|Why the rush to put Dollar Bill in HOF?|
Previously, a driver had to be retired for at least three years before becoming eligible for the HOF. But during the off-season the Hall said it will now immediately consider drivers who are 55 and older with 10 years of experience, and any driver with more than 30 years of experience, no matter what his age. As a result, both Elliott, who drove in the Coke 400 at Daytona less than two years ago, and Labonte, who was in the Daytona 500 just two months ago, are both on the ballot.
The Hall also announced it was reducing the number of nominees from 25 to 20, although the top five with the highest percentage of the 54 votes will continue to inducted each year.
It appears the rules for getting into the Hall of Fame are as flexible as the rules for getting into the Chase.
But why these changes in HOF requirements, just five years after the first class was inducted?
According to NASCAR, it’s to “…put more emphasis on the drivers. Our sport has always been about the driver, and anything we can do to get more drivers in that discussion is where we wanted to go."
I guess that doesn’t include the likes of Buddy Baker, Fred Lorenzen, Curtis Turner, Benny Parsons, Bobby Isaac, Red Byron, Joe Weatherly and Rex White. All those drivers are currently on the ballot and worthy of the HOF. But at least one of those drivers probably won’t make it this year because of Elliott's presence.
I’m a big Bill Elliott fan, have been since I first saw him race at Dixie Speedway in the mid-70s. Obviously so are a lot of other people, Elliott having been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver a remarkable 16 times. He probably has more fans than all those other drivers combined.
And there’s the rub. It’s no secret the HOF hasn’t come close to its projected attendance figures. NASCAR has worked hard to attract more fans and having Elliott – and other more current driers – in the Hall is bound to help. Next year it will be Mark Martin, another fan favorite. The losers in the meantime, are old timers, the drivers the Hall was established to honor in the first place.
Fan voting is open online at www.nascar.com/halloffame until May 21. I know where my votes are going this year: Lorenzen (I’ve been pushing for him the past couple of years), Turner, Isaac, Ray Fox and Jerry Cook. And I'm still looking for an opportunity to vote for Smokey Yunick.
Dollar Bill can wait his turn.