NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Expect the unexpected

Some unexpected names could be a part of the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class, which will be announced Wednesday after the voting process ends.

The swath of nominees is larger than ever.

Last December, NASCAR altered some of the rules surrounding the selection process, including a change in the eligibility standards that allows drivers over 55 or with more than 30 years of NASCAR experience to be eligible.

When the list of 20 nominees (down from 25 in past years) was released, it included three drivers – Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte and Mike Stefanik – who would not have been eligible under the old rules.

It’s likely at least one of the three will make the five-person cut, but regardless, the change in eligibility standards appears to have made Hall voters’ jobs more difficult than ever.

“I’ve always liked the Baseball Hall of Fame rule requiring that a candidate must have been inactive for a number of years before becoming eligible,” said retired Observer motorsports writer Tom Higgins, a member of the voting panel.

“However, in the case of NASCAR, some of the nominees such as Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Bruton Smith likely won’t ever retire. So, I think it is fair and a good thing to open up the voting.”

Dustin Long, also on the voting panel, has covered NASCAR for more than a decade for newspapers and currently as a writer with Motor Racing Network’s website. He said he believes the Hall of Fame vote has been wide open from its initial class in 2010.

“I was shocked David Pearson wasn’t in the inaugural class. He was on my ballot,” Long said. “It’s always fascinating to see the ebb and flow of the discussion when we’re together in one room.

“The eligibility changes this year will give us a few new people to think about, but making the selections is never easy. It gets more difficult each year. As I pare the nominees to those I’ll select, I find it challenging to get to just five because I know I’m leaving off worthy candidates.”

The top five vote-getters will become members of the 2015 class, which will be inducted in January.

Voters will also have an additional award to consider this year.

Beginning with the 2015 class, the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR will be given.

Winners of the award still remain eligible for Hall enshrinement.

This year’s five nominees for the Landmark Award are H. Clay Earles, Anne B. France, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier.

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