If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts here at Auto Racing Daily, you probably know that I’m a proponent of getting the early legends into the NASCAR Hall of Fame before some of the most recent stars. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I think the likes of Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett are Hall of Fame worthy, but I just don’t think that it should be quite their time, yet.
I think the early movers and shakers should go in first. I think maybe the late Dale Earnhardt was the exception to my mental rule. I do believe it was right to make him a member of the first class. After all, Richard Petty was the only other Hall of Fame-eligible drivers with matching numbers, championship wise.
But when it comes to more recent drivers like Wallace, Elliott and Jarrett, I think earlier stars of the sport with equally, if not more, impressive numbers should go in first. It’s my understanding that the Hall is striving to get at least one modern name in each induction class to garner interest from newer fans. And maybe the Hall of Fame and associated museum needs those fans to keep the facility healthy from a financial standpoint. But are we losing some of the hall of fame idea, here?
I think it’s a shame that some of the early legends of NASCAR aren’t being duely inducted into the Hall of Fame until they aren’t around to enjoy it. Granted some of the early stars are long gone from the sport, so of course there are going to be some “after death” honors. But if some of the early legends went in first, as I think they should be, there wouldn’t be so many.
No, I don’t think Hall of Fame should be determined by nominees’ health statuses or how close they seem to be to “death’s door.” But getting some of these early legends, at least the onces with equal or greater stats than some of the modern drivers getting voted in, would at least get some of these guys honored when they’re still around to enjoy it.
Why bring this up now? Ray Fox — he’s why. Legendary NASCAR car owner, engine builder and official Ray Fox passed away this past Sunday at the age of 98. By the way, Fox has been on the last three NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee list, but like many others of his time, he still hasn’t been inducted.
Fox’s day is coming, I’m sure, but wouldn’t have been nice if he’d been able to attend the induction ceremony for his own induction? At the risk of being blunt, it’s too late for that now.
I admit that in making my yearly Hall of Fame predictions, I haven’t chosen Fox, but I think part of that has to do with the fact that, while I was aware of some of his accomplishments, I hadn’t been completely schooled on his entire volume of work. But I’m not on the voting committee, so that’s my excuse. I just make meaningless predictions.
Anyway, Fox’s numbers warrent NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ahead of some other already-inductees, in my opinion, for whatever that’s worth. Okay, so Fox was a top-level NASCAR team owner for nine seasons, and in that time posted 14 wins. Good stats, but maybe not Hall of Fame or world shattering. And exactly what kind of stats would you go by to determin the Hall of Fame-worthiness of a NASCAR official? I don’t know.
But when it comes to engine building, that was a different story. As an engine builder, Fox most definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Here’s just one example of Fox’s engine-building excellence: In 1956, cars powered by Fox-built engines won 22 of the first 26 races. No wonder he was named that year’s Mechanic of the Year.
Here’s a statement released by NASCAR on Monday:
“Ray Fox was one of the individuals who helped form the foundation of our sport, with a personality that was every bit as important as his on-track accomplishments/ His place in our record book is secure, but no one should ever view Ray Fox solely in terms of statistics. A resident of Daytona Beach, Florida, he was a hometown hero of sorts, serving as an ambassador for NASCAR in the community where the sport began. Most importantly, he was a friend to us all.
“Several years ago, he said he could still build a competitive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series engine, if asked. If he had indeed been asked, in all likelihood, he would’ve delivered. Of course, Ray Fox had already delivered, with accomplishments and memories that will forever serve NASCAR well.”
Sounds like a statement about a Hall of Famer to me.
Also, enjoy this photo gallery of Fox from his years in NASCAR (photos provided by NASCAR)