Monday, May 21, 2012

NASCAR: If I Had a Vote...

Curtis Turner
NASCAR announces its next round of Hall of Fame inductees Wednesday evening after a day of “discussion and debate.”  If I had votes, the first one would go to Curtis Turner.  The next two go to Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly.

Turner was a NASCAR original; his hard driving, hard living lifestyle epitomized the stock car circuit’s early years.   He won more than 350 races of all types, including 17 in the equivalent of today’s Sprint Cup series.  In 1956 won 25 races – driving the same car!

But Turner had more than his share of problems off the track.  He was the driving force behind the Charlotte Motor Speedway, conceiving and overseeing the building of the speedway before being forced out by his business partners in 1960.  Then he turned his attention to starting a driver’s union and this time he ran afoul of Big Bill France, who banned him for life from NASCAR.

The lifetime ban lasted until 1965 when NASCAR, desperate to overcome the deaths of Roberts and Weatherly in ’64 crashes, reinstated Turner.  And darn if he didn’t come back and win a race at Rockingham.

My sentimental – and deserving – vote goes to Fred Lorenzen.  He became my favorite driver shortly after I discovered NASCAR in the early ‘60s.  From Chicago, Lorenzen was one of the first successful NASCAR drivers from north of the Mason/Dixon line and was surprisingly well-liked by fans.  His 1963 season was one for the ages. Entering just 29 of 55 races, Lorenzen amassed 23 top-10 finishes, 21 top-five finishes, and finished third overall at the end of the season. That season he went on to become the first driver ever to earn more than $100,000 in a season. In 1965, he won the Daytona 500.Driving for Ford’s Holman and Moody team, Lorenzen ran only a partial schedule during the age when NASCAR ran more than 50 races a year.  In ’63 he finished third in points despite running only 29 of 55 races, becoming the first driver ever to win more than $100,000 in a season.  Known from then on as the “Golden Boy,” he finished with 26 wins in just 158 starts.

Lorenzen was noticeably absent from the celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500.  He was already suffering from is 1963 season was one for the ages. Entering just 29 of 55 races, Lorenzen amassed 23 top-10 finishes, 21 top-five finishes, and finished third overall at the end of the season. That season he went on to become the first driver ever to earn more than $100,000 in a season. In 1965, he won the Daytona 500.dementia and now lives in a Chicago-area nursing home.  Let’s get him in Hall now.

The final vote goes for Smokey Yunick.  What?  He’s not even a nominee!?!  Can I write-in a vote? 

Come to think of it, why don’t the fans have a vote?  For a sport that says it’s all about the fans, why not give the fans input for Hall of Fame.  Let everyone vote online.  Then let someone like Humpy Wheeler represent the fan votes during the day of discussion.
 season. That season he went on to become the first driver ever to earn more than $100,000 in a season. In 1965, he won the Daytona 500.
OK, it may not be too late.  Here's your chance to vote.  Who should be the next five?  Here’s your choices:

Buck Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, H. Clay Earles, Tim Flock, Ray Fox, Anne B. France, Rick Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen, Cotton Owens, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Les Richter, “Fireball” Roberts, T. Wayne Robertson, Wendell Scott, Ralph Seagraves Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Rusty Wallace, Joe Weatherly and Leonard Wood.

7 comments:

  1. I'd take your five without question. All pioneers and great representives of what NASCAR was about.

    I'd have to argue for Raymond Parks and Wendell Scott too.

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  2. When I think of Nascar I think not of todays drivers, who are very good, but with one or two exceptions they are not legendary. It's that last word which should be what the Nascar Hall of Fame focuses on.

    Without question THIS class of Hall of Famers should be:

    Fred Lorenzen
    Curtis Turner
    Joe Weatherly
    Fireball Roberts
    Cotton Owens
    Leonard Wood
    Smokey Yunick
    Ray Fox

    and why those people aren't in the Hall of Fame already is a disgrace to the sport. Big Bill France created Nascar and others helped it get off the ground, but the names on my list should've been inducted long before some others that are already in the Hall.

    If I had started a Nascar Hall of Fame my inductees would've been without question:


    Bill France, Sr.
    Richard Petty
    Junior Johnson
    David Pearson
    Cale Yarborough
    Bobby Allison
    Fred Lorenzen
    Curtis Turner
    Fireball Roberts
    Joe Weatherly
    Bill France Jr.
    Cotton Owens
    Ray Fox
    Dale Inman
    Leonard Wood
    Glen Wood
    Smokey Yunick
    Lee Petty

    That's the list which BUILT Nascar, the people who put on the lips of every fan of Nascar, the people who by their actions on the track and in the pits made it the great spectator sport it has become...

    And for this year's class we'd be adding the names of Dale Earnhardt sr and Darrell Waltrip and Ned Jarrett and Rusty Wallace and arguing over who else to add to the list...

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  3. I've got no problems with your list, but would replace Lorenzen with Raymond Parks. I understand that Fred's in bad shape, but Parks should get in before he gets pushed farther aside by Winston Cup drivers.

    Had I been in charge, I would have elected ten members for the first five years before dropping it down to five.

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  4. @Anonymous: Says who?


    My list transcend the early years, through the sixties, and then goes into the 70s and 80s. Earnhardt Sr., Waltrip, Wallace WERE the 80s and 90s. Jarrett clearly was a product of the early sixties. And as great as he was, he wasn't a "name" that was heard outside of the South at that time.

    if you were in the North or out here in the West in those years you may not be a Nascar fan, but you knew the names of Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, and Allison, et al. You knew about the Wood Brothers and Smokey Yunick from Indy. And you knew about the others because of their association with the big name drivers of the time. THOSE people built Nascar, then there was a second wave which included Earnhardt, Wallace, Waltrip, etc.

    If you ask the new comers to the sport the first think of Earnhardt, but the old rail birds like me remember who really built Nascar.

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    1. Come on Mr. Anonymous real name?), be nice.

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