It was a surprise to some that Rusty Wallace was voted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame the first time he was on the ballot. It shouldn't have been. While there are still some big names missing from the Hall of Fame, Rusty Wallace being voted in on the first ballot is well deserved.
If we take a look at the drivers in the Hall of Fame Rusty Wallace may have been the most underrated. He didn't have a big name, he didn't come from the south. Coming from St. Louis, Rusty Wallace was one of the first drivers to come from the mid-west and make it big in NASCAR. Now-a-days there are several drivers from the mid-west, including Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski. They have Rusty Wallace to thank for opening that door.
He came from the mid-west when the sport was dominated by Waltrip, Elliott, Earnhardt, Allison and Yarborough, all southern sweethearts. He was the first driver since 1950 in anything other than a southern state to win a NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship. His 55 career wins have him ninth on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins list. Every driver that is eligible for the Hall of Fame that has more wins than he does are in the Hall of Fame already. There are five drivers with less wins than he does in the Hall of Fame as well. Wallace was next in line.
His wins came in one of the most competitive eras in the sports history. He ran against names like Earnhardt, Waltrip, Gordon, Stewart, Martin, Gant, Elliott, Allison and Johnson. His ten win season in 1993 was one of the best seasons in NASCAR history, but he lost the championship by a mere 80 points to Dale Earnhardt and the flying aces.
He had 15 consecutive seasons with at least one win, which is tied for third in NASCAR history. The two other drivers with more consecutive seasons with a win are David Pearson and Richard Petty, both NASCAR Hall of Famers. That shows no matter what car it was, no matter how much the sport changed and no matter how much his team changed Rusty Wallace was still successful.
He finished in the top ten in points in 17 of 22 full seasons in NASCAR. He will be remembered as one of the sports best short track racers of all time. He won at short tracks, road courses, speedways and more. He was diverse and he was good.
With all that some people still were surprised Rusty Wallace was a first ballot Hall of Famer. If he isn't than who is?
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