Twenty of the most hallowed individuals in NASCAR history have already had been enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with their spires displayed permanently in the museum's Hall of Honor. Their names are a Who's Who List of NASCAR Legends -- names even the most casual of fans get nostalgic for.
Names like Petty, Earnhardt, Johnson, France, Pearson, Allison, Jarrett, Wood, Waltrip, Yarborough and Wallace.
On Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the next five individuals -- the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 -- will be announced at 6:00 p.m. ET on SPEED, in the Great Hall of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte, N.C. The five new inductees will be chosen from a pool of 25 nominees.
For the first time in sports history, there will be a NASCAR official behind closed doors live-tweeting from the room where members of the Voting Panel are discussing the contributions and merits of each nominee, and subsequently voting. Fans can follow along via the sanctioning body's official Twitter handle @NASCAR and interact on Twitter using #NASCARHOF.
The announcement of the five-person class will most likely feature some surprises, as there are no clear-cut favorites this year, unlike in years past. Everyone's on the same level…it's anyone's guess.
The lack of a consensus on the class is what makes this Voting Day so intriguing. It also opens the door for good, healthy debates championing the merits of one nominee over another. Is Red Byron a more deserving nominee than Jack Ingram? Do Tim Flock's accomplishments in the NASCAR premier series trump what Jerry Cook did in the NASCAR Modified Tour?
The answers to those questions and many others like them are up to the 54-member Voting Panel to decide.
While there is no widespread agreement on any of the nominees, there are a handful of names that will most assuredly generate a buzz during the Voting Panel's discussion immediately prior to the vote.
Last year, Fireball Roberts came within a hair of being part of the Class of 2013 after tying with Buck Baker for the fifth and final induction spot. In a re-vote between the two nominees, Baker beat Roberts. Roberts, who won 33 races in the premier series, was also one of the top five vote getters in the NASCAR.COM Fan Vote.
Jerry Cook and Tim Flock were the seventh and eighth top vote getters during Voting Day, respectively. Cook won six NASCAR Modified championships, including four consecutive between 1974 and 1977. Flock won the NASCAR premier series title in 1952 and 1955.
Does that guarantee Roberts, Cook and Flock spots in this year's class?
Some may think so, some will probably disagree. There are other nominees whose names will be bandied about and considered heavily when it's time to vote.
What about Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Bruton Smith? All three are on the ballot for the first time and all three have made great contributions to the sport.
Jarrett, whose father was inducted in 2011, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 1999. As chief engine builder for Petty Enterprises, Maurice Petty won seven premier series titles with his brother Richard, who was inducted in 2010. His father, Lee, was inducted in 2011. Smith is the Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns and operates eight tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup events.
Will any of the first timers have enough support to hear their name called during the class unveiling or will the fact that it's their first time on the ballots affect their consideration this year?
A nominee getting voted in on his or her first ballot (outside of the inaugural vote) might have been considered unlikely prior to last year when Rusty Wallace was announced as part of the Class of 2013. So, the precedent has been set and no one should be too surprised if one or more of this year's first timers make it into the Class of 2014.
Will all five members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 come from the six individuals listed above or will some of the other 19 nominees be among those immortalized in the Hall of Honor?
That's what makes this class and this year's Voting Day so intriguing -- it's truly anyone's guess who the five members of the Class of 2014 will be.
It won't be until they make the official announcement on Wednesday that we can stop all the conjecturing. And then we can start speculating on the makeup of the Class of 2015.
Below are all 25 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 Nominees:
· Red Byron: First NASCAR champion (1948 Modified Division) and first NASCAR premier series champion (1949). · Richard Childress: Eleven national series owner championships and first owner to win titles in all three national series. · Jerry Cook: Six-time NASCAR Modified champion with four of them coming in consecutive years (1974-1977). · H. Clay Earles: Opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, which is the only track to host NASCAR premier series races every year. · Tim Flock: Two-time NASCAR premier series champion (1952, 1955) with 39 career wins, putting him 18th on the all-time wins list. · Ray Fox: Named 1956 Mechanic of the Year and built the cars that won the 1960 Daytona 500 and the 1964 Southern 500. · Anne B. France: Matriarch of the sport who served as secretary and treasurer of NASCAR and ISC. · Rick Hendrick: Ten premier series titles, 13 national series titles, which are both NASCAR records. · Jack Ingram: Two NASCAR Nationwide championships (1982, 1985) and three consecutive Late Model Sportsman titles (1972-1974). · Bobby Isaac: Won the 1970 premier series championship and holds the single-season pole record with 19 (1969). · Dale Jarrett: Won the 1999 premier series championship and the Daytona 500 three times (1993, 1996, 2000). · Fred Lorenzen: Won the Daytona 500 and World 600 in 1965 and won five consecutive starts in 1964. · Raymond Parks: First NASCAR premier series champion owner who began his career in 1938 with driver Lloyd Seay. · Benny Parsons: 1973 NASCAR premier series champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner. · Maurice Petty: Built engines that propelled Richard Petty to seven NASCAR premier series championship and close to 200 wins. · Larry Phillips: Only five-time NASCAR Weekly Series champion; won 13 NASCAR track championships in three states. · Les Richter: Held roles as NASCAR executive vice president of competition and senior vice president of operations and president and general manager of Riverside International Raceway. · Fireball Roberts: His 33 wins ranks him 20th on the all-time wins list; won the Southern 500 twice (1958, 1963) and the 1962 Daytona 500. · T. Wayne Robertson: Senior vice president at R.J. Reynolds and president of their Sports Marketing Enterprises division who oversaw the creation of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. · Wendell Scott: First African-American to win a NASCAR premier series race in 1963 and the 1959 NASCAR Sportsman Division Virginia champion. · Ralph Seagraves: Helped put NASCAR in the national spotlight through Winston sponsorship, including sponsorship of the developmental series. · Bruton Smith: Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns and operates eight tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup events. · Curtis Turner: 1956 Southern 500 winner who won 38 of the 79 races he entered in the NASCAR Convertible Division. · Joe Weatherly: Two-time NASCAR premier series champion who won 101 modified races and the championship from 1952-1953. · Rex White: 1960 NASCAR premier series champion whose 28 wins place him 22nd on the all-time wins list.