Two-time champion Terry Labonte, modified super stud Jerry Cook, NASCAR emperasario Bruton Smith, the “Babe Ruth of NASCAR” Curtis Turner and 1970 champion Bobby Isaac were named as the latest inductees in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Taking nothing from these men are just as notable individuals still waiting their turn. In fact, you talk to some fans, and they are shaking their heads that they continue to wait.
Fan favorite Benny Parsons remains on the waiting list for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. If the 1973 champion who later excelled as a broadcaster doesn’t make the next class, then the selection panel should surrender their voting rights. Few have enjoyed the level of respect that Parsons earned. That he earned his title in an era dominated by the likes of Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip makes the feat all the more impressive. NASCAR fans are a tough lot to impress, but “BP” accomplished it in the broadcast booth after he hung up his helmet and fire suit.
Speaking of universal respect, fans are still shaking their heads over the omission of Mark Martin. Though he never won a championship, the mighty mite from Arkansas won 40 Cup races, 49 Xfinity starts, and 7 truck races. Martin finished second in the season standings five times, and would have won it all in 1990, were it not for getting docked 46 points for an illegal carburetor spacer. Dale Earnhardt won the fourth of his seven championships by 26 points. He did however win five IROC championships-including three in a row. When you look at the golden age of Jack Roush Racing, Martin is right in the middle of it with Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
Among non-racers who contributed to the sport, none stood taller than Raymond Parks. His exploits as a car owner and moonshiner helped fuel the popularity of auto racing in the pre-NASCAR era. Behind the success of such early talents as Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay was Parks. When NASCAR was being formed at that famous meeting at the Streamline Hotel at Daytona Beach, Parks was there. He also owned the cars that won NASCAR’s first championships. Not to disrespect those who have already entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it’s a shame Parks had not been inducted while he was alive to enjoy it. Park passed away at the age of 96 in the summer of 2010. A key reason to have a NASCAR Hall of Fame is to make sure individuals like Parks aren’t forgotten.
NASCAR and patriotism go hand in hand. It’s fitting then that NASCAR’s first champion was World War II veteran Red Byron. The flight engineer suffered a wound when his plane was shot at during a mission, and he needed a specially-equipped car to enable him to race. A metal strap was made and bolted to the clutch for his damaged left leg, enabling Byron to pursue his dream. Byron won NASCAR’s first sanctioned race- a modified race on the famous road-beach course at Daytona in 1948. He then went on to win the modified championship in 1948, and the inaugural strictly stock (late Cup) title in 1949. If you read up on Byron, you’ll see photos of Byron caked in the dirt of NASCAR’s early days with the goggles that made him look like a military aviator. Aged beyond his years, Byron retired from driving in 1951, but became involved in the development of sports cars during the 50s. Byron died from a heart attack at age 45 in 1960. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is incomplete without him.
If a *ahem* colorful interpretation of the rules precludes induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, then there’s a lot of drivers and crew chiefs already in shouldn’t be there. With that said, Smokey Yunick should already be in the hall. As we detailed earlier this week, the owner of the “Best Damn Garage In Town” was a mechanical genius. The accomplishments of Yunick and championship tech Red Vogt cannot be overstated. An arch-nemesis to Big Bill France, Yunick kept NASCAR officials on their toes throughout the 50s and 60s. What is a NASCAR Hall of Fame without those who crafted the cars that created the legends?
It should be only a matter of time before this names are added to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Hopefully, it will be sooner, rather than later. Other notables- such as Buddy Baker, Alan Kulwicki and Robert Yates should join their number soon as well.