Bobby Isaac

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Friday 5: Questions about size of future Hall of Fame classes

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After NASCAR celebrates the ninth Hall of Fame class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), questions may soon arise about how many inductees should be honored annually.

NASCAR inducts five people each year. When NASCAR announced eligibility changes in 2013, a former series executive said that the sanctioning body would “give strong consideration” to if five people should be inducted each year and if there should be a veteran’s committee “after the 10th class is seated.’’

The 10th class — which Jeff Gordon will be eligible for and expected to headline— will be selected later this year and honored in 2019. That gives NASCAR a year to determine what changes to make if officials follow the schedule mentioned in 2013. NASCAR has discussed different scenarios as part of its examination of the Hall of Fame.

Among the questions NASCAR could face is should no more than three people be inducted a year? Should only nominees who receive a specific percentage of the vote be inducted? Should other methods be considered in determining who enters the Hall? 

Only one of the last five classes had all five inductees selected on at least 50 percent of the ballots. Five people in the last three classes each received less than 50 percent of the vote.

The challenge is that if NASCAR reduced the number of people inducted after the Class of 2019, it could create a logjam in the coming years.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (provided Edwards does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2020.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (provided Kenseth does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2021.

Stewart would appear to be a lock for his year and it seems likely Earnhardt would make it as well his first year.

If the Hall of Fame classes were cut to three a year, and Stewart, Earnhardt and Kenseth each were selected in those two years, that would leave three spots during that time for others.

The nominees for this year’s class included former champions Bobby Labonte and Alan Kulwicki, crew chief Harry Hyde (56 wins, 88 poles) and Waddell Wilson (22 wins, 32 poles), car owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs and Cup drivers Buddy Baker, Davey Allison and Ricky Rudd.

A 2019 Class that might feature Jeff Gordon, Harry Hyde, Buddy Baker and two others would still leave some worthy candidates who might not make it for a couple of years if the number of inductees is reduced.

Of course, there are those who haven’t been nominated that some would suggest should be, including Smokey Yunick, Humpy Wheeler, Buddy Parrott, Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant and Tim Richmond. That could further jumble who makes it if the number of inductees is reduced.

Those are just some of the issues NASCAR could face as it examines if any changes need to be made.

2. Hall of Fame Classes and vote totals

Note: NASCAR did not release vote totals for the inaugural class (2010 with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Bill France Sr., and Bill France Jr.). Below are the other classes with the percent of ballots each inductee was on:

2018 Class

Robert Yates (94 percent)

Red Byron (74 percent)

Ray Evernham (52 percent)

Ken Squier (40 percent)

Ron Hornaday Jr. (38 percent)

2017 Class

Benny Parsons (85 percent)

Rick Hendrick (62 percent)

Mark Martin (57 percent)

Raymond Parks (53 percent)

Richard Childress (43 percent)

2016 Class

Bruton Smith (68 percent)

Terry Labonte (61 percent)

Curtis Turner (60 percent)

Jerry Cook (47 percent)

Bobby Isaac (44 percent)

2015 Class

Bill Elliott (87 percent)

Wendell Scott (58 percent)

Joe Weatherly (53 percent)

Rex White (43 percent)

Fred Lorenzen (30 percent)

2014 Class

Tim Flock (76 percent)

Maurice Petty (67 percent)

Dale Jarrett (56 percent)

Jack Ingram (53 percent)

Fireball Roberts (51 percent)

2013 Class

Herb Thomas (57 percent)

Leonard Wood (57 percent)

Rusty Wallace (52 percent)

Cotten Owens (50 percent)

Buck Baker (39 percent)

2012 Class

Cale Yarborough (85 percent)

Darrell Waltrip (82 percent)

Dale Inman (78 percent)

Richie Evans (50 percent)

Glen Wood (44 percent)

2011 Class

David Pearson (94 percent)

Bobby Allison (62 percent)

Lee Petty (62 percent)

Ned Jarrett (58 percent)

Bud Moore (45 percent)

3. Charter Switcheroo

Five charters have changed hands since last season. One will be with its third different team in the three years of the charter system.

In 2016, Premium Motorsports leased its charter to HScott Motorsports so the No. 46 team of Michael Annett could use it.

The charter was returned after that season, and Premium Motorsports sold the charter to Furniture Row Racing for the No. 77 car of Erik Jones for 2017.

With Jones moving to Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing not finding enough sponsorship to continue the team, the charter was sold to JTG Daugherty for the No. 37 team of Chris Buescher for this season. (The No. 37 team had leased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing last year).

So that will make the third different team the charter, which originally belonged to Premium Motorsports, has been with since the system was created.

4. Dodge and NASCAR?

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne excited fans when he said in Dec. 2016 about Dodge that “it is possible we can come back to NASCAR.’’

One report last year stated that Dodge decided not to return to NASCAR, and another countered that report.

While questions remain on if Dodge will return to NASCAR, Marchionne announced this week at the Detroit Auto Show that he’ll step down next year, and that Fiat Chrysler will release a business plan in June that will go through 2022. The company will announce a successor to Marchionne sometime after that.

Marchionne said, according to The Associated Press, that the U.S. tax cuts passed in December are worth $1 billion annually to Fiat Chrysler.

A Wall Street Journal story this week stated that Fiat Chrysler makes most of its profit from its Jeep and Ram brands, writing that those brands “have been on a roll as U.S. buyers shift to these kinds of light trucks and away from sedans, which is a segment the company has largely abandoned.’’

5. NMPA Hall of Fame

The National Motorsports Hall of Fame will induct four people into its Hall of Fame on Sunday night. Those four will be drivers Terry Labonte and Donnie Allison and crew chiefs Jake Elder and Buddy Parrott.

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NASCAR’s all-time victory list in Sprint Cup

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Jimmie Johnson‘s victory Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway tied him with Dale Earnhardt for seventh place on NASCAR’s career victory list in Sprint Cup competition.

Here’s the list of the sport’s top winners

1. Richard Petty … 200 wins

2. David Pearson … 105

3. Jeff Gordon … 93

4. Bobby Allison … 84

Darrell Waltrip … 84

6. Cale Yarborough … 83

7. Dale Earnhardt … 76

Jimmie Johnson … 76

9. Rusty Wallace … 55

10. Lee Petty … 54

11. Junior Johnson … 50

Ned Jarrett … 50

13. Herb Thomas … 48

Tony Stewart … 48

15. Buck Baker … 46

16. Bill Elliott … 44

17. Mark Martin … 40

18. Tim Flock … 39

19. Bobby Isaac … 37

20. Matt Kenseth … 36

The day a ‘strange voice’ told Bobby Isaac to get out of his race car

(NASCAR Archives/Getty Images)
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It was one of the most abrupt retirements in NASCAR history.

And even though he’d come back to compete in 19 more races over the following two seasons, the day newly inducted NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac “retired” has been etched in the sport’s lore.

Isaac was racing at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 12, 1973. Earlier in the same race, another driver — friend and fellow Catawba, North Carolina, racer Larry Smith — had been killed in a wreck.

According to NASCAR lore, Isaac said a “strange voice” told him to get out of his car or something bad would happen to him.

Isaac told team owner Bud Moore to get a relief driver ready, came into the pits, climbed out of the car and went home.

His widow, Patsy, related the story after Saturday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremonies:

“As soon as he got out of the car and was able to get to a telephone, because we didn’t have cell phones then, he called me and repeated to me exactly what had happened to him in the car.

He said a voice told him that he needed to get out of the car, and so he radioed to Bud Moore. He said, ‘Find somebody to fill in the car. I’ve got to get out.’

I don’t know what that experience was.  I don’t know if he felt it was an intuition or if it was actually a verbal voice. I know that it impacted him enough that he was not going to stay in the race car.

He had always said that it was not because someone had gotten killed earlier in the race, and that person was from Catawba County, and he knew them. That’s all I can tell you is what he told me.”

Patsy Isaac was supportive of her husband’s decision to get out of the race car that fateful day at Talladega, noting: “I said, come home. That was fine with me.”

Isaac would not run another Cup race in 1973. But he did come back for 19 starts in the following two years, including one last go-round at Talladega.

Sadly, Isaac died at 45 on Aug. 14, 1977, one day after exiting his Late Model with 25 laps remaining in a race at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and then collapsing on pit road. It was nearly four years to the day of his Talladega exit.

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Friday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony postponed by weather

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A winter storm that brought snow and sleet to Charlotte has forced tonight’s NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony to be postponed.

The event at the Charlotte Convention Center moves to 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday and will air on NBCSN and be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. The event also will be broadcast on radio by Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The induction dinner will become a luncheon at 1 p.m ET Saturday. A Red Capet event has been canceled as well as Hall of Fame autograph sessions that had been scheduled for Friday night.

NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day, an event scheduled for Saturday featuring autograph sessions and programs, also has been canceled. The NASCAR Hall of Fame said a complete rescheduling isn’t possible because of scheduling conflicts for drivers and NASCAR, but the venue is exploring options to accommodate fans who had autograph session tickets. Details will be announced by the end of next week.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame will be open from noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Fan Appreciation Day guests still will be admitted free.

Terry Labonte, Bruton Smith, Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac and Curtis Turner will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as its seventh class of five members.