Soon enough, voting procedures for the NASCAR Hall of Fame will follow the same protocol as the NASCAR rule book and the qualifications for the Chase. That is, you’ll need a pencil and a rather resilient eraser. And in time, that’s a good thing.
It’s very hard to start a Hall of Fame 60 years after a sport debuts because there’s so much catching up to do. There’s a delicate balance between honoring people familiar enough to promote the Hall, and putting in the people who deserve to be in there regardless of whether they sell any tickets.
In time, NASCAR will follow the likes of MLB and the NFL. There will be veterans committees to induct drivers from yesteryear. They’ll be a separate classification to induct contributors (executives, broadcasters, etc.). Specifically to NASCAR, they’ll be class differentiation to allow the likes of sportsman champ Jack Ingram and modified ace Ritchie Evans to get their nod without taking away a spot from anybody else.
But NASCAR got it 100 percent right in how it handled the Hall initially. In establishing the Hall’s importance, you can’t have five or six different entities putting people in. There has to be one standard — the people who meant the most to the sport, period.
Assuming that NASCAR branches out into multiple Hall of Fame paths within the next three years, there is a premium on getting in as soon as possible. At some point, an induction just won’t mean quite as much.
This time around, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip are no-brainers, and after that there are multiple schools of thought. Someday Raymond Parks, the man who had the spirit (and made the spirits) to help finance NASCAR patriarch Bill France Sr. will get inducted. Someday T. Wayne Robertson, the R.J. Reynolds marketing guru who helped lead Bill France Jr. into the modern era of TV exposure and mainstream acceptance via the Winston Cup Series, will join Parks.
That someday should be right now.
Bill Sr. and Jr. were two of the first five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. How long should anybody wait to be honored if you can reasonably argue that the the Frances might’ve failed miserably in building NASCAR without their help?
Robertson, who died in a boating accident in 1998 at the age of 47, and Parks, who finally succumbed to old age last year at 96, would certainly find their way into the Hall when a “contributors” list is compiled.
But if that happens their contribution will not be properly recognized. Robertson and Parks were both kingmakers, guys who were content to create empires without their names being so prominently mentioned.
It’s time for them to take center stage.