NASCAR Hall of Fame: Future Hall of Fame Drivers Racing Right Now

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2011

NASCAR Hall of Fame: Future Hall of Fame Drivers Racing Right Now

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    Many drivers we see in the top three series of NASCAR will one day race their way to a special place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. 

    One day they will be nominees for induction, but only a few have already made a mark that will assure that will happen at this point in NASCAR history.

    The criteria for nomination and induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame are based on accomplishments and contributions within the sport.

    For a driver, statistics are a driving force in the nomination process. Some drivers show their expertise behind the wheel primarily in one series like Cup, while others have crossed-over with the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

    Versatility is certainly a plus for a driver who wins in the second and third series of NASCAR and may have impressive records in other series of racing as well. 

    Accomplishments at the Cup level carry the most weight in recognition when combined with other contributions a driver has made in NASCAR.

    Each year a voting panel nominates 25 candidates consisting of drivers, owners, crew chiefs and others who have made major contributions to the sport.

    Every year five nominees are selected, by vote, to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Starting in 2012, the induction ceremony will take place in January. This year it remains in May.

    Exceptional skill behind the wheel of a race car, popularity or perhaps controversy and the ability to set records are some of the other factors considered in the nomination.

    Your favorite driver may have lots of wins and maybe one or more titles. Many rookies coming through lower series along with those drivers will one day be considered for the HOF.

    It would be difficult to compile a list of all the NASCAR drivers who one day will probably make it to that hallowed place in the Hall of Fame.

    Keep in mind this is a short list of active drivers who have met the criteria for various reasons that will guarantee them a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame

    Whether you agree with the choices or find frustration that certain drivers were excluded, keep in mind that does not discount their ability and probability to be a Hall of Famer some time in the future.

    They are listed in no particular order.

No. 1 Kyle Busch

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    Youth, driving talent, win records and versatility as a driver are all factors that will come together and one day secure a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame for Kyle Busch.

    At the age of 25, he has 19 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since he first ran six races in 2004.  He has 44 Nationwide wins, 25 Camping World Truck Series wins and Busch was the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide champion.

    The driver of the M&Ms No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing set the record for the most wins in the top three series with 21 in one season. He has won races in two series of NASCAR on one weekend and won all three of the top series at Bristol the same weekend which is a record.

    Busch has also become an owner of Camping World Truck teams. It would not be a reach to see his ownership of teams expand to other series in the years to come.

    Busch will drive the wheels off of anything and wants to win every single time he races with second place seeming insignificant.

    The accomplishments of this young driver are outstanding and with that as an indicator, there is no doubt he will be inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

No. 2 Jimmie Johnson

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    Jimmie Johnson ran his first full-time season in 2002 as a driver with Hendrick Motors Sports in the Lowe's No. 48 Chevrolet.

    Since then he has set a record of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship titles beginning in 2006. He has won 53 races in the top series of NASCAR.

    Johnson has concentrated his efforts on the Cup level and has set the bar high for the latest generation of NASCAR drivers. 

    If he stopped racing today, his record would guarantee him a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Johnson has no intentions at this point to stop racing, winning and going for championships.

    Who knows what his record of accomplishments will be when he is finally an inductee?

No. 3 Tony Stewart

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    Tony Stewart is an out-spoken racer who has many accomplishments behind the wheel of race car. He will compete in most any series including a possible upcoming NHRA top fuel ride, though his day job is secure.

    He has won USAC championships, an IRL title and two NASCAR Cup championships in 2002 and 2005.

    Stewart's record shows 39 wins in the top series of NASCAR with 10 Nationwide wins and two Truck series wins.

    Stewart is the owner/driver at Stewart Haas racing, is the owner/promoter at Eldora Speedway and is co-owner of other short tracks.

    At the age of 39, he will continue to run hard for wins and possibly another Cup title in the foreseeable future.

    Stewart is a bit of the throw-back or old-school type racer.  He is respected by other drivers and is popular with fans. He can be controversial, but he will speak up for anything he deems problematic to NASCAR.

    There is little doubt, Stewart will make his way to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

No. 4 Jeff Gordon

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    Jeff Gordon broke his 66 race winless streak at the second race of the season when he notched his 83rd Cup victory.

    His first race in the top series of NASCAR was in 1992 at the Hooters 500 in Atlanta. He went on to win four NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001.

    Gordon seems to be renewed after his team swap at Hendrick Motorsports and his recent win "seemed like his first."

    The driver of the No. 24 raced into the Cup series as a spoiler to the success of the late Dale Earnhardt. In those first years he was loved or hated much like the "Intimidator." 

    Now the driver with a bit of graying hair and quite an attractive family has found popularity with many fans that may not have like him at some point.

    He is a great talent behind the wheel, is respected by other drivers. His racing career does not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon.

    His drive for a fifth Cup title will continue and he would like nothing better than to not only tie teammate Jimmie Johnson with titles, but beat him.

    Gordon can rest comfortably with the fact he will one day be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

No. 5 Mark Martin

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    Mark Martin is in his final year of driving for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevrolet. At the age of 52, he may be in his final full-time year as a Cup driver though he plans to continue racing.

    Martin has yet to win a Cup championship, but has been the runner-up five times. He has 40 wins in the top series of NASCAR and 49 wins in the NASCAR Nationwide series which is a record.

    The respected racer is a tough competitor in any series, but he is known as a clean racer who can be trusted by his fellow drivers.

    He is somewhat old-school, yet the young drivers often go to him for advice when it comes to performance as a driver.

    It is hard to believe such an accomplished driver never won a title, but he will continue to fight to make the Chase and contend for a title this season.

    Martin will find a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame one day even if he doesn't win a Cup title.

No. 6 Bill Elliott

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    Bill Elliott no longer drives full-time in the Cup series of NASCAR, but he is still active in the series. He is nicknamed "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville."

    Elliott was the 1988 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion. He has 44 wins in the top series with 320 top 10 finishes.  He was named the Most Popular Driver in NASCAR a record 16 times.

    The Georgia native was a tough competitor with accomplishments like 11 wins and 11 poles out of 28 races in 1985.

    The combination of his championship, win record and popularity will one day earn him a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.