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.