Johnson reflects on NASCAR Hall of Fame vote
May 22, 2014, Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
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CONCORD, N.C.— For six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, voting for members of the sixth NASCAR Hall of Fame class was both eye-opening and gratifying.
For the first time this year, the reigning champion of the Sprint Cup Series was included in the voting panel that selects the five new inductees. Once he experienced the five-hour session in which the merits of the 20 nominees were discussed and debated, Johnson was eager to share the experience.
"That was a huge honor and an amazing day to be a part of," Johnson said. "To sit in a room with so many people that care for our sport and know about our sport and then discuss what took place in eras of time when I certainly wasn’t around… it was a very awesome and unique experience and something I think that is a huge honor and in years to come.
"It's only going to help drivers in the garage area understand the history of our sport and grow closer and more attached to the people that built this sport. And in a big way, I wish that the garage area could sit in on that discussion and see the respect that the peers and the people on the voting panel have for our industry and for the people involved.
"It wasn't an easy process to work down to five. All 20 on that list were very deserving to be in the Hall of Fame."
Drivers Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Fred Lorenzen, Rex White and Joe Weatherly were elected to the Hall. Predictably, Johnson voted for his boss, team owner Rick Hendrick.
"I spoke to (Hendrick) on the drive up today, just catching up with him, and I’m not sure he feels he should be in there yet," Johnson said. "He’s a competitor out there, and he appreciates the phone calls he received yesterday and the concern from others, but I don't think he feels like it’s time to be in there yet, although I voted for him.
"I just am so impressed with his stats and what he has done, but I still think there are many more to come."
HOMAGE TO A PIONEER
Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose likewise is well aware of those who have preceded him, and it was no surprise he issued a statement earlier this week on learning of the death of fellow Australian racer Jack Brabham.
Ambrose's father Ross Ambrose, co-founder of British race car manufacturer Van Diemen International Ltd., knew Brabham personally.
"My father knew the family a little bit," Ambrose said. "I know David Brabham, and I guess the next generation of Brabhams, and now there’s a third generation of racers coming through, with David and Geoff’s sons coming through doing very, very well in their own racing careers. They are Australia's version of the Petty family.
"The great thing about Jack Brabham was, not only was he a fantastic race car driver, but he built his own cars. He was the engineer, he was the mechanic, and he was the driver. To think of what he was able to achieve from very humble beginnings… He took himself to Europe and started his own company, building his own race cars for himself…
"Jack is certainly a big figurehead in Australian racing and paved the way for guys like me to go to Europe and have a go. He was a great man. I’ve met him a few times and was sorry to see him go, but he left a great legacy for Australian racing--no doubt."