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The Tragedy of the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame Ballot

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame announced their 2024 Hall of Fame Ballot yesterday, with the marquee additions being Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus on the Modern Era Ballot, and Donnie Allison on the Pioneer Ballot. Only two from the modern era ballot and one from the pioneer ballot will go into the Hall, and that is where the tragedy lies with this ballot.

Plenty of people on this ballot have legitimate cases for going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but only three will be able to go into the Hall this year. Many will have to wait on either ballot to get into the Hall of Fame.

The Modern Era Ballot

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus were added to the Hall of Fame ballot this year, and it seems like a virtual lock that they both will be the two in on their first ballot. This article has nothing against them for doing that, as they are both legitimate first ballot Hall of Famers. They both teamed up for 84 race wins and seven championships, which is as many championships as Richard Petty and Dale Inman had.

However, even though they are the most likely Hall of Famers, they are far from the only ones on the modern era ballot worthy of such recognition. Neil Bonnett was not only an 18-time race winner and member of the “Alabama Gang”, but he was also a spectacular broadcaster for TNN during the final years of his life. Tim Brewer won 53 races as a crew chief, and he won championships with Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.

Harry Hyde was a championship-winning crew chief for Bobby Isaac with 53 race wins. Hyde also partnered with Rick Hendrick to start one of the best teams in NASCAR today, Hendrick Motorsports. Larry Phillips is a five-time Champion in the NASCAR Weekly series, and he was one of those gatekeepers to NASCAR’s top level for years.

Carl Edwards won 28 races during his career, and he could have easily won more had he not retired so soon. Ricky Rudd and Jeff Burton have shakier cases with no championships, but they both have over 20 career victories. Harry Gant never won a championship, but he is NASCAR’s oldest winner including winning four in a row in 1991.

It’s uncertain if all 10 of these guys will make the ballot, but everyone on this list has a case. Having only two people picked from this list is nothing short of tragic. Is two people too few to pick from this list?

The problem is not the fact that two undeserving guys will be picked. The problem is that there are too many deserving guys on this Modern Era Ballot.

The Pioneer Ballot

The Pioneer Ballot has Donnie Allison, a fellow member of the “Alabama Gang” as the brand new addition. He won only 10 races at NASCAR’s top level, but he only entered 242, as he never ran a full-time season with a lifetime winning percentage of 4.1%. That winning percentage is comparable to Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4.1%), Bobby Labonte (2.9%), and Dale Jarrett (4.7%).

Sam Ard was one of the pioneers of what is now known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series, as he won 22 of the first 92 races, along with the 1983 and 1984 series championships. Banjo Matthews was the best NASCAR car builder of his generation as, according to NASCAR.com, 262 of 362 Cup Series races were won by cars constructed by Matthews.

A.J. Foyt may not have been as active in NASCAR during his career, but he did win the 1972 Daytona 500. Ralph Moody partnered with John Holman to make a dynamite NASCAR team in the from the late 1950s until the early 1970s. Drivers such as Mario Andretti, Fred Lorenzen, Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, and Bobby Allison all won races with the team, and Pearson even won the 1968 and 1969 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

I just made a Hall of Fame case for all five drivers on this ballot, but only one of them will be added. That’s tragic to say the least, even though any of these drivers being added to the Hall of Fame would be perfectly reasonable additions.

A Solution

Look, some kind of limit has to be implemented for Hall of Fame classes because inducting 15 people at the same time would be a ridiculously long ceremony. However, is it reasonable to maybe expand to a maximum of five or six nominees per year rather than just three?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has nine nominees being enshrined next month. Major League Baseball had seven inducted in 2022, four in 2020, and six in 2019 just to name a few.

Why keep deserving candidates waiting? The NASCAR Hall of Fame has one of the best problems you can ask for, and that is too many deserving candidates currently lining up. Under the current format, it would take at least five years for all 15 of these candidates to make it in.

It’s a tragedy in a lot of regards, with deserving candidates having to wait longer than they maybe have to.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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