Brant James
Tuesday May 18th, 2010

NASCAR Power Rankings

The debate will begin long before the final speech is made on Sunday in Charlotte. With the first five members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame decided upon and enshrined with little controversy -- other than two being members of the founding France clan -- the voting committee, now including inductee Richard Petty, will be tasked with hashing out a series of less clear classes. The hall itself is built to accommodate just five inductees each spring, making the next selection an interesting and debatable one. Here's a look at 10 deserving inductees. Have a comment? Send to You can also follow me on Twitter at

1David Pearson
David Pearson
Number one without a doubt. The discussion and vote should take seconds. Begin construction on the monument now. Petty called Pearson the greatest driver the sport had ever seen -- a ringing endorsement from a man boasting a record 200 wins, seven championships and the nickname "King" -- and was surprised he wasn't a member of the first class. Pearson's talent landed him 105 wins, the second-best all-time, and three championships while only running a handful of complete schedules. He is a flannel-shirted, ball of cantankerous badass and, if inducted, his acceptance speech promises to be one for the ages.
2Bobby Allison
Bobby Allison
While NASCAR officially credits him with only 84 wins, he will go to his grave, and into the hall, asserting his right to the 85th, won squarely, he says, at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1971. With the Alabama gang and the fight of 1979 in the Daytona 500 on his resume, he is a lock anyway.
3Lee Petty
Lee Petty
He made the man who made the sport, but Petty was a three-time series champion and winner of 54 races in his own right. And his team with that Petty kid was pretty stout too.
Darrell Waltrip
A three-time titlist, the outspoken Kentuckian with a penchant for attracting attention elicited strong emotions from fans, on both sides of the emotional spectrum. Like first-year inductee Dale Earnhardt, he was a bridge to the modern era and is a ubiquitous figure as a television analyst. His induction should be contingent on him refraining from an Icky Shuffle's or "Boogity-Boogity-Boogity"'s during the ceremony.
5Cale Yarborough
Cale Yarborough
The only man to win three championships consecutively (1976-78) until Jimmie Johnson surpassed him last year, Yarborough was so poor when he got married he and his wife lived off cans of black-eyed peas. "There were some lean, hard times in there, but hey, I still love black-eyed peas," he once said. Yarborough went on a USO tour of Vietnam in 1968 and was sleeping in a bombed out building with American troops when Viet Cong waded across the river and attacked. He got mad the soldiers wouldn't let him have a weapon so he could fight. Inducted.
6Dale Inman
Dale Inman
The hall has honored men behind the sport (the Frances) and behind the wheel, so now it's time to credit the men behind the wrenches. Inman helped Petty go faster and better than everyone else for nearly three decades, winning nearly 200 races and six titles. Then he won a title in 1984 with Terry Labonte.
7Smokey Yunick
Smokey Yunick
If NASCAR had no problem erecting a still in the Hall as an homage to its moonshiner roots, it should have no problem honoring the "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'" mantra. Yunick was a rules-bender, rules-tester and innovator, who found the gray areas and exploited them, built great engines and made drivers into champions. But he was much more than someone who challenged the status quo. He was a designer, engine-builder, engineer, columnist, crew chief and patent-holder on scores of automotive advancements. Then there's the corn cob pipe, tattered cowboy hat and white uniform that locks him in for a tribute in the hall.
8Rusty Wallace
Rusty Wallace
One just hopes his monument is positioned with Earnhardt's banging into it. A series champion and one of the most successful drivers of the modern era with 55 wins, Wallace has enough ego to fill his own wing. And you just love him for it. That's for sure. Note to Hall: strict acceptance speech time limits on this inductee.
9Richie Evans
Richie Evans
The "Rapid Roman" was the king of Modified racing before his death at Martinsville in 1985. Though records are incomplete, he won nine championships, including eight in a row from 1978-85. He would be the Hall's link to the grassroots racing that makes up NASCAR's past.
10Ned Jarrett
Ned Jarrett
A two-time series champion and a well-liked broadcaster, Jarrett would be a popular pick, although he is not well known to a younger generation. At this point, saying he's Dale Jarrett's father doesn't ring bells with the 20-somethings either. He'll get there.

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