By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The NASCAR Hall of Fame induction process will go through a massive overhaul as NASCAR announced Wednesday that starting with the 2021 class, there will only be three inductees.
Since 2010, five members have been inducted into the Hall of Fame each year and with the latest inductees last Friday (Buddy Baker, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, and Waddell Wilson), the total is now up to 55.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said that now it’s the time to make changes in its process by recognizing both time periods accordingly.
“When we opened the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, we had to catch up on more than 60 years of NASCAR history,” Phelps said. “Our plan has always been to evaluate the process as the Hall of Fame matured. With 55 of the sport’s greatest competitors enshrined, we felt the time was right to move to three inductees which will help maintain the high standard of enshrinement that’s been set.”
How it’ll work is that there will be two ballots – the Modern Era Ballot emphasizes a nominee’s NASCAR career beginning within the past 60 years (1961 for the 2021 class) and the Pioneer Ballot where it focuses on careers starting more than 60 years ago.
Those nominated can stay on the Modern Era Ballot for up to 10 years. If they past that mark, they will become eligible for the Pioneer Ballot.
From there, the current Nomination Committee will have 10 nominees for the Modern Era Ballot while a brand new Honors Committee will have five for the Pioneer Ballot.
The Honors Committee – mostly consisted of living Hall of Famers, Landmark Award and Squirer-Hall Award winners – will have 12 representatives that’ll be a part of the voting panel taking place at Charlotte on Wednesday, May 20.
Among the 12, seven of them are brand new voters and they’re Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Ron Hornaday Jr., Dale Jarrett, Roger Penske, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace.
The voting panel will play an pivotal role of deciding who are the three newest members in the Hall of Fame with two coming from the Modern Era Ballot and one from the Pioneer Ballot.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley had an epiphany where he too felt it was time for change in order to make the sport’s most noble honor special than ever before.
“From the time I first learned of the selection process NASCAR developed in 2009 and through the evolutions implemented as we gained valuable experience, I have been a huge proponent of our process,” said Kelley said. “I feel our process is as strong as any Hall of Fame, sport and entertainment alike. I am equally enthusiastic about these changes to our process and concur wholeheartedly that now is the right time to transition to fewer inductees and establish a process dedicated to NASCAR’s iconic pioneers.”
In addition to the induction process being reduced and having two ballots, crew chief eligibility have changed. Much like the drivers, they must’ve participated in NASCAR for 10 years and have retired for two years. Those who’ve been in NASCAR for 30 years and are 55 or older are also eligible for nominations.