We now know the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class. While all three inductees deserve the title, let’s take a look at a few of those who didn’t quite make the cut.
Red Farmer, Mike Stefanik, and Dale Earnhardt Jr: three drivers with incredible resumes in racing who each deserve and have now earned a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
When I looked at the other nominees once more before the 2021 class was announced, I wondered if they also deserve a place, either now or within the next few years. I think this year’s list of nominees was the deepest we’ve had yet. Most, if not all, of the nominees invariably deserve an induction.
One of my predictions for this year’s inductees from the Modern Era ballot was Kirk Shelmerdine, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Sr. He helped Earnhardt win four of his seven championships and secure 44 of his 76 wins.
Shelmerdine is the youngest crew chief to win a race and the youngest crew chief to win a championship. That’s it. That’s his legacy, right there. Doesn’t that constitute a Hall of Fame induction? Yes. Once he retired from his role as a crew chief, his driving record was less than memorable. But those things can be forgotten.
Someone else on the Modern Era ballot who 100% deserves a place in the Hall of Fame is Neil Bonnett. Bonnett is one of the drivers “taken too soon” when he was killed during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500.
To me, Bonnett represents the word “dedication”. He compete in 362 races over 18 seasons in the Cup Series with only 18 career wins and 156 top 10 finishes. He finished in the top 10 43.1% of the time. That statistic alone compares well to Earnhardt Jr.’s in the same category — 260 top 10 finishes in 631 career starts is 41.2%.
But is this stat noteworthy enough to give the last notable member of the Alabama Gang a chance to solidify their legacy?
That last word is undoubtedly what will or won’t make you a NASCAR Hall of Famer: “Legacy”. What did each nominee leave behind that makes you remember them fondly?
Only three more individuals can now be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame each year, further emphasizing that one word. Although I’m disappointed my picks weren’t voted in this year, I can only think: “There’s always next year.”