Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#KelleysCorner: It Deserves Some Respect

It Deserves Some Respect

As I stood by the stage for the first time at Florence Speedway on an off and on rainy Saturday and watched as each of the new members of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame were introduced, I could not help but feel a real sense of pride. It was history in the making as these great legends received their respective honors.

In late 2010 I was appointed as a member of the NDLMHOF Governing Board. This was an honor that I was certainly quick to agree to and covet. The appointment would allow me to give my input on future nominees and the future of the Hall of Fame itself.  The class of 2011 was the first that I had voted on. I took the voting, as I am sure all of the other voting members do, very seriously. When I received the ballot I studied it quite a bit. I read online and researched those that I wasn’t very familiar with. I think I gave it its due attention and I sincerely believe I voted for the best candidates. All but one of the people I voted for were elected. I attribute that not to my own prowess but to that of the nomination descriptions on the ballot that Bob Markos and Bill Holder provided.

It seems that racing message boards have inspired several of my recent columns and the message I intend to relay in this one is yet another of those. As I perused the net and read over the boards I read many posts that shed a negative light on the Hall of Fame. Some of the posters were asking legitimate questions but most of the detractors were simply ignorant and mean spirited. It made me wonder if any of these keyboard quarterbacks has any idea of the hard work and time that so many have out into it. So I decided to address some of those with this column. I hope it makes some re-think their opinion and at the very least offer an amount of well-deserved respect for the Hall of Fame and those that pour their heart into it.  

For those of you that are not aware the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame is a non-profit entity that was built with and solely survives on donations and fund raisers. Mr. Holder and the entire board have done a remarkable job in building the Hall of Fame building with the very limited amount of funding that they have. The Hall was very fortunate that the King family stepped up and donated the land on which the Hall of Fame building now sits on at Florence Speedway. Arizona Sport Shirts and Gerald Newton have been major contributors to the continued success of the Hall of Fame. And in 2015 Newton was named the new president of the Hall. I am fortunate that I was also asked to continue as a member of the board and even take on a more active role.

Many have questioned the location of the Hall of Fame. But let’s face it Florence is really at the epi-center of Dirt Late Model Racing. When you look at a map and plot the true strongest regions of Dirt Late Model Racing Florence is essentially right in the middle. Some fans have suggested that the Hall of Fame should be located at Eldora Speedway. Yes Eldora hosts the two biggest Dirt Late Model races in the country. Yes it hosts what is considered to be the most prestigious event in the division but Eldora is also a Sprint Car Mecca. If the Hall of Fame were at Eldora I believe that it would lose some of its specialness. At Florence it stands alone as the only other attraction at the speedway. And let’s face it over the last five or so years Florence has laid claim to what most consider the third biggest Dirt Late Model race in the country with the Sunoco North-South 100.

Pic courtesy of Dirt Track Photos by Richard Barnes 

Still others questioned the validity of some of the inductions. While the founding fathers of the Hall of Fame will readily admit that they would do some things different if they had it all to do over again I still suggest that they have done an excellent job with class selections. In order to maintain the objectivity and integrity of the process the Board has enlisted members from all over the United States to nominate and vote for inductees. The group is a diverse and experienced lot that have spent their lives around dirt racing and have developed a well-rounded knowledge of the sport. Just as I did this past year they have poured over statistics and information and voted for the candidates that are most deserving of the honor. In my estimation they have gotten it right for the largest part.

So I submit to you that OUR National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame might not be the nicest Hall of Fame building in racing and it may not be the biggest or best. The National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame is not perfect. But what it is is OURS. But what I can tell you with great certainty is that those that are enshrined within its walls are as proud as any other athlete or contributor to other sports’ halls of fame.  So take the time to walk around the Hall of Fame. Soak in the many photos and newspaper clippings. Check out the cool race cars and artifacts on display. And if you have any love at all for this sport, afford some respect for OUR Hall of Fame. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw a few bucks in the donation box on your way out.