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Explaining the Controversy over Jimmie Johnson’s Hall of Fame Ballot Voting

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Joshua Lipowski

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Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus were voted into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, and everyone thought they were deserving. Well, almost everyone. Many people were floored that Jimmie Johnson was not voted in as a unanimous selection into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He in fact only received 93% of the vote, leaving just 4 electors who didn’t choose him.

What is Going on?

Jimmie Johnson not getting voted in unanimously made a lot of waves on social media. People from start drivers to voters themselves to fans were absolutely incensed at this.

Jamie Little said that if it does not happen now, then will it ever happen?

Toby Christie said that this was “Ridiculous”.

Darian called for those who did not vote for Jimmie Johnson to be removed from HOF voting.

Denny Hamlin says that those who did not vote for Johnson should be removed from the panel.

Dawn Bartlett Hall spoke for a lot of fans on social media.

People got angry about this on social media. Now, is their frustration justified? Let’s take a look at why people would not vote in Jimmie Johnson.

Why Would People Not Vote in Johnson?

It’s impossible to argue against Jimmie Johnson being in the Hall of Fame. The only extremely remote chance of him not getting in is if some sort of MLB steroid era scandal comes out that makes us realize Johnson ran disgustingly illegal cars for his entire career. That’s not happening.

However, there is an argument against Johnson getting into the Hall of Fame right now. Bob Pockrass explained it in his “Fast Thoughts” segment. Was it too early for Jimmie Johnson to be eligible?

It’s an understandable argument in some regard. Why is Jimmie Johnson eligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame while he is still racing, albeit on a part-time basis? No other sport allows current players to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

In Major League Baseball, the players need to be at least five years removed from a 10 year playing career to be eligible. The NFL has the same five year rule. Jimmie Johnson last competed in NASCAR full-time in 2020, and he is competing in select races this season.

If Johnson is still competing in NASCAR, then why are we voting him in? It is an understandable argument to some extent. The vast majority of people, however, don’t see part-time driving as a hindrance to this in any way.

That also makes some sense as it’s not like Johnson is running for a Championship. He is just running in select races for fun, and his primary role is an owner now. NASCAR is fundamentally different from stick and ball sports in that people can compete on part-time or full-time basis.

It’s also worth noting that no one in the history of the NASCAR Hall of Fame has been voted in unanimously. Even drivers like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon were not voted in unanimously. Those drivers had no chance to driving again and were not competing part-time when voted in.

It also could be the limit of the ballot. Writers were only allowed to vote for two members from the Modern Era Ballot and one member from the Pioneer Ballot. Some maybe thought that Johnson was deserving, but they felt that someone else should have gotten in first for whatever reason.

NASCAR only voting in three Hall of Famers per class is a bit strange considering that most other sports vote in more. We even discussed on The Daily Downforce that there are too many candidates and not enough spots.

Does Anything Need to Change?

At the end of the day, Jimmie Johnson was still voted into the Hall of Fame. He’s going to be in the Class of 2024, so, the system did do what it was intended to do. At the end of the day, are people going to be walking through the Hall of Fame talking about if Jimmie Johnson was or was not unanimous, or will they be talking about the fact that he was there to begin with?

That being said, if voters said that Jimmie Johnson’s resume was not good enough for the NASCAR Hall of Fame regardless of him being eligible or not, then, there needs to be some fresh faces on that voting panel. It’s extremely hard to believe that someone would think that, but, if they do, then that is impossible to justify.

Then again, you look back to Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon not being unanimous either. Why those were not unanimous remains a mystery, but it may have something to do with a limited ballot.

The most practical thing to do would be to expand the ballot yearly to include more people. Then again, it’s not like this kept Jimmie Johnson out of the Hall of Fame, so big swings need to be thought of carefully.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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