by: Tim Leeming
There are certain things in this world on which people choose a side and sometimes are so strongly opinionated about their particular side that they cannot be swayed. Believe me, I know exactly from where I speak! However, I have also learned that there are times when listening to others and attempting to see things from their point of view does make a difference.
Each of you take a minute and think about which side you’re on in the following issues:
Pro Choice or Pro Life?
Same Sex Marriage?
Liberal or Conservative?
Now I’m betting that each of you has a strong opinion on each one of those topics. This group that gathers here each Tuesday night and the RacersReunion family as a whole has no problem in expressing their strong opinions on any topic and, for the most part, even when two parties don’t agree, it is usually a cordial ending to the discussions.
My reason from bringing up these issues tonight is to revisit the NASCAR Hall of Fame discussions that have gone on here before. I know; I know; it’s a re-hash of an old issue, but it is one I want to re-visit for just a few minutes after this past week’s induction of the fourth class into the Hall of Fame. As do the issues named above, the NASCAR Hall of Fame draws quite an adamant position from a number of our loyal RacersReunion members, both pro or con. I admit that before Randy Myers invited me to visit with him, I was a detractor of the Hall, as are many of those listening tonight. I admit I still have issues with how things are done to determine the people named to the Hall of Fame, but I’m not running that show. However, having looked at the list of folks who do the work, I’m sure they are doing what they believe to be right, even if I don’t agree. Some of the things I would have done would not be popular either, as I would, for sure, not have included either of the Frances or D.W., Rusty Wallace or Dale Earnhardt. My reason for not including Big Bill and Bill, Jr. is that they should be enshrined as the men who founded and developed NASCAR. Their designation should be separate and distinct. As for D.W., Rusty, and Dale, they do belong in the Hall, but I think it is far too early to have included them, when the inductions are limited to five per year. Any discussion on the lameness of inducting only five per year is sure to raise hackles on both sides so I’ll leave that statement as it is.
What I want you folks to think about tonight is this: When the man or woman you are most adamant belongs in the Hall is finally enshrined, is your opinion on the Hall of Fame going to change? Will you then support the cause? I know this. The feeling in that room Friday night, when the five were being inducted, was as emotional as a Racer can get. Rusty Wallace went over 23 minutes accepting, but even so, it was worth the listen.
I am aware that what I say here about the NASCAR Hall of Fame is not going to change the opinion of anyone who has his mind made up. I know that. I’ve been down that road already. But I just wanted to throw that out there. I feel it is worth my support because if I fail to support it, then those who have been inducted whom I believe are fully entitled to be there, and those I hope yet to be inducted, will somehow be tarnished by the lack of my support.
Shifting gears here, I want to talk about what is coming up in Daytona next week. No, not the racing, but the memories of racing as it was… racing as it started on the beach in Daytona. Victory Lane Racing Association starts a four day celebration there in Daytona on Monday entitled “Back to the Roots”. The Living Legends of Auto Racing will also be involved in events during the week, which include so many things that could take a fan down a path of memories like no video can do. Dargan Watts has worked himself into exhaustion, I’m sure, in his efforts to make these events special. I know because he has kept me up-to-date daily, which I appreciate, and I only wish I could be there for all the happenings. I am certain that everyone in attendance at the events will come away with a sense of having attended a special part of racing history. I know last week we had Russ Truelove and Rhonda Glasnak on the show from the North Turn Restaurant. Just listening to those two talk made me hungry for a breakfast overlooking that historic site. No, I never attended a race on the beach, but I have, many times, walked up and down that beach, trying to imagine what it was like to see and hear those cars racing into the future of a sport destined to become what it has today.
There have been many men and women who have given so much to make this sport significant. To remember those, as the Living Legends of Auto Racing and the Victory Lane Racing Association are doing next week is very special. Maybe, to some, not as special as being inducted into that Hall of Fame in Charlotte, but to my way of thinking, whether or not they are in that particular Hall of Fame, they are forever enshrined in the hearts and memories of fans like me. I’m very happy that I was able to see, first hand, Herb Thomas and Tim Flock, along with all the other stars and pioneers in the sport. For each individual who contributed to the sport, they are in my Hall of Fame.
So, tonight, my congratulations go out to Cotton, Buck, Leonard, Rusty and Herb, and my thoughts go out to all the others who deserve to be included in that select group in Charlotte, with the hope that time will move along to get them in there. But surely, when you visit the Hall of Fame, you will see the names and material memories of almost every driver to ever have turned a wheel in NASCAR’s top division.
Now, to conclude, and this is somewhat of a sour ending, but it needs to be said. NASCAR destroyed the records of all the Late Model Sportsman and Limited Sportsman Series from all the tracks. Records that included names like Joe Penland, Dink Widenhouse, Sam Sommers, and hundreds more. Gone, destroyed, lost forever. We here at RacersReunion were, at one time, attempting to reconstruct those records but ran into road block after road block, not all of NASCAR’s doing, but nonetheless, road blocks that kept us from accomplishing that goal. I understand now, from reports of others and from my own attempt at the new nascar.com website, that even more of what we are trying to preserve is being removed to the recycle bin to be emptied at the appropriate time. This, in my humble opinion, is a crime against history. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like if we had no record of the shot heard around the world…. no record of Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts… no record of a Jewish Carpenter. As important as those historical records are to the existence of this world, so too are the records from the earliest days of NASCAR racing, all divisions, to the sport.
We can offer a special thanks tonight to Alex Beam at Memory Lane in Mooresville for what he does to preserve the history. I’ve said, many times, that going to Memory Lane is a walk back through my life. I hope those in NASCAR will wake up to the fact that what built the sport must be remembered and preserved. Buz McKim, that is your job as Historian there at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte. To each of you listening tonight, or reading this later, it is up to you to post your memories here on RacersReunion. Young Cody Dinsmore continues to amaze me with his dedication to the history of stock car racing in Georgia. We need this kind of dedication to the entire history of the sport. It is up to us to make up for what NASCAR has failed to do. I don’t have all the answers; I’m not even sure of all the questions, but I know that we can’t lose the names and memories of those pioneers who may never grace a plaque in the Hall of Fame, but who are entitled to be remembered for their contributions. Like sands through the hourglass, the memories slip into the bottom receptacle. If there is no one around to flip the hourglass, the sand remains stagnant and useless. Let us not allow our history to slip away like that.
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(Editor’s note: Tim Leeming is a member of the regular cast of the Tuesday evening racing show ” Racing Through History”, presented on Zeus Radio Network by RacersReunion®. Archives can be found by following the link. Live broadcasts can be heard from 7:00-9:00 PM every Tuesday. Please feel free to join us in the RacersReunion® Chat Room for the show.)