Today’s NASCAR Hall of Fame selection day, so to speak, as the voting committee selects the five individuals to be inducted into the Hall in early 2016. The nominees up for consideration include (in alphabetical order): Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, Ray Evernharm, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Bobby Isaac, Alan Kulwicki, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Larry Phillips, O. Bruton Smith, Mike Stefanik, Curtis Turner and Robert Yates.
Picking five individuals for NASCAR Hall of Fame enshrinement gets harder and harder with each passing year. For the first class several years ago, there were some givens that just seemed automatic, you know, like Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Well, the early givens are in and this whole process just gets harder and harder.
Nonetheless, I’m going to make a few choices of my own. I’m not on the voting committee, so the following ballot, if that’s what you want to call it, is merely for fun. Anyway, here are my picks from among the nominees for 2016 induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame:
Rick Hendrick — I’m not really all that big on inducting someone still active in the sport, but I’m having a hard time not including team owner Rick Hendrick on my list. He has 14 championships across NASCAR’s three national series, 11 of those coming at the top level with three different drivers (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001 — Jeff Gordon; 1996 — Terry Labonte; 2006-2010, 2013 — Jimmie Johnson). Those titles include, of course, the five-straight and six in eight years for driver Jimmie Johnson. Hendrick also claimed a string of four-straight titles and five in seven years with the driver combination of Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte.
Red Byron and Raymond Parks — There’s something to be said about being first, and these two guys were the firsts. Red Byron was the first championship driver at NASCAR’s top level. Raymond Parks, meanwhile, was NASCAR’s first champion car owner.
Jerry Cook — The NASCAR Hall of Fame is the NASCAR Hall of Fame, not merely the NASCAR Cup Series Hall of Fame. And there are guys out there with Hall of Fame-type stats outside the Cup ranks. Richie Evans and Jack Ingram, anyone? I think this time around, Jerry Cook, a six-time NASCAR Modified champion, should join fellow-modified racer Evans in the Hall.
Mark Martin — There seems to be a trend in recent classes to include a more modern competitor, perhaps to keep the younger generations of NASCAR fans interested. I’m putting Mark Martin on my imaginary ballot to fill that bill. Martin’s a 96-time winner across NASCAR’s three national series, including 40 at the Cup level. Okay, so he doesn’t have a championship at the national level, but that’s what’s given him the unofficial status as the “greatest driver to never win a championship.” There’s something to be said for finishing second in five different championship battles.
Who do you think should go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next? Talk to us on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner