NASCAR's class of 2011 immortalized

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bobby Allison said more than a week ago he was going to make one last plea for NASCAR to give him the 1971 victory at Bowman Gray Stadium he believes should be counted in his win total. He wouldn't say exactly how it would be delivered, but assured it would.

He didn't disappoint.

Seven and a half minutes into his speech during NASCAR's Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Monday, the leader of the Alabama Gang made it clear:

"I did win 85 times," Allison said. "Scouts honor. Eight-five times."

I'm not sure if Allison ever was a Scout. If you saw his intensity behind the wheel, particularly the 1979 Daytona 500 when he and brother Donnie took on Cale Yarborough in the infield following the race, you know what I mean.

If you follow the history of NASCAR, you know that Allison with 84 "official" wins is tied for third on the all-time victory list with Darrell Waltrip. But Allison will tell you till his dying day that the win at Bowman Gray should count just like the rest to put him third all alone.

NASCAR doesn't agree, saying the experimental Grand American car that Allison piloted made him ineligible even though in the governing body's media guide Allison's win total adds up to 85.

To further support Allison's cause, a few other drivers were credited with Cup series wins in similar cars.

I say give it to him.

Of course, NASCAR won't listen to me anymore than they listened to those who argued that three-time champions Waltrip and Yarborough should have been in this class instead of two of the five inductees -- Allison, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore.

But this night, Allison's plea aside, wasn't about controversy. It was about honoring those who were selected, and hearing stories about what made them great.

And we heard some great stories. None was more touching than Donnie Allison telling how the 2000 death of Adam Petty helped bring Bobby and wife Judy back together.

None was funnier than when Pearson, known to be a lady's man, thanked all the women who escorted him around the Hall during the past few days and said, "I might want to work here."


Donnie also had a pretty good line about why Bobby didn't let his late son, Davey, win the 1988 Daytona 500 when they finished 1-2.

"I'm here to tell you, he wouldn't let his mother win,'' Donnie said.

There were many special and even comical moments, such as Moore going through all five fingers on one hand and several on his other before finding one that his Hall of Fame ring fit.

Allison making his case for his 85th win was completely fitting.

"There's no reason NASCAR should have a record book with one race that had no winner," Allison said. "I always thought they gave it to Richard Petty, and the pope ain't going to take it from Richard Petty, so it's gone. Then I found they didn't give it to anybody.

"And I did win it fair and square that night."

For the record, Allison's not getting the win. If he was, this would have been the night to award it to him.

"It won't be his last plea," NASCAR president Mike Helton said with a laugh. "He reminds me of it as often as he can."

NASCAR chairman Brian France has heard Allison make his case a few times as well.

"If we could take a couple away from some other people we might exchange them around," he said jokingly. "Bobby has enough."

Allison gets no sympathy from Pearson, whose 105 career wins stand second on NASCAR's all-time wins list behind Richard Petty.

"No," the Silver Fox said. "'Cause he cheated."

Pearson and Allison may be through driving, but they're still not willing to give each other an inch -- even at an induction ceremony.

"David Pearson is real bad to maybe wiggle the facts around," Allison said. "We just have to smile and go on our way about that."

There were many reasons to smile on this night, from Moore receiving a standing ovation after being introduced for what he accomplished in the military as well as the racetrack to Petty being introduced by his four grandchildren to Kyle Petty making a plea for Maurice Petty to become a future inductee to Ned telling how his wife says he's been in her "Hall of Fame for 50 years."

Pearson, not known for his media savvy, may have given the longest speech of his life.

Having Richard Petty from the inaugural class accept Lee's ring belongs in there, too.

"Lee Petty was the first professional race car driver," said The King of his father, NASCAR's first three-time champion. "He was the first professional mechanic. He was the first professional owner.

"His biggest contribution was being here and doing things and showing people you could make a living out of driving a race car."

All five inductees made a living out of racing at a time when that wasn't easy to do.

Maybe that's why Allison feels so strongly he deserves that 85th win. He poured his heart and soul into the business and doesn't take any achievement for granted.

They all did, which is why they all are deserving of a spot in this shrine in the heart of Uptown Charlotte.

Pearson deserved a spot in the first class. Even The King voted him first on his ballot for the first class. Enough said.

And by the way, Pearson was the only inductee who didn't wear a tie, a reminder he still marches to the beat to his own drum, which some will tell you is what kept him out of the inaugural class.

But like Allison's win at Bowman Gray, that's all in the past.

OK, the win isn't in Allison's past.

"I'm going to tell you what, don't give up," Allison said. "One thing I learned early in my career was perseverance was one of the greatest assets you can have in this game."

Did you expect anything less?

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.