NASCAR’s Hall Of Fame Is Destined To Become A Joke

Photo: Wikicommons
Photo: Wikicommons /

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a fantastic museum of racing history. If the voting keeps the way it is they are going to run out of worthy entrants, fast.

When it comes to hall’s of fame for any sport there is one thing that there needs to be, exclusivity. That means the members that are let in have to be truly worthy. The way NASCAR has set up its voting, mandating five are elected, the level of entrants is quickly not going to remain worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Not take away the merit of anyone who has been elected or nominated, but there is no way on gods green earth that someone should get elected that was only on 43% of the cast ballots. If you cannot even get on half the ballots when there are five selections per ballot you have no place in the hall. It diminishes the value of being elected to the hall when not even half of the voters vote for you with five chances to.

As long as there is a set number of individuals that must be elected, there will always be a question of worthiness of those being inducted. It takes the natural part of being elected to the Hall of Fame away and it becomes less of an accomplishment. Without a threshold to reach to receive induction, where is the accomplishment?

This year is a prime example, there were twenty names nominated to gain entry to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. There are thirty-seven members of the voting panel, a well-rounded group of people with a vast knowledge of history in the sport. There are owners, drivers, crew chiefs, lots of media and other individuals with a special place in the sport. It is not a group with special interests to look out for. Each member gets to select their five persons they believe should be in the hall.

With the group of experts they have voting on the hall, if you cannot get at least a majority picking five from a list of twenty there is no way that individual belongs enshrined with the greatest in the sport. The greatness of a hall of fame is defined by the individuals that are not granted admittance. That means that if a majority, and in a perfect world a vast majority, does not vote for an individual, they do not get in.

When individuals whom some people think are deserving to get in don’t, it actually strengthens the value of the hall. It stirs debate and enriches the history of the sport with discussion. NASCAR announced just the seventh class to enter the hall, and already they are getting to names that need explaining. It was the blowhard Colin Cowherd, when he was still on ESPN, who said that “if you have to explain their credentials to me they don’t belong in the Hall of Fame”. He was right in this lone instance as he was talking about the baseball HOF, but it fits here as well.

NASCAR as much as it wants to think otherwise, is a very young sport. It tries to think of itself in the terms of MLB and the NFL in its history, but the reality is that the sport itself really did not come into existence until 1949. To make the issue even more difficult, the limited number of drivers and owners in the history of the sport make the pool of truly HOF worthy candidates exceedingly small. Remember, it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.

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The first change that I would make to make sure that only the most deserving get into the HOF is to divide the candidates into groups of drivers, owners, prominent figures and historic significance. No more than two from any group can get in on a given year. That way only the best of the best get in with any one class. It would make it so in the years when there might not be any new eligible people to be voted upon, the ones who have not yet gained enshrinement will get a fresh look.

The next change might be the most important, you have to receive at least 75% of the vote to be elected to the HOF. It has to be a vast majority of people inside the sport that believe they belong in the HOF. I am a huge Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress fan, but I cannot agree with Childress getting elected with just 43% of the vote. Ray Parks and Mark Martin were also elected with less than 60% of the vote. Of all the ballots cast, with five selections on each, almost half of them left both of them off completely, yet they still get elected to the HOF.

Going forward with the mass of people that NASCAR has elected in the first seven years, the quality of people even eligible for the hall is going to dwindle to the point of irrelevance. As a sport there are only one, maybe two significant individuals who leave the sport in any given year. Unless NASCAR and the HOF act now and make changes to its system, in coming years the classes will become less and less special. It will just be a story on the page, as opposed the celebration it should be.

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It is hard to believe, but the class that gets into the HOF is not defined by the ones they go in with, but by the ones that are left out. A trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown shows exactly how it should be done. You can have displays about persons who set records, such as Roger Maris, or made an impact in the sport, but they don’t have to be members. The Hall of Fame should be just that, not just a room full of people in the sport.