Class of 2011? Let the debate begin

May, 20, 2010

So who are the next five?

The prestigious First Five will be inducted into NASCAR's shiny new Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon, but let's look ahead to 2011 and the candidates for the next class.

Nominations are made this summer and voting takes place in October, when the results are announced.

The first of my five, and the driver who should get marked on everyone's ballot, is David Pearson.

Many people felt Pearson should have made the inaugural list, but he fell short when the voters placed both Frances -- Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. -- in the first class with Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Junior Johnson.

Pearson, second to Petty on the all-time victories list with 105, is a lock for 2011.

Cale Yarborough, the only driver besides Jimmie Johnson to win three consecutive titles, also should make the second class.

The debate gets tougher after those two legends. It's easy to make an argument for a lot of men who helped make the sport what it is today.

NASCAR may need a veterans committee at some point to ensure proper representation for the stars of yesteryear who competed in the 1950s and 1960s.

One of those is Raymond Parks, as true a representation of stock car roots as you'll ever find. Parks was the team owner for the first NASCAR champion, Red Byron in 1949, but Parks' involvement in racing goes back way before NASCAR was founded.

Parks is an old Georgia moonshiner who became a successful businessman and later a team owner. He was Big Bill France's confidant for many years. Parks belongs in the Hall soon, but I'm not sure it will happen in 2011.

The same is true for Glen Wood, the founder of Wood Brothers Racing. The team has been part of NASCAR since the beginning, when Glen was the driver and brother Leonard the crew chief.

Twenty drivers on NASCAR's list of the top 50 of all time drove for the Wood Brothers, including Pearson, Yarborough and A.J. Foyt.

Some people are in favor of Glen and Leonard entering the Hall together, but whether either makes it in for 2011 is hard to say.

For me, a crew chief should make the list for 2011, and the first one who belongs is a no-brainer: Dale Inman.

He was with Richard Petty for all seven of Petty's championships, but Inman also won a Cup title with Terry Labonte in 1984. That makes Inman the only crew chief or driver with eight Cup championships.

Three other drivers have a good chance to make the 2011 class: Lee Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

I'll go with Petty, the sport's first three-time champion and the founder of Petty Enterprises. Lee also won the first Daytona 500 in a photo finish in 1959.

All the men listed above are deserving and will get in the Hall eventually, but my five for 2011 are Pearson, Yarborough, Inman, Parks and Lee Petty.

Who are your five for the 2011 class, making them part of the first 10 to get in?

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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