Decisions, decisions, decisions. Have you seen the just-released list of nominees for the 2019 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame? Not everyone who is worthy on the list will get in next year. If it were left up to me, these would be my selections:
Jeff Gordon- The four-time champion and winner of 93 Cup races is without question a first ballot Hall of Famer if there ever was one. Gordon’s resume is as gaudy as it gets for a Modern Era racer. The kid from Vallejo, California, with a stop in Pittsboro, Indiana was a game changer. Upon his 1992 arrival, he the former open wheeler brought a distinctive non-southern presence that broke a stereotype. He was a departure from the rough-hewn, blue collar types like Dale Earnhardt. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who served as a host on daytime TV, is married to a super model and even makes his own wine. This is a no-brainer.
Davey Allison- This selection falls along the same line as Sandy Koufax in baseball, and Gale Sayers in the NFL. A tragic helicopter accident in 1993 prematurely ended the life of a racer destined for even more than he accomplished. The son of Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, Davey was as good, maybe even better than his father. The winner of the 1992 Daytona 500, Davey Allison had finished third twice in a row, winning five races each in 1991 and 1992. He won 19 Cup races in a golden age that gave us Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Alan Kulwicki and more. Anyone who saw him race won’t question Allison’s inclusion. May as well be now.
Buddy Baker- Sometimes it’s more than just wins and championships. The son of NASCAR pioneer Buck Baker had a mere 19 wins during his long career, and he never won a championship. So why include Baker this year? He contributed so much in such a a variety of ways. He made up for volume by winning the big races. His accomplishments included three World 600 wins, three Winston 500 wins, a Southern 500 win in 1970 and a Daytona 500 victory in 1980. He was the first driver to crack the 200 mile an hour barrier.
When his driving days were over, Elzie Wylie Baker Jr. made his mark as a broadcaster. The likes of the South Carolinian put the viewer in touch with NASCAR’s roots and its base. Given his longtime association and the connection to Buck Baker, Buddy Baker was intimately acquainted with NASCAR history. More than that, he did so in a homespun, folksy and engaging way.
Buddy Baker is bona fide NASCAR Hall of Fame without question. It’s too bad he didn’t live long enough to experience his inclusion- be it in 2019 or later.
Mike Stefanik- Who? Hear me out; if the NASCAR Hall of Fame is as much about accomplishment as it is fame, this nine-time champion must be included.
If you know of Richie Evans, then Stefanik is cut from the same cloth as the Rapid Roman. While Stefanik was a blip on the screen in the Busch and truck series, he was a giant on a more regional level. Between 1989 and 2006, he won SEVEN championships in the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour. In 1997 and 1998, Stefanik won titles in the Busch Series North. In the 90s, he also captured the Busch Series North Most Popular Driver Award.
While there are still plenty of people who can attest to the prowess of Mike Stefanik, let’s make sure he’s memorialized. If there’s room for a Richie Evans, then Stefanik belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Ralph Moody- The final selection is kind of a tough one. There’s a truckload of worthy candidates. There’s a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame the likes of Moody, who raced, but achieved a greater success as an owner.
What a man. He drove tanks for Gen. George Patton in World War II. He won five races in the 50s in NASCAR’s top division. In the 60s, he was one half of the famed Holman-Moody racing organization.
Holman-Moody owned race cars and were more famous for building them. During their heyday, Moody’s organization made use of innovations such as tube shocks, square tubing frames and more. Any read of NASCAR history in the 60s prominently features the names of John Holman and Ralph Moody. Already a member of four racing related Hall of Fames, Moody now belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Barney Hall- If you know the Motor Racing Network, then you know Barney Hall. When you get an award named after you, you’re good.
His career began in 1960 as a public address announcer at Bristol Motor Speedway. A decade later, Hall was there with the launch of MRN. Take it from someone who knows, bringing racing to radio is no easy feat. MRN did it with excellence, featuring the distinctive drawl of Barney Hall. An easy choice.