NASCAR Hall of Fame voter Kenny Bruce reveals ballot
May 21, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Whittling list down to just five always a tough task
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It's supposed to get easier, but it never does. Choosing five inductees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame should be a piece of cake. Trust me, it's not.
Comparing the qualifications of legends that competed in vastly different eras, champions and non-champions, folks with dozens of wins and those that maybe didn't win as often, but won some of the sport's biggest races … it's just not that simple.
But it must be done.
My votes for the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class:
Joe Weatherly: Weatherly is one of the only drivers to win multiple championships (1962, '63) not already in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Weatherly was one of the sport's early stars on and off the track. Although he was running a limited schedule more often than not, he still collected 25 career premier series wins. Weatherly was no slouch in the Modified Division either, scoring 101 career wins and the 1953 series title.
Bill Elliott: The 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint) champion, Elliott won 44 times in 828 career starts. He won most of the sport's biggest events -- the Daytona 500 twice, the Southern 500, the Brickyard. He won the first Winston Million and was named the series' most popular driver a record 16 times. If Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett were deemed worthy of induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and they certainly were, then Elliott is equally worthy.
O. Bruton Smith: Early in his career as a track owner, Smith was seen as a direct competitor to NASCAR. But through the years, his efforts helped bring more tracks into the fold, while improving those owned by his Speedway Motorsports Inc., company. He took SMI public in 1995, a first for the sport, and was the first to bring lights to a 1.5-mile facility. His group's efforts to create a more enjoyable racing experience for the fans, the teams and the media helped push others to make similar improvements through the years.
Rex White: Won the 1960 title as an owner/driver and is the oldest living premier series champion. Although he competed for only nine years, White scored 28 victories. During his nine-year career, he finished in the top 10 in points six times. There may have been better-known drivers, but few were as consistent as White during his career behind the wheel.
Robert Yates: Many folks know Yates as owner of Yates Racing, for nearly two decades one of the more formidable Ford teams. But the son of a minister was also considered the sport's premier engine builder before he moved into an ownership role, wringing amazing amounts of horsepower out of Ford engines. Yates, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering, has worked in just about every team position in the sport -- from going over the wall to service the car during pit stops to driving the transporter to and from races. As an owner, his teams won 57 times -- including the 1999 Cup title with Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett. Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan also put his cars in Victory Lane on numerous occasions.
What I liked about my ballot: Thanks to the job done by the nominating committee, it was easy to not go too driver heavy when making selections. Nominees came from all areas of the sport.
What I didn't like about my ballot: I was convinced Curtis Turner would be among my final five. But both White and Weatherly won championships, a fact that in the end I just couldn't overlook. Which might make Turner an early personal favorite going into next year.
Editor's note: Bruce is a writer for NASCAR.com and the president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Elliott, Weatherly and White were voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015.