PHOENIX – John L. Bickford and Anthony (Tony) La Russa have been elected to the board of directors of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
Their election was announced at Phoenix Raceway on March 19, concurrent with the naming of the Hall of Fame’s 2007 class of six inductees.
Bickford, 70, is the step-father, mentor and manager of NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon. The Napa, Calif. native was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in June 2016.
Bickford purchased a quarter-midget race car for Gordon, who began racing at small, California dirt tracks at the age of five. Gordon was ready to compete in sprint cars at age 13 but because of age restrictions, could not race in his native state. Bickford and his wife Carol made the decision to move the family to Indiana, where Gordon’s career quickly ascended.
Although the family had hoped to continue an open wheel career trajectory to the Indianapolis 500, Gordon ultimately took a different path to stock cars – with Bickford’s advice on signing with Hendrick Motorsports and choosing crew chief Ray Evernham a key to his step-son’s success both on and off the track.
A Forbes magazine profile described Bickford – who had no formal education in marketing, public relations or broadcasting - as “unusually optimistic, diligent, observant and conscientious about details.”
La Russa is a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, having spent 33 years as a Major League Baseball manager. He managed the Oakland A’s to the World Series championship in 1989 having previously won three consecutive American League titles.
In 1990, La Russa joined the St. Louis Cardinals and led the team to three National League championships and the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles. His 2,728 wins as a major league manager ranks third all-time.
Following retirement, La Russa became an executive with Major League Baseball and currently is a front office analyst the Arizona Diamondbacks club.
La Russa, 72, and his wife Elaine are the founders of Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif., which saves abandoned and injured animals as well as running programs to bring dogs and cats to abused children, hospital patients, seniors and shut-ins.
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.
The Hall of Fame currently exists in digital form. Information about enshrinement, sponsors, news releases and photos and archives can be reviewed at the Hall’s Internet site -- www.westcoaststockcarracing.com. The Hall’s future goal and mission is to share with the public - at various locations to be determined - displays of information about its enshrinees and various artifacts pertinent to the sport such as records, archival material, photos, race cars and driver attire such as uniforms and helmets.
Owen A. Kearns
West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Board of Directors
Fax – 661-735-5548
PHOENIX – The 2017 class of seven West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame inductees touches virtually every corner of the motorsports universe from NASCAR and USAC stock cars, the Indianapolis 500, off roading, world endurance racing and California hardtop competition.
The organization’s newest inductees – Walker Evans, Michael Gaughan, Joe Leonard, Gene Price, Scott Pruett, Frank Secrist and Kenneth (Kenny) Takeuchi – were announced March 19 prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway.
Induction of the Class of 2017 will take place June 22 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. during Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series/K&N Pro Series West weekend.
“Without a doubt, this is our most eclectic group of inductees,” said Ken Clapp, West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame chairman of the board. “The history of stock car racing comprises a variety of disciplines and can’t be confined to a single type of car, track or sanctioning body.
“This year’s class defines motorsports excellence, from the deserts of Mexico, the rough and tumble golden years of dirt track competition to the world’s greatest and most famous superspeedways and road courses. This year’s vote was among the closest in our organization’s history making it extremely difficult to choose the finalists from the original list of 24 nominees.”Evans, a first-year nominee, has won truck racing championships in a variety of disciplines: desert, Mickey Thompson Stadium Series and short course racing. The 78-year-old Riverside, Calif. resident won the famed Baja 1000 nine times and was the first to win the grueling Mexican race overall in a truck. He competed as owner-driver for two seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (1995-96).
Gaughan was elected to the hall with the Class of 2016 but, due to personal reasons, requested his induction be deferred until this June. The 74-year-old Las Vegas resident competed as an off-road racer for more than two decades, winning the 1966 Mint 400. Gaughan’s South Point Racing captured two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships with son Brendan Gaughan and posted nine victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with his son and Steve Park.
Leonard, born in San Diego in 1932, excelled on two and four wheels. The first-time nominee won a trio of American Motorcyclist Association championships (1954, 1956-57) winning 27 races including the Daytona 200. After competing in NASCAR hardtops and supermodifieds in northern California, he moved to the U.S. Auto Club’s championship car circuit and won six times including the 1971 California 500 at the Ontario Motor Speedway. Leonard also won a pair of USAC stock car races in 1964 at the Springfield and DuQuoin, Ill. fairgrounds mile tracks.
Price, owner of Gene Price Racing in Parker, Ariz., won three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships among six consecutive top-five points finishes between 2009 and 2014. Greg Pursley won titles in 2011 and 2014 and Dylan Kwasniewski captured the 2013 championship – just eight points ahead of runnerup and teammate Pursley. Price’s team accounted for 26 K&N Pro victories, won twice in the NASCAR Elite Southwest Series and competed briefly in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Pruett, another first-time nominee, has won races in full-bodied cars, sports cars and Indianapolis-type cars. The 57-year-old Roseville, Calif. resident won three SCCA Trans-Am titles (1987, 1994 and 2003) and a pair of IMSA GTO championships (1988-86). He won two CART events and was the 1989 Indianapolis 500 co-rookie of the year. His greatest success came in IMSA/GRAND-AM endurance racing with 45 victories – including five overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Pruett competed in 40 NASCAR premier series races with a best finish of second at Watkins Glen International in 2003.
Secrist, voted for induction in his second time on the ballot, won 1951-54 jalopy championships – then the top division – at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway as well as the 1954-55 jalopy titles in Hanford, Calif. Born in 1929, the Oildale, Calif. resident finished third in NASCAR State of California sportsman stock standings in 1961 and won nine of 11 super modified races he entered in 1963. Secrist set track records in NASCAR sportsman races at Daytona International Speedway in 1961-62 and competed in eight NASCAR premier series events winning one pole at the 1.4-mile Marchbanks Speedway in Hanford.
Takeuchi, a public address announcer and media relations director, became a familiar figure at racing throughout northern and central California from the late 1950s. The Fresno, Calif. native began his career at the old Selma (Calif.) Rodeo Grounds. When hardtop and supermodified racing blossomed a few years later, Takeuchi followed the three and four-night a week circuit to NASCAR tracks at Kearney Bowl, San Jose Speedway, Clovis Speedway and Altamont Speedway. He was among sport’s most visible figures, interviewing top competitors from trackside. The fifth media category inductee, Takeuchi remains active with several vintage racing organizations.
June’s induction ceremonies are open to the general public on a limited, space-available basis. Reservation information is available by emailing the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at email@example.com.
Information: Owen A. Kearn West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Board of Directors 661-342-2983 Fax – 661-735-5548 firstname.lastname@example.org
Two longtime members of the motorsports industry, Dennis Mattish and Kenneth (Kenny) Takeuchi, have been elected to the board of directors of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
Mattish, a resident of San Jose, Calif., has been published locally and nationally in numerous publications, appearing in the San Jose Mercury News, National Speed Sport News and Open Wheel magazine among others. He cut his teeth at San Jose-area race tracks – Friday nights at Alviso Speedway; Saturday nights at San Jose Speedway – and cleaned dirt off race cars on Sunday afternoons in his father’s garage.
Mattish snapped his first race car photo at age 10, making his way to the infield 10 years later.
He has followed the sport of speed with pen and camera for over 40 years, enjoying a 15-year tenure as an official World of Outlaws photographer and vice president of photography for the Motor Sports Press Association for three years. Mattish was a consistent recipient of the MSPA’s John Ryan Journalism Award.
Mattish published his first book, History of San Jose Auto Racing 1903-2007 in 2009. Two additional volumes – History of Watsonville and Salinas Auto Racing; History of San Jose Racing Part 2 – followed with a fourth book, History of San Francisco Auto Racing, being written.
Fresno native Takeuchi developed an early interest in pre and post-World War II midget auto racing – at the time the most popular form of the sport on the west coast. He followed the early careers of many drivers, including Bill and Eli Vukovich, Andy and Gil Guthrie, Chuck Stevenson, Johnny Boyd, Duane Carter, Jerry Piper, Bob Barkhimer and Cal Niday.
With the advent of jalopy and hard top racing in the early 1950s, Takeuchi became involved in the California Stock Car Racing Association as a timer and score keeper. He began his announcing career at the old Selma (Calif.) Rodeo Grounds track.
When NASCAR began its sanctioning of modified and supermodified racing in central California’s San Joaquin Valley, Takeuchi became its traveling announcer – working Kearney Bowl in Fresno, San Jose Speedway, Altamont Speedway and Clovis Speedway until the early 1990s.
Takeuchi currently announces vintage racing events with the Legends of Kearney Bowl, Western Racing Association and Bay Cities Racing Association. In his “retirement,” he is a veteran’s advocate.
Several years ago, I was visiting with the NASCAR president at the time, and now Vice Chairman Mike Helton on his thoughts as to how we might make the West Coast Hall better. We realized we had created a Hall that had become highly prestigious and extremely desired by all who might ever have a chance for nomination, not to mention induction.
Mr. Helton suggested we might broaden our scope of eligibility to include persons who had come from walks of racing that led to actual stock cars later. In other words, way back and just after World War II we had jalopies, then hard tops and they were followed by different versions of modifieds.
In all cases, these divisions took the best of the best and led them to USAC, NASCAR and other nationally recognized groups.
Also in time the Trans-Am series was developed by the SCCA and IMSA created and perfected yet another form of road racing with full bodied cars that saw drivers from all over the world competing.
So we as we discussed possibilities and pros and cons, it became apparent that most of those who excelled ended up in IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR at the highest levels. After many meetings with friends of the sport and board members, we realized this was the path we wanted to take. Beginning in 2016, we diversified our format and it was extremely well accepted by fans, competitors and the media.
As I proudly review the 2017 nominees, I have to admit a very proud feeling for everyone involved in any way whether large or small. The Hall is for all of us.
In conclusion when I look the list of potential nominees in future years and then all of those who we aren’t even considering yet because of age, I just have to say, “Wow, incredibly impressive.”
Thank you to all who have played a role at any level for helping get us to where are today over the years from 2002.
- Ken Clapp, Chairman, Board of Directors, West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame
By Ken Clapp
It has taken countless hours by Owen Kearns, the Board’s administrative director and its research committee to develop the 25 nominees for the 2017 final nominations list. From a list of over 60 names, we had to come up with 25 to start the elimination process to get us down to the final five.
It has been very enlightening and we all discovered historical facts that we either had forgotten or simply didn’t know existed.
As I look at the final 25, to say the least, I am impressed beyond words.
Every one of the finalists is worthy of nomination and – in time – induction into what has become the most revered and prestigious Hall in western America.
I can’t wait until we start the final elimination process, beginning in in few days. For many in the west, it will have the same excitement built into it that the Chase has developed in NASCAR culminating in the Homestead-Miami Speedway championship race.
I extend my sincere congratulations to all 25 who will go before the voters in round one, then round two and eventually the final five.
As many know, we have had five finalists in recent years, however, with Michael Gaughan being unable to join us in 2016, we voted to extend this year’s total inductee list to six.
In future years it will go back to five unless there are compelling circumstances that warrants we allow a final inductee a one-year bye.
Twenty-five nominees selected for WCSCHOF’s first-round ballot
The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame has announced its 25 nominations for the organization’s 2017 induction ceremonies.
The star-studded list contains includes track promoters, car builders, drivers, owners and crew chiefs from historic (pre-1970) and modern eras of the sport. Fourteen individuals appear on the ballot for the first time.
Eligibility requirements have been broadened to include worthy individuals who competed in full-bodied racing vehicles primarily on road courses under international and national sanction by the FIA, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), GRAND-AM and Sports Car Club of America.
The Board of Directors’ first round of balloting, from which 12 semi-finalists are to be chosen, begins Nov. 21 and ends Jan. 9. Final voting begins Jan. 12, 2017 and ends Jan. 31, 2017 with the five inductees to be named Sunday, March 19, 2017 during the NASCAR premier series weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
The Class of 2017 will be enshrined June 22, 2017 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. The class also includes Michael Gaughan, whose induction was voted in 2016 but was waived by the board for personal reasons. The event again accompanies the annual NASCAR premier series and K&N Pro Series West weekend at nearby Sonoma Raceway.
Here are the 25 nominees in alphabetical order (*first time nominee):
George Bignotti*, Larry Burton*, Ron Esau, Garrett Evans, Walker Evans*, Dave Fuge, Blackie Gejeian*, Tom Gloy*, the Goularte brothers*, Rick Henderson, Howard Kaeding*, Tommy Kendall*, Joe Leonard*, Doug McCoun, Jim Pettit II, Greg Pickett*, Gene Price, Clyde Prickett, Oren Prosser, Scott Pruett*, Marshall Sargent*, Frank Secrist, George Snider*, Gene Welch* and Richard Woodland*.
2017 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Nominees
George Bignotti. George Bignotti was born in San Francisco, and with two older brothers, both of whom were racing mechanics, learned how to handle a wrench at an early age. The boys eventually bought a midget and raced the car several times a week, with George as the substitute driver if the regular driver didn't show for a race. He competed in stock cars prior to World War II and in 1954 owned the Oldsmobile Jim Graham raced in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events. Bignotti ultimately decided that his place was as a mechanic. Bignotti and A. J. Foyt teamed up in 1960, and in 1961 and 1964 they won the Indianapolis 500. They also won the USAC Championship three times in four years. He won the Indianapolis 500 a record seven times with six different drivers. Bignotti passed away in 2013 at age 97.
Larry Burton. Known as “The Roseville Rocket,” Larry Burton was a stellar hard top and supermodified driver who once won 25 consecutive races. Burton was credited with multiple track championships including five (1957, 1959-60, 1963, 1965) at the West Capital Speedway near Sacramento, Calif. Burton was among top drivers who competed in Australia during the off-season. He also drove in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West for Scotty Cain. He operated Roseville’s All American Speedway for 12 years, where he presented a high-dollar open competition race that drew the nation’s top drivers. Burton moved to Carson City, Nev. where he purchased and promoted T-Car Speedway. The Roseville, Calif. resident died in 2007 at the age of 73.
Ron Esau. Won inaugural NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championship (1986) and finished third in the 1987 standings. Won six times in the series. Competed full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1983-84 finishing ninth and fifth, respectively. Esau also competed in the NASCAR premier series and Camping World Truck Series, with a ninth-place finish in the latter subbing for injured Ken Schrader at Evergreen (Wash.) Speedway in 1995). Won 1978 El Cajon Stock Car Racing Association (Calif.) sportsman championship. *2016 nominee
Garrett Evans. Three time NASCAR Elite Series Northwest Tour champion (1986, 89, 94). All-time series victory leader (50). All-time pole winner (55). Also has two Southwest Tour wins. Competed in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Continues to operate Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Raceway. *2016 nominee
Walker Evans. Roger Walker Evans, born Dec. 3, 1938 in Cedar Lake, Mich., started Walker Evans Racing in 1977 to field his own off-road racing team after driving for West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famers Bill Stroppe and Parnelli Jones. The Riverside, Calif. resident won the Baja 1000 nine times in specially built trucks. He was the first to win the grueling race overall in a truck. His 142 victories and 21 championships have come in a variety of disciplines – desert, Mickey Thompson stadium series and short course races. After serving as crew chief for two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series champion Brendan Gaughan, Evans competed for two seasons (1995-96) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he posted three top-10 finishes as owner/driver. Evans is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Dave Fuge. Dave Fuge’s continuing career is that of race car builder, team owner and crew chief. A Washington native, Fuge has worked with a virtual Who’s Who of drivers including West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame members, Derrike Cope, Ron Eaton, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Bill Schmitt. Fuge won championships in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Mike Bliss (1992) and Travis Kvapil (1994) and 11 races overall. The late Bobby Hamilton won the NASCAR premier series rookie of the year title driving for Tri-Star Motorsports which Fuge co-owned with Mark Smith and George Bradshaw.*2016 nominee
Blackie Gejeian. Michael Gejeian, born in 1926, was a preeminent promoter of auto races and car shows in California’s Central Valley. Returning from World War II in which he served in the U.S. Navy, the Easton, Calif. native built a roadster which he wrecked in its first race. He rebuilt it as a shiny black show car, which he accompanied clad in all black leathers – deriving the nickname “Blackie” by which most knew him. Gejeian won five racing championships and promoted NASCAR weekly races at Clovis and Madera speedways as well as the Fresno Dragway, which he operated for 18 years. Gejeian’s Fresno Autorama was known as one America’s largest car shows and ran for 51 years beginning in 1958. Gejeian died on Sept. 2, 2016 at age 90.
Tom Gloy. Tom Gloy of Lafayette, Calif. was among the most successful Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am Series competitors during the 1980s. He won the 1984 championship driving a Mercury Capri for Roush Racing. Gloy competed in 17 races that year, winning three and finishing among the top five in 12 others. He was the 1979 Formula Atlantic champion and competed in one Indianapolis 500. Gloy also was chosen to compete in the International Race of Champions. Gloy, 69, entered Ford F150s in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for three seasons. His drivers collected three top-five finishes including a second by Tony Roper at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Goularte Brothers. Brothers Harry and Anthony (Tony) Goularte, from Morgan Hill, Calif., started building hard tops in the early 1950s. They were known as being able to build, repair or modify anything. One of their first drivers was Joe Soares, who was on pace to win the San Jose Speedway championship when he was drafted. West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Johnny Key then took over and continued to win. Danny Graves, Clyde Palmer, Joe Leonard and Ernie Rose also drove for them and won scores of races. Both brothers are deceased, Harry in 1999 and Tony in 2013.
Rick Henderson. Rick Henderson of Petaluma, Calif. was the first west coast driver to win a NASCAR national racing championship, capturing the 1959 sportsman title. Henderson also won the State of California championship in the same season, a title he previously won in 1957 and subsequently won in 1961-62. He won five additional track championships with three coming at San Jose (Calif.) Speedway, one at Kearney Bowl in Fresno, Calif. and one at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Speedway. Henderson competed in a trio of NASCAR premier series/Pacific Coast Late Model events at Oakland and Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif. in 1954 at age 22. Henderson passed away in 2001 at age 69.*2016 nominee
Howard Kaeding. Howard Kaeding and his family moved from Nebraska to the Campbell, Calif. area – outside San Jose – in 1939. He began track racing at the age of 23 in 1954. Kaeding was among the top drivers at the old San Jose Speedway, winning NASCAR supermodified championships in 1973-74. He once won 23 races in a row at the third-mile paved oval. Kaeding won Clovis Speedway NASCAR championships in 1970-71 and was NASCAR’s State of California championship from 1970-72. The Howard Kaeding Classic is held annually in his honor each July in Watsonville, Calif.
Tommy Kendall. Tommy Kendall, a Santa Monica native, dominated the SCCA Trans-Am Series in the 1990s, capturing four driving titles in the first eight years of the decade (1990, 1995-96-97). From 1995 to 1997, while piloting Jack Roush-owned Ford Mustangs, Kendall claimed 16 wins and 27 poles in 38 Trans-Am races. In 1997, on his way to his fourth and final Trans-Am title, Kendall scored wins in the first 11 of 13 races that season. Kendall also made 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, mostly on road courses with a best finish of eighth at Watkins Glen International and made two appearances in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kendall, 60, also is a television broadcaster.
Joe Leonard. Born in San Diego in 1932, Joe Leonard exceled on two and four wheels. Leonard won three American Motorcyclist Association championships (1954, 1956-57), winning 27 races including the famed Daytona 200 twice. Switching genres, began racing hard tops and NASCAR supermodifieds in central California. Leonard then moved to the U.S. Auto Club’s championship car circuit. In 98 races, Leonard won six times including the 1971 California 500 at the Ontario Motor Speedway and captured the 1971-72 national championships. He finished third twice in the Indianapolis 500 and also won a USAC stock car race at the DuQuoin (Ill.) Fairgrounds in 1964. Leonard made one NASCAR premier series start, driving for Smokey Yunick in the 1969 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Doug McCoun. Only west coast driver to win a NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship (1985). Competing in the NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour, McCoun finished four times among the top five in the championship, his best a pair of third-place finishes. He logged nine wins and 49 top-five and top-10 finishes in the late model touring series. *2016 nominee
Jim Pettit II. Won the 1984 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Pacific Coast Region championship at age 19. One of most accomplished northern California dirt track late model stock car competitors. Won two NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championships back to back (2004-05), winning eight times. Pettit finished among the top 10 in more than 50% of his starts (54 of 103). *2016 nominee
Greg Pickett. Greg Pickett of Alamo, Calif. is the only driver to have won SCCA Trans-Am races in four decades of competition. The 70-year-old Pickett won the 1978 T-A II championship posting four victories in a Chevrolet Corvette. In 1984, Pickett gave Jack Roush his first T-A victory at Sonoma Raceway. Pickett counts a pair of 12 Hours of Sebring class victories (1987, 2010). As an owner in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), Pickett’s Muscle Milk stable counted 21 victories and two team and driver championships. He also competed in a pair of NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Series events finishing sixth at the Los Angeles Coliseum and Sonoma Raceway.
Gene Price. Few owners have had more success than Gene Price and his Gene Price Motorsports team in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Price’s drivers accounted for three championships among six consecutive top-five points finishes between 2009 and 2014. Greg Pursley won titles in 2011 and 2014 and Dylan Kwasniewski captured the 2013 championship – just eight points ahead of runner up Pursley. Cameron Hayley finished second to Pursley in 2014. The three drivers accounted for 26 wins and 90 top-five and 114 top-10 finishes in a combined 144 starts. Gene Price Motorsports also won twice in the NASCAR Elite Southwest Series and competed briefly in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. *2016 nominee
Clyde Prickett. Fresno, Calif. competitor known as a charger won once in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, driving Chevrolets. Prickett was especially fast on short tracks, winning the NASCAR California State Championship for hard tops in 1955. Prickett competed in three NASCAR premier series events, all at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway with a best finish of 14th in 1968. He drove the famed No. 34 Ford for NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in 1966. Prickett’s lone K&N Pro Series victory came at Medford, Ore.’s Rogue Valley Speedway in 1968. Never a full-time campaigner, he still finished seventh in the 1968 point standings and went on to establish a successful Coca-Cola distributorship in his hometown. *2016 nominee
Oren Prosser. Oren Prosser was virtually unbeatable at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway in the 1960s and 1970s, winning five sportsman stock car championships (1964, 1967-72). He won nine consecutive feature races at the flat, .333-mile track in 1966. In 1971 Prosser won the July 4 Firecracker 400 – capturing all four 100-lap races at four southern California tracks. He also won Saugus’ first 330-lap event in 1975. Prosser won the NASCAR Permatex 300 in 1967 at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway and competed in three NASCAR premier series events. He drove Chevrolets for owner Donnie Johnson. *2016 nominee
Scott Pruett. Scott Pruett of Roseville, Calif. has won races in full-bodied cars, sports cars and championship cars. Pruett, 57, won three SCCA Trans-Am titles (1987, 1994 and 2003) and a pair of IMSA GTO championships (1986, 1988). He won two Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) events and was the Indianapolis 500 co-rookie of the year in 1989. Pruett’s greatest success came in Rolex GRAND-AM/WeatherTech sports car racing: five championships (2004, 2008, 2010-11, and 2013) and 45 victories, including five overall wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing. Pruett competed in 40 NASCAR premier series races (including a full season in 2000) with three top-five and six top-10 finishes that include a second at Watkins Glen International in 2003. He won a NASCAR XFINITY Series pole in Mexico City. Owner of Pruett Vineyards, Pruett also has been a television commentator.
Marshall Sargent. Marshall Sargent was a true international star, winning an estimated 500 feature races in the United States and Australia during a 20-year racing career. The Salinas, Calif. native, who raced out of San Jose, starred in hard tops and supermodifieds and won the NASCAR State of California championship in 1960. He won 88 races at the old San Jose Speedway, a paved third-mile track, including 1960 and 1963 Johnny Key Classics. Sargent was the 1960 San Jose champion and also won titles at Alviso, Salinas and Sacramento. Sargent also competed in the NASCAR premier series, qualifying for the 1961 Daytona 500. He had three top-10 finishes in 12 appearances, the best a seventh at Eureka, Calif. in 1957. Sargent won a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at the Gardena (Calif.) Stadium in 1957, driving the Howard Cams Chevrolet. Sargent died in 1990 at age 59.
Frank Secrist. Frank Secrist of Oildale, Calif. won 1951-54 jalopy championships – then the top weekly racing division – at Bakersfield Speedway as well as the 1953-55 jalopy titles at Hanford, Calif. Secrist won the 1960 modified sportsman championship in Bakersfield and finished third in NASCAR’s California standings in 1961. He also competed at Daytona International Speedway, setting track records in the division in 1961 and 62 – in the latter event erasing NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough’s speed from the books. He won nine of 11 super modified races in 1963 and won the first USAC midget race he entered in 1966. Secrist competed in eight NASCAR premier series races winning one pole at the 1.4-mile Marchbanks Speedway in Hanford. His best finish was fourth at Sacramento’s old state fairgrounds mile track in 1961. *2016 nominee
George Snider. Born in Fresno, Calif. but living for most of his career in Bakersfield, George Snider, 77, began drag racing at the age of 15 and soon began competing in jalopies, hard tops and supermodifieds. He was one of the first to mount a wing on his No. 72 coupe, winning races at Kearney Bowl in Fresno and on other central California tracks. Snider won the 1964 Johnny Key Classic at the old San Jose Speedway. He won the 1971 U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown championship and was the organization’s final Gold Crown champion in 1981-82. Snider made 22 Indianapolis 500 starts – most by a non-winner – most of them as a teammate to A.J. Foyt. His best finish was eighth, in 1975 and 1978. He is a member of the Bob Elias Sports Hall of Fame in Bakersfield.
Gene Welch. George Welch operated Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. before moving west to Orangevale, Calif. where he owned Welch Racing Enterprises. He sponsored numerous drivers who captured multiple championships at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. He led contingents of drivers to race in Australia and New Zealand during the winter months. He was crew chief for his son, Mark, who won back to back NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships in 1999-2000. Gene Welch died in 2015 at the age of 90.
Dick Woodland. Dick Woodland, Templeton, Calif., built his first race car, a jalopy, in 1958 at age 15. In 1963, driver Mark Ward drove his supermodified to the top 20 in NASCAR national points. In 1964 Woodland turned 21 and raced for the first time, with a best feature finish in NASCAR competition at Fresno, Calif.’s Kearney Bowl. After military service, Woodland drove a California Racing Association sprint car at Ascot Park in Gardena but with a growing family, turned owner and hired Frank Secrist and Jim Eiland. Later, he teamed with Billy Wilkerson. Their drivers included P.J. Jones, Rip Williams and Ron Shuman, who won the initial SCRA championship for the team. Woodland entered the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. in 1991 and continued with his son, Rich Jr. In 55 races, they won once (at Phoenix in 1998) and finished fifth in the 1995 standings. They also entered several NASCAR premier series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series events.
As we noted in our last newsletter, just because you’re a hall of famer doesn’t mean you have to quit doing something you enjoy – and doing it well, we might add. Two West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame members, Bill McAnally and Gary Nelson, turned in several more championship performances in 2016.
McAnally’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West team captured driver and owner titles. Nelson, team manager for Action Express Racing, guided his drivers to a pair of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championships.
BMR’s Todd Gilliland became the youngest champion in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at 16 years and five months, establishing a NASCAR record as the youngest champion any NASCAR national or touring series. He also earned rookie of the year honors.
Gilliland won six times to break Lance Hooper’s record (four) for most wins by a rookie in a season.
BMR’s seventh series championship is a record for a car owner in a NASCAR Touring series. The team won eight of 14 races; the stable’s four drivers finished one-four-six and seven in the championship standings with three series rookies. McAnally’s first-year drivers included Julia Landauer, who finished fourth in the championship standings – highest by a female driver in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East or West divisions.
Nelson’s charges continued their domination of IMSA’s prototype category. Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, who shared the stable’s No. 31 Corvette DP, won the driver title. Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi shared the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup title in the No. 5 Corvette DP.
Action Express won both championships for the third consecutive season.
Don’t be surprised if we’re writing more about both hall of famers in 2017. While McAnally’s lineup has yet to be set, Nelson will stay with what brought him to the dance.
“Our style is to make as few changes as possible within our race team, and that starts with the drivers,” Nelson said in announcing all four of his wheelmen will return. “Obviously, as we look to next year, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”