If anything leads NASCAR media members and race fans alike to disparage any member of the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame class and deny that they are fitting inductees, it is ignorance. Pure, simple ignorance of the great history of the sport we love so dearly and pure, simple ignorance of the men who carried the fledgling NASCAR on its backs in its first two decades of existence.
A case could have been made for any man included on the the list of nominees to be enshrined in the Hall, located in Charlotte, N.C., and contrary to what has been written by many over the past 24 hours, there were no right or wrong answers.
Yes, David Pearson was an obvious choice, as were Bobby Allison and Lee Petty. But the backlash against the selection of Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore over more "fitting" candidates is nothing short of disrespectful.
Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough each had legendary careers. No one can or would even attempt to deny that they do not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. However, to say that Jarrett and Moore are "less deserving" is ridiculous. They are just as deserving as Waltrip and Yarborough, though perhaps through a different mindset than the popular "what does the statbook say?" method.
Statistics are great, and yes, those stats tell part of the story, but they don't tell the entire story of any sport, much less stock car racing which has always been as much about the wide array of characters making up the garage area at any given race track as it has about the numbers they put up.
The stories of Jarrett and Moore are not hard to find; in the age of the internet, such information is a few keystrokes away. Yet, those ignorant to the sport's history and the men who made up the backbone of the fledgling circuit's first two decades disparage Jarrett and Moore perhaps for reason more than that they don't know the stories and the trails these two men blazed, while everyone knows the exploits of "Cale and Ol' DW."
Bud Moore survived the D-Day invasion and helped capture a German headquarters during World War II, then won a championship with Buck Baker as a crew chief and two with Joe Weatherly in 1962 and 1963. He won the Daytona 500 with fellow inductee Bobby Allison in 1978 and up into the mid-1990s, his #15 Ford was still a consistent front-runner, last winning in 1993 with Geoff Bodine at Sonoma.
Ned Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington, his 49th of 50 wins, by 14 laps and was the champion in 1961 and '65. He retired at 34 and became arguably the finest racer-turned-broadcaster in the history of auto racing. His informative analysis and polite, gentle nature made him a fan-favorite. His "World of Racing" program brought the racing news to the masses in a day when television coverage of the entire schedule of races, much less all of the practice and qualifying sessions and the nightly and weekly racing programs and all the information available fans via the internet, was well in the future. He made it possible for other fellow racers, like longtime colleague Benny Parsons, his son Dale Jarrett, and, yes, even Waltrip to seamlessly transition into a role behind the microphone after years of success behind the wheel.
And yet, while there are no right or wrong answers in voting for Hall of Fame inductees, their accomplishments and contributions to this sport are being trashed because the guys people actually know something about without having to educate themselves didn't get in.
Its enough to make any student of the sport cringe. What is next? What legends will next be dissed over their much-deserved enshrinement? Raymond Parks and Red Byron, the first championship-winning car owner and driver in NASCAR's Grand National - now Sprint Cup - division? Curtis Turner, perhaps the hardest-charging, hardest-living man in NASCAR's history? Weatherly, the Clown Prince of NASCARand a two-time Grand National champion who died in the fifth race of his 1964 title defense? Bobby Isaac, winner of 37 races and the 1970 championship and one-time land speed record holder? And what about T. Wayne Robertson, the man who with Junior Johnson brought RJ Reynolds' Winston sponsorship to NASCAR and to whom the NASCAR All-Star race was a brainchild.
As said, its enough to make a student of the sport's history, one who actually takes the time to learn about our sports legends and the wide variety of characters who made it possible for NASCAR to survive for more than six decades, cringe.
It is also enough to make their blood boil.
Ignorance is no excuse. If someone wants their opinion to count, either as a reporter or just as a race fan, they need to take the time to learn about the sport's history. Anyone, especially fans or writers who started watching and/or covering our sport in the national boon, circa 2001-2005 and thus after the eras of Jarrett and Moore, who doesn't make that effort and then acts as though they are experts on why certain individuals are less deserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement, has a problem that stretches far past ignorance.
Take time to study the sport's history. You'll be entertained, no doubt, but you also won't look quite so much like, frankly, a disrespectful clown when you offer up an opinion on something you lack knowledge on.