PHOENIX (June 15, 2016) – Johnny Key stood tall among the post-World War II drivers who formed the foundation of stock car racing on the West Coast. He will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame on June 23.
Born May 24, 1924 in Wichita Falls, Tex., Key and his family moved to Salinas, Calif. in 1926. Key attended Salinas High School where he excelled as a swimmer. He worked in the area’s lettuce fields and saw racing as a way to a better life. Key won the first race he entered.
A two-time Racing Roadster Inc. champion in 1947-48, Key was among a handful of drivers convinced by San Jose (Calif.) Speedway promoter Bob Barkhimer to begin competing in modified street cars known as hardtops.
The class was an immediate hit, drawing thousands of fans to Barkimer’s California Stock Car Racing Association, under which the hardtops frequently raced seven days a week throughout much of the state. The CSCRA, its tracks and stars were folded into NASCAR in 1954.
Beginning in 1951, Key won four San Jose titles in five years. In 1952, Key won the state championship along with 54 features plus three “open” events. In August, Key captured eight races in seven days. Earlier, Key won a 500-lap race in San Jose by a whopping 18 laps.
“He was always on top; in a class of his own,” said rival Al Pombo, a fellow 2016 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame inductee.
Key, who hoped to compete in the Indianapolis 500, began competing AAA-sanctioned midgets and was killed in a June 30, 1954 event in Cincinnati, Ohio. A memorial event in Key’s name was instituted less than two months later in San Jose and continues in Northern California.
Key joins John Bickford, Mike Duncan, Al Pombo and Jim Thirkettle in the 2016 WCSCHOF class of inductees.
A limited number of tickets for the 2016 Induction Ceremony can be purchased by calling 661-342-2983.
About the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame:
The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame was conceived in 2001 as a means of recognizing significant contributors and contributions to the sport of stock car racing. The mission of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame is founded to preserve history and heritage of the important role west coast stock car competitors have played in the sport’s development and continuation and to recognize, through annual enshrinement, of outstanding individuals and groups within the sport such as, but not limited to, designers, engineers, mechanics, drivers, race track owners, promoters, publicists and members of the motorsports media.