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The 10 people who should currently be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame


The 10 people who should currently be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR announced its nominees for the 2021 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame this week, and it got me thinking of people I feel should already have been in the Hall of Fame.

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Some notes before we get started:

1. This list does not include drivers eligible for the first time this year (for instance, Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Earnhardt is among the 2021 nominees, which are now split into two groups — modern era (two get in) and pioneer era (one gets in).

2. I am not on the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel.

3. My view on the Hall of Fame: When trying to decide between one person and another, I often think, “Where would the sport be without (insert name here)?” It helps me evaluate their role in making the sport famous. With that in mind, I often give more weight to national figures than regional ones.

Here are my 10 drivers, listed in alphabetical order:

Neil Bonnett

Bonnett is one of the nominees this year. He has 18 career victories, including two victories at the World 600. His wins spanned the range of short tracks as well as victories at Daytona and Talladega. His broadcast work also can’t be overlooked.

Carl Edwards

Edwards not getting in last year on his first year of eligibility was a snub. Some will say no Daytona 500 wins and no championships means he shouldn’t be in. My view is 28 career wins is enough, especially when considering how close he came to winning championships in 2011 and 2017, as well as his 38 Xfinity wins and 2007 Xfinity title. The 28 wins is the most of any driver currently eligible for the Hall.

Ray Fox

Fox was a car and engine builder who took many of the sport’s greats – Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Buck Baker – to victory lane. Johnson won the 1960 Daytona 500 in one of Fox’s cars. He was often the one who helped future stars of the sport get their start. It is startling that Fox has been dropped off the nominee list.

AJ Foyt

It could have been really cool for Foyt to go in last year with Tony Stewart. Foyt didn’t just win the 1972 Daytona 500 with the Wood Brothers, he won seven Cup races. And not just that he won Cup races, he competed in 128 over his career, helping bring the legitimacy of NASCAR to the IndyCar crowd.

J.D. Gibbs

The son of Joe Gibbs was one of the first employees of the team and after a not-so-stellar driving career, became president in 1997. He might not have been the ultimate decision maker at times, but he was the ultimate personnel manager and the relationships he developed made JGR what it is today. The tributes to his legacy since his death in January 2019 show the impact he had on so many people in the sport.

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Janet Guthrie

Guthrie was a pioneer and her running the 1976 World 600 and finishing 15th was a major moment for the sport. She also finished sixth at Bristol in 1977. Her 33 career Cup starts helped pave the way for acceptance of female drivers in NASCAR.

Ricky Rudd

Rudd won 23 Cup races, fourth among those who are eligible and not yet in the Hall. Plus, he had 788 consecutive starts from 1981-2005 in his career. He also was among those trying to do it as a driver and owner, winning six races from 1994-99. Rudd is on the ballot for the second consecutive year.

Kirk Shelmerdine

Shelmerdine guided Dale Earnhardt to four of his seven titles. He won 46 Cup races – 44 with Earnhardt and two with Rudd. Yes, Shelmerdine had Earnhardt as his driver. But he didn’t mess that up, and there’s something big to be said for that. He’s back on the nominee list this year after being snubbed in 2019.

Bill Simpson

The safety pioneer helped create a better fire suit and no doubt saved several lives. Other safety pioneers, such as Dean Sicking (SAFER barrier engineer and developer) and Bob Hubbard (HANS Device developer) shouldn’t be far behind.

Smokey Yunick

No one epitomizes the creativity of machining cars to go fast, as well as to get through the NASCAR inspection process, more than Yunick. Yes, he fought with the France family, but he is more than a pioneer. He is someone that people cite when romanticizing about the good ol’ days of NASCAR.


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