Fresh off the announcement of the next Hall of Fame class, its time to look at today's active drivers and peer into the future.
Which of the current active drivers in Sprint Cup competition will make the Hall of Fame?
Obviously, this is just one man's opinion, but feel free to save this article, then present it to me in 40 years (well, assuming I haven't died of radiation poisoning by then).
|Jimmie was getting ready|
to go to a Bar Mitzvah
after this pic was taken
LOCKS--these are drivers that will make the Hall of Fame soon after they retire, unless they do something completely bizarre like beat up Brian France or steal another driver's hauler, then lie to police about it.
Jimmie Johnson--In fact, I'd wager that Jimmie, Chad Knaus, and Rick Hendrick all make it in, though they'll have to fit it in Chad's hectic schedule of getting suspended.
Matt Kenseth--While a one-time champion, he has enough big-time wins to sooth any irritable voters (and yes, I am imagining Bob Pockrass).
Jeff Gordon--When Jeff finally does retire from full-time competition, it won't be long before he joins the all-time greats in the Hall, and makes all of us who remember his rookie season feel very, very, VERY old.
Tony Stewart--Although it would be funny to see someone block his candidacy.
Bobby Labonte--Here's hoping that the end of his career doesn't mar the fact that he was a big winner until he tragically convinced himself that Petty Enterprises was ready to turn the corner.
Terry Labonte--Not only is he a two-time champ, but he has a decent shot to set the record for shortest acceptance speech.
REALLY GOOD SHOT--These guys SHOULD make the Hall, but a crummy string to end their careers would make for a lively discussion amongst the voters, along the lines of this past year's "Well, do we call a taxidermist about Jocko Flocko?".
|"But I don't WANNA go to the|
Carl Edwards--More "really really good" than great, but would clinch entry with a championship. Here's hoping the Hall can use his Talladega car that went into the catch fence for his display.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.--While he hasn't won much lately, remember that he was a consistent winner early in his career, AND is a two-time Nationwide Series champion. Besides, they can invite Teresa just to make things insanely awkward.
Kevin Harvick--He has a slew of big-time wins, gave back to the sport with his own team, and could undergo a Matt Kenseth-like career revival next season. I think that's enough to outweigh that dumb "flaming smiley face" logo.
Brad Keselowski--My thinking is that all former champions will eventually get in, but Brad seems to be irritating the France family to no end, which could put him in the "Curtis Turner Memorial Shut-Out Spot".
Kyle Busch--Yeah, yeah, I know.
Kurt Busch--Probably the former champion who has the toughest chance to get in, but if/when he does, do they portray him with or without his ear surgery?
Mark Martin--Probably the modern-era's non-champion with the best shot to get in the Hall. Personally, I'd love to see him get in the same year as Richard Childress, just to see the smoke pour out of Mark's ears anytime they show highlights from 1990.
ON THE FENCE--The way things are now, they have a legitimate shot, but it will probably come down to how the voters determine Hall-worthiness in the future. I, for one, can't wait till the public debate on the merits of Gary Bradberry's candidacy.
|"...I can't believe Jack's wearing a|
Clint Bowyer--He's doing alright now, but where will his career be in the future? Still needs a few more years to prove he's not a flash-in-the-Jello-mold-in-the-shape-of-Kansas.
Kasey Kahne--Kasey's been hurt by losing a good chunk of his career to RPM and Red Bull Racing. On the other hand, he's helped by what will hopefully be a long career ahead of him, likely with Hendrick-Gordon-Johnson Motorsports.
Greg Biffle--Greg's had a very solid Cup career, but that's all its been--solid. His Truck and Busch/Nationwide championships help, as does his wooden acting in those "Nascar Green" commercials.
Ryan Newman--His early-career pole runs help his cause, but his lack of winning in the past few seasons doesn't bode well for his future. If he winds up with Front Row Motorsports next season, push this one to "Probably not".
Jeff Burton--Another "good, not great" driver who's obviously helped by his good standing in the garage. And lets be honest--don't we ALL want to hear Jeff be induced by his brother Ward?
Denny Hamlin--Probably has the best shot of all the people in this group, but he still has a ways to go in his career. Doesn't help that his friendship with Michael Jordan could lead to about half-a-dozen "retirements".
Michael Waltrip--The combination of Daytona 500 wins, success as an owner, and media presence likely means that he'll eventually make it in. And yes, I can't stand the fact that I just typed that.
UNLIKELY--These drivers would have to seriously pick things up on-track, marry a France family member, or pay admission to make the Hall for sure.
|He of the puffy hair|
Martin Truex Jr.--Yes, he's a Nationwide Series champion. Yes, he's made the Chase. But he just doesn't win. Anybody with just one more win than Steve Grissom, Robert Presley, and me probably won't make it in.
Paul Menard--One Brickyard win and a previous career of "job-hopping" doesn't make for a great Hall of Fame resume. Then again, what DOES his resume say? ("1998-Present: Worked for Dad).
Jamie McMurray--Even with the big-time wins, Jamie's gone through some pretty long winless streaks. It'll take a return of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing to championship lev--nevermind.
Joey Logano--Even with a pair of wins and a job with a competitive team, you gotta figure that he'll be run out of the sport at this pace by about 2016.
Ken Schrader--Too bad, since his acceptance speech would likely include the fantastic "Dale Jr. Strip Club" Story.
TOO SOON--Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick--they're both just rookies, but both have what it takes to succeed longterm: Ricky's got the talent, and Danica's got the sponsorship.
|Timmy's fire-suit points|
to who Timmy Hill is
NOT GONNA DO IT--Aric Almirola (Denny Hamlin would take over his speech anyways), Marcos Ambrose (could get an exhibit "down under" in the basement), Juan Pablo Montoya (would attract too many Douglas Adams fans anyways), Casey Mears (no gang-affiliations allowed), David Ragan (unless Front Row lives up to its name again), David Gilliland (too pushy), Dave Blaney (too Blaney-y), JJ Yeley (yeah, right), David Reutimann (head will explode when Mikey gets in), David Stremme (sorry, Mom), Travis Kvapil (going to dying teams is not a skill), AJ Allmendinger (better chance at Indy immortality), Scott Speed (better chance at obscurity), Michael McDowell (unless Mike Curb pulls some strings), Timmy Hill (is he even getting paid?), Scott Riggs (made the mistake of associating with me), Regan Smith (unless he becomes this generation's Sam Ard), Brian Vickers (would need a comeback like Mark Martin's second comeback), Trevor Bayne (one hit wonders don't make it in), Landon Cassill (no hit wonders don't make it in either), Joe Nemechek (though Joe 1988-2002 would have a chance), Mike Bliss (sorry).