NASCAR's first superstar, modified legend on the cusp of making the Hall's fifth class
Fireball Roberts, considered the first nationally recognized star to emerge in NASCAR, is one of the five names many expect to be called Wednesday evening when the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame class is announced.
And if the previous year’s voting results are any indication, the names of six-time Modified champion Jerry Cook and two-time premier series champ Tim Flock could be heard as well.
“You sit there and think, ‘Well, maybe this is it,’” Cook said May 21, “but you never know. It’ll work on you for sure.”
Roberts, Cook and Flock all garnered votes a year ago when the voting panel for the Hall of Fame met to select the five inductees for the class of 2013.
WHAT: Hall of Fame Voting Day
WHEN: Wednesday, May 22 (1-4 p.m. ET)
WHERE: Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center
WHO VOTES: 21 members of Nominating Committee and 33 members of Voting Panel. In addition, one vote is generated by fan input.
HOW MANY ARE CHOSEN: Five
WHEN THE 2014 INDUCTEES WILL BE REVEALED: 6 p.m. ET (Streamed live on NASCAR.com; live television coverage provided by SPEED)
Roberts, a winner of 33 premier series races, including the Daytona 500 and two Southern 500s, actually tied with two-time series champ Buck Baker for the fifth and final spot.
A second vote featuring only the names of Baker and Roberts was taken, with Baker earning the nod for the hall’s fourth class.
Cook was No. 7 when the initial votes were tallied while Flock was No. 8 on the list.
In previous years, many of those who have earned votes but failed to be selected have been chosen the following year. That was the case for David Pearson and Bobby Allison in 2010, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip the following year, and Cotton Owens and Herb Thomas in 2012.
Will the numbers line up for Roberts, Cook and Flock this time?
Cook, a winner of an astounding 342 Modified races, knows there are no guarantees. Last year’s near miss wasn’t his first brush with hall of fame consideration. It was the second year he had garnered votes, but fallen just shy.
“It’s just one of those things,” Cook, competition administrator for the sanctioning body, said. “Fortunately, I’ve got enough going on to keep my mind off of it.
“I’m excited and hopeful. I’ve been close for two years now. But also being that I’m involved in it (as a member of the nominating committee), I know that a whole lot of folks on that list, and a whole lot of those who are not on it, are just as deserving."
He’s pleased that the voting panel has looked beyond those who left their mark in the Cup series. Fellow Modified standout Richie Evans was inducted in 2012, while two-time Busch (now Nationwide) champion and three-time Late Model Sportsman Division champ Jack Ingram has been on the ballot since 2011. Larry Phillips, a five-time champ in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series, was a new addition to the list of nominees for 2014.
“I’ve worked in everything from Street Stocks out in God only knows where to the Cup series, and it’s all NASCAR,” Cook said. “(The hall) isn’t just Cup.
“Whether it’s a Modified or the Weekly Racing Series … Larry was a big part in that weekly program. He was a hard racer, a real racer.
“I think it’s not looked at as Cup only, but it’s good to see those names to validate that.”
While his good looks and catchy nickname certainly helped his popularity, his success on the track enabled Roberts to quickly became an established star in the sport.
He won multiple races seven out of eight years between 1956-63, including a career best eight in 1957.
Flock, who won 39 times, and Joe Weatherly are the only two drivers with multiple titles at the Cup level that are not yet in the hall.
In 1955, Flock won an amazing 18 races in 39 starts for car owner Carl Kiekhaefer.
The five names chosen for the 2014 class will be announced at 6 p.m. today. The announcement will be streamed live on NASCAR.com while live television coverage will be provided by SPEED.
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