Hall of Fame vote sparks controversy

by Monte Dutton

Hall of Fame vote sparks controversy

The rules provide for five inductees each year into the new NASCAR Hall of Fame, but only five inductees will ever be able to lay claim to membership in by Monte Dutton the inaugural class.

A broad-based committee elected two members of NASCAR’s ruling family, William HG (Big Bill) and William C. (Bill Jr.) France, along with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson.

“It was interesting,” said HA “Humpy” Wheeler, a member of the voting committee. “The controversial deal was both Frances getting in. There’s a lot of sentiment both for and against that…. I think it was a fair vote.

“Probably the most disappointed person is David Pearson. I think the rest of it was good, but that’s what makes halls of fame interesting is all the emotion. You don’t see it so much among those of us who were voting. The families, the friends and the people themselves are the ones who get stirred up about this.”

“Big” Bill France was instrumental in the organization of NASCAR in 1947, and led the ruling body until 1972, when he handed over the reins to his son, Bill Jr. The founder’s grandson, Brian France, now serves as NASCAR’s chairman and CEO.

Petty and Earnhardt are the only NASCAR drivers ever to win seven championships. Petty won more races, 200, than any other driver. Pearson, who wasn’t selected, ranks second with 105. Johnson won 50 races as a driver, though never winning a championship. (Basically, because he never tried. In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, many drivers competed only in the more lucrative races.) Johnson then went on to win six championships as a team owner.

All three drivers chosen were born and raised in North Carolina. Three of the five inductees — Bill France, Bill France Jr. and Earnhardt — are deceased.

The specific vote totals weren’t publicly revealed. A NASCAR release said that Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison also received votes.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in Charlotte on May 11, 2010. The induction ceremonies are scheduled for May 23, 2010.

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma. com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_ (c) 2009 King Features Synd., Inc.