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NASCAR's new Sprint Cup season Preview: Will the Charlotte kickoff deliver?

   Newest Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough...more than 23 years after his last race (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   It's a Red Carpet weekend for NASCAR in Charlotte.
   The U.S. economy is turning to the positive, finally, and it's Hall of Fame weekend.
   And -- while our issues with the new NASCAR museum are well known -- the increasingly aggressive marketing campaign by those running the Hall could well pay off this year with increased traffic.
   Friday night the NASCAR Hall will show off the newest class of inductees, part of marketing weekend that also features a Saturday-long driver autograph session at the nearby Charlotte convention center.

   It's a full weekend, starting Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and running through Sunday.
   Getting fans into the new Hall has been a battle the last few years, for a number of reasons, so this weekend's marketing foray will be closely watched.
  When R.J. Reynolds was sponsoring the sport, the annual January season preview, held in Winston-Salem, was a hot ticket, with clockwork 25,000 fans for the day-long gala.
   Now NASCAR is putting on the ritz in downtown Charlotte, and filling the entire weekend.
   While NASCAR officials have still not moved fast enough for some in opening up the Hall to more of the sport's legends with a faster track, at least now there will be 15 men in: Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood, Dale Inman and the late Richie Evans this weekend, joining Big Bill France and Bill France Jr., Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore.
   And tying the new Preview with the Hall inductions should be a decided plus.
   However, there's really no reason NASCAR execs, now that they've got a good core group inducted, can't expand the induction process, to feature nominees in various areas, like car owners, crew chiefs, engine men, and industry stars. The manipulative feel to the current process, including the questionable nomination and voting system, may be creating a negative image for the Hall.


Dale Inman, the crew chief who won more NASCAR races than any other...and now finally in the Hall of Fame (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   This sport has been around since 1947, and there are certainly more than 15 men who got us to this point.
   And here's a list of men who clearly need to be in the Hall sooner rather than later, men who made a big, big difference in the evolution of NASCAR racing:
   Banjo Matthews, car designer extraordinaire and a true sage
   Smokey Yunick, who ran The Best Damned Garage in Daytona, and more
   Jim Hunter, the commonsense power behind the throne
   T. Wayne Robertson, Ralph Seagraves and Jerry Long, the legendary R. J. Reynolds men who helped save the sport in its darkest hours and who helped market it into a national sports power
   There are of course so many Hall of Fame drivers:
   Fireball Roberts
   Alan Kulwicki
   Wendell Scott
   Benny Parsons
   Neil Bonnett
   Tim Richmond
   Rusty Wallace
   LeeRoy Yarbrough
   Bobby Isaac
   Bill Elliott
   Curtis Turner
   Herb Thomas
   The Flock brother, Fonty, Tim and Bob
   The Bakers, Buddy and Buck
   Red Byron
   Joe Weatherly
   Jerry Cook
   Fred Lorenzen
   Jack Ingram
   A. J. Foyt
   Harry Gant
   Ray Hendrick




   Engine builder Robert Yates, a true genius, and certainly a Hall of Famer....eventually. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   But without great team owners, like:
   John Holman and Ralph Moody
   Raymond Parks
   Junie Donlavey
   Carl Kiekhaefer
   Roger Penske (a track owner too, remember)
   Jack Roush
   Rick Hendrick
   Richard Childress
   Ray Fox Sr.

   And crew chiefs and engine builders:
   Leonard Wood
   Harry Hyde
   Maurice Petty
   Robert Yates
   Harold Elliott

   And track promoters:
   Riverside's Les Richter
   Martinsville's Clay Earles
   Richmond's Paul Sawyer
   Charlotte's Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler
   New Hampshire's Bob Bahre
   Bristol's Jeff Byrd
   And of course Indianapolis' brave and bold Tony George

   Journalists too, particularly:
   Chris Economaki
   Barney Hall

   And what about television?
   Without ESPN's coverage in the 1980s, when no one else really wanted to cover NASCAR in any depth, the sport wouldn't have been ripe for the mid-1990s explosion. But is there a name here, a key? Not sure.
   However there is one TV figure who has clearly earned a spot in the Hall, for taking NASCAR to 'the next level,' and that's Fox' David Hill.

   Now, whom have we missed?

    Junior Johnson (C) made the first class of NASCAR's new Hall of Fame. Legendary promoter Humpy Wheeler (L) and NASCAR media whiz Jim Hunter (R) both deserve spots too eventually. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   The driver appearance schedule for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup tour Preview
   (following a two-hour Junior Johnson breakfast with fans, from 7 a.m.)

   In the Convention Center Ballroom:
   9:15 -11:15 a.m. – Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth
   10:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. – Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson
   11:45 a.m. - 1:45 p.m. – Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski
   12:15 - 2:15 p.m. – Greg Biffle
   12:30 - 2:30 p.m. – Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman
   2:45 - 4:45 p.m. – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya
   3:15 - 5:15 p.m. – Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart
   In the Exhibit Hall:
   9 - 11 a.m. – AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, David Ragan, Justin Allgaier, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Timmy Hill, Blake Koch, Travis Pastrana, Timothy Peters
   11 a.m. - 1 p.m. – Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Brian Scott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Sweet, Cale Gale, Justin Lofton, Todd Peck
   12:30 - 2:30 p.m. – Michael Annett, Johanna Long, Elliott Sadler, Mike Wallace, Dakoda Armstrong, Johnny Sauter, Parker Kligerman, Brian Keselowski, Chrissy Wallace, Michael Waltrip, Jason Leffler, Todd Bodine
   2:30 - 4:30 p.m. – Danica Patrick, Scott Speed, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Morgan Shepherd, Kenny Wallace, Steven Wallace, Joey Coulter, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Tim George Jr., Max Gresham





I just thought they should

I just thought they should induct every 3 or 6 months at first...then slow it down to 5 a year. That way they still have the 5 at a time getting their due and own ceremony...but we get the 50 (that it's a joke to not call them hall of famers) in quick enough to have a respectable hall. I know enough about the hall to know that what you're going to see isn't the Names but the exhibits, but it certainly must have seemed silly to "Plan to visit" a hall with only 5 people (and 2 were Frances and 1 was probably not remembered by many fans as having been a driver)

Now that Richie is in I hope I can convince my dad to take the ride from Connecticut some weekend..I really don't want to drive down by myself.

I think the reason they

I think the reason they started with 5 and are keeping to the plan is that if it stays afloat financially it'll be 30/40 years until they don't have anybody to induct or they start putting everybody in.

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