Tonight the NASCAR Hall of Fame is going to announce five new members who will be joining the Hall as the Class of 2017. Every single one of these 20 names that were nominated are truly worthy. There are several on that list that I have worked for and worked with, so I can speak from first-hand experience as to why they deserve NASCAR's highest honor.
I'll admit I still struggle with the concept of gentlemen on this list who are still performing in NASCAR yet up for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Obviously I am talking about Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush. The mark these three have left on the sport is immeasurable and they truly are Hall of Famers. I just struggle with the fact they are still out there adding to their legacy.
So of my five picks you will not find any of those three names. Again, they are Hall-worthy, I just don't think they should go in now. My list includes Buddy Baker. I know he never won a championship but the man won nineteen races, including the Daytona 500 and then enjoyed a second career in NASCAR from the tv and radio booth.
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One of my picks that might surprise a lot of people is Ron Hornaday Jr. The man won four NASCAR Camping World championships. How many people who have won four championships in the three NASCAR top touring series are not already in the NASCAR Hall of Fame? That doesn't even take into account how many races the man won. Is he a long-shot? Yes, he is a long-shot, but I just think it is sad that a man who has accomplished that much in the Camping World Truck series does not become a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Mark Martin is another one on my list. Now I realize he never won a championship nor the Daytona 500 but look at the races that man won in all three of our top touring series. You can add to that an IROC championship. The things he accomplished across the board or his "full body of work" as we like to say, make Mark a Hall of Famer in my book.
My No. 1 pick is simple -- Benny Parsons. The man won a championship, he won the Daytona 500 and he won races. A lot like Buddy Baker, Benny paved the way for folks like Darrell Waltrip and myself to have a second career after the actual racing part was over. Benny is one of those that is probably remembered equally as much as an announcer as he was a driver. The thing I loved the most about Benny and Buddy is they never met a stranger. They were kind, easy-going and approachable by the fans.
Now I'll admit, for my fifth pick my heart probably played a bigger role, but Robert Yates gets my final spot. Just go add up all the Daytona 500s, Southern 500s, Coca Cola 600s and Brickyard 400s that he won as an engine builder and car owner. If that wasn't enough, he's won championships as both. So I feel pretty strongly about that pick.
Again though, I want to stress that all 20 that are eligible are more than worthy of being a NASCAR Hall of Fame pick. There isn't a single name on that list that if they got picked I would question their credentials for our sports greatest honor.