This class gets down to the nitty gritty
Friday, May. 20, 2011
There are a lot of things to like about the second NASCAR Hall of Fame class to be inducted in Charlotte, but one of the simplest is this: It focuses on speed, not money.
David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore were all about going fast - sometimes as drivers, sometimes as owners, sometimes sticking their heads under the hood to try and nurse just a little more from the engine.
But always about racing.
The first hall of fame class was starry, with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson. But 40 percent of it was also filled by businessmen - Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. of NASCAR's founding family.
This class keeps the focus solely on the track and totally out of the boardroom. These men were fighters (Allison at the 1979 Daytona 500) and gentlemen (Jarrett, always); war heroes (Moore), silver foxes (Pearson) and patriarchs (Petty).
They were all men with red clay in their fingernails. If you were going to beat any of them, you were going to earn it. Having a good day wasn't good enough. You had to be great.
A few thoughts about the five:
Pearson - who should have gone in with the first class - is a South Carolinian who is as down-home as a plate of biscuits and is considered by some the greatest driver of all time. He and Richard Petty (Lee's son) dueled it out for years, and when Pearson had similar equipment, he was just as good or better.
In the 63 races in which the two of them finished 1-2, Pearson won 33 of them to Richard Petty's 30. Pearson was a master at waiting until exactly the right moment to take the lead in a race. Unlike, say, Cale Yarborough, Pearson didn't care a bit about leading the middle of a race. But he cared an awful lot about leading at the end.
Allison won 84 times in the top series, tied for third on NASCAR's all-time list (behind Richard Petty and Pearson). He could build a race car or drive one with equal skill, and he won the Daytona 500 at age 50. At another Daytona, in 1979, Allison played a key role in a post-race fight that helped NASCAR's popularity skyrocket. The Allison family has suffered more than its share of tragedy, and this induction is well-deserved.
While Lee Petty, who died in 2000, is well-known for guiding his son Richard's career, he also won 54 races and three championships - as well as the first Daytona 500. And he competed like crazy. When Richard won his first race, Lee lodged an official protest because he thought there might have been a rules violation. The protest was successful - and that meant Lee Petty ended up as the race winner instead of his son.
Like Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett also sired a famous racing son (Dale). But he also won two championships and 50 races at NASCAR's highest level and has been involved in racing at so many levels, including a high-profile stint as a beloved TV broadcaster.
Bud Moore fought for the U.S. in World War II, going ashore on D-Day in 1944. Now 85, Moore becomes the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame. He won NASCAR titles as an owner and a crew chief.
As for the third NASCAR Hall of Fame class, I'd start with Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Inman and go from there.
But that's a column for another day. On this day, we celebrate the NASCAR Hall of Fame's second class - and its first-class goal of going fast, forever.
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