Throughout its brief history, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has had a way of being immersed in controversy. That was once again the case when the list of 25 nominees for the Class of 2013 was released on Wednesday.
This time, the debate focused on one noted omission.
Whether you like him or not – or often find yourself put off by his bluntness – there is no denying Bruton Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., deserved to have his name among the other nominees.
Smith, through his tireless promotion and willingness to spend money, has done as much – if not more – than anyone not named France or Petty to help NASCAR transform from a small, niche Southern sport into one that now has ratings which rival the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.
Chief among Smith's accomplishments? He was one of the co-founders of Charlotte Motor Speedway – one of NASCAR's crown jewel tracks. In addition, he paved the way in introducing first-class accommodations at racing facilities, including restaurants, suites and even condominiums to a once-rural, backwoods sport.
He also was responsible into expanding Bristol Motor Speedway to what it is today and built Texas Motor Speedway from the ground up into a venue now regarded as one of the finest venues in all of sports.
All told, Smith has spent billions acquiring and improving six other tracks which host a combined eight Sprint Cup Series races.
However, due in large part to his candor and blustery nature, Smith has made many an enemy within the NASCAR community – particularly with those within NASCAR who make the day-to-day decisions and often felt Smith was out for his own good to the detriment of the sport.
Whether that played a role in Smith's exclusion is open to debate, but it certainly hasn't helped his cause.
By no means am I demanding the gates of the Hall of Fame be swung open immediately for Smith. But at the very least, his credentials are certainly such that he deserved to be among the 25 nominees announced Wednesday. From there, we will leave it up to the voting panel to decide whether Smith deserves a plaque in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
But not to even include his name on the list of this year's nominees is misguided. Worse, it makes everyone associated with NASCAR as a whole look ill-informed.
At the end of the day, there is no denying the fact you simply cannot write the history of NASCAR without mentioning Smith's prominent role in it.
It's too bad the nominating committee didn't feel the same way.