NASCAR on NBC analysts Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. head a list of five newcomers nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which has revamped its balloting process for the 2021 class.
Carl Edwards, Jake Elder and Banjo Matthews also are first-time nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is splitting its ballot into three categories this year: Modern, Pioneer and Landmark.
Burton and Earnhardt both had winning careers in NASCAR’s top series before entering the broadcast booth.
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Burton, who was nicknamed “The Mayor” by former teammate Clint Bowyer because of his ambassadorial and leadership skills, has 21 Cup victories, including the 1999 Southern 500 and two Coca-Cola 600s (1999, ’01). The South Boston, Virginia, native also has 27 Xfinity Series victories.
Earnhardt, who was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver 15 times by fans, has 26 Cup victories (including the 2004 and ’14 Daytona 500s). He won consecutive Xfinity Series championships in 1998-99.
Edwards had 28 Cup victories and two runner-up points finishes in a full-time career from 2005-16. He also won the 2007 Xfinity Series championship before making the stunning decision to retire at 37 more than three years ago.
Among other notables: crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine returns after being left off the 2020 ballot, and Janet Guthrie is back on the Landmark ballot after a one-year absence.
Sam Ard, Ray Fox, John Holman, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal and Red Vogt fell off the 2021 ballot after being nominated last year.
Under a new structure announced by NASCAR in February, there will be two entries chosen from 10 Modern candidates, one entry apiece from five candidates in the Pioneer and Landmark categories. Modern candidates are eligible to be on the ballot 10 times (which is retroactive to the start of the Hall of Fame vote in 2009).
There is no limit to the eligibility for the Pioneer and Landmark awards. Competitors are eligible for the Modern ballot if their careers started within the last 60 years; Pioneer if their careers began prior to 60 years ago.
Modern era driver and crew chief nominees must have competed in NASCAR for 10 years and have been retired for two. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were elected the past two years in their first year of eligibility. Earnhardt became eligible this year.
Next year, 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth will be eligible for the first time.
Last year, the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted Stewart, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Buddy Baker and Waddell Wilson.
Voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame usually happens on the Wednesday before the Coca-Cola 600. A NASCAR spokesman told NBCSports.com that there was no update on when the 2021 Voting Day would be scheduled or whether it would be held virtually.
In the first 11 classes of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the top five vote-getters were inducted annually from a nominee list that initially was 25 and was shortened to 20 since the 2015 class.
Here is the ballot for the 2021 class:
Modern era (10): Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Kirk Shelmerdine and Mike Stefanik.
Pioneer (5): Jake Elder, Red Farmer, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.
Landmark (5): Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Ralph Seagraves.
Here is the breakdown of how the ballot from 2021 differs from last year’s ballot and here is a Twitter thread that helps explain the changes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting process:
—On the 2020 ballot, not on 2021: Sam Ard (once on ballot, 2020); Ray Fox (eight years on ballot, 2013-20); John Holman (two years on ballot, 20019-20); Marvin Panch (once on ballot, 2020); Jim Paschal (once on ballot, 2020); Red Vogt (once on ballot, 2020).
—On the 2021 ballot, not on 2020: In the Modern category, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Kirk Shelmerdine (returning after being on the 2019 ballot). In the Pioneer category, Jake Elder and Banjo Matthews.
—Modern carryovers from the 2020 to the 2021 ballot (with remaining ballot eligibility): In the modern category, Neil Bonnett (eligible for nine more appearances after being on 2020 ballot); Harry Gant (eligible for eight more appearances after being on 2019-20 ballots); Harry Hyde (eligible for five more appearances after being on 2016-2020 ballots); Larry Phillips (eligible for two more appearances after being on 2013-2020 ballots); Ricky Rudd (eligible for six more appearances after being on 2017-2020 ballots); Mike Stefanik (eligible for four more appearances after being on 2015-2020 ballots)
–Pioneer carryovers (no limit on ballot eligibility): Red Farmer; Hershel McGriff; Ralph Moody.
–Landmark carryovers (no limit on ballot eligibility): Alvin Hawkins; Mike Helton; Doc Mattioli; Ralph Seagraves
–Landmark returnee: Janet Guthrie (absent from 2020 ballot)