The announcement of the 2011class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was interesting if not perplexing. Chosen were David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett, and Bud Moore. Pearson was as much of a lock to be voted in this year as anyone could have been. Reports indicate he nearly made it last year, so this year was a certainty. Surprising was the Jarrett and Moore selections, not that they didn’t deserve the honor. They certainly do. But what is confusing is how can you lock William Caleb Yarborough out two years in a row.
I had openly campaigned for Pearson, Yarborough, and Allison. Those were the heroes of my youth, and with each approaching or past 70, I wanted to see them get into the Hall before anything happened to them. Two out of three made it, but what about Cale? Humpy Wheeler, former boss at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said it was personal feelings that drove the voters to Jarrett, Moore, and Petty and against Darrell Waltrip and Yarborough, the other two favorites. Is there something I’m missing here?
Yarborough has the third most wins in series history and is the only one of two drivers to win three consecutive Sprint Cup championships. So why did Petty, Jarrett, and Moore get in and Yarborough did not? It probably had to do with exposure. Yarborough is seldom seen around NASCAR’s speedways and last made an appearance in congratulating Jimmie Johnson for tying his consecutive championship record, a record Johnson has since eclipsed. Maybe Yarborough could be called the forgotten man.
Truth is, this was a tough decision for the voters to make and Wheeler is probably right in that personal feelings had a lot to do with it. Petty was a pioneer in the sport and the father of NASCAR’s “King,” Richard Petty. Jarrett was a popular personality on NASCAR’s television and radio broadcasts for years. Moore was a crusty World War II veteran who led his drivers to 63 wins and two championships. And that’s the problem.
The powers that be just don’t induct enough people into the Hall of Fame. At the rate of five per year, most of our heroes will have gone on to their reward before they make the Hall. There should also be separate categories for drivers, crew chiefs, pit crew members, car owners, and media greats. The Hall should have had an initial 20 people inducted and then chosen five a year from each category. Some will not live long enough to see their heroes in the Hall, and that’s a shame.
So those of us who watched Yarborough wrestle a race car around the track to win will have to wait another year…or three. And if NASCAR continues to only induct five per year, we may never see him join the elite group he deserves.