|08/29/19||DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA|
|06/26/19||FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER|
|06/18/19||WINNERS NOT ADDING UP|
|05/25/19||THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL|
|05/15/19||NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD|
|04/10/19||WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER|
THE RIGHT CLASS
When it comes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting, the first nine years each time I was left feeling after the final cut someone who should have made it didn't and, occasionally somebody who did shouldn't have. I was never fully satisfied they got it right.
However, for 2019 they indeed got the right class. From the group of 20 nominees, the five inductees truly stood out and all had credentials that were NASCAR HOF worthy.
Of course, Jeff Gordon was a no-brainer. You win four Monster Energy Cup Series Championships and make 93 trips to victory lane you will forever be part of NASCAR's elite pantheon of driving greats. Let's
To Gordon, though, none of that mattered at all. "To me, I was a kid from California that was racing Sprint cars and midgets in Indiana, came down to North Carolina hoping and dreaming of something. But I didn't know much about NASCAR racing. Everything was IndyCar, open?wheel, Sprint car, midget to me. I knew the Daytona 500, I knew Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt. That was it.
"When you look back at that, this is very, very surreal to me. Then when I look at the last 25, 26 years, what I put into it, what it's meant to my life, how it's changed my life, I look the era through the '90s, how that has impacted and changed my life, what I gave back to a sport that gave me so much. I'm just really proud and honored to be a part of this."
He's also honored to be joining his car owner Rick Hendrick and his former crew chief Ray Evernham. They were the lead dogs in the "Big 5" who were so key to what would become the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have a
That team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske made it in together felt right as well.
I remember a conversation with Roush years ago when he talked about being so disgusted and disappointed about a Cup title he thought NASCAR had unfairly taken away from him and Mark Martin it was really giving him doubts as to whether he should carry on or call it quits and focus his considerable talents on, perhaps, road racing. He stuck it out though and 137 wins along with two championships proved "The Cat in the Hat" got some payback.
"I can't imagine that my name is up there with the 45 people that have already been inducted, with the things that they've accomplished," said Roush. "It's rarefied air, and I've got to take a while to think about what it all means to me, but it's certainly taking my breath."
Like Roush, Penske has triple digit Cup wins and knows what it means to win a title too. As a man who runs international businesses, built race tracks, owns NASCAR and Indy Car teams, and at one point was also involved in Formula One, "The Captain" has always amazed me. You get the feeling one of his current drivers Brad Keselowski feels the same emotion.
"Roger's contributions as a car owner combined with his contributions as a track owner put him in an elite category," claimed Keselowski. "There are many car owners who have won races in the series and a lot of car owners who've won championships, which he's done, but what he was able to do for the sport, professionally from a sponsorship and track perspective, really put him in a unique category to me.
"When you drive for Roger Penske, you are driving for someone that has raised the bar and challenges you to do the same. You just learn a level of professionalism that he's brought to everything he touches."
That brings me to two drivers now in the Hall who in life and death will be forever connected - Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki. We lost both in aviation accidents back in 1993 and two good men died too young. The year before they went into the final race battling for the championship along with Bill Elliott. Allison would crash and Kulwicki with his underfunded, underdog team prevailed to take the title.
A few months later, Kulwicki was killed on April Fool's day, the plane he was traveling in crashing into a hillside near the Bristol Motor Speedway. You have never heard at a race track the kind of silence we witnessed as Kulwicki's team removed their hauler for their long, sad journey home. Kulwicki was only 38 and to go with the championship had just five wins. He had only a handful of pit crew members what he accomplished against all odds was incredible and he would have certainly achieved more if not for the tragedy that struck him down.
When I think about Allison I'll never forget him talking about Kulwicki's death and how he knew it was God's plan Alan won the championship in '92 instead of him. He was happy Kulwicki got to know what it felt like to be a champion, if only for a few
Having lost another son Clifford in a practice crash at Michigan and most recently his wife Judy, Bobby Allison has suffered his share of sorrow, but when he found out Davey would be joining him in the HOF you couldn't wipe the smile off his face. "It really was a happy day for me. I felt like Davey would eventually be in there because he was good. His life was short, but he really did
Yes, they did and that's a story for another day.