published Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Young: Make it France, Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt and Johnson

The first inductees into the new NASCAR Hall of Fame will be announced in October, and until then will come some serious debate.

A panel of 50 — the 21-person nominating committee, 14 media members, four manufacturer reps, nine retired competitors and two industry leaders — will join with fans to choose the first five members of the hall. NASCAR released the 25 nominees Thursday, and there were no surprises.

You have to believe all 25 will make it in the next few years, which makes entering in the first year all the more special. Though you may think the choices will be simple, the more you analyze it the more difficult it becomes.

“This first list of potential inductees is impressive, to say the least,” said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. “Now comes the hard part — choosing only five to be inducted. Every single person on this list is worthy to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

So how do you distinguish inaugural inductees from second- and third-year ones? Today’s drivers are taking the process seriously.

“In my opinion you look in a few different areas of success on track and what they did within the sport, to help to grow the sport, commitment to the sport and really the type of person that they are and their character,” Jeff Gordon said. “It’s sad that only five are going into it in this first round because we have 60 years of racing basically now and it’s hard to pick just five, but I am really excited to see who those five are and look forward to the other years to come and watch for the other people go in.”

Here’s my ballot:

1. Big Bill France. How could you start anywhere else? The man whose vision started and grew the sport is an obvious first-year selection. My thought would be to pair Big Bill with son Bill Jr., who actually ran the sport longer than his dad and took it from a regional to a national sport.

2. Richard Petty. Many will argue until the cows come home whether he is or isn’t the greatest driver of all time. What can’t be argued are the 200 career wins and seven Cup titles.

3. David Pearson. In my book, he was the greatest driver of all time, and with 105 wins and three titles he is an easy pick.

4. Dale Earnhardt. Seven Cup titles say all that needs to be said about the Intimidator, but he meant so much more to the sport than championships. His style and popularity with the common man changed the sport.

5. Junior Johnson. The best combination of owner/driver in NASCAR history. He won 50 races as a driver and 132 and six titles as an owner.

Next year: Cale Yarborough, Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

There’s my list. What’s yours?

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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