NASCAR fans, you have a voice! Fan voting has opened for the 2015 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Who sould join the ranks of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and Big Bill France? This year’s fan ballot offers an array of choices that include everyone from Red Byron to Rick Hendrick.
This is by no means a media member telling you how you should vote; I am merely sharing my ballot and my reasons why. It would also be interesting to hear what your ballot looks like if you choose to share.
Here are my favorite five from a most worthy group:
Bill Elliott- Awesome Bill from Dawsonville rose from the hardscrabble ranks of independent drivers to become a dominant force in the late 80s, in a golden age that included Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip and Tim Richmond. He not have looked the part of dashing young squire with his slender build, curly red hair and high-pitched Georgia twang, but Elliott represented the American dream. This winner of 44 races offered hope, leading one to dream that if he can do it, I can do it. Dale Jr. has nothing on this guy, Elliott won the Most Popular Driver Award an incredible 16 times!
Benny Parsons- The one-time Detroit taxi cab driver was a force to reckon on the track, and later became a beloved NASCAR ambassador in the broadcast booth. Parsons won a NASCAR Winston Cup title in 1973, the Daytona 500 in 1975 and the World 600 in 1980 in a career where he celebrated 21 victories. Like Elliott, “B.P.” was named one of NASCAR’s “50 Greatest Drivers” in 1998. His insights as a broadcaster earnde him the nickname “The Professor.” Parsons won an ESPN Emmy in 1996 for his excellence as a commentator.
Wendell Scott- Only two drivers of African-American extraction have won a race at NASCAR’s top three levels, and Scott was the first in 1964. Racing during a time and in a place where racial equality wasn’t the most popular notion, Scott was brave and determined. He didn’t receive big-time team and manufacturer support; Scott scrapped and clawed for survival, but fortunately did have a few friends in the sport- such as Rex White, Ned Jarrett and even a little from Big Bill France along the way. The one-time mechanic and part-time moonshine runner from Danville, Virginia, stayed strong through 495 races until injuries suffered while racing at Talladega in 1973 forced him to retire. He died in 1990, and though he’s not here to be honored, it’s long past time to salute this great American tribute to grit and hard work against long odds and adversity.
Raymond Parks- Before Carl Kirkheifer, before the Wood Brothers, before Rick Hendrick, there was Raymond Parks. Before there was a NASCAR, this Georgia moonshine maker needed hot machines to get his product to its destination before the revenue agents could get to it. Parks, and other like-minded types found enjoyment in racing these hot rods for entertainment. In that famous meeting in 1947 at the Streamline Hotel, Parks sat in on the meetings that gave birth to NASCAR. His drivers included NASCAR forerunner Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, and NASCAR’s first race winner, Red Byron. Shortly before his passing at age 96, Parks was named to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009.
Buddy Baker- There are a number of royal families in racing: Petty, Earnhardt, Jarrett, and the older fans know the Bakers- Buck and son Buddy- belong among them. The son of a two-time champion, Buddy won 19 times during his long part-time career as a driver, including a NASCAR Grand Slam. The first man to run a “stock” car over 200 miles an hour was a winner of the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Aaron’s 499. Like Parsons, Elzie Wylie Baker, Jr. continued his contributions after his driving career as a member of the broadcast booth. He too, was named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Best Drivers in 1998.
If you don’t know about these guys, find out. In their own way, this group helped build NASCAR and added spice to its rich history.