Curtis Turner

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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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Hall of Famer Curtis Turner to be recognized with Virginia highway marker

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Curtis Turner, a 2016 inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will be recognized with highway marker in his home state of Virginia, according to the Associated Press.

The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approves a dozen highway markers this month, including one for the native of Roanoke, Virginia.

A 17-time winner in the Cup series, Turner was once banned from NASCAR in 1961 for attempting to form a driver’s union, but was reinstated four years later.

Turner’s daughter, Margaret Sue Turner Wright, operates a museum honoring him in Roanoke. Turner was born in Southwest Virginia in Floyd. He passed away in 1970.

Turner may not be the only NASCAR Hall of Famer and Virginia native who will get a sign erected in his honor soon.

Danville, Virginia, is set to vote on whether it will install signs proclaiming it the hometown of Wendell Scott, the only African-American to win a Cup race. Scott was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

On Dec. 19, Warrick Scott, Wendell’s grandson, presented a petition of 600 signatures in support of the sign to the Danville City Council.

“It is appropriate, it is right that we here in Danville, one of the great cities that built Virginia, celebrate his legacy,” Warrick Scott said. “It’s a bright shining light and example of not only who we were, but also what we stand for and who we will be as a community, both now and in our future.”

In support of the measure, Councilman James Buckner said, “I want to get this thing going pretty soon.”

Danville has previously named a street after Scott.

Curtis Turner: From NASCAR banishment to celebrated Hall of Famer

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Curtis Turner was banned from NASCAR for attempting to start a driver’s union in 1961, only to be reinstated four years later after a number of other drivers and track operators lobbied for his return.

Now, 55 years after Bill France barred him, Turner posthumously was inducted Saturday into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Tim Flock, who also had been banned with Turner, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall in 2014.

His daughter, Margaret Sue Turner Wright, who opened a museum about her father’s exploits in 2001, spoke with the media after the induction ceremonies and was asked about the union controversy, which stemmed somewhat from the funding needed to build Charlotte Motor Speedway, of which Turner was a part-investor.

“He tried to save the track at one point. He and Bruton (Smith) were working on this deal together for a long time, and they ran into trouble, and financing was a big issue when they hit granite because it was going to be so expensive to try to blast through there and fix it and also get it done in time for the race they had already advertised.

“So he was looking for financing. He was looking for more help because he didn’t have it. So this is where he eventually went to try to form a Teamsters’ Union because he was turned onto Jimmy Hoffa, and (Hoffa) said, ‘Well, I’ll loan you the money if you can get a union going.’

“So Daddy thought, well, this is what the drivers need, this will probably help them. They didn’t have big purses then. They couldn’t get insurance. That was a laugh. There was nobody that could get insurance then because of racing was a pretty dangerous sport.

“So that is my awareness of it, and that didn’t work out at the very end, even though they told them that they would do that, because then they changed their mind and said, oh, we can’t do that, it’ll be a conflict of interest.

“But at the time, everyone was on board with Daddy and they were trying to help the track, and the racers that they sort of started dropping off from it because Bill France didn’t like the idea of the union, which that was his choice, but he didn’t want to have anything else controlling him, which I kind of understand that. But it was just a matter of not allowing that to happen because he wanted the freedom away from that.

“Tim Flock was the only one that stayed on with daddy. All the other drivers did drop out of that original agreement, and they were going to do that to try to help.”

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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.