NASCAR Hall of Fame: Power Ranking the 25 Nominees
The 25 nominees for the 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame class were announced a few days ago. Of the 25, only five of them will make the cut and be forever enshrined in the Hall. The announcement of who's in and who's out will be coming on June 12th.
In the meantime, let's take a look at each of the candidates and go over their credentials, in the form of a power rankings.
You will notice that the bottom five in my list are the five newest candidates. I feel that the 20 people that were on the ballot a year ago should warrant more consideration than any of the newest nominees. But that was my only rule as I ranked each potential Hall of Famer.
With that, here are the nominees in the order I feel they should be entered into the Hall of Fame.
25. Les Richter
Les Richter has already been elected to one professional Hall of Fame this year. Richter will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, and he is on the list of nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as well.
After his football career was over, Richter worked in various positions for NASCAR. He is the former head of operations and also the former president of Riverside International Raceway.
While Richter was successful in both the NFL and in NASCAR, I think that enshrinement into just one Hall of Fame is all that's in store for Richter this year.
24. Leonard Wood
Leonard Wood is one of the owners and former crew chief of the famous Wood Brothers race team. He is credited with being the patriarch of the modern pit stop.
In the early days of NASCAR, it was common that, when a car needed service, the driver would pull onto pit road, turn the car off and even get out of the car while the team serviced the car. Wood saw an opportunity to gain an advantage on the other competitors during this time, and thus the creation of the modern day pit stop began.
23. H. Clay Earles
H. Clay Earles was a Virginia businessman whose biggest claim to fame was being the founder and chairman of Martinsville Speedway.
Earles built the half mile speedway in 1947, prior to the establishment of NASCAR. Martinsville Speedway was one of the original tracks run by the series, and to this day is the only one of the original tracks that NASCAR still runs races on.
22. Bobby Isaac
Bobby Isaac was one of the top drivers of NASCAR in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to enjoy his successes beyond his racing career. Isaac lost his life due to a heart attack in August of 1977.
For his career, Isaac won 37 races in 308 attempts. He scored 170 top-10 finishes, for a top-10 percentage of 55.2 percent.
Isaac was the 1970 champion after finishing runner up to the title two years earlier. He was also a pole machine. He won 49 poles for his career, including a single-season record 20 in 1969. He won 21 races from the pole position.
21. Cotton Owens
Cotton Owens found success as both a driver and an owner. In his days behind the wheel, Owens scored nine wins in 160 starts, with 84 top-10s in those starts.
His driving career officially came to a close in 1964, and Owens focused on being a car owner. The first driver he hired was Junior Johnson, followed by David Pearson.
Other drivers that drove for Owens included Benny Parsons, Fireball Roberts, Buddy Baker and the aforementioned Bobby Isaac.
As an owner, Owens' cars scored 29 poles and 32 wins in 291 attempts.
20. T. Wayne Robertson
T. Wayne Robertson is a former executive for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. His contributions to NASCAR don't come in the form of a driver or as an owner. Instead, Robertson's contributions were in the form of marketing and promoting.
Robertson became the president of Sports Marketing Enterprises, as well as the senior vice president of Reynolds. He was single-handedly responsible for overseeing the multi-million dollar sponsorship of what was then known as the Winston Cup Series.
Robertson helped transform NASCAR from a regional racing circuit into a national success.
19. Jerry Cook
Jerry Cook is one of the most successful drivers in the history of the NASCAR National Modified Series. For his career, Cook scored 342 wins in the series in 1,474 career starts.
He is a six-time Modified Series champion, including four in a row from 1974 to 1977. After retiring from active competition, Cook stayed involved in NASCAR and became the Modified Tour's series director in 1985.
To this day, Cook remains in NASCAR. He currently serves as a competition administrator.
18. Richie Evans
Richie Evans is the most decorated driver in the history of Modified Series'. His career and, unfortunately, his life were cut drastically short in an on-track accident at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 1985. Just one week prior, he had clinched the 1985 National Modified championship.
For his career, Evans scored 478 wins in Modified competition. Most impressively, he won nine championships in the series, including an unprecedented eight consecutive from 1978 through 1985.
Evans has been named one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history, and was named the No. 1 all-time Modified Series driver.
17. Fred Lorenzen
Fred Lorenzen has a NASCAR career that started in 1956 and went into the 1972 season. The highlight of his career was winning the 1965 Daytona 500. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.
In 158 starts, Lorenzen scored 26 wins and posted 84 top-10 finishes. In 1963, Lorenzen became the first driver in NASCAR history to post winnings in excess of $100,000 for a single season.
That year marked the best year of Lorenzen's career. He scored six victories that season and finished a career-best third in the points standings.
16. Jack Ingram
Jack Ingram was the face of what is now the Nationwide Series in the early and mid 1980s. Unlike many drivers, Ingram didn't use the Nationwide Series as a stepping stone to the next level. In fact, Ingram went in the reverse order.
After a few unsuccessful attempts in NASCAR's top series, he dropped down to the Nationwide Series where he was a full-time fixture from 1982 through 1990, with a few more races run in 1991.
In his career, Ingram scored 31 wins in 275 starts. He had 164 top-10 finishes, and won the Nationwide Series championship twice, including his rookie season of 1982.
From 1982 through 1989, Ingram finished in the top-10 in points each season. Every year but one of those ended in the Top Five. His 31 wins in the series rank fourth all-time, and at the time of his 1991 retirement, he was the all-time leader in wins.
15. Curtis Turner
Curtis Turner was one of the original stars of NASCAR. His career started in 1949 and came to a close in 1968.
Over that time, Turner competed in 183 events and scored 17 victories. He is the only driver in NASCAR history to win back-to-back races starting from the pole position and leading every lap.
The final win of Turner's career came at Rockingham in 1965 while he was driving a Ford for the Wood Brothers. Turner lost his life in an airplane crash in October of 1970.
14. Raymond Parks
Raymond Parks was one of the pioneers of NASCAR. Parks passed away at the age of 96 on June 20, 2010. Prior to his death, Parks was the final living member of the group that created NASCAR in 1947.
Parks was also a car owner. He was the championship-winning owner of the inaugural NASCAR season in 1949 with driver Red Byron.
In total, Parks cars competed in 18 events. His cars won twice and finished in the top-10 in 12 of those events.
13. Red Byron
The driver of Raymond Parks' car was Red Byron. Like his car owner, Byron was one of the pioneers of the sport. He won the first ever NASCAR championship back in 1949.
In 15 career starts in NASCAR, Byron scored two victories with nine top-10 finishes. Of his nine top-10s, eight of them resulted in top-5s.
The previous year, Byron had won NASCAR's first ever Modified championship as well. Byron died as a result of a heart attack on November 11, 1960. He was just 45 years old.
12. Dale Inman
Dale Inman is an eight-time championship winning crew chief at NASCAR's top level. He won seven championships with Richard Petty, and his eighth and final championship with Terry Labonte in 1984.
Inman has the most wins in NASCAR history for a crew chief. He won 198 races with Petty as his driver, and Inman is credited with being the innovator of the crew chief duties—including car preparation and driver-pit crew communication.
Inman later returned to Petty Motorsports and was the crew chief for Richard Petty until he retired. After his retirement, Inman stayed with the team and worked with drivers Rick Wilson, John Andretti and Bobby Hamilton.
Inman retired from his crew chief duties in 1998.
11. Fireball Roberts
Fireball Roberts was one of the original stars of NASCAR. His career began in 1950, and saw him finish second in the point standings that season. His career concluded in 1964.
Roberts competed in 206 races in his career. He scored 33 victories and posted 122 top-10 finishes. Six times in his career, Roberts finished in the top-10 in the point standings. Roberts was a seven-time winner at Daytona International Speedway.
Roberts passed away on July 2, 1964. His death came as a result of a crash in the May 24th race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After the accident, his car burst into flames. As a result, Roberts' suffered second and third degree burns over 80 percent of his body.
10. Benny Parsons
Benny Parsons had a 21-year race career that ended in 1988. He later gained notoriety as a television announcer who was revered by fans and colleagues alike.
For his career, Parsons made 526 starts and scored 21 wins. He posted 283 top-10 finishes and recorded 20 poles. In the nine seasons from 1972 to 1980, Parsons finished in the top-5 in the points standings each year.
He was the 1973 series champion, but 1977 was the best season of his career. That year he scored personal bests with four wins and 20 top-5 finishes.
9. Joe Weatherly
Joe Weatherly was a driver who had moderate success in NASCAR in the late 1950s, but really saw his career blossom in the early 1960s before his untimely death during a race in 1964.
Weatherly won 25 races in 230 career starts, and scored 153 top-10 finishes for a top-10 percentage of 66.5 percent. Weatherly twice won the NASCAR Championship, winning back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963.
In 130 races between 1961 and 1963, Weatherly won 21 times and posted 96 top-10 finishes, which included 73 finishes inside the top-5.
8. Tim Flock
Tim Flock was a pioneer of NASCAR. He was an active driver from 1949 through 1961. In those 13 seasons, Flock competed in 187 races. He scored 38 pole positions and won 40 races. He scored 129 top-10 finishes for his career.
Flock is a two-time series champion, taking the title in both 1952 and 1955. In his second championship season of 1955, Flock scored 18 wins. That was a single-season record that stood until 1967 when Richard Petty won 27 times.
In his final race in 1961, Flock was disqualified for an illegal part and subsequently banned from NASCAR. He was later reinstated in 1966.
Flock died at the age of 73 in 1998 from lung and liver cancer.
7. Richard Childress
Richard Childress was moderately successful as a Sprint Cup Series driver. Though he failed to win a race in his 285 career starts, he did score 76 top-10 finishes. He retired from driving in 1981 and focused on his duties as a car owner. That's when his career really took off.
Childress has seen his cars end up in victory lane 96 times at NASCAR's highest level. In Sprint Cup competition, Childress has six championships, all with the late Dale Earnhardt. On 14 other occasions, he has seen one of his drivers finish in the top-5 in points.
Childress has also seen his cars win 56 times in the Nationwide Series, and has three championships in that series as well. Kevin Harvick has won the championship twice for Childress while Clint Bowyer also has a championship.
6. Herb Thomas
Herb Thomas was one of the most successful drivers in the early days of NASCAR in the 1950s. Thomas became the first driver to win multiple series championships, as he took the title in both 1951 and 1953.
For his career, Thomas drove in 228 races and won 48 of them. He also had 156 top-10 finishes. Aside from the two championships, Thomas was the runner up to the title on three separate occasions. His 48 wins currently rank 13th on the all time list.
Thomas was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998. At the age of 77, Thomas suffered a fatal heart attack on August 9, 2000.
5. Buck Baker
Buck Baker enjoyed a long, 26-year career that began in 1949 with the birth of NASCAR. The early 1970s saw Baker run a handful of races, but by the end of the 1960s his days as a full time competitor had come to an end.
For his career, Baker scored 46 wins in 635 career starts. He had 372 top-10 finishes as well. His 46 career wins rank him 14th on the all-time wins list.
Baker won two championships in 1956 and 1957. He was the first driver in NASCAR history to win back-to-back championships. From 1953 to 1960, Baker finished in the top-5 in points in each season.
4. Glen Wood
Glen Wood is one of the founding members of the famous Wood Brothers team. Prior to becoming a full time owner, Wood was also a driver. He won four races over his 11-year racing career.
The Wood Brothers cars have wound up in victory lane on 98 different occasions, and the list of drivers to score wins for the team is a who's who of NASCAR royalty.
David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Neil Bonnett are just a sampling of some of the great drivers that have driven for the team.
Most recently, Trevor Bayne scored one of the bigger upsets in NASCAR history when he won the Daytona 500 driving for the Wood Brothers.
3. Rick Hendrick
Along with Richard Petty, Rick Hendrick is one of the two most successful team owners in NASCAR history. He has amassed numerous wins in all three of the top series, as well as championships in all three series. He founded his team in 1984.
As an owner, Hendrick has scored a total of 244 wins, with 196 of those coming in the Sprint Cup Series. He has seen his drivers collect a total of 10 Sprint Cup Series championships. Jimmie Johnson has five, Jeff Gordon has four and Terry Labonte has a championship as well.
He has also been successful as an owner in the Nationwide Series and Truck Series. His best Truck Series driver has been Jack Sprague, who won three series championships while driving for Hendrick.
2. Cale Yarborough
Cale Yarborough had a 31-year career at the top level of NASCAR. He made his first career start back in 1957, and climbed out of the car for the final time in 1988. Yarborough was named one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history.
For his career, Yarborough made 560 starts and scored 83 wins. He currently ranks fifth on the all-time wins list. Yarborough is a three-time series champion, having won the championship consecutively from 1976 to 1978. Until Jimmie Johnson, Yarborough was the only driver to have ever won three straight championships.
Yarborough is a 69-time pole winner and posted 319 top-10 finishes in his career. Yarborough won the Daytona 500 on four different occasions
1. Darrell Waltrip
By most accounts, Darrell Waltrip should have been elected into the Hall of Fame last year. Ultimately, he missed out on his enshrinement, but should be a lock to get in this year. Waltrip had a career in the top series that started in 1972 and concluded in 2000.
Waltrip was a winner on 84 occasions in 809 career starts. He posted 390 top-10 finishes during his 29-year career behind the wheel. Waltrip won the pole 59 times.
He is a three-time Sprint Cup Series champion. From 1975 to 1989, Waltrip finished in the top-10 in the points each year. His 1981 championship season was easily his best year. That year, Waltrip won 12 times, posted 25 top-10's in 31 events and started from the pole on 11 different occasions.
Waltrip is also a former Daytona 500 winner and five-time winner of the Coca Cola 500.