Picking the Hall of Fame is easy ... at first

Updated: March 24, 2006, 1:51 PM ET
By Rupen Fofaria | Special to ESPN.com

So Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and the like are the easy ones. But now that the NASCAR Hall of Fame is set to debut in Charlotte, N.C., which other drivers belong there?

An undertaking such as this is sure to stir opinions, but here are one man's thoughts. (Author's note: Years ago, I remember reading a similar hypothetical article by Gerald Martin. Martin, who has since died, was one of the old guard of NASCAR writing, and I'm sure his opinions have influenced mine -- as did his writing.)

First, a word on modern-era statistics versus older ones. Can you compare the two eras? No. Before 1972, there were more events per year. In Petty's early days, there were as many as 60 events in a year. The added opportunities certainly helped establish his now-unbeatable record of 200 victories. But can you knock those guys for having more races? After all, there was less regulation and thus more racers who didn't belong on the track standing as obstacles to take out some of the favorites. Also, for a time, anybody with a Hemi engine was crushing the competition, whereas today that would've been found quickly and outlawed.

Still, under the proposed criteria below, I don't think reconciling eras is necessary.

Love it or not, when you choose Hall of Famers, you have to look at statistics. Here's where I propose drawing the line:

First, victories: Anybody with at least 40 victories is in, no questions. That inducts the following 15.

  • Richard Petty, 200 victories.
  • David Pearson, 105.
  • Bobby Allison, 84.
  • Darrell Waltrip, 84.
  • Cale Yarborough, 83.
  • Dale Earnhardt, 76.
  • Jeff Gordon, 73.
  • Rusty Wallace, 55.
  • Lee Petty, 54.
  • Ned Jarrett, 50.
  • Junior Johnson, 50.
  • Herb Thomas, 48.
  • Buck Baker, 46.
  • Bill Elliott, 44.
  • Tim Flock, 40.

Second, championships: Anybody with multiple titles is in. That inducts, in addition to anyone named above, these three:

  • Third, the combo: Anybody with at least 30 wins and one title. That adds these two:
    • Bobby Isaac, 37 wins and one title.
    • Dale Jarrett, 32 wins and one title.

    That's my 20 in the Hall. But can you stop there? Can you leave out Mark Martin, who has 35 wins and four runner-up finishes in the points race? Can you leave out Fireball Roberts, who had 33 wins? What about Rex White, who had 28 wins and a title? Ricky Rudd not only had 23 victories but also made many more contributions to the sport. Benny Parsons had 21 wins and one title.

    Although it's possible Martin could garner five more wins -- or a Cup title -- before retiring, it sounds as though you need a safeguard for the rest. Those casting the votes are that safeguard. If they wanted to induct Davey Allison, who died after notching 19 wins, that's within their discretion.

    What's your take? Is the victory requirement too high? Too low? Is there too much reward for winning two titles? Is relying on stats just absurd? Let us know. Contact Rupen Fofaria at rfofaria@yahoo.com.

    Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.