Weighing in on Hall of Fame Nominees and Racing at The Rock
Thunder Road at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (ASP, Inc.)
Hall of Fame Nominees, Grading Texas and a Return to "The Rock"
With NASCAR’s recent announcement of the 25 nominees for its next Hall of Fame class, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council selected the five people they think should be inducted next and why. They didn’t stop there, though, adding suggestions on who deserves to be nominated but hasn’t yet so far.
Fan Council members also discussed Rockingham’s return to the NASCAR schedule and what’s next there and dissected the racing at Texas. There’s much to debate this week, so here’s what the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say:
WHO WOULD YOU ELECT TO THE HALL OF FAME?
Fan Council members were asked to select five of the 25 nominees for their ballot. Here’s the five people they would vote into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the percentage of votes each received:
Fireball Roberts ... 52.4 percent Leonard Wood ... 50.0 percent Benny Parsons ... 44.3 percent Wendell Scott ... 41.9 percent Red Byron ... 39.9 percent
AND THE REST OF THE FIELD ...
Buck Baker ... 37.5 percent Raymond Parks ... 31.8 percent Rick Hendrick ... 18.2 percent H. Clay Earles … 17.9 percent Rusty Wallace ... 17.2 percent Curtis Turner ... 16.2 percent Richard Childress ... 15.9 percent Tim Flock ... 14.5 percent Fred Lorenzen ... 13.2 percent T. Wayne Robertson ... 13.2 percent Anne B. France ... 12.6 percent Ray Fox ... 12.5 percent Cotton Owens ... 10.1 percent Herb Thomas ... 9.8 percent Jack Ingram ... 9.1 percent Joe Weatherly ... 6.1 percent Ralph Seagraves ... 5.4 percent Jerry Cook ... 4.7 percent Les Richter ... 1.7 percent Bobby Isaac ... 1.0 percent
What Fan Council members said:
• I think this is the year to recognize the very early days of NASCAR. The one thing really lacking at the Hall of Fame is an appreciation of the stars of the 50s and early 60s. Curtis Turner was really the first superstar of stock car racing, and should be recognized. His accomplishments in stock car racing were great, plus you need to consider the great record he had in NASCAR's convertible series, as well as in road racing. He was also the man who had the vision to build the Charlotte Motor Speedway, an icon in this sport.
• Wow that's tough to only pick 5 from that list ... so many are deserving. I think Childress and Hendrick are no-brainers as far as the current. Turner and Fireball should be the two recognized from the past because of what they accomplished in their time, and having the pleasure to work with him, I think Benny is just as deserving as a driver as he is for his broadcasting work.
• Without Ralph Seagraves and Winston, we may not even be talking about a Hall of Fame. Flock, Baker and Fireball's records speak for themselves and Cotton Owens is my pick for his success with Pearson and Buddy Baker.
• My choices were Leonard Wood, Raymond Parks, H. Clay Earles, Red Byron, and Buck Baker. Reasons being Wood deserves to be in the HOF for all they have done for this sport everything from fielding winning cars for anyone and everyone that has ever been a factor in this sport, they also changed the way pit stops were completed. Byron was the very first series champion and that stands for itself; Earles because he founded a wonderful facility that helped BUILD this sport; Parks for being the first championship car owner. Baker was one of the best drivers in his era and like everyone else on my list he helped BUILD this sport. If you take anything from my votes these people helped BUILD this sport.
• Wendell Scott ABSOLUTELY must make it to the Hall this year. First and ONLY African American to win a Cup series-level race at the time when he was running? This really needs to happen — now rather than later.
• I'm not buying Wendell Scott deserves a spot over people who helped build the sport to what it is today. H. Clay Earles founded a track that is still here today. Raymond Parks, first champion car owner and helped behind the scenes. Both deserve a spot first. I understand the need to show that he broke a barrier but would he have broke that barrier without others in this nominee class stepping up?
• Wendell Scott should be inducted since it must have been an incredibly difficult thing to compete the stock car racing as an African American in the time period that he did it. He did it on a shoestring and won. IMO, that achievement should be recognized.
• The shoe-ins were covered by the first 3 classes. Now it's time to catch up on the founding fathers
• You cannot tell the meteoric rise of NASCAR without T. Wayne. Shame they skipped over Leonard Wood last year.
• In my mind the early members of the Hall of Fame should have changed the sport. Anne B. France — Big Bill couldn't have, wouldn't have, done it without her. All of the previous members have stressed how much their families sacrificed for the sport. Anne B. France is the first representative of that group.
• Why is Anne B France on this list? I guess anyone that worked in the office in the beginning of NASCAR deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?! How about the first ticket collector?
• I believe Raymond Parks should have been in the Hall of Fame in the first or second class due to his contributions to keeping the sport alive in its infancy. Fred Lorenzen is one of the greats of the sport and health has deteriorated, which means this might be his last chance to enjoy the spoils of making the Hall. Since Glen Wood made the Hall of Fame last year, his brother Leonard coming in the following year makes perfect sense. Just like the Petty family over the first three years, the Wood brothers have a chance to take their place in the Hall. Buck Baker is the first repeat champion in Cup racing and having Buddy Baker up there would be a great representation for the building and for NASCAR. I chose Jack Ingram because they should incorporate the other series greats as well and The Ironman was a legend in Nationwide.
WHO BELONGS AMONG THE 25 NOMINEES FOR THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME?
I provided a list — not a complete list certainly — of people to be considered for the NASCAR Hall and Fame. Here’s how the Backseat Drivers Fan Council voted:
THE FIVE THEY WOULD ADD AS NOMINEES NEXT YEAR
Ken Squier .. 46.6 percent Barney Hall ... 45.6 percent Smokey Yunick ... 43.9 percent Alan Kulwicki ... 37.8 percent Davey Allison ... 35.4 percent
AND THE REST OF THE FIELD ...
Humpy Wheeler ... 34.0 percent Chris Economaki ... 32.0 percent Sam Ard ... 29.6 percent Bruton Smith ... 28.2 percent Tim Richmond ... 21.1 percent Janet Guthrie ... 19.7 percent Ray Evernham ... 18.7 percent Hershel McGriff ... 17.0 percent Jake Elder ... 16.7 percent Ralph Moody ... 11.9 percent Rex White ... 11.2 percent Harold Brasington ... 5.4 percent Paul Sawyer ... 3.7 percent
What Fan Council members said:
• Maurice Petty seems to always be forgotten, yet, accomplished more than most listed above
• Moody & Yunick because of their work on car development. Hall, Squier & Economaki because without their voices, the sport would not be the same ...
• Humpy Wheeler was one of the first promoters in this sport to truly understand the concept of what fans wanted from a racetrack besides just the race.
• To me, Barney Hall is the voice of NASCAR. I am 59 years old and went to my first NASCAR race when I was 12. Barney Hall was there and has been there ever since. Along with Chris Economaki and Ken Squier. These three men helped build the fan following of NASCAR and without the fans we wouldn't have NASCAR!!!!!!!!!
• Barney Hall has always been the voice of NASCAR for me. There will never be a better NASCAR announcer period. You can't have that Hall without him being in it. Squier, too. Davey, Ard and Richmond had their careers cut by tragedy. Who knows what kind of numbers they would have put up.
• Harold Brasington is also not given the credit he deserves. People don't stop and think how risky and pioneering it was to build a superspeedway for stock cars at the time; and out in the middle of nowhere to boot.
• Many of the early stories I can recall reading about in regards to NASCAR involved stories of “Suitcase” Jake Elder. He was a man who had influence in many drivers’ careers, and is usually mentioned in connection with those drivers as opposed to getting his own mention. It’s time to tell his story. It is amazing what Janet Guthrie was able to accomplish in what was considered a man's sport. Her story is an inspiration and deserves recognition.
• I want to add Harry Hyde to this list also!
• Red Vogt, one of the founding fathers of NASCAR, the man who coined the term NASCAR, and championship winning crew chief deserves to be in the HOF.
GRADING SATURDAY NIGHT’S CUP RACE AT TEXAS
41.0 percent called it Fair 33.2 percent called it Good 20.0 percent called it Poor 5.8 percent called it Great
What Fan Council members said:
• It was boring. Too many green flag laps — we needed some phantom yellow flags to bring the field back together. Nice race for Biff but not much excitement for the rest of us.
• I'm glad there was no phony caution at the end just to add excitement.
• I like what Dave Despain said about viewers expecting blow-ups and excitement every lap: long green flag runs “IS RACING!” If there had been caution after caution, fans would have bitched about THAT, too. I enjoyed the race. Was I enthralled every single moment? Well, I had my heart in my throat praying Kasey Kahne would not have another night of bad luck, so I was watching intently, but no, I simply enjoyed it. That's all I ask of a race!
• Very little passing. I'm OK with long green flag runs if lots of guys are passing. This was not the case on Saturday. I felt like it was an Indy follow-the-leader type of race.
• You're going to get a lot of “OMG that was so BORING” comments, but I thought it was fine. Sometimes in sports there are blowouts, but only NASCAR can essentially wipe out a three-touchdown lead with a wave of the flag. It is to NASCAR's credit (and credibility) that they didn't throw a sketchy caution to bunch up the field, because the two cars that deserved to battle for the win did so.
• 224 green flag laps at Texas is just not what I wanted to see...
• YAWN. I had to force myself to stay awake just in case anything happened in the last 10 laps. Racing thus far in 2012 has been boring. I think Goodyear needs to change the tires so they will wear more.
• I hate to say this, but it was the most boring race I have seen in the last three years. At the same time, it’s good to have a clean race, unencumbered by wrecks and long delays. Basically, it just lacked good fender banging competitiveness.
• I guarantee a lot of folks will say poor, but I didn't mind the long, green-flag runs. The race was not boring, as many will say. I can remember watching races back in the day that went caution free for long periods of time. The best drivers with the best teams usually do well in these races. That's what we saw on Saturday night
• It was decent. It was nice to watch Jeff Gordon's drive from deep in the field to fourth. It would have been nice to have a caution with under 10 to go to see if he had anything for the 16 or 48.
Racing at Rockingham Speedway. (ASP, Inc.)
WHAT SHOULD BE NEXT FOR ROCKINGHAM SPEEDWAY?
After a NASCAR-estimated crowd of 27,500 watched the Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham on Sunday — the first NASCAR race there since the Cup series left after 2004 — Fan Council members were asked what should be next for the track:
86.0 percent said run both the Truck and Nationwide series there next year 13.4 percent said run only the Trucks there next year 0.3 percent said run only the Nationwide series there next year 0.3 percentdo not return to the track next year
What Fan Council members said:
• I was at the Rock, and it was an awesome event. Andy Hillenburg has done a great job, and NASCAR should embrace it with both series next year.
• Great to see The Rock back. Let's build back the base first before we get carried away with bringing other series back there.
• Let the trucks have a “Showcase” event like this from time to time. Cup ran on Saturday and let them be the Sunday event. Loved it.
• It is unrealistic to see NASCAR move a Cup date to the track, but it would be great to see commitment to a track that can produce exciting racing for the fans.
• I was there. Traveled from California to be there. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. The event was great. The racing was great. The crowd on Saturday for practice and qualifying was bigger than some race crowds I’ve seen for truck races at other tracks. The community was so supportive and appreciative of those of us visiting and spending our money in their businesses.
• Seems like people want to see the races there so try it out with two races and see how is goes-people want it, people should show up!
• Although I don't think we'll ever see a Cup race at The Rock again, I think today's attendance proves the track can definitely support another truck race, AND a NW race.
• Too soon to take away a Nationwide race from another track until there is consecutive “almost sell out” crowds at the track. If today's effort is duplicated next year and the year (after) it would make sense.
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at email@example.com.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
It’s been nearly two weeks since Bruton Smith said that he would order changes to Bristol Motor Speedway’s track surface after a sharp decline in attendance for the spring race and an increase in fan complaints about the racing. Yet Smith has yet to announce what those changes will be made before NASCAR returns to the half-mile track in a little more than four months.
“I think it would be incredible if they paved the track asphalt,’‘ Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I am not sure if that would work out but it would be awesome to try it.’’
Any changes to Bristol’s surface before the August race will mean the Cup Series will race at four tracks that have been changed since last season. Kansas Speedway is set to be repaved after its race later this month. Michigan has been repaved and drivers nearly topped 215 mph at a recent Goodyear tire test there. Pocono Raceway also has been repaved and has Goodyear tire test scheduled for April 24-25.
While some drivers are thrilled that Smith will change Bristol — count Kevin Harvick among that group who says, “It’s about time,’’ — Denny Hamlin wonders if the tires should be changed for Bristol instead of the track.
“If you look at Bristol, it had the least amount of fall off of any tire that we had during this year,’’ Hamlin said. “I think you start off around 16.40 fast time (seconds per lap) and you ended 100 laps later running 16.90s. That's just not enough fall off.
“You have to have overtaking and to have overtaking, you have to have cars that are running faster than others. If you look at any point during a Bristol race, everyone's running the same exact speed and you're not going to have any overtaking. You're not going to have any wrecks because no one's running close to each other to wreck.
“Back in the day when people used to lap the whole field and no one complained about the racing, it's because overtaking was happening. Cars were getting passed. You could watch your guy move from 15th to wherever up to the front. Now, it's like he's got to make all the room, all the space up in the first five laps of a restart and then he sits there for the rest of the run. That's because we don't have enough fall-off.
“It's a tough job to make a tire that does that and will live and ultimately not put our safety at risk of blowing tires. Really, Goodyear has made tires that are idiot proof now. We can't abuse them enough to blow them out. That's why you don't see the passing that we used to have."
Even with Smith’s declaration of change, as Carl Edwards notes, it doesn’t guarantee that things will be better.
“The thing that makes me nervous for Bruton and those guys is to spend all this money to change something and then it may not yield the result that you want,’’ Edwards said. “I think that’s the risk they take, but Bruton Smith seems like he doesn’t mind taking risks and going for it. If it works out like most things he does, it’ll probably work, but I give him a ton of credit for saying he’s gonna change this and make an adjustment.’’
It’s just a matter of what Smith will do.
BACK AT ROCKINGHAM It’s not often that you see NASCAR return to a venue it left, but the Camping World Truck Series will compete Sunday at Rockingham Speedway. It marks the return of NASCAR since the Cup series last raced there in Feb. 2004.
NASCAR is back because of the work of track owner Andy Hillenburg, a former racer. He’s spent the money to update the facilities and add SAFER barriers to the track.
Now it’s up to the fans to determine if NASCAR returns to Rockingham after this race. If attendance is strong and shows potential, then maybe a Nationwide race can be added at some point. Just don’t expect the Cup Series to return there. With Cup races in Darlington, Charlotte, Martinsville and Bristol, the region has enough Cup events.
If that’s not good enough, then fans have to ask themselves if they would rather see some NASCAR racing at the track or see as much NASCAR racing as there is at North Wilkesboro?
NASCAR is giving the track and fans a second chance. Will fans take NASCAR up on it and show that the track deserves more races?
Jeff Burton (Photo by ASP, Inc.)
A DRIVER’S TRACK? There’s often the discussion about what is a driver’s track — or at least why some tracks might be considered a driver’s track. Jeff Burton, though, has his own take on the subject.
“Wherever a driver is good at that is what he thinks is a driver’s race track,’’ Burton said. “He thinks that is where drivers matter. The fact of the matter is that drivers matter everywhere. And the cars matter everywhere. You can’t take apart the car and the driver and say “it’s this or it’s that’.
“The reason why is to get the car to do what it needs to do, the driver has to be part of that. The way he drives the car, how he drives the car, and how he communicates with the team. All those things go into making a good racecar, and all those things go into making a good set up. So that communication with the team along with the driver is vital. You really can’t separate it.’’
PIT STOPS In his last two races, Jeff Gordon started 21st at Auto Club Speedway and climbed to fourth before pit road issues, including a penalty that led to a 26th-place finish in the rain-shortened event. Then, Gordon led a race-high 329 laps, lost the lead on a restart and ran out of fuel and finished 14th at Bristol. ... Kevin Harvick has an average finish of 9.0 in the first six races. It’s the second-best start of his career. He had an average finish of 7.83 in 2008. ... Kurt Busch will drive for younger brother Kyle’s Nationwide team in Friday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s the first time Kurt has driven for Kyle in NASCAR. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. also is doing double-duty at Texas Motor Speedway. He’ll drive in Friday night’s Nationwide race and Saturday night’s Cup race. It’s the first time he’s run in both events at Texas since 2009.
Brian Keselowski's Rockingham wreck — sans SAFER barriers. (Photo by Yvonne Leonard)
by Mike Neff
Word this past week that Rockingham Speedway is taking a step toward increased driver safety has sparked interest that the historic track could be moving a little closer to having NASCAR national touring series races return. The management of the facility has announced that SAFER barriers will be installed in two phases by the end of the year, ultimately covering the turns and the inside wall on the backstretch. Whatever the reason for the improvements to the facility, it is a very positive step for the track and any drivers who will compete there.
Rockingham Speedway is a one-mile track with high-banked corners that hosted NASCAR events from 1965-2004. Its high banking makes for high speeds that can translate into dangerous situations for drivers making contact with walls that are made of concrete or metal. This past spring, Brian Keselowski had a big wreck during the USAR Pro Cup race when a tire blew heading into Turn 1 — the fastest portion of the track. Whether they get a Nationwide and/or Truck race, putting SAFER barriers on the walls is a terrific move for the safety of anyone competing at the facility.
Rockingham has been working to return to national prominence since it reopened in 2008 with a much-ballyhooed ARCA race featuring Ken Schrader and Joey Logano. A huge crowd — in ARCA terms — filled the stands to celebrate the return of active racing to The Rock. Since then, track owner Andy Hillenberg and his group have hosted several races for the benefit of fans in the Sandhills region of North Carolina, from regional to national touring series. However, they have not been able to secure a NASCAR touring series date in any of its top three series. One of the big stumbling blocks has been the lack of SAFER barriers, which are required by NASCAR’s sanctioning body for a national touring division race.
The second step, and by far the bigger stumbling block for Rockingham to get back on the NASCAR national schedule, is the testing ban at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. The niche that Rockingham has established for itself is that it’s a testing destination for the locally-based NASCAR teams. Between the big track and “Little Rock” — the Martinsville-esque half-mile also on the grounds — there is testing taking place at Rockingham hundreds of days a year. This testing has been the lifeblood of the track since the ban was implemented. Foregoing all of that testing is going to be a major revenue hit for the facility that will most likely be too big of a pill to swallow. Provided an agreement can be worked out where teams can still test at Little Rock, the move might make sense for Hillenberg.
The ultimate question for Rockingham is whether the fans are going to come out and support the track. We constantly hear complaints that NASCAR has turned its back on the shorter, local tracks — particularly in the Southeast — but when push comes to shove, the fans have not shown up when the opportunity has been presented. The UARA/Pro Cup doubleheader that was held at Rockingham earlier this year saw roughly 500 people in the stands. Another track, Nashville Superspeedway, has shut down because crowds continued to shrink after the initial boost from the opening of the track. North Wilkesboro Speedway was reopened and, while crowds were continuing to grow with each event that took place, the stands were far from full. In order for these tracks to survive, thrive and ultimately regain a position on the NASCAR touring schedules, the fans must support them with their attendance.
Putting on a Truck or Nationwide Series event is a major financial commitment for a racetrack. The overhead on race day is far greater than the kind of expense involved with hosting a UARA race. From a safety perspective, there isn’t much difference because the safety provided to competitors during a race is the same no matter the series; however, the additional financial obligation is far greater. More ushers, concessions workers, traffic directors, law enforcement officers, supplies and myriad other things are required to stage an elite-level event. On top of those expenditures, there are sanctioning fees that have to be paid to NASCAR, which balloon into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. When considering all of the expense involved — piled on top of the revenue that will be lost by not having testing at the big track — it is easy to see what a gamble it is for Rockingham to host a Truck or Nationwide race.
Fans have paid lip service for some time to the lack of respect for history and tradition NASCAR has shown over the last 15 years. As the economic recovery has struggled to take shape and tracks have been forced to allow national touring events leave their facilities, it has come to the point where the opportunity is presenting itself for the race fans to put up or shut up. If Rockingham chooses to put on a Truck or Nationwide race in the near future it will be up to the fans to prove to NASCAR the track’s worth by showing up in strong numbers for years — not just on opening day.
Fans can honestly affect the future NASCAR schedules by showing support for a small-market track. If the fans fail to show up for a race like that at Rockingham, they have no one but themselves to blame when tracks lose dates to shiny, newer facilities in bigger markets.