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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About 2016 Inductee: John Bickford

PHOENIX (June 6, 2016) - A Forbes magazine article describes 2016 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame inductee John Bickford as “unusually optimistic, diligent, observant and conscientious about details.” Bickford employed all of those qualities – and a stepfather’s love – for molding a young Jeff Gordon into one of the brightest stars of NASCAR’s modern era. Bickford, from Vallejo, Calif. didn’t begin the process with an advanced degree in marketing and public relations; rather he melded common-sense instinct for success with Gordon’s innate abilities. By the age of 13, Gordon was driving sprint cars and the family had moved from California to Indiana. Soon, the family hoped, Gordon would reach the Indianapolis 500. Ultimately, Bickford didn’t have the millions of dollars required to get his stepson an Indy car test. On advice of Ken Schrader, Gordon attended the Buck Baker’s stock car racing school. His racing took a 180-degree turn with Bickford ultimately working behind the scenes to assure the best possible outcome. Jack Roush was interested but Bickford believed Gordon should have greater control of his future. He approached Rick Hendrick and got Gordon what at the time was unprecedented: Bickford got to pick the crew chief, Ray Evernham. The rest is history as Gordon won four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships and 93 races with Hendrick Motorsports before his retirement following the 2015 season. Timing favored Gordon’s ascension. Cable television had just discovered NASCAR and Gordon – thanks to Bickford – was the perfect candidate for superstardom and off the track income. During Gordon’s sprint car racing years, the pair would sit in front of the television and play of game of “what did that driver do wrong” outside the car. The Jeff Gordon seen today as a FOX Sports analyst is further proof of Bickford’s diligence and lessons learned. Bickford joins Mike Duncan, 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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West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2016 Inductees

PHOENIX, Ariz. – A NASCAR K&N Pro Series West double champion, a pair of pioneer hard top competitors, an acclaimed short track racer with multiple titles and an industry agent/marketer comprise the five-member Class of 2016 to be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. The latest inductees – John Bickford, Mike Duncan, Johnny Key, Al Pombo and Jim Thirkettle – were announced March 13 prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Induction of the five will take place June 23 at the Meritage Resort in Napa, Calif. during Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series/K&N Pro Series West weekend. This year’s class marks the first time that voting was broadened to include nominees from a variety of historic and present stock car disciplines that include weekly racing competition and tours as well as NASCAR modified stock car racing. Bickford, originally from Vallejo, Calif., is the step-father of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and current FOX Sports analyst Jeff Gordon. He directed the youngster’s early, open-wheel career in California and Indiana and as Gordon’s de facto agent and off-track tutor, Bickford molded Gordon into a superstar in NASCAR’s post-1990, television-centric era. Duncan, a former minor league baseball player and Bakersfield, Calif.-area rancher, won back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships in 2004-05. He was the series’ rookie of the year in 2000 and voted Most Popular Driver in 2007, his final season of competition. Duncan won eight times in the division, along with 20 poles and finished more than 60 percent of his 96 races among the top 10. The late Johnny Key won four championships in roadster and hard top racing, competing in California and Arizona. In 1952, the Salinas, Calif. driver won 54 times – including eight races over a seven-day span in the California Stock Car Racing Association plus three open wheel events. Key suffered fatal injuries during a AAA midget race in Cincinnati, Ohio in June 1954. Pombo, born in the Azores but raised in Merced, Calif., competed in dirt cars, hard tops, sprint cars and super modifieds beginning in 1954 and won more than 500 main events, seven NASCAR super modified titles and numerous championships at short track throughout California before retiring in 1971. Racing out of Fresno, Calif., Pombo also briefly competed in what’s now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 85. Thirkettle starred as a short track campaigner throughout southern California and became the all-time winner and super stock champion at the now-defunct Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. He won five titles and posted 78 victories at the half-mile paved oval. The Sylmar, Calif. competitor showed his all-around capabilities by posting three NASCAR premier series top 10s at the Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway road course. He won two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races and one NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Series event. June’s induction ceremonies are open to the general public on a limited, space-available basis. Information is available by emailing the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at okearns@bak.rr.com.
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