- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - It was foolish for Darrell Waltrip to participate in the live broadcast of last year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame voting day, when he was publicly humiliated by being snubbed from the five-member second class.

Waltrip was stoic on the air, but as the color drained from his face as the inductees were announced, his exclusion clearly wounded him.

He’s likely to be much more low key Tuesday. That’s when the 55-member voting committee meets at the Charlotte Convention Center to elect five inductees for the third class. Waltrip isn’t scheduled to be part of Speed’s coverage this year.

Of course, Waltrip should have little to worry about because his statistics _ along with Cale Yarborough’s _ should get both easily elected into the Hall.

If only it were that easy.

“Nothing is guaranteed when the voters get together,” said Dustin Long, a reporter for Landmark Newspapers who has been part of the panel since the inaugural 2010 class.

“The fate of Darrell Waltrip or Cale Yarborough could rest on if voters decide honoring the sport’s pioneers is more important. If so, that could take a few spots from the five-man class. Throw in a wild card that might slip into the class and the chances could be more difficult for both Waltrip and Yarborough.”

That’s the reality facing Waltrip and Yarborough. Both missed out on last year’s class despite having nearly identical _ if not better _ statistics than Bobby Allison, who was elected.

Allison went in with 84 victories and one NASCAR championship. Waltrip, with 84 wins and three titles, and Yarborough, with 83 wins and three titles, were left out. Their careers so similar, it would seem that Waltrip and Yarborough are locks this time.

But back up to last month’s induction ceremony, and it was clear that many on the voting panel have agendas.

After Allison, David Pearson, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore finished their acceptance speeches, they were asked who should be included in the next class. The plugs went to pioneering car owners like Cotton Owens and Raymond Parks, or Richie Evans and Jack Ingram, drivers who dominated lower NASCAR divisions.

The qualifying criteria seemed to be unanimous: Elect the old guard while they are still alive to enjoy it.

“They need to get those … guys in there at least before it’s too late,” said Pearson, the leading vote-getter in the class inducted last month, who endorsed Owens, Parks, and Raymond Fox, who isn’t among the 25 nominees. “I thought they ought to have Parks in there the first time. But now it’s too late for him. I just don’t want them to wait too late because they would never know it.”

So where does that leave Waltrip and Yarborough?

The veterans of NASCAR strongly believe that pioneers should be elected, particularly while they are still alive. Parks, owner of the car Red Byron drove to the first NASCAR championship in 1949, died a month after the inaugural induction ceremony and many of the “old-timers” regret not getting him into the Hall before his death.

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