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Tue, 2 Sep 2003, 11:59 AM

International Motorsports Hall of Fame
By Norm Froscher





OK, so it's a secret ballot, not to be revealed by Deloitte & Touche, which conducts the vote, to anybody.

But in keeping with this former newspaper sportswriter's long-established practice, dating back to the Associated Press weekly football polls -- the top twenty and then twenty-five teams each -- I feel it's proper, and almost a duty to let interested readers know how I voted and why.

I guess anyone who wishes, however, can obtain the names and addresses of the international panel prior to voting, because I've received mailings thanking me for consideration of this candidate or that.

On this round of voting we were asked to narrow down the field of 22 persons to just five and the top five vote getters will be inducted into the IMHOF at a black-tie ceremony at Talladega in April.

Before I list those five, I'd like to pass along a couple of comments I've made to Jim Freeman, executive director of the Hall of Fame and plugged for some time.

As structured, the Hall is one entity. And among the original list of 130 nominees from which we selected those 22, was a late respected writer, Bloys Britt, of the Associated Press who is honored each year by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Assn. with an award for the most unusual story in its annual media competition. Fitting, because Britt was a most unusual man and talented wordsmith.

But, stop and figure, what chance would he have in a vote that would include, say, Mario Andretti, Bill France, Richard Petty and others from all forms of automotive racing, include boats and airplanes, plus administrators?

Not much, I would say.

So my thought is have a separate wing of the shrine devoted to media, both print and broadcast, such as I believe is the case with baseball and football shrines.

That way, perhaps Britt, the late Ray Marquette, Chris Economaki, the late Bob Latford and members of the broadcast profession would be offered on a more level playing field. They're not competing in the arena -- as neither are administrators -- but could more easily be recognized for their contributions.

I rest my case.

***

Now to those five for whom I voted, in the order they were presented by Deloitte & Touche:

Peter DePaolo. In 1925 he won both the Indy 500 and the AAA Championship as a driver, and much later became a car owner and in 1935 won the Indy 500 and later guided Ford's entry into factory stock car racing.

Bill France, Jr. For more than a quarter century, he guided NASCAR, created by his father, to the top of the professional sporting world. Although retired as president of the sanctioning body since 2000, he chairs a five-member board of directors.

Olivier Gendebien. Early on his driving career he caught the eye of Enzo Ferrari and together they won the 24 Hours of LeMans four times, the Targa Florio three times, the Tour de France thrice, and was the first three time winner of Sebring in 1959-60-61.

Shirley Muldowney. Two drag racers made that cut of 22, the other being the late Lee Shepherd. Hopefully, Lee's time, as well as Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and Raymond Beadle's time will come, but Shirley HAD to be on this ballot. You know her achievements as well as I. Three season NHRA Top Fuel championships, comeback driver of the year, five times AARWBA All-America, et al. You can't keep her off, since the name of the game is achievements. Yeah, Wally Parks, Don Garlits and Don Prudhomme are already enshrined.

Everett “Cotton” Owens. We voted for France Jr. as an administrator, but Owens nod is both as a driver (two NASCAR modified championships, then Late Models ). As a driver he won nine Grand National races, and 40 more times as a car owner.

That's it. Hopefully, you'll notice this ballot has representatives of Indy Cars, Administration, Sports/Formula I, Drag Racing and NASCAR as a driver, owner.

***

Among those I regretted not being able to include are the late Jan Opperman, who in his time raced just about every type car imaginable, on dirt and pavement. For instance, he's reported to have won 42 races in 1972 alone.

Also, the formerly mentioned Shepherd, who won four NHRA Pro Stock titles before his death. Others I pondered over long and hard included Red Farmer,

Harry Gant, Bobby Rahal and Rex White. And Humpy Wheeler -- I couldn't have TWO administrators on one ballot. Hopefully, next time or two around.





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