Pearson among those making Hall, but Waltrip, Yarborough miss cut
By: Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — David Pearson had a pretty good idea he would be part of the second five-member class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Pearson had good reason to feel that way. He had 105 victories, second on the all-time list, and is considered the best driver ever by many, including 200-time race winner and seven-time champion Richard Petty.
After Pearson on the all-time win list are Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip with 84 wins each and Cale Yarborough with 83. It would have been no surprise if all three of them had joined Pearson in the second Hall class.
But that won't happen when the class is inducted in May 2011. The panel of 53 voters selected Pearson and Allison, along with legendary drivers Lee Petty and Ned Jarrett and team owner Bud Moore, leaving many surprised that Waltrip and Yarborough were left out.
Pearson, who won three Cup titles (1996, 1968, 1969) and the 1976 Daytona 500, was named on 94 percent of the 53 ballots.
"I heard I was in, and was going to definitely be in, which I heard that last year but wasn't," Pearson said Wednesday after the election at the Hall of Fame. "You never know what's going to happen. It makes you feel good and I'm glad and … I am just proud that that many people thought enough to vote for me."
Pearson said there was no hurt or disappointment last year because he knew he wasn't going to get in among the first class.
"(Waiting) didn't matter," Pearson said. "At least I'm in and I appreciate it."
No inductee got more than 70 percent of the vote besides Pearson. Allison and Petty were on 62 percent of the ballots, while Jarrett was on 58 percent and Moore 45 percent. They will be inducted into the Hall next May, joining the inaugural class of Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr., who all were inducted when the Hall opened last May.
The induction of Lee Petty will give the Hall two father-son combinations with the Frances and the Pettys. Lee Petty was the first three-time Cup champion (1954, 1958, 1959) and the first winner of the Daytona 500. The father of Richard Petty, Lee collected 54 career victories and was the patriarch of Petty Enterprises, the winningest team in the sport's history with 268 Cup victories.
"I am glad Richard's in it, but Lee ought to have got in first 'cause if it hadn't been for Lee, Richard wouldn't have had a shot to get in it," said Richard's brother, Maurice. "As a matter of fact, Lee won the first race and Richard come along later. Ain't no disrespect to anybody, but that's a fact."
With a limit of five members in each Hall class, there always will be debate. And this year's debate will center on Jarrett and Moore getting in instead of Yarborough and Waltrip.
"I was bracing myself in case it didn't happen," Allison said. "(It) was a great thrill. There's so many guys who are so good, they're going to have a tough time for the next few years worrying about who might get left out that ought to be in there.
"There's so many guys who really have done great things, and it's an honor to be right there in the top 10."
Allison won 84 races and was the 1983 Cup champion. He was a three-time Daytona 500 winner and two-time Modified champion.
While he was happy to be selected, Allison still lobbies to be credited with what he considers his 85th career victory—a win at Bowman Gray Stadium (Winston-Salem, N.C.) in August 1971 that NASCAR doesn't recognize because Allison was driving a smaller Grand American car in a Grand National race.
"I ran a lot of races in a lot of different places," Allison said. "I won in a lot of brands of cars, which I felt was a plus in the credentials. And I actually won 85 races."
One of the car owners Allison drove for was Bud Moore, a World War II hero who became one of NASCAR's all-time winningest car owners. Moore won 63 NASCAR Cup races with such legendary drivers as Allison, Joe Weatherly, Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd and was instrumental in the founding and organization of NASCAR. He was crew chief for Buck Baker's 1957 championship season and won back-to-back titles as a team owner with Weatherly in 1962 and 1963.
"I'm really thrilled," Moore said. "You just don't know how thrilled I really am to be chosen. ... It is one of the greatest moments of my life."
Moore was a surprise inductee, as was Jarrett, who won 50 Cup races, including the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington, and the 1961 and 1965 series championships before retiring as a driver at age 34. Known as "Gentleman Ned," he became a popular radio and TV announcer after retiring as a driver.
"I was really blown away by the support I got in the voting room and the discussions," said Jarrett, who also was on the voting panel. "It made me feel good, whether I was elected this year or not.
"It made me really feel good to know that some people were thinking about me and recognizing some things we did along the way."
Moore and Jarrett getting in meant that Yarborough and Waltrip missed out. Those two drivers, along with Petty crew chief Dale Inman, where the top three vote-getters who missed the cut.
"I couldn't do any more," Waltrip said. "In this sport, I've done everything they've ever asked me to do. I've won races, championships. I've done everything I can do. You know, it just wasn't my time.
"I guess I might know a little bit how Pearson (felt) when he left here last year."
Since leaving the sport as a team owner following the 1999 season, Yarborough has not been as involved in the sport nor has he made as many public appearances at races as many of the other retired drivers.
"Cale don't go anywhere he don't really have to go," Pearson said. "He wants to get paid everywhere he does go, which there ain't nothing wrong with that. Darrell? How do you know? I don't know who should have been in or nothing else. I am sure there were surprises that happened today."