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:
Robert Yates (94 percent)
Red Byron (74 percent)
Ray Evernham (52 percent)
Ken Squier (40 percent)
Ron Hornaday Jr. (38 percent)
Benny Parsons (85 percent)
Rick Hendrick (62 percent)
Mark Martin (57 percent)
Raymond Parks (53 percent)
Richard Childress (43 percent)
Bruton Smith (68 percent)
Terry Labonte (61 percent)
Curtis Turner (60 percent)
Jerry Cook (47 percent)
Bobby Isaac (44 percent)
Bill Elliott (87 percent)
Wendell Scott (58 percent)
Joe Weatherly (53 percent)
Rex White (43 percent)
Fred Lorenzen (30 percent)
Tim Flock (76 percent)
Maurice Petty (67 percent)
Dale Jarrett (56 percent)
Jack Ingram (53 percent)
Fireball Roberts (51 percent)
Herb Thomas (57 percent)
Leonard Wood (57 percent)
Rusty Wallace (52 percent)
Cotten Owens (50 percent)
Buck Baker (39 percent)
Cale Yarborough (85 percent)
Darrell Waltrip (82 percent)
Dale Inman (78 percent)
Richie Evans (50 percent)
Glen Wood (44 percent)
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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