Parks Omission From HOF Sad, Not Surprising

Brandon Reed

Brandon Reed

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Columns 10/16/09

It really came as no great shock this past week when the names of the first five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame were announced. From the time it was announced that five would be whittled down out of the 25 possible inductees, it was pretty much a pre-conceived notion who the first five would be.

Four out of the five were right on the money, they being Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Bill France, Sr. and Bill France, Jr.  The only wildcard appeared to be if it would be Junior Johnson or David Pearson who would make it in.  Johnson, once dubbed by writer Thomas Wolfe as “The Last American Hero”, won out.

I certainly have no beef with the ones going in.  They all deserve it, despite a twinge of nepotism in having both France’s going in the first year.  But it’s a NASCAR show, so they have to keep their façade about being the ‘first family of racing’ up.

Raymond Parks was honored by the City of Dawsonville and by Dawson County earlier this year.  Photo by Brandon Reed

Raymond Parks was honored by the City of Dawsonville and by Dawson County earlier this year. Photo by Brandon Reed

What annoys me is the seeming lack of understanding that without those that came before almost all of these great men, there would be no reason to have a hall of fame.

And, to be honest, it really doesn’t have to do with the Hall of Fame.  Buz McKim and Winston Kelley have worked hard on the hall, and McKim told me earlier this year they were striving to make sure the “real story” was told, warts and all.

It has more to do with the seemingly ongoing efforts of NASCAR’s PR wing to ignore anything that occurred in the sport prior to 1972.

Case in point, Raymond Parks surely should have been among the first five inductees into the Hall of Fame, because without him, there would be no reason to have the inductees in the first place.

Back before Big Bill began putting NASCAR together, Mr. Parks was an accomplished car owner and one of the first multi-team owners in a fledgling sport called stock car racing.

As the two men crossed paths with France, they became friends, and many times France would lean on Mr. Parks’ financial position to help him keep his racing enterprises afloat.  Mr. Parks was at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach when France formed NASCAR.  His drivers and his cars won the first races and championships in NASCAR.  He brought a level of professionalism to the young sport that no one else did, with his cars prepared immaculately and his drivers dressed in uniforms.

I won’t go into all the points of Mr. Parks’ history, but you can read about it here.

When Mr. Parks walked away from the sport in the mid ‘50s, he had set the standard for all that came after him.  He had won multiple NASCAR championships and races.  He had left an impression that nobody could deny.

But, if you look at the chatter that continually surfaced around the Hall of Fame, you only saw one thing said about Mr. Parks.  That was the fact that he was the first Cup championship car owner.

The NASCAR PR machine has long tried to bury anything that might suggest that anybody other than Big Bill had anything to do with bringing NASCAR into existence.  That’s why there are several very notable names left off the Hall of Fame list of possible inductees.

Bob Flock, pictured left, and Red Byron, pictured right, were both winning drivers for Raymond Parks.  Photo courtesy Eddie Samples

Bob Flock, pictured left, and Red Byron, pictured right, were both winning drivers for Raymond Parks. Photo courtesy Eddie Samples

Where is Red Vogt, the master mechanic who, at that fateful meeting in Daytona Beach, came up with the name NASCAR?

How about drivers like Fonty Flock, Gober Sosebee, Frank Mundy and countless others upon whose backs the sport was built?

What about these men whom Bill France Sr. would constantly suspend on one made up charge or another, then reinstate because he found he couldn’t draw a crowd without them?

They never even got a consideration.

But above them all has to be Raymond Parks.  Without what Mr. Parks did, without the loyalty he showed France and the professionalism he brought to his racing efforts, NASCAR would still be in the stone ages and open wheel racing would continue to rule the land.

But that’s just how it is.  NASCAR has long ignored its history and will continue to do so, it seems.

Meanwhile, those of us who know the real story will continue to shout it from the rooftops, to write about it in newspapers and to tell the people who the real heroes are.

And we’ll keep right on doing it until Raymond Parks and his contemporaries get the recognition they deserve.

Brandon Reed is the webmaster and editor for Georgia Racing History.com.


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