First here is a look at the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominees:
* Buck Baker,first driver to win consecutive NASCAR Cuo series championships (1956-57), 46 career wins
* Red Byron, first NASCAR Cup series champion, in 1949
* Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series
* Jerry Cook, six-time NASCAR Modified champion
* H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway
* Richie Evans,nine-time NASCAR Modified champion
* Tim Flock, two-time NASCAR Cup series champion, 40 career wins
* Rick Hendrick, 13-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series
* Jack Ingram, two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion
* Dale Inman, eight-time NASCAR Cup series championship crew chief
* Bobby Isaac, 1970 NASCAR Cup series champion, 37 career wins
* Fred Lorenzen, 26 wins and winner of the Daytona 500 and World 600
* Cotton Owens, driver-owner, won 1966 owner championship with David Pearson
* Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first championship car owner
* Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR Cup series champion, 21 career wins
* Les Richter, former NASCAR executive; former president of Riverside International Raceway
* Fireball Roberts, won 33 NASCAR cup series races, including the 1962 Daytona 500
* T. Wayne Robertson, helped raise NASCAR popularity as R.J. Reynolds Senior VP
* Herb Thomas, first two-time NASCAR Cup series champion, 1951, ’53, 48 career wins
* Curtis Turner, early personality, called the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing”, 17 career wins
* Darrell Waltrip, 84 wins and three NASCAR Cup series championships
* Joe Weatherly, two-time NASCAR Cup series champion, 25 career wins
* Glen Wood, as driver, laid foundation for Wood Brothers’ future team success
* Leonard Wood, part-owner and former crew chief for Wood Brothers, revolutionized pit stops
* Cale Yarborough, three consecutive NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series titles, 1976-78, 83 career wins
Now according to NASCAR rules five of these 25 men will be enshrined as the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. For me this year's decision is a pretty easy one. Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough have been overlooked in the first two years of this process and for me there is no doubt they should be the first two men selected for the 2011 class.
Since NASCAR had enshrined at least one owner (or person most famous as a car owner) in each of the first two classes it seems likely that Rick Hendrick would be the third car owner enshrined this year.
That leaves us two spots, and since Yarborough was the first driver to win three consecutive titles NASCAR should select Buck Baker, their first two time consecutive champion, and Herb Thomas it's first two time champion. With 46 and 48 wins (respectively) each they are both well within the level of winning to be great additions to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
That would leave us with a 2011 class that looks like this:
1. Cale Yarborough
2. Darrell Waltrip
3. Rick Hendrick
4. Buck Baker
5. Herb Thomas
Even though the seven drivers already enshrined averaged 88 wins over their careers, the bulk of great drivers in NASCAR’s history have around 50 career cup series wins or so. This seems to indicate that a NASCAR driver needs to reach the magical 50 win plateau to feel really safe about one day being enshrined.
That of course would be good news for guys like Rusty Wallace, and Jimmie Johnson who both have over 50 career cup series wins and championships on their racing resume.
A more interesting argument will come when guys like Mark Martin, and eventually Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick come up for enshrinement since they not only won a lot in the cup series, but had nearly unprecedented success in the Nationwide and Trucks series.
• Joshua Lobdell.com