DE­SERV­ING DUO

Wal­lace should win con­tri­bu­tions award; Ham­lin should be en­shrined

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY RANDY HALL­MAN Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch Randy Hall­man

We’ll get to Denny Ham­lin’s lat­est vic­tory and his arc to­ward the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but first let’s look at an­other honor and who de­serves it.

The honor is the My­ers Broth­ers Award, es­tab­lished in 1958 and con­ferred ev­ery year dur­ing the cer­e­monies sur­round­ing NASCAR’s sea­son-end­ing awards ban­quet.

Voted on by mem­bers of the Na­tional Mo­tor­sports Press As­so­ci­a­tion, the award rec­og­nizes an in­di­vid­ual, group or or­ga­ni­za­tion that has made “out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the sport of stock car racing.”

The 2020 win­ner should be Dar­rell “Bubba” Wal­lace.

The only African Amer­i­can driver com­pet­ing in NASCAR’s elite Cup Se­ries, Wal­lace has been at the cen­ter of this year’s swirl of events re­gard­ing racism and jus­tice.

He has pro­vided a much­needed voice, an­chored in his own ex­pe­ri­ence, for fans and par­tic­i­pants of color. And he has been bold and gra­cious.

Un­der­stand­ing the ur­gency of the awak­en­ing much of Amer­ica is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, Wal­lace stepped for­ward and called on his sport to change. It was Wal­lace who un­der­scored the ob­vi­ous when he said NASCAR should ban from its events the Con­fed­er­ate flag, an un­mis­tak­able “you’re not wel­come” sign to so many.

NASCAR re­sponded with an an­nounce­ment that flag is no longer al­lowed at its events and prop­er­ties,

sig­nal­ing that the sport is se­ri­ous about mov­ing for­ward.

Five years ago, NASCAR re­quested that fans no longer fly the di­vi­sive sym­bol, even of­fer­ing an ex­change of an Amer­i­can flag for those who would turn in their Con­fed­er­ate flag. The re­quest and the of­fer were ig­nored by many.

By step­ping into the breach and mak­ing clear what the sym­bol meant to him, Wal­lace helped NASCAR take the as­sertive step it needed to de­clare it­self a sport for all.

Be­fore all that, be­fore the killing of Ge­orge Floyd and the protests that erupted in the af­ter­math, NASCAR was in the news for an­other con­tro­ver­sial mo­ment grounded in racist be­hav­ior. Kyle Lar­son, an enor­mously tal­ented young driver, used the nword dur­ing an iRac­ing event.

In short or­der, Lar­son lost his ma­jor spon­sors, was fired by his Cup Se­ries team and barred from par­tic­i­pa­tion by NASCAR. He could re­turn, NASCAR said, only if he un­der­went sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing.

In this in­stance, Wal­lace showed com­pas­sion. Though hear­ing the word was painful, he said, he ac­cepted an apol­ogy from Lar­son as sin­cere, and he of­fered to help his fel­low driver make his way back to NASCAR racing.

In a way no one else in the sport could, Wal­lace has swung the door open for Lar­son’s even­tual re­turn.

Forthright when NASCAR needed a strong voice to ring out, gra­cious when a com­peti­tor’s NASCAR ca­reer hung in the bal­ance, Wal­lace has ad­mirably ful­filled the My­ers Broth­ers Award cri­te­rion of “out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the sport of stock car racing.”

The My­ers honor was es­tab­lished to honor the mem­ory of racing broth­ers Bobby and Billy. Bobby was killed in a crash in the 1957 South­ern 500. Billy died of a heart at­tack suf­fered dur­ing a race at North Carolina’s Bow­man Gray Sta­dium in 1958.

Bobby My­ers’ son, Danny “Choco­late” My­ers, was a long­time crew mem­ber for car owner Richard Chil­dress’ team that won mul­ti­ple Cup Se­ries cham­pi­onships with Dale Earn­hardt driv­ing.

The Vir­ginia-based win­ners of the award are:

♦ Team-own­ing broth­ers Glen and Leonard Wood in 1968 and again in 1973;

♦ Martinsvil­le Speed­way owner H. Clay Ear­les in 1974;

♦ Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way in 1988 — the year Paul Sawyer over­saw the track’s change from a half-mile to the mod­ern ¾-mile con­fig­u­ra­tion, now known as Rich­mond Race­way;

♦ Long­time team owner Ju­nie Donlavey in 1999.

Now, as promised: About Denny Ham­lin, who won his third Cup Se­ries race of the sea­son Sun­day in re­sound­ing fash­ion at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way.

Now and then, I am asked if I think Ham­lin, whose ca­reer be­gan on Vir­ginia’s short tracks, will make the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I was asked again this week. I can hardly be­lieve it re­mains a se­ri­ous ques­tion. Of course, he’s go­ing to make it. He’s been a lock for years.

With 40 wins now, he’s tied for 19th on the all­time list. Ev­ery re­tired driver ahead of him (and sev­eral be­hind him) on the list is in the Hall. The three who are still ac­tive — Jim­mie John­son, Kyle Busch and Kevin Har­vick — are also locks.

Ham­lin has won on ev­ery kind of track the se­ries runs. He’s won the Day­tona 500 three times, the South­ern 500 twice. Now in his 15th full sea­son, he has driven for the same team owner and kept the same ma­jor spon­sor the en­tire time.

He has yet to win a sea­son cham­pi­onship. Doesn’t mat­ter. Ham­lin will make the Hall.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bubba Wal­lace, shown stand­ing for the na­tional an­them be­fore Sun­day’s Cup Se­ries race at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way, has made a case for win­ning the My­ers Brother Award, which rec­og­nizes out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to stock car racing.

Wal­lace

Ham­lin

NASCARMEDI­A.COM

Manch­ester High grad­u­ate Denny Ham­lin is tied for 19th in vic­to­ries on the Cup Se­ries ca­reer list with 40. He’s won the Day­tona 500 three times.

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