Voting underway to select Class of 2017

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.

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Members still winning titles

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.”

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Voting begins for 2017 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame induction

Preliminary ballot Lists 25 figures from historic and modern eras.

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Nov. 21, 2016) – 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.

“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,” said Ken Clapp, West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame board chairman. “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.”

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 by category (*first time nominee):

Promoters:

*Larry Burton. A five-time West Capital (Calif.) Speedway champion, the “Roseville Rocket” operated All-American Speedway where he promoted one of the west’s first high-dollar open competition events. Larry Burton also owned and operated Tahoe-Carson (Nev.) Speedway. Deceased.

*Blackie Gejeian. A five-time racing champion, Michael “Blackie Gejeian promoted NASCAR weekly races at Clovis and Madera (Calif.) Speedways and Fresno (Calif.) Dragway. Gejeian’s Fresno Autorama was one of America’s largest car shows running for 51 years. Deceased.

Builders

*Goularte Brothers. Brothers Harry and Anthony (Tony) Goularte of Morgan Hill, Calif. began building hard tops in the 1950s and were known as being able to build, modify or repair anything. West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Johnny Key was among drivers of their equipment. Both are deceased.

Drivers

Ron Esau, El Cajon, Calif. Inaugural NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour champion in 1986 and track champion at Cajon (Calif.) Speedway.

Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. Inaugural NASCAR Elite Series Northwest Tour champion in 1985 and operator of Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Raceway.

*Walker Evans. A nine-time Baja 500 off-road truck winner, Walker Evans, Riverside, Calif., is a member of the Motorsports Hall of America. He was crew chief for Brendan Gaughan’s pair of NASCAR K&N Pro Series championships as well as owner-driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

*Tom Gloy. The Lafayette, Calif. resident won the 1984 SCCA Trans-Am championship driving a Mercury Capri for Roush Racing. Tom Gloy owned a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team for three seasons.

Rick Henderson, Petaluma, Calif. First west coast driver to win a NASCAR national racing series championship, capturing the 1959 sportsman title. Deceased.

*Howard Kaeding. Howard Kaeding won NASCAR supermodified championships at San Jose (Calif.) Speedway (1973-74) and Clovis (Calif.) Speedway (1970-71 and was NASCAR’s State of California champion (1970-73). The Campbell, Calif. driver once won 23 consecutive races at San Jose.

*Tommy Kendall. Tommy Kendall, a Santa Monica, Calif. native, dominated the SCCA Trans-Am Series in the 1990s, capturing four driving titles in the first eight years of the decade (1990, 1995-97). Kendall competed in 14 NASCAR premier series events with best finish of eighth.

*Joe Leonard. The three-time American Motorcyclist Association national champion raced hard tops and supermodifieds in central California before joining the U.S. Auto Club’s championship car series in which he won six times including Ontario’s California 500. The San Diego native won two USAC stock car races in 1964.

Doug McCoun, Prunedale, Calif. First west coast driver to win the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship under its modern-day format in 1985.

Jim Pettit II, Seaside, Calif. NASCAR Pacific Coast Region champion (1984) and 2004-05 NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour champion.

*Greg Pickett. Greg Pickett, Alamo, Calif., is the only driver to have won SCCA Trans-Am Series races in four decades of competition. Pickett won his class at the 12 hours of Sebring twice and as an owner captured two American Le Mans Series owner and driver titles.

Clyde Prickett, Fresno, Calif. Won 1955 NASCAR California State Championship for hard tops with one NASCAR K&N Pro Series victory and a seventh-place points finish in a partial season.

Oren Prosser, Granada Hills, Calif. Virtually unbeatable at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway, won five sportsman stock car championships at the .333-mile oval in 1964 and 1967-72.

*Scott Pruett. Scott Pruett, Roseville, Calif. won three SCCA Trans-Am Series championships (1987, 1994 and 2003) and a pair of IMSA GTO championships (1986, 1988). Pruett competed in 40 NASCAR premier series races with three top-five and six top-10 finishes. He’s a five-time 24 Hours of Daytona winner.

*Marshall Sargent. A native of Salinas, Calif., Marshall Sargent won the NASCAR State of California modified championship in 1960. Sargent won 88 races at the old San Jose (Calif.) Speedway including 1960 and 1963 Johnny Key Classics. He won a NASCAR K&N Pro Series event at the Gardena (Calif.) Stadium in 1957. Deceased.

Frank Secrist, Oildale, Calif. Won 1951-54 jalopy titles – then the top division – at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway as well at the 1953-55 titles at Hanford (Calif.) Speedway. Held Daytona International Speedway sportsman qualifying records.

*George Snider. Best known for his Indianapolis 500 relationship with AJ Foyt, George Snider got his start in California’s central valley. Snider won the 1954 Johnny Key Classic at the old San Jose (Calif.) Speedway. The Bakersfield, Calif. resident is the 1971 USAC Silver Crown champion and the group’s final Gold Crown champion in 1981-82.

Owners

Dave Fuge, Sumner, Wash. Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner champion with Mike Bliss (2002) and Travis Kvapil (1994). Prior to moving east, he built late model race cars that dominated NASCAR and other touring circuits in the Pacific Northwest.

Gene Price, Parker, Ariz. Price’s drivers – Greg Pursley and Dylan Kwasniewski – won three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West titles (2011, 2013 and 2014). In just 144 series starts, Gene Price Motorsports registered 26 wins and 114 top-10 finishes.

*Gene Welch. A Tennessee short track owner/operator, Gene West moved west to Orangevale, Calif. where he owned Welch Racing Enterprises. His drivers won multiple championships at All-American Speedway in Roseville and was crew chief for his son, Mark, the 1999-2000 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion. Deceased.

*Richard Woodland. Richard (Dick) Woodland built his first jalopy at a 15-year-old. After a brief career in modifieds, the Templeton, Calif. resident became a championship sprint car owner. Woodland entered the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in 1991 with West Coast Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. and continued with his son, Rich, winning at Phoenix International Raceway in 1998.

Crew Chief

*George Bignotti. A San Francisco native, George Bignotti raced stock cars prior to World War II and owned a NASCAR premier/K&N Pro Series Oldsmobile in 1954. Bignotti joined AJ Foyt as crew chief, winning the Indianapolis 500 three times. Bignotti won the 500 a record seven times with six different drivers and the U.S. Auto Club championship three times in four years. Deceased.

For additional information about the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, please visit WestCoastStockCarHallofFame.com or contact Owen A. Kearns at 661-342-2983. To obtain details about table sponsorship for the 2017 awards dinner, contact Jenniffer Wentzel at 623-463-5400.

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Socially Speaking

Facebook and Twitter lit up with news about the June 23 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame inductions. A tweet containing a post-induction photo of John and Carol Bickford and Jeff Gordon was still being retweeted more than a month after the Napa, Calif. ceremonies.

Gordon’s retweet of the photo alone garnered multiple millions of impressions among the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion’s many followers.

On Facebook, inductee Jim Thirkettle was roundly congratulated by his fans. Here is a sampling of their reactions:

“I loved racing with a being schooled by Jim. He was a class act.” – Larry Lord

“My mom’s favorite driver.” – Judy Lynch DeGraaf

“My mom’s friend took me to Mesa Marin, I think in 1979 and told me to watch the 5 car. From that night on I was hooked.” – Richard Rogers

“My first childhood racing hero. Love that candy apple red car. The Candy Man belongs in the Hall of Fame, for sure.” – Perry Shelton.

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Where Are They Now?

Not every member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame is inactive in his chosen profession. Some continue to perform at a high level after induction, adding to already stellar credentials.

Gary Nelson (Class of 2006) was among the most innovative crew chiefs in NASCAR, ultimately hired by Bill France Jr. as his Winston Cup Series director. Nelson has taken his talents to IMSA’s WeatherTech Championship as team manager of Action Express, which fields a pair of Corvette Daytona Prototype cars in North America’s premier sports car series.

His charges ran one-two in recent races at Watkins Glen International, Mosport’s Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Road American. Action Express tandems Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi and Dane Cameron/Eric Curran are first and second, respectively, in the standings entering the season’s second half.

Jerry Baxter (Class of 2015) continues as a crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His driver, Christopher Bell, drove KBM’s No. 4 Toyota to victory in June’s event at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis. Bell stands sixth in series points but with his victory is qualified for the NCWTS’ first Chase championship unfolding this fall.

 

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2016 Class Officially Inducted into West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame

PHOENIX – Five 2016 inductees – John Bickford, Mike Duncan, Johnny Key, Al Pombo and Jim Thirkettle – officially became members of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame during June 23 ceremonies at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif.

Their induction brings Hall membership to 134. The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, founded in 2001, has enshrined 14 classes beginning in 2002.

The annual event, held before a packed ballroom crowd on the eve of Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup and K&N Pro Series West weekend, was emceed by Ralph Sheheen, the voice of FOX’s Supercross coverage and a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame board of directors.

Bickford, from Vallejo, Calif., was inducted by his step son Jeff Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and current member of FOX Sports’ NASCAR broadcast team.

“I would not be here without him,” said Gordon of the man who guided his racing career on and off the track from an early age. “He’s obviously relentless, doesn’t give up and doesn’t take no for an answer. Nobody’s more passionate.”

Among Bickford’s party was his 89-year-old mother, a cancer survivor.

“She’s relentless and competitive; everything I have in me,” he said. “It’s an absolute honor to be up here. I’ve looked at the list of (Hall of Fame members) and it’s hard to believe I’m on the list.”

Duncan, a Bakersfield, Calif.-area rancher, played professional baseball in the Oakland As organization before turning to stock car racing. Talent for one equaled success in his newfound passion according to Vance Palm, a longtime friend who handled Duncan’s induction.

“He started pretty late on the race track but his focus and drive out of the batter’s box translated into racing,” said Palm of Duncan, who won back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships and finished more than 60 percent of his races among the top 10.

Duncan, nearly 40 years old when he began racing a late model car previously campaigned by Kevin Harvick at the old Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield.

“I can’t tell you how honored I am to be part of this (Hall),” he said observing that he’s again part of a racing family he has missed since retirement. “We looked out for each other. It was a great time.”

The late Key, inducted by longtime racing writer and photographer Dennis Mattish, was a two-time Racing Roadster Inc. champion and four-time San Jose (Calif.) Speedway champion. He won 54 features plus three “open” events in 1952 – including eight victories in seven days. Key was killed in a midget race in Cincinnati in 1954.

“Johnny arguably was the greatest and most popular driver of his time,” said Mattish, recalling Key’s love for purple satin shirts – worn well before driver uniforms existed. Mattish recalled that newspaper headline writers loved him since his name fit even the narrowest columns. The native Texan who raced out of Salinas, Calif. was known as “The Lettuce King.”

Among those accepting for Key was his daughter, Patty, who as a child was a trophy presenter – to her father. She once told him, “If you don’t win, I can’t give away this trophy. I was so scared but he’d made up his mind he was going to win – and he did.”

Pombo, who raced in four decades and retired from competition in 1970, won more than 500 features in a variety of stock-based cars, as well as seven NASCAR State of California titles. Born in the Azores, Pombo raced out of Fresno, Calif. and passed away in 2010 at age 85.

“He was a legendary driver who always was a step ahead of the field,” said inductor Kenny Takeuchi, who as writer and track announcer followed much of Pombo’s career. Noting that rules required frequent winners and point leaders like Pombo to start at the rear of most fields, Takeuchi said Pombo “always drove into the next corner and avoided accidents. He was one tough driver (who) knew his cars and knew his engines.

“He was a good friend to all and beloved by friend and foe alike.”

Pombo’s son, Anthony, accepted for his father, along with fellow competitor Jim Eiland.

“He was humble; told a lot of stories on himself,” said Eiland. “He was very smart, very humble. I was very blessed to get to know him.”

Thirkettle, Sylmar, Calif., was inducted by West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame board member Ed Justice Jr., whose family joined the Hall in 2012. Thirkettle, 71, won seven championships at Saugus (Calif) Speedway and Mesa Marin. He two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races among more than 125 victories throughout the western United States.

“He was the consummate sportsman racer that battles (and wins) against the better-supported teams,” said Justice. “Many feel Jim could have gone on the big circuit (NASCAR premier series) and have been very successful.”

Thirkettle, winner of a U.S. Auto Club (USAC) stock car race at the old Ontario Motor Speedway, also posted a trio of top-10 NASCAR premier series finishes at Riverside International Raceway. He was known affectionately as “The Candy Man” by his legions of fans due to the color of his No. 5 Chevrolets.

“You’re only as good as the people behind you,” said Thirkettle, singling out attendee and engine builder Doug Jones “as my secret weapon.”

“This is a real honor – and the longest speech I’ve ever made,” he concluded.

The 2017 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame will be held again at the Meritage Resort next June. The date will be finalized with release of NASCAR’s 2017 scheduling of activities at Sonoma Raceway.

 

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.

 

 

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About 2016 Inductee: Jim Thirkettle

PHOENIX (June 20, 2016) – For more than two decades, from the early 1970s through the 1990s, few drivers did it any better or with greater style than Jim Thirkettle of Sylmar, Calif. Thirkettle will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame on June 23.

Now 71, Thirkettle spent three years at UCLA, built his own cars and was both driver and crew chief.

The winner of seven track championships and 129 races at 10 different tracks throughout the western United States, Thirkettle was single-minded in pursuit of victory but prided himself on racing “the right way.” Some complained Thirkettle won too frequently but none ever said he bullied his way to success.

A self-taught engineer who never raced full time, Thirkettle built his cars and maintained them in a two-car garage outside his northern San Fernando Valley home. His equipment was both fast and pristine. Thirkettle’s 1965 Chevrolet he raced at Saugus Speedway, a flat, third-mile oval outside Los Angeles was painted Candy Apple Red by a friend, Walt Prey, marking the driver forever as “The Candy Man.”

Thirkettle won two Saugus championships, as an owner in 1972 and owner-driver in 1974. When the half-mile Mesa Marin Raceway opened in 1977, Thirkettle towed his No. 5 Chevy Camaro north on Interstate 5. He won five open competition championships and 78 races – both records at the now-shuttered track.

Thirkettle demonstrated his all-around capabilities by posting three top-10 finishes in NASCAR premier series races at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. He won two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events along with one NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Series events. Thirkettle also captured a U.S. Auto Club stock car race at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.

Thirkettle joins John Bickford, Mike Duncan, Johnny Key and Al Pombo 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.

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About 2016 Inductee: Al Pombo

PHOENIX (June 17, 2016) – Some drivers win a lot of races. Others excel by accumulating points toward capturing championships. The late Al Pombo, who will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame on June 23, was the rare competitor who accomplished both.

Pombo, born in the Azores on June 3, 1925 and raised in Merced, Calif., won more than 500 feature races in a variety of stock car-based equipment – jalopies, hardtops and NASCAR supermodifieds. He won seven NASCAR state of California titles including six straight championships from 1963-68.

Driving the circle 3 numbered cars out of Fresno, Calif., Pombo raced from the late 1940s before retiring in 1971. Pombo won an incredible nine titles at Fresno’s Kearney Bowl and six each at Clovis Speedway and San Jose Speedway. The tracks – each with its own unique length and surface – formed a weekend triad of NASCAR modified stock car competition that reached its peak in the 1960s.

Pombo won his first championship in 1954 in San Jose; his last in 1970 at Kearney Bowl.

He competed in – and won – numerous open competition events that drew the top drivers of the era. Pombo was the first four-time winner of Sacramento’s famed Gold Cup, in 1961, 1964, 1966 and 1970.

Pombo also drove in three NASCAR Grand National stock car events, a series that currently is known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Pombo, who died in 2010 at the age of 85, was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994. He was the third driver to be inducted into the San Jose Speedway’s Hall of Fame and was similarly honored by several other auto racing groups.

Pombo joins John Bickford, Mike Duncan, Johnny Key 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.

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About 2016 Inductee: Johnny Key

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.

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About 2016 Inductee: Mike Duncan

PHOENIX (June 9, 2016) – For Mike Duncan, baseball’s loss was NASCAR stock car racing’s gain. The Oakland A’s farmhand, drafted by the Major League Baseball club out of the University of Nebraska, has made it to the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame – just not in the sport in which he grew up playing. He will be inducted on June 23.

Duncan faced a choice early in his professional baseball career: remain in the minor leagues with the Modesto A’s in 1987 or return home to help his family keep its Lamont, Calif. farming business above water. Facing an uncertain future in baseball’s crowded minors, he took the latter path, succeeded beyond expectations and found a new sport in which to invest his energy: stock car racing.

Purchasing a late model stock car that Kevin Harvick had raced at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Duncan matriculated through weekly competition, winning the half-mile paved oval’s late model championship.

Owning and driving his own equipment, overseen by West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame crew chief Bill Sedgwick was a late blooming phenomenon. He was named the circuit’s rookie of the year in 2000. Then Duncan won back-to-back championships in 2004-05 and was voted Most Popular Driver in 2007, his final season of competition.

Duncan, now 54, won eight times in the division, along with 20 poles and finished more than 60 percent of his 96 races among the top 10.

Duncan was nearly 40 years old when he stepped into his first race car. Many – if not most – successful drivers have raced since they were teenagers.

“He had a lot to learn when he was older” said Sedgwick. “He’s adapted very well, though. The stats show it.” Indeed they do.

Duncan joins John Bickford, Johnny Key, 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.

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