It’s almost time to induct a new class into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. As a matter-of-fact, that upcoming induction is coming up Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, with live television coverage provided by SPEED. Inductees for 2013 include Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood.
In the spirit of Hall of Fame Inductions, I decided that it would be fun to speculate who among the current roster of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers would some day be NASCAR Hall of Famers. Of course, there are at least a couple that are givens. But anyway, here’s my list of five future Hall of Famers from among today’s NASCAR stars:
Jimmie Johnson – Okay, if we’re going to pretend an explanation is needed, here it goes. The guy has five-straight Sprint Cups. Just the fact that he has five, which is third on the all-time list, would probably be enough, but when they’re five consecutive championships, the tally is even more impressive. Only already-Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty have more championships with seven apiece, and no other than Johnson has won more than three-in-a-row. Cale Yarborough is the driver who won three-straight, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Enough said.
Jeff Gordon – I think this is another given. After all, this guy is third on the all-time wins list. The only two drivers in front of him — Richard Petty and David Pearson — are already in the Hall. So are the two behind him — Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.
Mark Martin – Okay, I realize Martin has never won a Sprint Cup. But that’s not a requirement to get into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and he has, rightfully so, earned the reputation as the best driver to win a championship over the course of his long and successful career. Martin’s entry into Cup-level racing may have gone a little rough in the early 1980s, but he stepped away, regrouped, and returned to, in my opinion, build Roush Racing into the powerhouse program it is today.
Kyle Busch – Yes, Kyle Busch’s Sprint Cup performance has been a little spotty the last couple of years, at least by Busch standards. One thing Busch does have in his favor is his distinction of being the all-time wins leader in the Nationwide Series. Yes, that’s the Nationwide Series, not Sprint Cup, but we’re talking the NASCAR Hall of Fame, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hall of Fame. Ritchie Evans got in on his modified stats and others have been at least considered for stats from other series. That’s not saying that Busch hasn’t been impressive at the Sprint Cup level at times; he most certainly has, but his performance in the other two national series, alone, should be enough to get him in.
Tony Stewart – Stewart has shown that he can pretty much race anything on wheels and not just do it, but do it well. Of course, inclusion in the NASCAR Hall of Fame hinges on performance within the NASCAR race, but Stewart has excelled since moving to stock cars, specifically NASCAR, in the late 1990s. Stewart’s a three-time Sprint Cup champion. Only a select few others can claim three or more championships — Earnhardt, Petty, Johnson, Gordon, Lee Petty, Pearson, Waltrip and Yarborough. Six of those eight guys are already in the Hall of Fame and the other two are mentioned above.
The above list is in no particular order.
What do you think? Which current drivers do you believe will end up in the Hall? Let us know on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or on our Auto Racing Daily page on Facebook. Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner