When you start your hall of fame with a 60-year backlog, the line that forms to get in is as long as the one at Dale Earnhardt's “Intimidator” roller coaster at Carowinds each Saturday.
This week the NASCAR Hall of Fame released its list of 25 nominees for the Class of 2014 – this will be its fifth class overall – and you could make a case for just about everybody on that list. Most of them eventually will make it, but the ironclad “only five per year” rule means the line remains long.
Last year I pitched the idea in a column that it should be the “Year of the Pioneer” – theorizing that what NASCAR's Hall most obviously is missing is drivers from the 1950s and 1960s. Those men literally risked their lives every weekend in what then was a far more dangerous sport.
I don't have a vote. But I believed the best drivers from that early era should qualify for this field before we start crowning any more of the NASCAR kings of more recent generations.
Let's just say my campaign didn't go very well. Of the five pioneer drivers I wanted to get in, only one made it into the Class of 2013: Herb Thomas.
So here we go again. I'm campaigning for my four drivers who didn't make the Hall last year – Tim Flock, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner and Wendell Scott – as well as one new addition in Joe Weatherly. Voting day will be May 22 at the NASCAR Hall in uptown Charlotte.
My five choices, in alphabetical order:
Tim Flock. A two-time series champion during the 1950s, Flock won 39 times at NASCAR's top level. He was the most successful of the racing Flock brothers. He also was well-known for racing with a pet rhesus monkey named “Jocko Flocko” for part of the 1953 season. I just can't see that happening in today's NASCAR.
Fireball Roberts. I feel good about Roberts making it this time, as he came in sixth place in the voting last year, just behind the inducted five. Charismatic Roberts never won a series championship, but he was an early breakout star and had 33 wins at the top level. Roberts got his nickname because of his fastball. But he had a tragic and ironic death during 1964 following an accident at Charlotte Motor Speedway, when he was engulfed in a fireball following a wreck.
Wendell Scott. He won only one top-level race, in 1963. But Scott broke NASCAR's color barrier. And despite inferior equipment, little money and prejudicial treatment, he was a strong competitor for much of his career. Scott deserves inclusion.
Curtis Turner. Known as the “Babe Ruth of stock-car racing,” Turner was, like Roberts, known for his personality as much as his driving. A former moonshine runner, Turner also was the first NASCAR driver ever to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Turner also helped build Charlotte Motor Speedway (along with Bruton Smith, a nominee this year and someone who definitely should make the Hall one day). Turner would have won more, but he suffered a four-year ban from NASCAR during the prime of his career in the 1960s for unsuccessfully trying to unionize drivers.
Joe Weatherly. A champion in NASCAR's top series in 1962 and '63, Weatherly was defending his title when he was killed in 1964 in a racing accident. Weatherly could drive anything – winning dozens of races in other NASCAR divisions and even as a motorcycle racer. In an era of big NASCAR personalities, Weatherly's sense of humor earned him the nickname of the “Clown Prince of Stock Car Racing.”
Scott Fowler: email@example.com; Twitter.com: @Scott_Fowler
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