Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion while driving for the famed Robert Yates Racing, is one of the five new nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Jarrett, 56, retired in 2008 after a 26-year career driving in NASCAR’s top two divisions. However, a rather interesting person will also be up for the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame class which is the likes of Bruton Smith.
Now, remember, not every member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame has to be a driver, just someone that changed the sport. Man oh man did Bruton Smith change NASCAR. Smith was the promoter for the Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as the chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Incorporated.
The two are completely different from each other, but have changed the sport in many different ways. Jarrett was a driver with plenty of patience and did the unthinkable by winning the Daytona 500 in 1993, being the first father/son combination to win NASCAR’s largest race. That day set the mark for a career that not many drivers can say they’ve had.
Starting his NASCAR career at the age of 25, Jarrett was a late bloomer and took until he was 29-years old to win his first career race in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Jarrett’s career consisted of 43 overall wins not including four non-points race wins. Driving for Robert Yates Racing was probably Jarrett’s best career move. He was a new teammate to Ernie Irvan when he came to the team and eventually became the face of the team and Ford Racing. Though his career ended in 2008, Jarrett has been able to participate in the sport with a close relationship to current drivers as well as being a broadcaster for ESPN.
Smith is one of the brightest guys in the NASCAR world. He brought SMI to the New York Stock Exchange and founded Sonic Automotive which has a fair share of car dealerships across the United States. At 86-years ‘young,’ Smith is still going and continues to come up with some crazy ideas for not just Charlotte, but for all eight of his company’s tracks which hold 12-races at NASCAR’s top level each season.
Both of these gentlemen have strong cases as to why they should be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. However, one must wonder whether or not they will get in on their first year of the ballot. This could be the class of legends with Red Byron, Tim Flock, Ray Fox, Fred Lorenzen, Raymond Parks, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and Bobby Isaac on the list. Each of these former drivers and owners will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and they deserve to be elected sooner rather than later.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.