NASCAR released its list of 25 people nominated for its first Hall of Fame class Thursday.

The first class, consisting of five members, will be inducted in conjunction with the opening of the Hall of Fame in Charlotte next May.

A 21-member committee selected the nominees from NASCAR drivers, owners and promoters.

Here are my picks to make the first class and why.

THEY’RE IN

WILLIAM H.G. FRANCE, NASCAR EXECUTIVE

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Why he’s considered: William Henry Getty France, called “Big Bill,” spearheaded NASCAR from its beginning and directed it to its present status as the world’s largest stock car racing organization. In 1936, he helped lay out the first beach/road course in Daytona Beach; in the first race on the course he finished fifth. Starting in 1938, he helped promote races on the sands of Daytona Beach. In 1947, France became the driving force behind the establishment of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. NASCAR, it was called, resulting from a famous meeting at the Streamline Hotel on State Road A1A in Daytona Beach.

BILL FRANCE JR., NASCAR EXECUTIVE

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Why he’s considered: William Clifton France became NASCAR’s president in January 1972, replacing his father and becoming only the second president of the world’s largest auto racing sanctioning body. His emergence coincided with the sport’s emergence, and its eventual ascent to become America’s No. 1 form of motorsports. France, often referred to as “Bill Jr.,” remained president until November 2000. At that time, France announced the formation of a NASCAR board of directors on which he served as chairman and CEO until October 2003 when he was replaced by his son, Brian Z. France.

DALE EARNHARDT SR., DRIVER

Hometown: Kannapolis, N.C.

Competed: 1975-2001

Starts: 676

Wins: 76

Poles: 22

Why he’s considered: Co-holds the record for most Sprint Cup Series championships (seven) with Richard Petty. In only his second full season, 1980, Earnhardt earned his first title. He won consecutive titles on three separate occasions (1986-87, ’90-91 and ’93-94). Earnhardt’s 76 victories rank seventh all-time.

RICHARD PETTY, DRIVER

Hometown: Randleman, N.C.

Competed: 1958-92

Starts: 1,185

Wins: 200

Poles: 123

Why he’s considered: Petty’s Cup Series records are staggering: Most wins (200), most poles (123), tied for most championships (seven), most wins in a season (27), most Daytona 500 wins (seven), most consecutive wins (10) and most starts (1,185). In all, Petty Enterprises totaled 268 victories before merging with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for the 2009 season to become Richard Petty Motorsports.

SHOT AT THE FINAL SPOT

DAVID PEARSON, DRIVER

Hometown: Spartanburg, S.C.

Competed: 1960-86

Starts: 574

Wins: 105

Poles: 113

Why he’s considered: Known as “the Silver Fox,” Pearson was the model of NASCAR efficiency during his career. His 105 Cup series victories ranks second all-time and he amassed that figure in only 574 races_an 18.29 winning percentage. In a career that spanned 27 years, Pearson never once ran every single race in a season. When he came close to running the full schedule, he won a championship_or came close.

In 1974, he finished third in the title hunt behind Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough but raced only 19 of 30 races.

JUNIOR JOHNSON, DRIVER/OWNER

Hometown: Ronda, N.C.

Competed: 1953-66

Starts: 313

Wins: 50

Poles: 46

Why he’s considered: Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson won the second Daytona 500 in 1960 and in the process, became credited with the discovery of “drafting” on the massive superspeedways. He won 50 races in the Cup series then surprised many people by retiring from driving to become an owner. As a competitor, Johnson never missed a beat; through the years his drivers won 132 races. There also were six series championships produced with Cale Yarborough (1976-78) and Darrell Waltrip (1981-82, ’85).

LEE PETTY, DRIVER

Hometown: Randleman, N.C.

Competed: 1949-64

Starts: 427

Wins: 54

Poles: 18

Why he’s considered: It took a while_three whole days_for officials to declare Lee Petty the winner of the first Daytona 500. That was one of many accomplishments. He was the first driver to capture three championships in what now is the Cup series. And up until the time his own son, Richard, caught and passed him, Lee won more races than any other driver_54. That number still ranks ninth all-time.

COULD BE IN THE SECOND CLASS

DARRELL WALTRIP, DRIVER

Hometown: Owensboro, Ky.

Competed: 1972-2000

Starts: 809

Wins : 84

Poles: 59

Why he’s considered: A three-time Cup champion (1981-82, ’85), Waltrip won all three with legendary driver/owner Junior Johnson. Waltrip is tied with Bobby Allison for third all-time in series victories with 84. His 59 poles rank fifth all-time in Cup history. He competed from 1972-2000. He currently is a commentator on Fox’s NASCAR broadcasts.

BOBBY ALLISON, DRIVER

Hometown: Hueytown, Ala.

Competed: 1961-88

Starts: 718

Wins: 84

Poles: 58

Why he’s considered: Bobby Allison, the 1983 Cup champion, ended his career with 84 victories_tied for third all-time with Darrell Waltrip. A charter member of the “Alabama Gang,” Allison had three (1978, ’82 ’88) Daytona 500 victories and in the third, he beat his son Davey to the finish, earning what would be his last victory. In 1972, he won 10 races, had 12 second-place finishes and 11 poles and finished second to Richard Petty in the title hunt.

CALE YARBOROUGH, DRIVER

Hometown: Timmonsville, S.C.

Competed: 1957-88

Starts: 562

Wins: 83

Poles: 69

Why he’s considered: Yarborough’s string of three consecutive Cup championships from 1976-78 was unprecedented_and unmatched until 2008, when Jimmie Johnson was crowned champion for the third straight year. During his three-year dominance, Yarborough won 28 races_nine in 1976, nine in ’77 and 10 in ’78. His points margin over second place was never fewer than 195 and as large as 474 in 1978.

NED JARRETT, DRIVER

Hometown: Newton, N.C.

Competed: 1953-66

Starts: 353

Wins: 50

Poles: 35

Why he’s considered: Jarrett’s 50 career victories are tied for 10th all-time with Junior Johnson. He also won a total of 28 races during the 1964 and ’65 seasons. Jarrett won his first series title in 1961 while driving a Chevrolet for W.G. Holloway Jr. He finished with one win posted an impressive 34 top 10s in 46 starts. In 1965, he won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway by 14 laps, still the largest margin of victory in Cup history.

BUCK BAKER, DRIVER

Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.

Competed: 1949-76

Starts: 635

Wins: 46

Poles: 45

Why he’s considered: Elzie Wylie “Buck” Baker established himself as one of NASCAR’s early greats, becoming the first driver to win consecutive Cup championships. That repeat performance in 1956-57 was part of an incredible four-year span; in 1955 and ’58 Baker finished runner-up.

HERB THOMAS, DRIVER

Hometown: Olivia, N.C.

Competed: 1949-62

Starts: 228

Wins: 48

Poles: 39

Why he’s considered: He was the first to win two Cup championships (1951, ’53). He finished second in the points standings in 1952 and 1954 giving the veteran top-two championship finishes in four consecutive seasons. He won the 1951 championship driving self-owned cars.

WORTHY AT SOME POINT

RED BYRON, DRIVER

Hometown: Anniston, Ala.

Competed: 1949-1951

Starts: 15

Wins: 2

Poles: 2

Why he’s considered: Byron won the sanctioning body’s first race in 1948, on the Daytona beach-road course. He went on to win NASCAR’s first season championship_in the NASCAR Modified Division. The following year he won NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock title – the precursor to today’s Cup series.

RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER

Hometown: Winston-Salem, N.C.

Competed: 1969-Present

Starts: 1,826

Wins: 89

Why he’s considered: Richard Childress, long before he became a premiere car owner, was a race car driver himself. Between 1969 and 1981 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts. He formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972 and he retired from driving in 1981. He was the owner for six of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s seven Cup championships and Childress was the first NASCAR team owner to win championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

RICHIE EVANS, DRIVER

Hometown: Rome, N.Y.

Competed: 1973-85

Starts: 1,300 (estimated)

Wins: 475 (estimated)

Why he’s considered: The recognized “king” of Modified racing, Evans captured nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-85. In the first year of the current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour format in 1985, Evans won 12 races, including a sweep of all four events at Thompson, Conn.

TIM FLOCK, DRIVER

Hometown: Fort Payne, Ala.

Competed: 1949-61

Starts: 187

Wins: 39

Poles: 37

Why he’s considered: A two-time Cup series champion, Flock had 39 victories in only 187 starts. His victory total ranks 16th all-time. Flock’s 18 single-season wins stood as the record until Richard Petty surpassed it with 27 wins in 1967. In addition, Flock won NASCAR’s only sports car race, in 1955, driving a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

RICK HENDRICK, OWNER

Hometown: Palmer Springs, Va.

Competed: 1984-Present

Starts: 2,577

Wins: 181

Why he’s considered: The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as a team owner. His organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns eight Cup series car owner championships titles_four with Jeff Gordon, three with Jimmie Johnson and one with Terry Labonte. Hendrick also has 11 total NASCAR national-series, car-owner championships.

BUD MOORE, OWNER

Hometown: Spartanburg, S.C.

Competed: 1961-2000

Starts: 959

Wins: 63

Why he’s considered: Bud Moore became a successful Cup owner almost immediately upon fielding a team in 1961. He won back-to-back championships in 1962-63 with Joe Weatherly. Earlier, in 1957, Moore_who referred to himself as “a country mechanic”_was crew chief for champion Buck Baker. During 37 seasons in NASCAR’s premier division, Moore’s cars won 63 times.

RAYMOND PARKS, OWNER

Hometown: Dawson County, Ga.

Competed: 1949-55

Starts: 18

Wins: 2

Why he’s considered: Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest_and most successful_team owners. Red Byron won the first Cup Series title in 1949 in a Parks-owned car. Though Parks’ team competed for only four seasons_1949, 1950, 1954 and 1955_his team produced two wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events.

BENNY PARSONS, DRIVER

Hometown: Detroit

Competed: 1964-1988

Starts: 526

Wins: 21

Poles: 20

Why he’s considered: Benny Parsons won the 1973 Cup Series championship. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times_54 percent of the time. He was the first driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 mph (200.176) in 1982 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his death on Jan. 16, 2006.

GLENN “FIREBALL” ROBERTS, DRIVER

Hometown: Daytona Beach, Fla.

Competed: 1950-64

Starts: 207

Wins: 33

Poles: 32

Why he’s considered: Roberts, who got his nickname from his days as a hard-throwing pitcher in high school, often came up big in the biggest events. He won the Daytona 500 in 1962 and the Southern 500 in 1958 and ’63. Overall, he won seven races at Daytona, starting with the Firecracker 250 in the summer of 1959 – the year the speedway opened.

CURTIS TURNER, DRIVER

Hometown: Roanoke, Va.

Competed: 1949-68

Starts: 183

Wins: 17

Poles: 16

Why he’s considered: Turner was among the fastest and most colorful competitors in the early years of NASCAR. He earned the first of 17 career victories in only his sixth start on Sept. 11, 1949, at Langhorne, Pa. Turner competed in NASCAR’s first race in 1949 in Charlotte and was the only driver to win a Cup race in a Nash and remains the only driver to win consecutive races from the pole leading every lap.

JOE WEATHERLY, DRIVER

Hometown: Norfolk, Va.

Competed: 1952-64

Starts: 229

Wins: 25

Poles: 18

Why he’s considered: Weatherly won two championships (1962-63) and 25 races in the Cup series. A decade earlier in 1952-53, he won 101 races in the NASCAR Modified division, capturing that championship in ’53. While winning the 1963 Cup title, he drove for nine different teams.

GLEN WOOD, DRIVER/OWNER

Hometown: Stuart, Va.

Competed: 1953-64

Starts: 62

Wins: 4

Poles: 14

Why he’s considered: Glen Wood laid the foundation for the famed Wood Brothers racing team as a driver in the Cup series. His best season was 1960 during which Wood won three times and posted six top-five and seven top-10 finishes in nine races. He is best known for his collaboration with brothers Leonard and Delano in Wood Brothers Racing. The Stuart, Va.-based team, which dates to 1950 and remains active, has 96 victories in 1,340 races.


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