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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pearson is the best, whether Hall voters realize it or not

Wednesday’s Hall of Fame announcement went pretty much as planned. As I predicted would happen, Bill France Jr. was in, while 105-time race winner David Pearson was out.

Soon after the event, Pearson packed up and left with fellow legend Cotton Owens and headed back to South Carolina. As soon as he heard Bill France Jr.’s name, he knew he was sunk.

Before going any further, let me say this: Don’t get too upset on Pearson’s behalf. He is guaranteed to make the Hall of Fame field next year, as he (along with Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison) were the top 3 contenders to miss the top-5.

While it’s clearly a travesty that two members of the France family made it, while the driver who is considered by many to be the best ever didn’t make it, it’s really no sweat off Pearson’s back.

He knows he deserved to go in, and even Petty was wondering what the voters were thinking by excluding Pearson, but in the end the honor is merely symbolic.

Whether or not Pearson’s picture hangs in a building somewhere for the next year does not change that fact that when you look at 1-2 finishes involving Petty and Pearson, Pearson come out on top more often. He won just over half as many races, but he had about half as many starts. If they had both run every race, the numbers would have been a lot closer, and it's very possible the title "King" could have gone to Pearson.

David Pearson knows the great impact he's made in NASCAR, and knows that he could’ve been more successful than Petty if he had run more full seasons. If the Hall of Fame doesn’t recognize that and prefers to honor a bureaucrat (who I recognize as important to the sport’s growth … but is by no means a first-ballot inductee), then they are missing the point of the Hall of Fame.

It’s not about bureaucrats. Other than Bill France Sr., who deserves entry for starting NASCAR, there shouldn’t be much space wasted on the management (I’m envisioning a nightmare scenario where Brian France is inducted 25 years from now). The Hall is about drivers, car owners and crew chiefs, the people who have made this sport so successful for so many years.

Pearson is an interesting character who doesn’t take these things too seriously (I remember cracking up at his “You big dummy” Fred Sanford T-shirt when he was on TV during a race broadcast earlier this year.)

He knows he deserved to go in the Hall this year, and so do fans who understand the history of the sport, but he's not likely to let it ruin his day.

It’s just too bad the Hall voters decided to shut out the best driver in the sport’s history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Pearson drive and you are right.

October 29, 2009 at 9:37 AM 

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