NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominees: Richard Petty, David Pearson, and...?

Crabber 1967 .@crabber1967Correspondent ISeptember 14, 2008

Well! Let’s see what I can do with my ideas on this HoF thing, and thanks to Nate Powers for the inspiration. Please refer to Nate’s article “NASCAR's Hall Of Fame To Open in 2010” for his comments on the nominees named below who I have not commented on.


I know very little about that HoF in Cooperstown, but, having said that, I like some of their ideas, and I’ll apply them to my version of the NASCAR HoF.


One of the few things I do know is that they have two ‘wings’ of the Hall; which I’ll call “Drivers” and “Others.”  (Suggestions for wing names are welcome.)




1.  Bill France.



2.  Carl Kiekhaefer. This car owner was Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush before anyone thought about entering multiple cars or having big-bucks sponsorship. Kiekhaefer used his Mercury outboard motor company, and the money he made from that company, to attack the NASCAR circuit like no one ever has. Kiekhaefer used car haulers (like those you see delivering cars to your local dealership) and team uniforms before they were common. Kiekhaefer had 190 entries (including 52 wins) in 1955-56.  (NASCAR ran 45 races in 1955 and 56 races in 1956.) Tim Flock in 1955 and Buck Baker in 1956 took the championships for Kiekhaefer. As you might expect, Kiekhaefer was not really popular among the other owners, and he decided to leave NASCAR at the end of 1956.



3.  Raymond Parks.  Raymond Parks was the car owner of the first Strictly Stock [now “Cup”] series champion. Parks entered six of the eight races in that first year of 1949 with Red Byron and won two races. (Parks also had two other entries in 1949, one each for Bob Flock and Roy Hall, who was one of the top short trackers of the Atlanta area.) This gave Parks and Byron their second straight championship in NASCAR after becoming the first champions in NASCAR history, after taking the sanctioning body’s Modified Championship in 1948. More importantly, Parks introduced professionalism with the appearance of his cars and drivers. Parks’ cars won many races on the short tracks and he kept all the trophies his cars won, for an impressive collection. This collection of trophies would be a great addition to any Hall of Fame, but from the interviews of Mr. Parks I’ve read, I suspect he has no inclination to donate them to anything NASCAR does. (And I don’t blame him.) Parks’ involvement in the bootleg trade (and who wasn’t in those days of racing?) may keep him from any consideration as one of the first important owners in the sport. That, and the fact that Parks’ cars ran only 10 races after the 1949 season (four each in 1950 and 1955 and two in 1954) in the “Cup” series may also keep Raymond Parks out of consideration. [I believe that Mr. Parks is still alive and what a great thing for the sport, to have one of those who was “there at the beginning” to give their perspective!]



4.  Wood Brothers. This team’s first effort dates back to 1953, and their last two wins were in 1993 and 2001 (one each year). They still compete today; but their best days were from 1972 to 1978, the first seven years of the so-called “Modern Era.” During those seven years, David Pearson entered 148 races with 40 wins, out of the 209 races run during those years. Also, Pearson had 50 poles from 1972 to 1978 for the Wood Brothers. Add the two wins in six starts for AJ Foyt (plus three poles) in 1972, and many top 5/10 finishes, and you can see why they were the team to beat.

     The Wood Brothers were the first team to realize the importance of quick pit stops. In fact, Ford took the team to Indianapolis in 1964 to pit for Jimmy Clark’s Lotus-Ford. They were very successful in knocking seconds off the pit stop times and the Indy crowd noticed, and Colin Chapman took the idea to Formula One.



5.   Rick Hendrick



6.   Any other “others”?




Drivers (not necessarily in order):


1.  Richard Petty.



2.  David Pearson. My all-time favorite.



3.  Curtis Turner. Turner drove in 183 Cup races in 17 years [1949 to 1968] with 17 wins, 54 Top Fives, and 73 top tens. Add to that four years of the Convertible series [1956-59] with 79 races run, 38 races won, with 50 Top Fives and 53 Top 10’s. These stats don’t tell it all, as Turner was one of the most talented drivers ever, and what he did off the track, although that would have nothing to do with an HoF entry, certainly made the early years of NASCAR more interesting for all involved!



4.  Joe Weatherly. More than just a hell-raising buddy of Curtis Turner; or the Clown Prince of Racing; Weatherly won two Cup Championships [after winning championships on motorcycles], with 25 wins out of 225 races run from 1952-63, and 18 poles. Weatherly competed in first five races in 1964, but died in his accident at Riverside. Weatherly also had 12 wins in 96 races and 18 poles in the four years of the Convertible Series. Weatherly’s death showed NASCAR and all the competitors that the shoulder harness should be used with lap belts.



5.  Bobby Allison. For some reason, NASCAR refuses to credit Allison with a win, while winners under the same circumstances are given credit for a Cup win. Allison has 85 wins if the same criteria used for other drivers are used for all of Allison’s Cup wins.



6.  Cale Yarborough.



7.  Junior Johnson. Here is one instance where an individual can be elected as both a driver and an "other."



8.  Dale Earnhardt.



9.  Fireball Roberts. THE superstar before Richard Petty went on a tear. I was at the 1964 World 600 where Roberts received his fatal burns. After the race, I bought a comic book that had an advertisement on the back cover that was for Hot Wheels type cars. Fireball was the endorser. I believe this was a first for a NASCAR driver. Unfortunately, like most all of my memorabilia from that time, I no longer have the magazine. (My mom cleaned out my “junk” when I went into the Army.)



10. Fred Lorenzen. This is the money driver. Lorenzen was the first driver to break $100,000 in a season. In 1963 Lorenzen won $113,750 (one source has $122,587); the same year that a pro golfer first broke $100,000: Arnold Palmer won $101,555. Lorenzen drove Cup in 1956, 1960-67 and 1970-72. Lorenzen entered a total of 158 races in his entire career, with all his 26 wins coming between 1961–67 going at least one win a year during that span (and he only ran five races in 1967, the only year he had only one win). Lorenzen also took 32 poles during his career, two of which were during his comeback years of 1970-71.



11. Lee Petty. Lee Petty set the win record that his son broke on the way to 200 wins.



12. Ned Jarrett. Besides being a two-time Cup champion, Ned decided after his first championship to get the speaking skills needed to be a good representative for the sport. He is best known today for his many years as an expert commentator during TV broadcasts.



13. Darrell Waltrip. In my opinion, “DW” loses points for the “boogity” thing.


And to follow the baseball model, an “Old-timers Committee” would be formed, to give the pioneers of the sport their due. This committee would be formed from the HoF members who were in the sport prior to 1972 (the beginning of the NASCAR self-proclaimed “Modern Era.”) and recognized historians such as Greg Fielden.


I wonder how many of the Top 50 drivers from the NASCAR 50th anniversary will be among the first entries?



Of course, that assumes that NASCAR cares to pay any attention whatsoever to the Pre-Modern Era!


For my post-HOF induction comments, read my article:

NASCAR Hall Of Fame's First Class a No-Brainer... and That's the Problem