Race Weekend Central

Fame & Popularity Are 2 Different Things

The 2025 induction class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was announced on Tuesday (May 21).

As the field of potential inductees continues to get less and less famous, this year’s class is made up of an Iron Man, a mechanical genius, a safety innovator and the next guy on the list of total wins by retired drivers. The voters once again displayed recency bias while being limited by a nominee list that is missing a name or two who clearly belong in the Hall.

Early on in the life of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, there was a five-person induction limit. Rather than having a percentage cutoff like the Baseball Hall of Fame and only letting in the people who exceeded that percent, the list of people inducted was set at five.

See also
NASCAR Announces 2025 Hall of Fame Class

While it was easy to fill the list the first few years since they were making up for over 60 years of history, the pool of what many people would call Hall-of-Fame-worthy rapidly dwindled. We are now left with very few people who would be famous enough, based on their accomplishments, for most fans to even recognize. The end result is now we are voting in people who are known by current fans and who are blessed by the nominating committee to be eligible.

The nominating committee is the group of people who should be taken to task over the people who are eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame. The committee consists of members of NASCAR management (see France family members), NASCAR Hall of Fame representatives, track owners of both major facilities and local short tracks and media representatives.

No one outside of the committee is aware of what goes on at the nominating meeting, but there are obviously some biases that come into play which ultimately have hurt the chances of some people to be included in the Hall of Fame. The most noted person of all who is continuously snubbed by the Hall nominating committee is Smokey Yunick.

Yunick had a notorious dislike for the France family, and it is a safe bet that until that family loses control over the nominating process, he will never be given his just position as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A couple other snubs include T. Wayne Robertson and Bill Rexford.

Robertson succeeded Ralph Seagraves as the lead of the RJ Reynolds motorsports marketing group. He was instrumental in forming The Winston, which morphed into the All-Star race. He was also the driving force behind the Winston Million.

The Winston Million rewarded a driver who could win three of the four crown jewel events of the year with a million-dollar bonus. Bill Elliott was the first-ever winner of the Million.

Rexford is simply ignored for his lack of notoriety. Red Byron won the first NASCAR Cup Series title in 1949 and was ultimately inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on the basis of that achievement and his military record. With Rexford not being the first to accomplish a championship, he is given no credit for his lone Cup series win and his title, the second ever bestowed by NASCAR. Rexford is the only Cup Series champion eligible for the Hall of Fame who has not been inducted. The shame is that he’s never been nominated.

The snubs are not limited to the unnominated. This year again sees Larry Phillips, the greatest local short track NASCAR stock car racer, ignored for induction into the Hall. Phillips was the first driver to ever win five national championships in the NASCAR weekly racing division. There are only two people in history who have managed to win five titles, and that just touches on Phillips’ greatness.

There is no definitive list of the number of races he won. The number is over 1,000 and could very well be over 2,000 races. Getting drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck series as well as modified drivers into the Hall has taken quite some effort. The time has come that a local short track guy should be wearing a blue jacket.

The other driver that has been snubbed again, although his resume isn’t quite as glaring a justification for enshrinement, is Harry Gant. Handsome Harry is one of the more famous drivers in the sport to never win a title. He is most famous for being Mr. September. In 1991, Gant won four of the five races contended during the month of September. Of his 18 career Cup victories, eight of them took place in the month of September.

While Carl Edwards ended his career at age 36, Gant didn’t start racing Cup until he was 33. Gant was a homebuilder in the Hickory, N.C., area who never quit his ‘day job’ to race full time and didn’t win a race until he was 42 years old.

Gant’s biggest claim to fame was his relationship with Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. They brought the Skoal sponsorship to NASCAR and asked Handsome Harry to pilot the car. Gant finished second one year in the Skoal Bandit for his highest point finish of his career. Gant did win an IROC title and won more than 300 races in his entire career.

That brings us to this year’s class. Ricky Rudd, the Iron Man of NASCAR. Rudd held the record for consecutive starts in the Cup series until it was broken by Jeff Gordon but is still second on the all-time starts list for Cup.

See also
Ricky Rudd Epitomized What Made NASCAR Great

Rudd was a good road course racer who has six road course wins among his 23 career victories. Nicknamed “The Rooster” for his tenacity and toughness, Rudd is responsible for one of the most famous stories in NASCAR history.

After crashing and flipping during the Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway in 1984, Rudd was forced to tape his eyes open in order to race in the Daytona 500, because his face was so swollen that it was the only way he could see.

Shortly after the 500, NASCAR instituted a policy that all drivers involved in accidents had to be cleared before they could race again. Rudd then went onto win the very next week at Richmond Raceway. But his biggest victory came as a driver/owner when he won the Brickyard 400 in 1997.

Edwards is next on the list of inductees for 2025. Edwards had a nondescript career in NASCAR. He was an Xfinity Series champion with 72 victories across the three national series.

Edwards’ two biggest wins both came in 2015, when he won the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500. His best finish in the Cup Series title chase was second — twice. The most famous is the 2011 title where Edwards and Tony Stewart tied for the championship and Edwards lost the title on a tiebreaker. Five years later, he shocked the racing world by announcing his retirement at 36 years old.

The third inductee this year is Ralph Moody. He was a famous partner of John Holman, and the two of them were well-known for making tremendous horsepower and having dominant race teams. They claimed two championships with David Pearson and also grabbed two Daytona 500 victories with Fred Lorenzen and Mario Andretti. Holman-Moody won 96 races during its time together, including 30 of Pearson’s 105 career victories.

The final inductee for 2025 is Dr. Dean Sicking with the Landmark Award. Sicking is not a well-known name among fans, but he is the driving force behind the development of the SAFER barriers.

To say that Sicking’s work has saved lives is an understatement. The number of incidents that have occurred on racetracks since the installation of his barriers is well into the hundreds. The G-forces that have been recorded on at least 50 of those have exceeded numbers that claimed lives in wrecks leading up to the implementation of the barriers. People like Bill Simpson have saved numerous lives without being recognized for it. This is a very justified award for someone who has unquestionably saved the lives of numerous drivers across multiple disciplines of racing.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is still an incredibly cool shrine to people who are legends in the sport. It is a fantastic way for people who weren’t alive or fans during the early years to learn about the personalities and people who built the sport into the juggernaut that it ultimately became.

The only thing that needs to change is the fact that personal feelings are being taken into consideration when the nomination process is taking place. It isn’t a Hall of Popularity, it is a Hall of Fame. The people who are the most famous deserve to be enshrined.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

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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Echo

New next year, Nascar hall of shame. Start with the drunk France family guy and follow him with the one making the decisions since him.

Steve

Between that ridiculous fine of Stenhouse and Edwards getting into the HOF, Nascar is now a complete joke.

I like Edwards but he has no business being in the HOF. I don’t even know where to begin with the hypocrisy of that fine to Stenhouse, while Busch gets away with nothing for purposely punting him into the wall head on.

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