First class in the NASCAR Hall of Fame is not without controversy

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  • NASCAR announced its first Hall of Fame class in 2010 with a chance to establish a sport’s Mount Rushmore.
  • To leave Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and series founder Bill France Sr. out of the first indoor class would have been close to heresy.
  • Skipping David Pearson – the second-most winning driver of all time – has been a hard pill for many NASCAR fans.

    When NASCAR announced that the first class to be inducted into their new Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC in 2010 would be number five, speculation immediately began within the group as to which five individuals would have the unique honor to be.

    David Pearson

    David Pearson was the biggest nudge of NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame class in 2010.

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    were considered locks. Richard Petty won seven championships and 200 races. Dale Earnhardt won seven championships and the hearts of millions of fans. And Bill France Sr. was the founder of the sport.

    Leaving Petty, Earnhardt and France out of the first indoor class would have been something of heresy.

    That left the other two places, and the possibilities were endless. David Pearson, the sport’s second-greatest winner at 105? Lee Petty, one of the pioneers of stock car racing? Cale Yarborough? Darrell Waltrip? Bobby Allison? Junior Johnson, a top rider and team owner? Bill France Jr. taking his father’s vision and expanding it to new landscapes?

    The fourth and fifth award winners were Johnson and France Jr.

    And Pearson, the second-winning driver (to date) in NASCAR Cup history with 105 wins to go with three Cup championships in an era dominated by Richard Petty, was disappointed and had to wait until the following year for his induction.

    1983 Daytona 500

    Junior Johnson had 50 wins as a NASCAR Cup driver and eight cup championships as a team owner.

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    Johnson has been successful both as a driver (50 wins), as a team owner (six owner championships) and, perhaps equally important, as a cultural figure representing the sport. One of his many sponsors classified as an American icon over the years. Johnson, who maintained a country boy personality throughout his career, wasn’t too sure about this iconic deal, but there was no question that he was one of the dominant figures in stock car racing for decades.

    For many, France Jr. was the surprise first-grade choice. There is no question that he was worthy of selection, but some thought that some experienced drivers would be better suited for first class.

    France Jr. (he wasn’t actually a “junior” but was called that his whole life) took the sport his father organized and turned it into a giant, growing on its Southeastern roots, gaining more attention from television himself and built support from Fortune 500 companies.

    The first five room members were selected from a list of 25 nominees. Voting was conducted by NASCAR officials, industry representatives, track officials and members of the news media.

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