Hendrick boys on inside track to Hall

May, 12, 2010

"Will I get in someday?"

That question probably ran through the minds of at least a few people in attendance for Tuesday's glorious grand opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Some of them don't have to worry. Some aren't so sure. And some don't have much hope.

So here's a look at some of the active NASCAR competitors and my take on their chances of becoming Hall inductees:

The 100 Percent Club

These guys are guaranteed a spot in the Hall at some point:

• Jeff Gordon -- The four-time Cup champion, who has 82 Cup victories, is a lock.

• Jimmie Johnson -- Ditto for Jeff's teammate, the only man to win four consecutive titles, and he may make it five this year.

• Mark Martin -- His lack of a Cup title won't keep him out. Martin is one of only 16 drivers with at least 40 victories.

• Rick Hendrick -- The man who brought all the above drivers together and the most successful team owner in the sport. He has nine Cup titles and a record 12 NASCAR championships overall.

• Richard Childress -- Dale Earnhardt won six of his seven Cup titles while driving for Childress.

• Chad Knaus -- The guiding force behind Johnson's four championships and the best crew chief in the business.

The Looking Good Club

This group includes likely inductees down the road:

• Tony Stewart -- He's still the only driver to win a Cup championship under both points systems, the Chase in 2005 and the full-season total in 2002. And he's now a successful owner/driver, something many people thought couldn't be done in this era.

• Joe Gibbs -- He has three Cup championships as a team owner and probably more to come with talented young drivers in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable.

• Jack Roush -- His team has two Cup titles and 116 victories, with more to come.

The Borderline Club

These guys are 50-50. Half the people would say they deserve induction, but the other half might doubt it:

• Bobby Labonte -- Is one Cup title and 21 victories over a 20-year career enough? Maybe, but he'll have to wait in line behind big brother Terry before being considered.

• Roger Penske -- A true legend of racing, but most of his accomplishments have come in open wheel. One Cup title as a team owner probably would seal the deal.

The Wait And See Club

These guys have the possibility of making it in, but it depends on how they perform the rest of their careers:

• Kyle Busch -- He's accumulating a lot of victories in all three series, but he'll need a Cup title to solidify his Hall chances.

• Kurt Busch -- Kyle's big brother has one Cup title. Another one would give him a good shot at it.

• Matt Kenseth -- The last man to win a Cup championship in the old points system. He needs a title in the Chase to secure his place in history.

The Live Up To Your Potential Club

Guys with a huge amount of talent who could become Hall-worthy competitors in the future:

• Denny Hamlin -- A championship contender now who could compete for the Cup titles for many years to come.

• Joey Logano -- A full Cup season and one victory under his belt already, and he doesn't turn 20 until May 24.

• Carl Edwards -- At age 30, he needs this decade to be his time to shine. If his equipment is good enough, he'll make the most of it.

• Kasey Kahne -- If he goes to Hendrick Motorsports and wins a couple of championships in his 30s he can get there, but he's a no for now.

The Unlikely Club

These competitors have some accomplishments, but probably not enough to be Hall-worthy:

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Popularity won't do it. He'll need a Cup championship, a goal that seems to be fading with each passing year.

• Kevin Harvick -- He could remove himself from this category if he wins the championship this year. Harvick's about to sign a new deal with RCR, so there's still time.

• Jeff Burton -- A respected leader in the sport at age 42, but he doesn't have Hall of Fame credentials. Maybe they'll reconsider after he becomes a U.S. senator.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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