Can you say there were really any surprises with the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class? Not for me. All were going to get in sooner or later, and for the older inductees it’s nice they get in while their here to enjoy it.
That was what always stuck in my craw with NASCAR pioneer owner Raymond Parks. They could have inducted him into the Hall of Fame while he was still alive, but they missed that opportunity. He should have been among the very first, with all apologies to some who got in ahead of him.
Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure: Jeff Gordon’s induction was a no-brainer. Not only are there all of his many accomplishments statistically, there’s his influence that transcends racing. Because mid-west by west charm and his youthful good looks, Gordon brought NASCAR to a new audience. Now working as a broadcaster, that influence continues.
Though we can only imagine what he would accomplished had he not perished in a helicopter crash, Davey Allison still had quite a career for the brief time he was with. It was a case of a second-generation driver being just as good, maybe better than his old man. 19 wins in 191 Cup races is most definitely Hall of Fame worthy. He won frequently and he won big races in what was a golden age of NASCAR with Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, and others all competing alongside the Hollywood, Florida born native- an integral part of the “Alabama Gang.”
Another brilliant star from that era whose life was also cut short was Alan Kulwicki. While he won only five races, he earned the distinction of a championship, and he was a one-of-a-kind. He wasn’t just a racer, but an owner as well. An underdog racing what he called his “Underbird,” he was a star who shined brilliantly of only briefly. His inclusion in the Hall of Fame is a nod to the throwbacks who made NASCAR what it became.
Though his team is not what it once was, owner Jack Roush has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. It’s too easy to forget that it was Roush Racing that dominated the NASCAR scene in the early 2000s. His Hall of Fame eye for talent produced champions such as Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch. Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle were other notables who raced for Roush.
Fellow owner Roger Penske is another owner whose fingerprints are all over NASCAR. Not only did Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman enjoy success under Penske, his team has been an important part of the revival Ford is enjoying today. Hall of Famer? You bet!
Beyond these participants, there are numerous figures past and present deserving of a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s just a matter of time.