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NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Process

Last Thursday, The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing announced the annual induction process for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, scheduled for opening in Charlotte N.C. in 2010.
The yearly Hall of Fame classes will have five inductees selected by a voting panel consisting of NASCAR industry leaders, manufacturer’s representatives, former competitors, the media, and race fans.  Inductees will be chosen from an annual list of no more than 25 candidates.  The main criteria for nomination and induction? NASCAR accomplishments and contributions to the sport.
To be eligible, former drivers must have competed 10 years in NASCAR and be retired from racing for a minimum of three years.  Non-drivers must have worked at least 10 years in the industry.  Potential candidates with shorter careers may be considered if there are special circumstances.
“With the excitement already building about the physical layout of the Hall of Fame, this will add to the excitement on another front, regarding this impressive, historic project,” NACAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said.  “We have established an orderly induction process that is inclusive, involving various industry constituencies and most importantly the fans.”
After a 20 member nominating committee selects its list of candidates, the voting will entail a total of 48 ballots. Twenty ballots will be from the nominating committee, 27 ballots will come from a group consisting of former drivers, former owners, former crew chiefs, manufacturers, and media. One ballot will represent the results of a nationwide fan vote.
Plans call for the inaugural list of candidates to be announced in June.  Voting will be completed by Sept. 15, with the results announced in October.  The first induction is scheduled for May 2010 when the NASCAR national series comes to Charlotte for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600.
In addition NASCAR’s Board of Directors will designate a special Hall of Fame exhibit, coinciding with the hall’s opening, honoring the sports “Founding Members,”   individuals who helped build the sport from its roots, enabling current accomplishments.  Founding members will be permanently recognized at the Hall of Fame and the original group can be added to in the future.  Founding members will be eligible for nomination to the Hall of Fame.
So who would you choose for the five founding members?   The five nominees you seem to hear the most are: NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, and Junior Johnson.  Looks like a slam dunk for these five to me.  There could be some discussion about Junior Johnson, but when you consider his total contribution to the sport, as an innovative mechanic, winning team owner, his part in bringing R J Reynolds Winston brand together with NASCAR’s  management, not to mention his place as the living, breathing embodiment of the lore and legend of the sports background, he seems a solid choice. .  
Ok, there’s not too much to argue about on the five founding members, but where do you go from there? That’s when it gets interesting and the endless debates begin.  Every fan has their own favorites and memories.  For what it’s worth, my next five would be Mechanical wizard Smokey Yunick, and drivers Tim Flock, Fireball Roberts, and Lee Petty.  If it were my vote, I think team owner Carl Kiekhaefer, whose Mercury-outboard sponsored Chrysler 300’s ran roughshod over the competition in  the mid fifties, should be in the second group. Kiekhaefer’s organization was the prototype of the modern NASCAR race team.
Kiekhaefer’s drivers and crew were always sharply dressed in white uniforms while the uniform of the day for most crews was Levi’s and a T shirt.  The team's gleaming white Chryslers were hauled to the track in shiny white vans emblazoned with the Mercury Outboards logo.  Tim and Fonty Flock, along with Buck Baker, drove to 30 wins in 1956 behind the wheel of Carl Kiekhaefer Chryslers.  Then as quickly as he arrived, Kiekhaefer folded his tent and quit the sport.  Under the ten years in the industry ruling he would not qualify for the hall.  
So if we can’t have Kiekhaefer, my fifth pick for year two would be Sanford North Carolina’s Herb Thomas.  Along with Marshal Teague, Thomas set the circuit on fire in the early fifties with their twin “Fabulous Hudson Hornets.”  A three-time Darlington 500 winner, Thomas won the Grand National Championship in 1951 and 1953.

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