Monday, March 12, 2018

Jeff Gordon and the NASCAR Hall of Fame: Too Soon?

 Jeff Gordon: 2019 Nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Photo: Fox Sports)

Once the driver of the DuPont Chevy No. 24 scored his 77th win in the Winston Cup Series, it was a foregone conclusion that someday Jeff Gordon would be in every museum celebrating the history of NASCAR.  Well, just two years after he completed his last full-time season he has been nominated for the 2019 Class of the NASCARHall of Fame.

I don't know about anybody else out there, but it barely feels like he left the cockpit. I still see the iconic No. 24 on the track and have that instant moment of recognition before reality shatters my dreams.  Couldn't they wait a little bit longer before mothballing his career? Why is the date of eligibility just two years from retirement?

Other Major League Sports Wait Five Years

If this was football or baseball, we would still be waiting for Gordon's name to appear on the ballet. Time does allow the fans, media, and others involved in voting on the new HoF class time to digest the true importance of that person's contribution to the sport. Was it really as fabulous as we thought at the time?

Now, in Gordon's case there is absolutely no doubt that his name should be enshrined next to any of the other legends in the Hall of Fame. His 93 wins in a single car over 25 years is one of the best stat sheets that exist in all of NASCAR's history.  His career will remain a benchmark for all others to stand up against for quite some time in the future. This does make his inclusion in the 2019 nominee list less remarkable.
Jeff Gordon's 93rd Win at Martinsville 

Still...just two years.

NASCAR's Numbers Back Up the Short Time Limit

 On any given Sunday, the Cup series fields up to 40 different teams.  That's 40 drivers.  We usually bring on between two and five rookies each year. NASCAR has been racing since 1948.  So, if we average 40 names over 70 years, that is just 2,800 drivers that would be potentially eligible for the HoF over the entire lifetime of the sport.

Major League Baseball has 30 teams.  Each team has a 40-man roster. The MLB has been batting the ball since 1869. Using just those numbers, baseball can field 1,200 potential names a year for Cooperstown and multiply that list by over 100 years and the depth is mind boggling. How they only have 323 members in the Baseball Hall of Fame illustrates that they show considerable restraint in bringing a new player on board.  The NFL boasts a similar number of players with a comparable roster in their HoF.

As you can see, NASCAR has a much smaller pool of talent to pull from when building their Hall roster.

For that reason, only waiting two years before pulling out the chair for a favorite driver is a reasonable time limit. However, it doesn't change the fact that this NASCAR fan still thinks of Gordon as a current participant in our sport--not somebody to be buried with the fading racing programs and cracking rubber of long retired memorabilia.

I'm just not ready to regard the Rainbow Warriors as nothing more than history. After all, time makes the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? I'm just asking for a chance to come to terms with his change in employment status, that's all.

Harvick is Happy Again

So, with his third win in three weeks, I'd say Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team is well on their way to Homestead. Anybody want to start taking odds on how this season is going to unfold? I'm predicting more of the same in the very near future. 


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