|NASCAR changes Hall-of-Fame eligibility process|
|Thursday, December 05, 2013 9:15 PM|
LAS VEGAS — NASCAR announced sweeping changes to the Hall-of-Fame election process Thursday, including tweaks that make Bill Elliott and Mark Martin immediately eligible for enshrinement.
Among the six changes: Drivers are now eligible if they have competed for 30 or more years in NASCAR or turned 55 in the calendar year before nominating day. Previously, drivers were not eligible until they had been retired for three years, so drivers can continue to compete and still reach the hall.
Martin, winner of 96 races across NASCAR’s three national divisions, has no plans at this time to race next year after 31 seasons in the Sprint Cup Series.
Elliott, winner of the 1988 Cup title, is 58 but raced as recently as 2012. Two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte ran in five races in 2013 but is 57 and has competed in Cup for 36 years.
Other drivers immediately eligible for Hall of Fame consideration include 4-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., who still competes at age 55, and Ken Schrader, who announced last month’s season finale at Homestead was his final race after 30 seasons.
The ballot will also include only 20 nominees, down five from the first five classes.
Also, any member of the nominating committee or voting panel who appeared on the previous year’s ballot or current year’s ballot will now be recused from participation in the nominating or voting process while they are on the ballot. Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, Junior Johnson are active Hall-of-Fame voters and were on the panel when they were elected.
Jerry Cook is a present voter and has consistently been on the ballot.
Those were the only direct changes to enshrinement as NASCAR passed on forming a veterans’ committee or if fewer than five should be inducted each year.
“We have decided that that time has not yet arrived but we will give strong consideration to revisiting both of those propositions after the 10th class is seated,” said chief communications officer Brett Jewkes. “This year we’ll be seating the fifth class. Long story short, those are viable things. There was a lot of debate, a lot of discussion, but we’ve made the decision that we won’t revisit those until the 10th class is seated.”
NASCAR has also established the “Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions” that will begin with the 2015 class. Potential recipients could include competitors or those working in the sport as a member of a racing organization, track facility, race team, sponsor, media partner or being a general ambassador.
Landmark Award winners will remain eligible for induction. Five nominees for the Landmark Award will be selected by the hall’s nominating committee. The winner must appear on at least 60 percent of the ballots.
Beginning next year, the nominating committee will meet in person to create its ballots for both the Hall of Fame and the Landmark Award. The committee previously submitted nominees via mail to an independent accounting firm.
The nominating committee will meet Feb. 21 in Daytona.
NASCAR previously announced that the reigning Sprint Cup champion will be an eligible Hall-of-Fame voter starting with the 2015 class. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson will be the first active driver to cast a ballot in voting next year.
All of the changes were made after NASCAR examined the election process via discussions with current panelists.
“A couple things we learned through this process is that our process right now is incredibly strong and comparable to other sports’ halls of fame,” Jewkes added. “We feel very strongly about the strength of our process,and that’s been borne out in the fact that we have five classes that we think are an exceptional reflection of the history of the sport. What came out of this process, it really magnified the caution we should take in comparing ourselves to other sports’ halls of fame.
“Bottom line is our sport is very unique, the industry is very unique, the structure of our ownership and competition and the feeder series and everything in our sport is very, very unique, and therefore our process will always be a little bit unique.”
NBC Sports adds Rick Allen to NASCAR booth
LAS VEGAS — NBC Sports Group has named Rick Allen lead race announcer for its coverage of NASCAR.
Allen will join driver Jeff Burton in the booth for coverage that begins in 2015. The third member of the broadcast team has yet to be announced.
Allen is currently Fox Sports’ race announcer for NASCAR’s Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series. Allen also does a wide range of voice-over work for companies including Goodyear, Sears, Alltel and Toyota.
Allen competed in the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials as a decathlete and began his broadcasting career in 1994 as the public address announcer at Memorial Stadium during University of Nebraska football games.
NBC has the rights to the final 20 Sprint Cup Series races and 19 Nationwide Series races.
2014 calendar has F1 and NASCAR in Texas same day
AUSTIN, Texas — Formula One and NASCAR will be racing deep in the heart of Texas on the same day next year.
The FIA, international motorsports’ governing body, released its 2014 calendar, placing the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin on Nov. 2. That’s the same day as the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, a 3-hour drive from Austin.
“It’s a foolish move by Formula One,” said Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway. “Our two NASCAR Sprint Cup races draw the two largest crowds in Texas sports. It isn’t the smartest move to try to compete with that. I’m sure regardless of what they say publicly, the folks at the Austin track are pulling their hair out over this one. They don’t have any say over their date. “
Texas Motor Speedway says it has the capacity for up to 191,000 fans. Track officials did not immediately respond to requests for attendance figures for their 2013 Sprint Cup races and NASCAR does not provide them.
The U.S. Grand Prix had an announced a crowd of 113,162 for the Nov. 17 race, down slightly from the 117,429 at the inaugural race in 2012.
Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein called the date a “beautiful time of year to visit Austin” and downplayed competition between the races.
“Due to the large number of NASCAR events scheduled annually, there will occasionally be overlaps with events at Circuit of The Americas and that will happen next year,” Epstein said. “However, there are few similarities between a NASCAR race and the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend we have developed. We see this as a great opportunity to draw sports fans from around the world to Texas and to proving again that Austin is the place to enjoy premium racing and entertainment.”
The Nov. 2 date for the 2014 U.S. Grand Prix allows F1 to avoid a crush in Austin similar to this year when the race was held the same weekend as a University of Texas home football game. The provisional race calendar initially had the U.S. Grand Prix on Nov. 8, the same weekend Texas is scheduled to play West Virginia at home, which would have again stretched the city’s ability to provide hotel space and transportation.
Texas Motor Speedway has already juggled the schedule for its April race weekend, moving its planned Sprint Cup race from the night of Saturday, April 5, to Sunday, April 6, to avoid a sporting conflict with the NCAA Final Four in nearby Arlington.
As expected, the F1 calendar dropped plans to race in Mexico City and New Jersey, leaving Texas and Montreal as the only North American stops on the international circuit. Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had said last month he didn’t expect either race to be on the 2014 calendar but hoped to have them in 2015.
Plans for the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey had it running on a 3.2-mile street circuit running along the Hudson River with the New York City skyline as a backdrop. Race promoter Leo Hindery Jr. said he’s working to restructure the financing in order to race by 2015.
Other developments on the 19-race F1 calendar include adding races in Austria (June 22) and Russia (Oct. 12) and dropping the race in South Korea.
The season will start in Australia on March 16 and will end in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 23 instead of the usual finale at Interlagos in Brazil.
Sebastian Vettel of Germany won his fourth consecutive world title last season. In 2014, F1 will change from the current 2.4-litre V8 engines to a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged unit.