Ryan: Who will be in the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class? One voter’s early read

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The official discussion about the ninth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame will take place sometime in late May when more than 50 voters will gather together.

But more than eight weeks before that meeting (and subsequent vote) in a windowless room at the Charlotte Convention Center, the discussion of potential 2018 inductees began Wednesday night with the unveiling of the 20 nominees on NASCAR America.

Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske, Davey Allison, Bobby Labonte and Red Farmer have been added to a ballot that will include holdovers Buddy Baker, Robert Yates, Ricky Rudd, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson, Harry Hyde, Jack Roush, Alan Kulwicki, Larry Phillips, Ray Fox, Ray Evernham, Red Byron, Ken Squier, Herschel McGriff and Ron Hornaday Jr.

For this voter, every candidate’s resume and record carefully will be considered, but the ballot seems clear cut.

LOCKS. My general rule is once you have my vote, your name stays on my ballot as long as you are eligible. So there are two names that fit that category.

Evernham: It isn’t so much his three championships as a crew chief as his role as an influencer. So many parts of modern-day management of a race team – including pit crews, strategies and car building – began with Evernham, who also had a successful run as team owner and TV analyst.

Byron: His statistics aren’t gaudy, but he is the first champion of NASCAR’s premier series, and that counts for something.

LIKELY. I’m leaning toward these names on my ballot.

Baker: In the same category as 2017 inductee Benny Parsons, Baker was a respected Daytona 500 winner before becoming a beloved broadcaster

Yates: His current battle with cancer has put a spotlight on his career achievements as both an ace engine builder and a championship car owner.

POSSIBLES. The last name could come from this group.

Gibbs: The election of Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress underscored that a team owner’s greatness can be respected even while still active.

Roush: See above.

Penske: Ditto.

Kulwicki: One of NASCAR’s greatest underdog stories.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson involved in minor fender bender while leaving Fontana

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Kyle Larson‘s spectacular weekend at Auto Club Speedway — winning both Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup event — left him feeling good.

But shortly upon exiting the facility, Larson and several others were involved in a fender-bender right outside the Speedway. Larson was a passenger, not the driver.

No one was injured, Larson tweeted.

But somehow, isn’t that strange fate?

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Fontana win shows continued maturing as a driver

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Kyle Larson finally broke his streak of three straight runner-up finishes with his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, the crew discussed his win as well as his maturation as a driver.