An inside look at NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day
May 23, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
MEET THE 2015 CLASS: Bill Elliott | Fred Lorenzen | Wendell Scott | Joe Weatherly | Rex White
LANDMARK AWARD WINNER: Anne B. France
FULL HALL OF FAME COVERAGE
What goes on behind closed doors when the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel meets each year to select the upcoming class of five inductees?
Are there outright endorsements? Questions? Discussions? Disagreements?
Yes, yes, yes and you bet.
This year's meeting, held May 21 at the Charlotte Convention Center, wasn't much different than the previous five gatherings. Except for the addition of the Landmark Award, which debuted this year, the process was very similar to those of years past.
It begins with a group photograph, an official time stamp of sorts to get things started, and ends a little more than four hours later with the announcement that five new inductees have been determined.
In between? If you are a fan of the sport and wish to learn something about its history, it's Christmas come early.
Many of the same faces of legends in the sport -- for one reason or another -- sat side-by-side with those who work on the periphery. For the first time, the Sprint Cup Series' defending champion was also a part of the process. This year, it was Jimmie Johnson. Next year?
"I hope I get to come back soon," the six-time champion said.
Here is a look at how this year's selection process progressed:
Created as a way to honor "outstanding contributions to NASCAR," the nominees consisted of Martinsville track founder H. Clay Earles; Anne B. France, wife of NASCAR founder William H.G. France; Raymond Parks, the first championship-winning car owner for today's Sprint Cup Series; R.J. Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves; and longtime sportscaster Ken Squier.
Unlike voting for the Hall of Fame, two separate votes were taken for the Landmark Award. After initial discussions, the first vote was taken, and the three nominees receiving the most votes were determined.
Much of the initial conversations during the morning session focused on the contributions of Squier and Seagraves, with several late comments explaining the role France played. General observation was that it appeared likely that those three would appear on the final ballot.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominees
Conversations concerning the accomplishments of engine builder/car owner Robert Yates opened the Hall of Fame discussion phase, but talk quickly turned to Wendell Scott. It was clear that many felt the timing was right for Scott, who was making his third appearance on the ballot.
And just as quickly, as is often the case during the voting process, the subject of conversation shifted. The names of Joe Weatherly, Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte and Rex White cropped up. Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder Bruton Smith and Fred Lorenzen were discussed with talk of what they did for the sport as well what each accomplished.
And then it was time for lunch. Which is perhaps the best "unofficial" time to mull over what's been said and discuss key facts that have surfaced.
Curtis Turner, an afterthought earlier, eased into the conversation during the afternoon session, as did former champion Benny Parsons. Many of those that didn't generate a lot of back-and-forth during the morning meeting were suddenly getting plenty of attention, including Ray Fox, Bobby Isaac, Jerry Cook and Buddy Baker.
As the discussion phase began to come to a close, it was one veteran who put it best, noting that, "Of all the votes we've had, this is by far the hardest." Few disagreed.
Landmark Award finalists were announced with additional discussion before a final vote was taken.
Shortly afterward, the ballots for the 2015 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame were handed out.
After more than four hours of discussion, each ballot was marked, signed and collected.
There were 20 nominees on the ballot when the day began, and at some point each name came up for discussion. No one was overlooked. The conversations among the group were lively, cordial and most of all they were informative.
For many in the room, taking part in the voting is a learning experience as much as it is a selection process. For others, it's more of a remembering process, a chance to recall and relate past experiences and to pass on knowledge that was gained first-hand.
And at day's end, each left with a little something else. A sense of pride in what they'd been asked to do, and a sense of accomplishment with the end result.