The NASCAR Hall of Fame will welcome its second class next May and the five men nominated on Wednesday are all worthy candidates.
By naming Lee Petty, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore and David Pearson as the second class to be enshrined in the Hall, the committee struck the right balance of honoring those who helped build the sport while at the same time excelling as participants.
The voting process for the Hall should not be a popularity contest. There were perhaps more recognized names on this year's list of nominees - everyone of them worthy of enshrinement with due time - but the group that will go in next spring is what I believe to be a perfect cross-section of the sport.
Enshrinement in the HOF isn't simply a process of looking at statistics, numbers and career records and then punching someone's ticket to enter. Other contributions to the sport both on and off the track are an important part of the criteria and that appears to have been paramount in the committee's mind this year.
Each of the five members of the Class of 2011 established themselves as critical pieces of NASCAR's long history. And even if some younger fans are more familiar with names like Waltrip, Yarborough, Parsons, Hendrick or Lorenzen, it is vital to find a place for the many men - and women - who laid the foundation for NASCAR and were instrumental in its growth.
Sadly with each passing year it will be come harder and harder for so many of the legends to be properly honored as a Hall of Fame inductee. The Red Byrons and Raymond Parks of NASCAR's glorious past are being left in the rear view mirror.
The problem will only be compounded as the calendar pages turn and unless a Veteran's Committee is created I highly doubt either of those two gentlemen or any of their early counterparts will find their way into the Hall.
The Hall of Fame's biggest misstep came in year one when it was decided to limit each year's Class to a mere five. With a deep and rich sixty-plus year history, the new Hall should have been seeded with a foundation of 15-20 and a representation of the building blocks that the sport was built upon.
With that groundwork laid, voting five members in each subsequent year would have added to the Hall without cheapening anything and opening a floodgate of too many inductees on an annual basis. As it is now the Hall will always be playing catch-up and I fear some very important figures will never get their due.
Making the Hall of Fame is an honor that anyone who has made a profound impact on the sport dreams of one day enjoying. Sadly with the current format there will be some major holes in telling the complete NASCAR story as so many deserving individuals seemed destined to never find a proper place among the sport's elite.
I applaud this year's nominating committee for taking a step in the right direction and insuring NASCAR's storied past is not forgotten. The worthwhile candidates who were allowed to make their mark on the sport only after the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of those who came before will get their time to shine.
More attention should be focused on the true pioneers of the sport.