Six-time champ provides perspective now that he’s inside the voting process
With less than two weeks remaining before this year’s voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was scheduled to take place, Jimmie Johnson was still trying to wrap his head around the process.
Never mind the candidates.
"I have my book," the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion proudly proclaimed. "I’ve read through it.
"This process is what I’ve been most excited for. I’m a bit nervous about voting; I hear it’s fun and very conversational. A lot of fun to come when we sit down on the 21st (of May) and share opinions."
The addition of Johnson, as the defending Sprint Cup champion, to the voting panel is one of several changes that have been made to this year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame voting process. Also, this year the voting panel will consider 20 nominees rather than the 25 that had been the case for the first five years (2010-2014).
The voting panel consists of 32 members; the 22-member nominating committee also has voting rights. One additional vote is determined via fan input (vote on NASCAR.com).
"I definitely have an opinion and look forward to understanding the process," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "Some (nominees) I knew, I knew their background but I learned a little bit more. Others, I’m getting a nice little glimpse into their part of NASCAR and their history in NASCAR."
First-time nominees on this year’s ballot are former series champions Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte, 19-time race winner Buddy Baker, Modified standout Mike Stefanik and engine builder/team owner Robert Yates.
Rick Hendrick is one of seven nominees that have been on the ballot each year since the inaugural 2010 class was named. Johnson said he wouldn’t be swayed by the fact that he has spent his entire career driving for the successful team owner.
"I’m trying honestly to look at statistics because I’ve only been in this sport 13 years," he said. "When they’re going back (into the) ‘50s, ‘60s, I don’t know those folks. It’s very difficult … and I’m thankful there are many others to vote, that it’s not all on me.
"So that’s where I’ve gone with things. Bill Elliott, all this time I’ve just known him as Awesome Bill that won the Winston Million … you look at him, what he’s accomplished and you naturally think a Hall of Famer. But it’s tough to weigh it all out. … I don’t know what to expect and I’m trying to walk in there with statistics leading me in the decisions I make.
"(Richard) Childress and Hendrick are both still actively racing and they’re what, fifth- or sixth-year (nominees)? Does that have any bearing because they’re still active? You’d think both would be in."
He may be unsure of the procedure, and uncertain of who he will ultimately vote for, but Johnson said he’s positive of one thing — he will be on hand to take part in the process.
"Absolutely," he said. "I look at it as a great honor to be a part of this, a great opportunity for me to learn.
"I’ve been so far removed from all of this (growing up). We’d catch a race or two on television in the ‘80s and ’90s. I’m pretty far removed, but I do care about the sport, I do care about the Hall of Fame and I look forward to the experience."