I’ve been thinking a lot lately about honors given to people who accomplish a lot in a given sport.
Some sports have longstanding, famous halls of fame where just mentioning its hometown means a lot – baseball players talk about being “inducted in Coopertown” as much as using the actual words “National Baseball Hall of Fame.” Similarly, being “inducted in Canton” is synonymous with being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
The most interesting one to me right now is the NASCAR Hall Of Fame in Charlotte, because it are starting from ground zero with its first couple of classes. It hardly seemed fair the first year (2010) when folks who were very obviously going to be in the hall eventually like David Pearson, Ned Jarrett and Darrell “boogity boogity” Waltrip (what a dork!) missed the cut. But such is the nature of having limited classes of inductees each year. Plus, it creates chatter and buzz for following years.
Being a snowmobiling geek, of course my hall of fame thoughts turned to snowmobiling. I went to the Snowmobile Hall Of Fame website and started thinking: “OK, if we had to start over with a blank sheet and have a first-year class – just five racers or racing-related people to induct as our first class, who would I pick.”
Interesting idea for a column, right? Well, my head almost exploded!! Having to pit a Bob Eastman against a Mike Trapp, a Gerard Karpik against a Larry Rugland, a Yvon duHamel against a Stan Hayes, Tim Bender against a Brian Musselman, a Mike Houle against a John Wicht III… well, you get the idea, it’s damn near impossible, and I’ve just touched on a fraction of the racers who are in there now. And that’s before you work in guys behind the sport and the racers like J. Armond Bombardier, Edgar Hetteen, Roger Skime, John Alward…. Again, you’ve got the idea. Just among the 14 names I’ve listed here, go ahead and try to narrow it down to five – it blows one’s mind.
So, I’ve officially chickened out on that blog topic – not forever, maybe, but for today! Instead, here is my list of five CURRENT racers who should be “first ballot” hall of famers when they retire and become eligible. Drum roll please:
- Corey Davidson – the racer from Holt, Minnesota, has won 10 500-mile races — seven Soo I-500s and three cross-country 500s (one when run by ISOC, two under USCC) as the lead or solo driver, and also was a part of another winning Soo team as a relief driver. He’s also won at snocross and laketop ice lemans/cross country. The facts speak for themselves.
- Tucker Hibbert – the son of another hall of famer in Kirk Hibbert, he’s done the seemingly impossible – he started exceeding his father’s fame in our sport. He’s now won six X Games gold medals in snocross, including the last five in a row, and has won 66 national pro snocross finals in 122 starts, while snowmobile racing part time. His domination has threatened to make high-flying snocross boring.
- PJ Wanderscheid – At 27, this Sauk Centre, Minnesota-based Arctic Cat racer is still a pup in oval racing years, but he’s already won an amazing 4 Eagle River World Championships, becoming the first four-timer at the sport’s most prestigious event.
- Craig Marchbank – With so many different classes and types of straighline racing, it’s always difficult to pick one from the field, but this driver from New Lenox, Illinois, is my choice. Unlike the others, I don’t even know where to turn to for stats on all he has accomplished. All I know is that he has been an unbelievably dominating force in all classes he enters for more than two decade on his No. 00 Ski-Doos.
- Jacques Villeneuve – This three-time Eagle River champ has a very long history in the sport. Some folks have poked fun at the fact that he’s been chasing his fourth win at Eagle River now for 25 years (having one in 1980, ’82 and ’86). But his winning percentage at other tracks in unbelievable, and given his longevity in the sport (over 35 years), I think it’s easy to suggest that he’s snowmobile oval racing’s winningest driver.
So there you are – my five, can’t-miss, first-ballot hall of famers among current racers. Yes, I know I have left off many greats in hillclimb and straightline racing. Yes, I know Bryan Dyrdahl has won more cross-country 500s than Davidson, that the pioneers in freestyle aren’t on my list and that some excellent, historic watercross champions didn’t make the cut. I limited myself to five going into it, and that’s where I’m stopping.
Now, I encourage your comments – please, tell me your five, but don’t tell me just who you think I left off without tell me which of the five racers I’ve named should be replaced by your driver.
Let the debate begin!