By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
This week NASCAR unveiled it’s second class that will enter it’s state-of-the-art Hall Of Fame. The men who will join Big Bill, Little Bill, The Intimidator, The King and The Last American Hero are: David Pearson, Lee Petty, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, and Bud Moore.
The five men who were elected to this class are very much deserving, as will be the case with every class for the foreseeable future, because NASCAR’s Hall opened up more than 60-years after the sport was created.
Last year everyone felt for David Pearson, who just missed making the first class. Over his career he piled up 105 victories and three championships, despite only running enough races to run for the championship three times. Everyone, including me felt that ‘The Silverfox’ deserved to be in the first class, but it wasn’t to be.
For Pearson his time came this week.
After this year’s class was announced there were two notable names missing from the list. Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.
Yarborough was of course the Jimmie Johnson of his time, as he was the first driver to ever win three-straight Sprint Cup Series championships. He was also involved in the famous fist fight in the 1979 Daytona 500 that helped put NASCAR on the map.
Waltrip in addition to being one of the most decorated drivers on the racetrack, has helped to continue growing the sport through broadcasting since he hung up his helmet.
The two won 167 races and six Sprint Cup championships combined in their careers, and were virtual locks for this year’s class. However they were seemingly snubbed by the Hall Of Fame Committee.
As a result many have become vocal criticizing NASCAR for making the first classes to the Hall so small, at just five enshrinements per year. Many have even called for the Hall Of Fame classes to be increased starting next year… I completely disagree.
I myself had Waltrip and Yarborough on my list of who deserved to go into the Hall in this class, but everyone else who made it in also equally deserved their spot. Before you slam NASCAR for the size of their Hall classes take time to think about what you are fighting.
NASCAR is not like any other sport, where multiple players play on each team. I will use the NFL as an example.
In the NFL there are 32 teams, while NASCAR has more than 43 in just the Sprint Cup Series, however it’s not that simple.
In the NFL 53 players are on the roster for each of their 32 teams every season. What this means is that every given season in the NFL there are at least 1,696 players that could potentially end up in the Hall Of Fame some day.
With numbers like that it would be nearly impossible for the NFL to ever run out of worthy players to place in their Hall, especially when you factor in the fact that every season the NFL has at least 224 rookies…
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in comparison has just one rookie this year… Kevin Conway.
Each week there are 43 drivers who start in NASCAR’s premier league, but realistically the top-35 in owner points are the guys who get to start every race.
So where the NFL has 1,696 potential future Hall Of Fame players every season in NASCAR we are limited to just 35 (75 if you include Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck drivers). A very sizable difference.
In addition to those numbers you have to also take into account that NASCAR driver’s careers can last in excess of 20-years, while the typical NFL player that ends up enshrined plays for 10 to 15 years.
Needless to say we could run out of worthy candidates for the Hall in NASCAR if the classes are broadened. We would burn through the guys who helped build the sport to where it is today, and would quickly catch up to the modern era of drivers who are still active. As we all know you can’t elect players or drivers into a Hall of Fame, while they are still active.
Not to mention if you do increase the size of the classes, you will also diminish some of the prestige that someone feels when they make it into the hallowed grounds of the NASCAR Hall Of Fame.
Instead of bickering about who should have made the class, let’s take time out to celebrate the careers and achievements of those who did make it. Waltrip and Yarborough’s day will come, and I’m betting it will come next year. Please take everything above into account before you start voicing your displeasure for NASCAR’s Hall Of Fame elections process.