PHOENIX – The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame has inducted its 2015 class, enshrining six new members during June 25 ceremonies at the Meritage Resort in Napa, Calif.
The 2015 class is comprised of Jerry Baxter, John Cardinale, Jason Leffler, Warren Razore, Doug Richert and Jim Williams. The latest ceremony brings the Hall’s membership to 129.
Baxter and Richert are longtime NASCAR crew chiefs. Cardinale was the vice president of media and community relations at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Leffler won multiple U.S. Auto Club championships and was a NASCAR national series competitor. Razore, a Seattle businessman, owned the team that carried Roy Smith to the 1988 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship. Williams co-invested in a number of race track ventures including the now-Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway with Roger Penske and the Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
Baxter was inducted by his former team owner Michael Waltrip. “I always thought of Jerry as a car guy,” said Waltrip. “When (something) didn’t work, he fixed it.” Baxter, who won NASCAR XFINITY Series races with Waltrip and David Reutimann, currently is crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports, helming the No. 51 Toyota Tundra for Busch, Daniel Suarez and Matt Tifft in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Cardinale, who passed away following a lengthy illness in 2013, was inducted by Bryan Sperber, president of Phoenix International Raceway. His award was accepted by Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway, who hired Cardinale in 1998.
The enshrinement of Cardinale, who passed away in 2013, included announcement of the John Cardinale Excellence in Media Award. Eligible recipients are members of the media who cover the industry as well as public relations professionals.
“He was as good as it gets in this business,” said Page. “He had a passion for the track and what he did, along with a great sense of loyalty to the people he worked with.” Cardinale previously covered motorsports for the The Antioch (Calif.) Ledger.
Leffler, who died in a June 2013 sprint car accident, was inducted by the Hall of Fame board member Laree Renda. His award was accepted by retired USAC Vice President Tommy Hunt Jr. Leffler spent 12 seasons in NASCAR’s three national series finishing among the top 10 in XFINITY Series points in five consecutive seasons.
Leffler grew up in the shop of West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame member and Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, who wrote in a letter read during the induction that “Jason was a racer at heart.”
Ken Clapp, chairman of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame board of directors, inducted Razore, whose award was accepted by the late owner’s son Jeff. Razore passed away in 1999. Clapp said Razore was more than an owner.
“His willingness to step up to sponsor big events, especially at Evergreen (Wash.) Speedway, can’t be measured,” said Clapp. “He brought a whole, new dimension to (the K&N Pro Series West.”
Said Jeff Razore, “He was a man of few hobbies; he loved his racing.”
Richert, who won a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 1980 with Dale Earnhardt, was inducted by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip, for whom he served as crew chief.
Richert’s Rod Osterlund-owned team was able to get the best of Waltrip and Junior Johnson – and later became a part of that organization.
“He helped us win a couple of championships,” said Waltrip of Richert, who left San Jose, Calif. at the age of 16 to race on the east coast. “This isn’t a hall of just okay or good guys. They don’t vote on people who haven’t done great things.” Richert currently is the crew chief for BK Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Williams was inducted by Walt Czarnecki, vice chairman of Penske Racing. Williams spent most of his adult life working himself up to president of Golden States Foods, acquiring the public company through a private transaction in 1980. He began a relationship with Roger Penske in 1988 that continues today.
“He grew up in Los Angeles where the car culture was a rite of passage,” said Czarnecki, noting that Williams attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1957 as a high school graduation present. “Irwindale was the gold standard. What Jim did with Irwindale kept short track racing alive in Los Angeles.”
Williams said he was “humbled and flattered” at his induction into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. “I’ll never forget this evening,” he added.
The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s next class will be inducted in June 2016, the date to be determined.