Posted February 6, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Murto: A closer look at NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees


NASCAR's Hall of Fame inductees for 2013 will be honored tomorrow night, and SPEED Channel will broadcast the ceremony live at 7:30 p.m.

The five inductees are Herb Thomas, Leonard Wood, Rusty Wallace, Cotton Owens and Buck Baker. Thomas was NASCAR champion in 1951 and '53, driving his own cars in '51. Wood was the chief mechanic and engine builder for the Wood Bros. racing team from Stuart, Va., which revolutionized pit stops in both stock car racing and at Indy. Rusty Wallace was the 1989 champion, and Cotton Owens was an owner/driver who won nine races in NASCAR's top division and finished second to Lee Petty for the 1959 title. Buck Baker was the first to win consecutive titles in '56-'57 and finished his career with 46 wins.

Nominated but overlooked was Wendell Scott, the black driver from Danville, Va., who ranks as the only African-American to win in NASCAR's top division. That win occurred in 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla. As the story goes, Scott knew he won the race but was shocked when officials at the track awarded the win to the second-place finisher. After an appeal Scott finally got the win, but it's been said he never got the trophy. That reportedly stayed in the hands of the runner-up.

Scott was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999, and NASCAR awards scholarships to students in primarily minority colleges in his name.

If it weren't for Jeremy Mayfield, NASCAR could offer an annual award for wasted talent in the name of Tyler Walker.

Walker, now 33, has incredible talent behind the wheel of a race car. He was a winner on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car circuit before jumping into stock cars and competing in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. But in 2007 NASCAR suspended the talented driver for violating its drug policy. He was never reinstated.

He continued to race Sprint Cars, even winning the prestigious Kings Royal at Ohio's Eldora Speedway in 2011, taking home $50,000 of track owner Tony Stewart's money. But on Jan. 30 Walker may have written the final chapter of his racing career.

That's the day he was arrested after allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase on I-15 through Nevada, Arizona and Utah. He was charged with driving with an open container and transporting alcohol across state lines, evading police, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, possession of amphetamine, possession of cannabis and driving under the influence. It is reported that when Walker's B

It's very sad when tremendous talent is flushed down the drain. Six or seven years ago people expected big things out of Walker, as they do out of young drivers such as Kyle Larson and Chase Elliot today.

Sometimes racers' careers just don't go the way they thought they would. Take AMA Supercross rider James Stewart.

A few years ago the talented rider signed a deal to ride for Joe Gibbs racing, a deal that was supposed to include opportunities to race cars. But then the team and rider split up, and Stewart has never really reached his potential. He hasn't had a podium finish since March 2012 at Daytona, and although he's been the fastest qualifier at four out of five Supercross events this season, he's finished outside the top 10 twice. His best finish is fourth, last weekend at Anaheim, Calif.

The series' third visit to Anaheim made history as the KTM of Ken Roczen won the 2450 class and Ryan Dungey won the 450 event, marking the first time KTM has swept a Supercross event.

Dungey's win was particularly impressive, as a shock broke on the starting line in his heat, forcing him to race into the event in the Last Chance Qualifier. At the start of that race some riders crashed in front of him, forcing him to come from the back and grab the final qualifying spot in short order. In the feature he beat point leader Davi Millsaps and Justin Barcia to the finish.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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