Commentary

Wendell Scott nominated for '13 class

Updated: April 11, 2012, 7:39 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The 21-person nominating committee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame should be applauded for making Wendell Scott one of five newcomers to be considered for the class of 2013.

Scott was a trailblazer as the first and only African-American driver to win a race in NASCAR's top series, although he didn't get recognized initially for his 1963 win because of the racial prejudices of the day, and the word "trailblazer" seems a bit empty since there is no African-American driver in the Sprint Cup Series today.

[+] EnlargeWendell Scott
Getty ImagesWendell Scott became the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR Cup race in 1963.

But Scott should be on the list. One could argue he should have been on the list the past couple of years.

It's hard to argue against adding legendary engine builder and owner Ray Fox; promoter Ralph Seagraves, who engineered the Winston-NASCAR relationship that took the sport to new heights; and 1989 Cup champion Rusty Wallace.

But Anne Bledsoe France as the first female nominee?

Nothing against the wife of NASCAR founder Bill France. She was the sport's first secretary and treasurer, and you can bet "Big Bill" liked keeping the family finances in-house.

Perhaps one day, many years from now, she'll deserve to be among Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and others who already grace the Hall.

But if you're going to add a female candidate to the list of 25 names that will be considered for the fourth class, there are better places to start.

How about Janet Guthrie, who in 1976 at the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway became the first woman to compete in a superspeedway event, who in 1977 became the first woman to qualify for the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, and who has her helmet and firesuit in the Smithsonian Institute?

How about Sara Christian, who in 1949 drove in NASCAR's inaugural race at Charlotte, who in seven Cup races had two top-10s, whose fifth-place finish in Pittsburgh in 1949 was the best by a female driver in a major NASCAR event until Danica Patrick finished fourth in last year's Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas?

How about Louise Smith, who ran in 11 Cup races between 1949 and 1952 and earned the nickname "The First Lady of Racing" for her willingness to race anything with wheels?

That Anne France is on the list shouldn't surprise, though. The selection committee is comprised mostly of NASCAR's hierarchy, including chairman Brian France and vice chairman Jim France.

These are the same people who pushed to get Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr. into the inaugural class of five, leaving arguably the greatest driver in the history of the sport -- yes, Pearson -- out.

You've heard about controlling interest in a company? Meet the controlling interest for NASCAR's Hall of Fame.

Getting four out of five right isn't bad, though. LeBron James would take that percentage from the free throw line right now.

So who should have been nominated ahead of Anne France, if not one of the aforementioned women? How about Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith? Despite the mistake of reconfiguring Bristol Motor Speedway that he has vowed to correct, Smith has built SMI into one of the most powerful entities in NASCAR.

He introduced condominiums, VIP suites and club-like restaurants to tracks. He has spent more than $4 billion in purchasing and upgrading the company's eight tracks that host 12 Cup events.

His upgrades have forced other tracks to upgrade their facilities.

But Smith also has ticked off many on the 21-member panel, so his omission is not a surprise, either.

How many of this year's Fab Five really have a shot at getting into the class of 2013 when the 52-member voting panel -- along with the fan vote -- gets together on May 23 to select the five newest members?

One could make a case for Scott as a pioneer. He's easily the most successful black driver in the history of the sport with 20 top-5s and 147 top-10s in his 495 Cup races.

How he defied odds under extreme racial prejudices is as compelling as any story the sport has witnessed.

But after Scott, none of the newcomers belongs in the next class. My five would be Scott, Rick Hendrick, Raymond Parks, Cotton Owens and Buck Baker.

A couple of those you can debate. Hendrick you cannot. His 199 Cup wins and 10 Cup titles alone rank him second only to Richard Petty, a member of the inaugural class.

Some argue that active owners shouldn't be considered just like active drivers aren't. That concept simply is wrong. Hendrick might be an owner until he's 90 years old. Is making him wait worth the risk of him or any other deserving owner not being alive to enjoy the moment?

Remember Parks? Some thought he should go into the first or second class. He died before the second HOF class was announced in 2010.

But for the same reason Anne France made the list of 25, Hendrick may be forced to wait. He did make the governing body -- many on the 21-person nominating committee -- look bad recently when the chief appellate officer for the sport's appeal process overturned most of the major penalties against Jimmie Johnson's team for a Daytona 500 infraction.

Nobody ever said this was an exact science.

But four out of five's not bad.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter