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Full Throttle: You Too Can Be a NASCAR Hall of Famer

Halls of fames are designed to allow people to revel in the history of the given sport it represents. They enshrine the heroes who thrilled the masses of fans during their careers and evoke memories of remarkable accomplishments that occurred during their storied tenure in the sport.

The people who are entrusted to make the selections for the respective halls need to analyze entire careers, competition, rules and general sentiment when selecting who is nominated and ultimately who is voted in.

While there may be some difference of opinion about certain individuals and the timing of their induction, there is usually very little dispute on the accomplishments and merits of any individual getting into their respective hall.

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Waid's World: Neil Bonnett Changed His Luck in 1988 with 2 Straight Wins

This year, that is not the case with the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The list of nominees for 2024 includes Neil Bonnett, with 18 victories in the NASCAR Cup Series. Sam Ard, who basically built the Busch Series with Jack Ingram over the first three years of its existence. Jeff Burton, who is one of 10 drivers with at least 20 wins in Xfinity and Cup. Carl Edwards who has 28 wins in Cup and five consecutive top-two finishes in the Xfinity points.

Banjo Matthews was an outstanding racer and even more phenomenal car builder and Larry Phillips is the first five-time national champion in the All-American Series for local-track racers.

None of those individuals were voted into the Hall of Fame this year. The individuals who did get voted in were either disrespected by the amount of votes they received or given an incredible gift that their career statistics simply do not come close to deserving.

First let’s take a quick look at the two individuals, in the list of nominees, who were guaranteed to make this year’s class. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus teamed up to become the third seven-time champions of the Cup Series. Knaus is one title behind Dale Inman for the most titles all-time by a crew chief.

Johnson is obviously tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most titles with seven. Both Knaus and Johnson were destined to go in their first year on the ballot, but the disrespect is the fact that they were not unanimously voted into the Hall.

There are certainly different reasons that may have come into play when voters submitted their ballots and people chose to leave these two off of them, but no matter the reason it is a tough pill to swallow. Some voters may have looked at it as an opportunity to swing some more votes behind a lesser choice like Burton, Edwards, Phillips or Ricky Rudd.

They assumed that everyone would vote for Johnson and Knaus, so they used their votes to try and help someone else, knowing they wouldn’t adversely impact the seven-time champs. The other logic may simply be that the voters looked at the accomplishment they achieved and lessened it by the fact that they ran under the Chase system for their seven titles and did not win a full-season championship.

The former decision has some validity to it, although it is a little difficult to take considering the dominance that Knaus and Johnson had during their tenure. The latter is simply unacceptable because the teams cannot control what rules they compete under. You make your cars by the rulebook and you race under the rules that apply to everyone.

Holding the rules over the heads of the teams is unfair and short sighted. It is worth remembering that there is only one unanimous selection for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Mariano Rivera. Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Ted Williams were not unanimously selected. In the end, the two of them were voted in, as we all know they would be, and they are most deserving of the selection.

The other inductee is a far greater head scratcher than the two who put together 83 and 82 wins respectively while winning seven titles. Donnie Allison is a member of the Alabama Gang. His most famous contribution to the sport was getting his butt kicked by Cale Yarborough on the back straight at Daytona until his big brother Bobby came in and saved him.

Allison started 242 races and managed to win 10 of them. Fellow nominee AJ Foyt ran 128 races, just over half as many, and won seven. Bonnett ran 120 more races but won eight more times. Edwards ran 445, almost twice as many races, but won 28, nearly three times as many. Rudd ran a bunch more races but he managed to win at least one race every year from 1983 through 1998. Rudd also won the Brickyard 400 as an owner/driver.

Don’t forget Ard and Phillips. Ard only competed in the Busch Series for the first three years of its existence. He finished second, first and first in the points standings. Phillips is the first driver to win the NASCAR National Championship for local racers five times. During the 11 years from 1989 through 1996, Phillips won 220 of 289 NASCAR-sanctioned starts. Phillips won 13 track championships in three different states.

Looking at the non-drivers up for consideration this year, there are a couple who stand out significantly from the rest of the nominees. Matthews’s statistics are simply ridiculous when you analyze them. Matthews won over 50 times in a modified in 1954. He switched to car building in 1963 and eventually opened his own shop.

In the ’70s he built the cars of half of the Cup field. From 1974 through 1985, his cars won 262 of 362 Cup races. In 1978 there were 30 races on the schedule. A Matthews built car won all 30 of them.

Harry Hyde wasn’t the easiest person to work with but he built winners. He helped Dave Marcis, Bonnett and Geoffrey Bodine win their first races. Before those accomplishments he teamed up with Bobby Isaac for one of the greatest seasons ever with 17 wins and 19 poles in 1969. That is still the record for poles in a single season in the Cup Series. In 1970 he and Isaac won the championship with an 11-victory season that also featured 32 top fives in 47 starts.

In addition to the nominees that were snubbed for Allison, there are two names that are still not even nominated.

Bill Rexford, the second champion in the history of the Cup Series, is not even on the list of potential inductees for voting. Rexford is the only eligible champion who is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

The other name famously missing is Smokey Yunick. This horse may be dead for some people but the bottom line is that Yunick is one of the greatest mechanical innovators in the history of automobiles. Back when the rulebook was much smaller, he and Junior Johnson were solely responsible for 95% of the rules included. Yunick is going to continue to be snubbed until the system is changed and the France family is no longer afforded an undo amount of influence over the Hall of Fame voting process.

See also
Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus & Donnie Allison to Be Inducted Into NASCAR Hall of Fame

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a great place with a ton of history and a myriad of stories for fans to enjoy for eternity. Unfortunately the process is flawed for putting the proper people inside. Until the nominating committee is removed from the voting process and the France family is afforded less influence in the process, the entire system will be a farce.

You cannot have a former champion of the sport not even eligible for voting. You cannot have a brilliant mind who built the foundation of stock car auto racing black balled because he called someone an idiot (who rightfully has proven they are an idiot). You also cannot have one of your top-50 drivers of all time still on the outside of the Hall of Fame when you are voting in a driver with 10 victories.

At this point, most anyone who wants to can strap into a stock car and then get voted into the Hall if they suck up to the right people.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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kb

The selection offered each year is a wonder. And they induct to many each year. Why not every other year? I dunno, some people who are in the HOF are truly head scratchers as to why, not deserving, imo.

Last edited 9 months ago by kb
kb

too not to.

Echo

I’ll be damn. I never thought I would read a frontstretch article like this. I agree with you 100% on Donnie Allison and everything else you said in your article. Finally, someone is telling it like it is and not kissing Nascar’s ass. Might be the best article and the most truthful article I’ve ever read on here. I applaud you sir. I hope your fellow writers learn this is the type of articles we want on frontstretch instead of toeing the nascar line. Bravo

jim

The Nascar’s formula moves in mysterious ways.
Elect Smoky Yunick.

WJW Motorsports

Wow – halls of fame are filled with a cesspool of politics – go figure. And I don’t care – if I’m on the committee for the Supermarket Shopping Cart Association of Racing (SUSCAR) and he never blazed down our aisles a single time, if his name is AJ Foyt, he’s in.

DoninAjax

Mario.

Brian

The one thing not mentioned in this great article is that at some point there is also a non-stats component to selections into HoF’s regardless of sport.
On a straight stats basis Joe Namath might be the least deserving of any athlete in any HoF but his non-football acts/antics/personality still contributed to the success of the NFL.
This would be similar to Donny Allison, while I personally would not vote him in based on stats his other contributions to the sport, his part of the “fight” at the 500 in ’79, etc. are part of the overall success of NASCAR. Does NASCAR boom if he and Cale do not crash? Is King Richard quite as revered?

Yes personal grudges, perceived slights, and essentially a documented “rules pusher” should not exclude deserving people from getting in.

Rob

regarding Chad Knaus – he was a great crew chief, but: “You make your cars by the rulebook” — Did he? Really?

DoninAjax

The “rules” in NA$CAR are printed in block letters on the head of a pin in disappearing ink.

Chris Lowe

Steve

Great insight as always! I completely agree with everything you said. There is no reason why any driver and crew chief combination that is tied for most Cup titles of all time should not be voted unanimously as a first ballot hall of famer.

As for Donnie Allison he had a great career and deserves accolades he gets however he did not have a HOF career. Donnie only won 10 races and at the end of the day I cannot see where that alone makes him a hall of famer. This is especially true with the list of candidates that were overlooked. Honestly its sad when names like Jack Sprague, Andy Petree, Larry Mcreynolds, Geoff Bodine, Jeff Hammond, Randy Lajoie, Todd Parrott, Tim Brewer and Greg Zipadelli all deserve to at least be nominated for the Hall of Fame and continue to be looked over.

Kurt Smith

I’ve never liked the “non-unanimous” couple of votes for every Hall member. Always thought it was stupid. Mariano Rivera deserved a unanimous vote, but so did Ruth, Cobb, Mays, Robinson, Ripken and Gwynn. Voting against Johnson or Knaus is absolutely absurd. They won seven titles in a FAR more competitive environment than Petty and Earnhardt raced in.

If a writer is going to vote against a no-brainer Hall of Famer, their name should be known and they should be made to explain why so people can see what pompous butt-faces they are.

DoninAjax

How many drivers in the HOF did Petty and Earnhardt race against, back when they were real races? How many titles did J-Jo win in Brian’s era of “races”?

Bill B

I agree with this. I hated the duo and cheered anytime they suffered a hardship but, it should be so obvious to anyone that follows the sport that they are, without a doubt, first ballot HOF inductees. Man, if they aren’t HOF material based on the stats they accumulated, then you have to question the whole process.
You can go on about points, real race cars, chase vs non chase, but the one constant through the year are wins. And they racked up a boat load of them. And before you go there, they are all cheating.

Shayne

I’ve never visited the NA$CAR HOF in Charlotte. Another taxpayer funded BZF and company family shrine.

I know who the folks are that built this sport.

I know who the shysters are trying to ruin it.

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