Prognostication is not an exact science and certainly choosing what someone else might deem as worthy contenders for the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame is at best a crapshoot. With that said, here’s a list of five greats who should be considered this year for the lofty status as a Hall of Famer in stock cars racing’s premier league (listed alphabetically). At the bottom, I’ve also noted others that shouldn’t be left out for too long.
Tim Flock — As the leading member of a famous racing family, Tim was truly one of great racecar drivers in the history of motorsports. He had the unenvious notoriety of his families constant run-ins with the law regarding bootlegging (back then, who didn’t) plus Flock himself was typically at odds with NASCAR management (source – ESPN). However, that should in no way keep one of the great drivers of the sport out of the Hall of Fame. Flock was a great pioneer of the sport, winning two championships in ’52 and ’55; plus, in little more than a decade of racing, he was victorious 39 times in NASCAR’s top series with over 100 top fives.
Bobby Isaac — Already in several Halls of Fame and known for his Bonneville exploits, Isaac was NASCAR’s champion in 1970 and captured a total of 37 national wins and grabbed 49 poles during a decade of racing. Although his career technically spanned 16 years, essentially he only raced full-time for three seasons, 68-70. However, in those three years, he was first, second and sixth in the point standings. In ’68, he was second in the points while winning only three times, a testimony to his front-running ability. When I was just a kid learning about stock car racing, Isaac was the first name I remember following in the late ’60s. Isaac died at age 45 of a heart attack while at the track and if you don’t know the story, he’s buried on a hill overlooking tiny Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, North Carolina.
Fireball Roberts — Someone whose nickname is ‘Fireball’ has to be included in any Hall of Fame. One of the early pioneers for NASCAR, he won his first race back in August of 1950 at Occoneechee Speedway (no longer there). He was a popular driver who won 33 races over a 15 year career, which included an amazing 93 top fives. Ironically, Roberts died from complications after a fiery crash at Charlotte. And where did he get his nickname? Playing baseball – his fastball was a true heater.
Curtis Turner — Yet another early pioneer of racing with a very colorful and some might say brash career. He won 17 events and like many of the era, he did not run a full-time schedule. He did however drive for some of the most famous owners including: Holman & Moody, Junior Johnson, Smokey Yunick and the Wood Brothers. His union dealings ran afoul of NASCAR, which forced him out of the sport for a period of time. Quite a businessman, he helped to get Charlotte Motor Speedway built. Shortly after retiring, the 46 year old was killed in an airplane crash.
Joe Weatherly – He is a two-time NASCAR Cup champion with back-to-back titles in ’62 and ’63 plus, he won several other championships including in Modifieds and motorcycles (AMA). Interestingly, during his second title run, he drove for nine different car owners. Weatherly was known affectionately as the ‘Clown Prince of Racing’. He too died while still competing with an innocuous slide off the dirt into a wall (see video) at a race in Riverside, California.
If Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte would ever officially retire, they will most likely jump right into the Hall of Fame (drivers need to be retired for three years to be eligible). There are some other deserving drivers that shouldn’t be overlooked such as Fred Lorenzen and Harry Gant (Mr. September), plus surely these past champions, Benny Parsons, Alan Kulwicki and Dale Jarrett should be included soon.
That’s my view, but what do you think.
Additional sources: NASCAR Hall of Fame, Racing Reference