Late Wednesday afternoon, the 20 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 were unveiled. Five of the 20 will be inducted into the 2018 class, and you could easily make a compelling case for any of the 20 to go in next year.
There are no bad choices here, no weak links. All 20 will eventually make it in, for sure. That said, as one of the nearly 60 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel, I’ve got some tough choices to make.
Between now and late May when the final vote is taken, I could make some changes to my five picks, but here’s who I would vote for today:
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In a career cut tragically short, Allison won 10 percent of his starts and finished in the top 10 in more than half his races. He won the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and the all-star race and was good most everywhere he raced. Plus, no one was better with race fans.
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They called Baker “Leadfoot” and “The Gentle Giant” and there was no question he was both. Baker was the first driver to break the 200 mile-per-hour barrier in a stock car and in 1980 he won the fastest Daytona 500 ever run. After he quit driving, Baker had a successful career in radio and television and was a great ambassador for the sport.
The most influential crew chief of the last 25 years, Evernham was atop the pit box for three of Jeff Gordon’s four championships. That alone should guarantee him a spot in the NASCAR Hall and soon. A brilliant technical mind, Evernham was also a leader who understood the importance and value of psychology and teamwork.
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When he came into the sport in the mid 1980s, Kulwicki was a true oddity: He was a college-educated engineer from the Midwest. And he certainly didn’t act or think like most good old boys. But with minimal resources and stubborn determination, he won a championship in 1992, in one of the most remarkable seasons in NASCAR history.
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From sweeping the floors at Holman-Moody to becoming first a championship engine builder and then a championship team owner, Yates was a racer’s racer. He is one of the best engine men of all time and his legacy continues through his son, Doug, and Roush Yates Engines. Seeing Yates and Allison go in together would be wonderful, especially since Yates is battling cancer now.