NASCAR announces changes to Hall of Fame eligibility

1 Comment

Multiple changes have been announced this morning by NASCAR regarding drivers’ eligibility for being elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Going forward, drivers that have competed for at least 10 seasons and have turned 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the year prior to the nominating year are eligible.

Additionally, drivers that have competed for at least 30 seasons (again, on or before Dec. 31 of the year prior to the nominating year) are now eligible regardless of age. Drivers also can continuing competing after surpassing those milestones without compromising eligibility.

These tweaks in particular will widen the pool of potential inductees as Sprint Cup legends such as Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, and Terry Labonte are now in line for induction.

Other tweaks were made in regards to naming nominees for the Hall of Fame. The nomination committee’s ballots will now select just 20 nominees each year, down from its previous mark of 25.

Also, the committee will now meet in-person to vote on those nominees; previously, the committee had submitted their choices to an independent accounting firm that tallied the nominations to create the final ballot. Hall of Fame nominees are now recused from the nominating and voting process as well.

The Hall of Fame will also create a new “Landmark Award,” which will go into effect with the Class of 2015. The award will recognize outstanding contributions to the sport and winners can range from competitors to those working in the sport in other roles (racing organization, tracks, media, sponsors, et al.).

Five nominees will be chosen for the “Landmark Award” and will then be voted on by the Hall of Fame’s voting panel.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

Leave a comment

Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994