Ringing in NASCAR’s Class of ’14

Larger than life figures who built NASCAR bolt by bolt from the post-World War II era into to what it is today comprise the 25 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

NASCAR announced those 25 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s fifth induction class, and included among the group are five newcomers whose achievements are cornerstones of the sport’s origins and continue to fuel its growth in today’s times.

Of the 25 nominees, 20 return from last year’s group. Five are first-timers with varying backgrounds in the sport: second generation NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion Dale Jarrett; Maurice Petty, for more than three decades the chief engine builder for Petty Enterprises; five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion Larry Phillips; race track builder and owner Bruton Smith; and 1960 NASCAR premier series champion Rex White.

From that list, five inductees will be elected by the Hall of Fame Voting Panel, which includes a nationwide fan vote on NASCAR.com. Voting Day for the 2014 class will be May 22.

Bruton Smith and Dale Jarrett are the most widely known of the first-time nominees. Smith has built his legacy in the sport by owning eight tracks used by the Sprint Cup Series. Smith built the first four-wide drag strip next door to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He is worth induction for his constant grind to providing a pleasureable experience for faithful race fans.

Jarrett, son of Ned Jarrett, has earned the right for induction for his gentlemanlike style on and off the race track. Dale challenged for wins, but never jeopardized his competitor in the method he raced. Jarrett was dubbed, Gentleman Jarrett, by his peers in 1989. Jarrett is the 1999 NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion and a three-time Daytona 500 winner. Dale has joined the ranks as a broadcaster. His style and comments reflected that of his father.

Smith and Jarrett will add style, character and validation to the Class of 2014.

* NASCAR has cancelled the Pit Crew Challenge this year. Officials were unable to land sponsorship for the event. The event, a staple of NASCAR’s all-star week since 2005, featured pit crews competing in an arena setting where they would jack cars, change tires and push cars across the arena floor. The results of the pit crew challenge had been used to determine the order that teams selected pit stalls for the all-star race.

NASCAR will use qualifying results, as it does for all regular-season events to determine pit-stall selection order for the all-star race, which is scheduled for May 18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Craftsman and then Sprint had sponsored the pit crew challenge throughout the years, but Sprint reallocated its money to sponsor the season-opening exhibition Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona International Speedway.

Officials have said since January that they were looking for a sponsor to continue the event.

* Jimmie and Chandra Johnson announced on April 9 an addition to their expanding family. The couple is expecting their second child in September.

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com