November 14, 2013
Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick vie to vote for legends of the sport
By David Caraviello
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2013) – Beginning next year, there will be a new voter to help select members to the NASCAR Hall of Fame – the reigning champion of the sport's premier series.
NASCAR announced Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will be added to the Hall of Fame selection panel beginning in May of 2014, when proceedings begin to select the members who will be enshrined in the downtown Charlotte, N.C., facility the following year. According to series spokesman Brett Jewkes, NASCAR will become the first sport to have an active competitor on its Hall of Fame voting panel.
That means either Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth or Kevin Harvick will be added to the panel for next season. Johnson enters Sunday's finale needing only to finish 23rd to secure his sixth title at the sport's top level. Kenseth (28 points behind ) and Harvick (34 behind) are the only other two drivers still mathematically eligible for the championship.
"It's a huge honor and pressure in a different way that none of us have experienced before," Johnson said about being a prospective Hall of Fame voter. "Quickly thinking about it, I think it will help engrain the current champion into the past and understand more about the history of the sport, the people that came before us. I think it's a cool opportunity for whoever the champion is."
Jewkes said further "significant chances" to the Hall of Fame selection and eligibility processes will be announced next month during Champions Week in Las Vegas. At present, a 21-member nominating panel compromised of NASCAR Hall of Fame officials, NASCAR executives and track operators chooses the list of 25 people nominated for election. That group joins a 34-member voting panel, which includes several media members and former competitors, as well as one fan vote for 55 voters.
Beginning next year, the Sprint Cup champion will be added to that group.
"I think it's a cool idea," Kenseth said. "I think anytime anybody asks your opinion, actually listens to it, that's always neat. I think it would be neat to be part of that. I think it probably would also teach us more about the sport. I think we all think we know about it, but I think you'd learn more about it and probably appreciate it more."
At present, former drivers must have competed for 10 years and been inactive for at least three to be eligible for enshrinement. Non-drivers must have worked in the sport for a minimum of 10 years. Harvick believes having an active driver on the voting panel could add a more contemporary view to the process.
"I think as you look at the sport, obviously there's a lot of key participants that have been a part of the sport for a long time," Harvick said. "I think having somebody on that panel that may think a little bit outside of the current known drivers, crew chiefs, team owners, might bring something else to the panel to think about. It's pretty cool."