Fireball Roberts may have had the best name in the history of the sport, but he also was one of its most popular drivers. In fact, the nickname that replaced Glenn didn't even come from his acumen behind the wheel, but rather his blistering ability when it came to pitching a baseball.

    Sports Illustrated called him the Babe Ruth of auto racing back in the 1960's, and he was on track to have a stellar career until an accident at Charlotte Motor Speedway took his life in 1964.

    Roberts never managed to win a championship, but his 33 wins over 206 starts is impressive even by today's standards.

Curtis Turner

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    Long time NASCAR Chief Scorer Joe Epton said Curtis Turner was the best driver he ever saw, and he saw a lot of them.

    In 1997, Tim Flock echoed that sentiment.

    Turner, a Roanoke, VA native who cut his teeth in the moonshine trade, became one of the preeminent dirt racers of his day.

    NASCAR historian and Vice President Jim Hunter told ESPN's Terry Blount "He would throw the car completely sideways in the turns to go as fast as he could."

    Turner also was one of the visionaries behind the construction of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and one of his exploits in Easley, SC was the basis of the street runway plane landing scene in the film Cannonball Run.

    He was killed in a small plane crash in 1970.

Wendell Scott

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    Less than two weeks after President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Wendell Scott won his only NASCAR race in Jacksonville, becoming the first African-American to win in NASCAR.

    His journey into a sport that had for the most part been dominated by the White South was the loose basis for the Richard Pryor movie "Greased Lightning."

    He posted top 10 points finishes every year from 1965-1969, some of those races won in a car supplied by Ned Jarrett and purchased for one dollar.

    Scott will never be remembered for his on track statistics, but for the courage he displayed and the respect he earned among his fellow competitors.

    He died in 1990.

Louise Smith

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    For a 10 year stretch from 1946-1956, Louise Smith was her day's Danica Patrick.

    Bill France Sr. used Smith to promote his races, and Smith didn't disappoint, posting a third place at Greenville Pickens Speedway in her hometown.

    She won 38 times in her career, and remained active in the sport even after her time behind the wheel was done.

    She told the Associated Press she was confident that even today, she could be competitive: "Didn't make a whole lot of money, but if I could do it again today, I'd do it, and I think I'd make it."

    She was the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

    Louise Smith passed away in 2006.

Joe Weatherly

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    Joe Weatherly was a late bloomer by today's standards. He won back to back championships in 1962-63 after the age of 40.

    He had won races in just about everything he drove, competing in convertibles, modifieds, and even motorcycles. He racked up 113 wins and three titles in those three disciplines.

    He had a penchant for pranks as well, helping Curtis Turner demolish a pair of rental cars that became the basis for a similar scene in the film Days of Thunder.

    Turner was killed in 1964 at Riverside while racing to defend his 1963 title.

Broadcaster: Ken Squier

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    Ken Squier is for many the voice of NASCAR on television.

    For more than two decades, Squier called the Daytona 500 on CBS, and is the man behind the phrase "The Great American Race."

    He remains active in the sport, working for Speed Channel's coverage of speedweeks in February and running his own racetrack in Vermont.

    Squier is also one of the founders of MRN radio.

Broadcaster: Eli Gold

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    For those of us listening to the race on the radio, Eli Gold has become the Gold standard.

    Since 1976, his distinctive voice has anchored race coverage and reported from the pits. He's also the host of the weekly interview program "NASCAR Live"

    Gold splits time between NASCAR and also being the voice of Alabama Crimson Tide Football.

Official: Elmo Langley

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    For nearly three decades, Elmo Langley was behind the wheel of a race car. He notched wins and became a mainstay in the points standings through the late 1960's and early 1970's.

    In 1987, he took a job that would ensure he always was out front.

    Langley was the long time Pace Car driver from 1987 until his death before NASCAR's overseas exhibition race in Japan in December, 1997.

Official: Joe Epton

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    Joe Epton was one of the originals of NASCAR.

    He met Bill France Sr. in 1946 and became the sport's chief scorer in 1947 when NASCAR was founded.

    He remained in that capacity until 1985.

    "Joe Epton was a true pioneer in our sport, a ‘go-to’ guy for me and my father," said Bill France Jr. upon Epton's passing in 2005.

    He was one of the visionaries of electronic timing and scoring that is used today, and had an uncanny knack for recalling races from decades before.

    He also was the scorer who certified Buddy Baker's mind boggling first 200 MPH run in a stock car at Talladega, much to the consternation of Bobby Allison who says that he ran the speed first. Since Epton wasn't present, Allison's speed didn't count.

    He was also the Director of The Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum in Daytona Beach, FL, committed to preserving the sport's formative years.

    Plus, he was my Great Uncle.

    His wife and my Great Aunt Juanita "Lightnin'" Epton works at Daytona International Speedway to this day, now in her sixth decade in the sport.

    Thanks to Living Legends of Auto Racing and Legends of NASCAR for photos.