Sometimes, the first class can be the easiest to pick. By and large, the NASCAR Hall of Fame's list of its inaugural five comes devoid of any big surprises, names with an A+ grade attached to their careers inside the sport. Legends known on a national scale, both Frances,
But now that the obvious picks are out of the way, the task gets much harder for next year, as about 15-20 men hold similar credentials. With a limit of five selections again in 2011, who will stand out to make up the next round of the sport's Hall of Fame class? Here's my selections, in order, to separate themselves from the pack:
Pearson seemed to lean towards support for certain drivers as his downfall, and it's true most of the voting bloc had ties towards both
Personally, I had Pearson over Johnson on my list, but that's OK because this guy deserves to headline a class of his own. At his peak, there was no one better, a man who in 1973 won 11 of 18 races he entered as the Wood Brothers made their mark as the king of Superspeedways. His 1976 Daytona 500 win also ranks second wildest behind the 1979 finish, with he and Petty crashing off Turn 4 before Pearson was able to drive his wounded Mercury across the line first. It was the highlight of dozens of Pearson-Petty duels throughout the 1970s, their popular rivalry helping turn a nation towards the beauty of the sport.
Yet even running half the races, Yarborough was just as dangerous, winning the Daytona 500 back-to-back in 1983-84 en route to a total of 83 victories for his career. While a stab at ownership proved unsuccessful (just one win in nearly two decades), he also employed future stars like
At their peak, there was no one better, with the team remaining one of the few to stand the test of longevity: In their 59th year of business, the No. 21 car will likely make their 100th career start at Charlotte alone with Elliott on Saturday night.
The mammoth new speedway would cut his career short in a violent crash two years later, but not before the pieces were in place for his son to take over the family legacy. The race team he founded, Petty Enterprises, went on to win 268 Cup races over 60 years before merging with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports at the start of this season.
Retiring in 2000, Waltrip has gone on to a successful career in broadcasting, contributing in other ways as an analyst for FOX and SPEED since 2001. While Allison may be the sentimental pick (he lost both racing sons, Clifford and Davey, in separate incidents in the early '90s after suffering a career-ending head injury in 1988) you make the Hall based on triumph, not tragedy. Allison would be a solid headliner for the third class in 2012, though, just like Pearson will be next year.