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The 52-member voting panel is made up of eight NASCAR representatives, 11 track owners, 14 media representatives, three manufacturer representatives, four retired drivers, three retired car owners, three retired crew chiefs, four industry representatives and two executives from the Hall of Fame. The 53rd ballot is a fan vote.

The panel spent more than two hours Wednesday in a closed door session debating the 25 nominees, and voters said the discussion was split on contributions to the sport and if NASCAR’s pioneers should make up the first several years of inductees.

“My personal thinking is that the majority of the voters feel we should, the panel, should go back to the roots and honor some of the pioneers first,” said Tom Higgins, who covered NASCAR for 34 years for The Charlotte Observer. “I have no problem with that, although I didn’t vote that way. The five selected are an excellent class. But I don’t know why Darrell Waltrip didn’t make it.

“I don’t think it was personal. I would hope not. But I don’t have any explanation to it other than people wanted to see pioneers get into the Hall first.”

There’s an age issue that Waltrip cited himself. He’s 63 years old and won the bulk of his races in the 1980s.

Moore, a decorated World War II infantryman who won 63 races in his 37-year career as a car owner, is 85. Jarrett, a two-time champion and beloved former broadcaster, turned 78 the day before the vote. Pearson, a 105-race winner, is 75, and Allison, tied with Waltrip with 84 victories earned mostly in the 1970s, is 72.

NASCAR president Mike Helton said he was confident that Waltrip’s exclusion was not personal, but explained that many voters felt a responsibility to electing the sport’s elder statesmen.

“There was a great debate on comparing drivers from the 50s to drivers from the 70s. There were 52 different opinions on what the five should look like and this is how it came out,” Helton said. “I don’t think there were any winners or losers in there, every one of the 25 names on there will end up in the Hall of Fame. It’s just a matter of when, and five is all we had to work with this year.”

Jeff Burton, the voice of reason among active drivers, didn’t view Waltrip’s exclusion as a snub because Waltrip’s qualifications are not in question.

“Time will sort all of those things out. If you’re honored enough to get into the Hall of Fame, you shouldn’t lose sleep about when you got into the Hall of Fame,” Burton said. “The third class in no less important that the second class.”

Try telling that to Waltrip.

“All these people who say you’ll get in sooner than later, well, I sure hope it’s sooner cause this later stuff isn’t much fun,” Waltrip said.