Ranking the Most Notable Omissions from the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Jerry Bonkowski@@jerrybonkowskiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2015

Ranking the Most Notable Omissions from the NASCAR Hall of Fame

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Voting for any professional-sports hall of fame is a difficult exercise.

    Because no matter who voters choose for induction, there are going to be a number of critics who will rail either against those chosen—or those who fell short.

    Even though it will induct its sixth class of Hall of Fame members later this month, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is in kind of the same boat.

    For the five drivers who will be members of the 2015 induction class—Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Bill Elliott, Rex White and Joe Weatherly—there are well over a dozen others who arguably deserve induction, as well.

    Granted, some of the names we’re about to discuss will once again come up for a vote of the 50-member voting panel in a few months. And maybe this time, some of those same names will finally make it into the Hall.

    And for clarity's sake, there are several names we’ve chosen not to include as those that should be inducted next. Among those are Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress.

    The only reason we’ve chosen not to include them is because they’re still quite active in the sport and still oversee large racing organizations.

    It’s our feeling that potential inductees should be retired from the sport for at least three years before they’re considered for nomination.

    That being said, we also believe that those who are 75 years old or older should be given consideration for nomination and induction, even if they’re still active in the sport.

    That includes one of the individuals we’ve chosen, namely Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith, who at 84 years old, deserves immediate recognition for all of the contributions he’s made to the racing world in his life—while he can still enjoy such an honor.

    Here’s the 10 individuals we feel should be in the Hall. Hopefully, induction for many of them will come soon.

10. Larry Phillips

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    Larry Phillips
    Larry PhillipsCredit: NASCAR

    While many of you may say “Larry, who?”, Larry Phillips of Springfield, Missouri, was one of the most prolific drivers to ever climb behind the wheel of a race car.

    Officially, Phillips, who raced in a number of series, including sportsman, stock, late model and more, earned 226 victories in just 308 career starts from 1989 through 2001, a winning percentage of 75 percent! He also is the only driver in NASCAR history to win five weekly series championships.

    The NASCAR Hall of Fame, in its official biography about Phillips (who was nominated for consideration last year), said he may have actually won even more races in his career—but recordkeeping back then left a few things to be desired.

    In fact, crew chief James Ince believes Phillips—who essentially barnstormed from one end of the country to another on dirt tracks, asphalt tracks, short tracks and longer tracks—may actually have earned as many as 2,000 wins in his racing career.

    You read that right, 2,000 wins. If true, that would be nearly 1,800 more checkered flags than NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty’s 200 wins in the sport.

9. Bobby Isaac

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    Bobby Allison (left) and Bobby Isaac after qualifying for the 1972 Daytona 500.
    Bobby Allison (left) and Bobby Isaac after qualifying for the 1972 Daytona 500.Uncredited/Associated Press

    Bobby Isaac was essentially the Kevin Harvick of his day: He was freaky fast on a race track.

    Isaac, of Catawba, North Carolina, earned 37 wins and 49 poles (ninth on NASCAR’s all-time list) in 309 career Grand National and Winston Cup starts. In fact, in 1969, Isaac set a NASCAR record that still stands today: 19 poles in a season.

    The following season, 1970, Isaac—who is on the list of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers—finally earned his first Grand National championship, backed by a performance of 11 wins, 32 top fives and 36 top 10s in 47 starts.

8. Buddy Baker

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    Buddy Baker at the 2013 induction of his late father, Buck Baker, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
    Buddy Baker at the 2013 induction of his late father, Buck Baker, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Buddy Baker competed 34 years in the Grand National and Winston Cup series. In 699 career starts, he had 19 wins and 38 poles.

    Baker is a big man, standing 6-foot-6, which earned him the nickname of “Gentle Giant.”

    On the track, he was called Leadfoot for his ability to tweak speed out of his race car that others couldn’t. For example, he won the 1980 Daytona 500 with a speed of 177.602 mph, a mark that still stands today as the track record for the Great American Race.

    The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker, Buddy is still active in the sport as a broadcaster on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

7. Robert Yates

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    Doug Yates (left) and his father, Robert Yates, in 2006, one year before the elder Yates retired.
    Doug Yates (left) and his father, Robert Yates, in 2006, one year before the elder Yates retired.Associated Press

    We’ve included Yates on this list because he has been officially retired for more than seven years. His son, Doug, has carried on the Yates’ family name and its uncanny ability to build some of the fastest motors in the sport.

    In a career as team owner that lasted nearly 20 years, Yates’ drivers earned 57 wins (including three Daytona 500s) and 48 poles between 1989 and 2007.

    And before he became a team owner, Yates began building motors for NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson in 1971 that eventually led to six Cup championships.

6. Curtis Turner

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    Curtis Turner
    Curtis TurnerCredit: NASCAR

    Why Curtis Turner is not in the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a mystery.

    Although he competed primarily part time, making just 184 starts in a 20-year career from 1949-1968, Turner still managed 17 victories and 16 poles.

    He also was one of the sport’s pioneers, earning an additional 38 wins in 79 starts in the former “Convertible Division.”

    Also named to the list of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Turner drove for some of the biggest ownership names in the sport in his career, including Holman-Moody, Junior Johnson and Smokey Yunick.

5. Smokey Yunick

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    Smokey Yunick
    Smokey YunickCHUCK ROBINSON/Associated Press

    Smokey Yunick was arguably one of the greatest mechanics and engine builders that there’s ever been in NASCAR.

    Not only was he one of the sport’s early pioneers, building some of the fastest race cars of their time, he also was a noted crew chief and team owner.

    Yunick was twice named NASCAR’s Mechanic of the Year. And teams that either drove with his motor under the hood or cars that he worked on wound up winning 57 races (including the 1961 Daytona 500 in his own backyard), as well as championships in 1951 and 1953.

4. Bruton Smith

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Speedway Motorsports, Inc. chairman Bruton Smith has been one of the greatest promoters and innovators that the sport has ever seen.

    At the age of 84, Smith is a glaring omission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s hoped that he’ll finally earn the lofty recognition in the next year or two, while he is still around to enjoy such an honor.

    Smith not only built Charlotte Motor Speedway, he either built or purchased the seven other race tracks that make up the SMI empire.

    While he’s butted heads with NASCAR a time or two...or three...Smith has been good for the sport and has helped take it to the level where it is today.

    A self-made billionaire, Smith is also one of the most prolific car dealers in the world, owning several hundred dealerships, mostly in the U.S.

3. Raymond Fox

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    Raymond Fox (left) and three-time NASCAR champ David Pearson.
    Raymond Fox (left) and three-time NASCAR champ David Pearson.Credit: NASCAR

    If there was ever an individual who should be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, or should have still been around to see his eventual induction, its engine builder and team owner Raymond Fox.

    Unfortunately, Fox passed away this past June before he ever got a chance to see himself inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

    Although born in New England, Fox grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. During the course of 200 starts from 1962-1974 on both the NASCAR Grand National and Winston Cup circuits, his teams won 14 times and 16 poles.

    Among the honors Fox earned in his career was Mechanic of the Year, with the highlight coming in 1956, when Chrysler 300 cars won 22 of the season’s first 26 races.

    Another great year was 1960, when he built the motor for Junior Johnson’s Daytona 500 win, helped Johnson win Rookie of the Year honors and also built motors that NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson won three races in.

    He became a team owner in 1962, with nine wins coming from Junior Johnson behind the wheel, as well as two other times with Buck Baker in the driver’s role.

2. Jerry Cook

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    Jerry Cook
    Jerry CookCredit: NASCAR

    This may be another name where you scratch your head and say, “Jerry who?”

    But for longtime diehard NASCAR fans, especially those who followed the Modified ranks, Jerry Cook was the Richard Petty of that series.

    According to NASCAR annals, Cook drove for 20 years, from 1963 through 1982, winning six Modified championships.

    The Rome, New York, native made 1,474 starts and won an incredible 342 times (nearly one win every four starts), as well as 26 poles.

    When he retired from driving after 1982, Cook became a well-respected NASCAR official. He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

1. Benny Parsons

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    The late Benny Parsons (right) with four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon.
    The late Benny Parsons (right) with four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Benny Parsons was not only a great race car driver, he was also one of the most beloved figures in the sport for decades, especially for his post-racing second career as a broadcaster.

    Parsons left us way too soon from cancer at the age of 65 in 2007. The Detroit native started driving taxi cabs before moving south to seek his fame and fortune as a race car driver.

    He raced for 25 seasons, from 1964 through 1988, earning 21 wins and 20 poles in 526 starts. In total, he earned 283 top 10 finishes, meaning he finished in the top 10 in roughly 54 percent of all his starts.

    Among the high points of Parsons’ career were winning the 1973 Winston Cup championship and also the 1975 Daytona 500. He also was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

    Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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