The conflicts-of-interest so far as NASCAR’S Hall of Fame is concerned will continue Wednesday. Darrell Waltrip will be part of the Speed Channel broadcast team that announces the new inductees, of which he happens to be among the nominees.
Last year, Junior Johnson – who was eventually selected – was a nominee as well as a member of the selection committee. I wonder who he voted for?
Waltrip, who was a pretty good driver (was he great? as in Jimmie Johnson great?), says he’ll be “crying either way” when the five new members are announced on a special telecast on Speed Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Waltrip is a great entertainer (probably better in the booth than he was on the speedway) and it’s always fun to hear his pontifications when he’s part of a race’s broadcast team.
But should he be an integral part of the telecast announcing the new Hall of Fame class? Probably not.
Would the Academy Awards have someone who’s in the running for an Oscar act as MC of the awards ceremony? I don’t think so.
But what’s done is done. Maybe, however, one of these years NASCAR and its partners will “get it” and start to separate church and state.
Meantime, they shut out the short-track racers last year when the selections were announced. Richie Evans, the greatest short-track racer in the history of NASCAR, was passed over. Richie only won nine modified championships, including eight in a row, in a 13-year period, but that wasn’t good enough. His battles with Jimmy Spencer, Maynard Troyer, George Kent and Jerry Cook were legendary but did’t count for much in the end.
Richie was a great racer. But he didn’t fit the modern NASCAR image and that’s why he probably didn’t make it in last year and likely won’t this year either (although I hope I’m wrong).
When I say he didn’t fit the image, he smoked in the car (it’s true; if there was a red flag, you could see the flicks of the lighters as guys like Evans and Kent would light up). As soon as the races were over, the beer came out. The way he dressed would not qualify him for the cover of GQ, if you get my drift.
After last year’s balloting, there were several new nominees for 2010 and among them was Evans’s great on-track foe, and Rome, N.Y., neighbour, Jerry Cook (six championships, including four consecutively).
Cook was spic-and-span as compared to Richie. His uniform was clean. His wife travelled with him to all the races. He might have enjoyed a beer on occasion but I never saw any around his pit. He was an all-business modified racer, like Spencer.
As Cook’s career wound down, he was hired by NASCAR to run the modified series and continues to work for NASCAR today, but in another capacity.
My guess is that if a short-tracker makes the cut, it will be Jerry Cook.
All of this year's nominees can be found here.