BURBANK, Calif. – Eleven racing legends – including the first racing official – will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in ceremonies to be held July 2 in the Southern California community of Azusa.
The 2010 class is the seventh in the history of the Hall which inducted its first members in 2002. The Hall, founded in 2001, memorializes significant contributors to the sport’s development and history – including designers, engineers, mechanics, drivers, race track owners, promoters, publicists and members of the motorsports media.
The latest group brings the Hall’s membership to 94. The nomination process began earlier this year followed by a final vote by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.
Elected in the Historic category (1930 through 1969) are Bob Caswell, Bill “Tiny” Clinton, Duane Edwards, Mel Fernandez, Joe Mangini Jr. and Herb Nab.
Inductees from the Modern era (1970 to present) are Allen Beebe, Mike Chase, Rod Osterlund and James “Jim” Smith.
Additionally, Gordon Martin, the late motorsports columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, will be inducted in a new category for members of the media and public relations professionals.
Mel Larson, a longtime spokesman for the sport of stock car racing, will be honored with the Hall’s initial Career Contributor award.
This year’s Hall of Fame induction dinner will be held at Azusa Greens Country Club in Azusa in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles. The Hall is offering table sponsorships for the dinner and awards ceremonies.
Caswell, who competed in West Coast’s pre-NASCAR era, was a career-long Plymouth driver who managed to win a 500-lap race at the old Balboa Stadium in San Diego and another at San Jose, Calif. driving a car powered by a six-cylinder engine against the more powerful V-8s of fellow competitors.
Clinton, who operated a gas and service center in downtown Los Angeles, owned and sponsored Fords for West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame member Scotty Cain winning a pair of NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships.
Edwards is described as a tire maestro extraordinaire, developing a then-durable and competitive racing recapped tire in the post-World War II era. West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame member Danny Letner was among those who considered Edwards the best at his craft.
Fernandez was among the most colorful – if not the most colorful – official ever to wave a set of flags over a racing field. Fernandez, whose career lasted over 30 years, flagged the races from trackside – a practice that cost him his life in 1974 when he was hit by a sprint car at Calistoga (Calif.) Speedway.
Mangini, an orchard owner from Walnut Creek, Calif., began racing at the old Oakland Mile before World War II and later became a car owner whose drivers including West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame members Ben Gregory and Dick Meyer.
Nab began his racing career as a mechanic and crew chief on the west coast before moving east to join Junior Johnson. Their driver, Cale Yarborough, won three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships with Nab calling the shots.
Allen Beebe, a Modesto, Calif. businessman, owned NASCAR race teams for a quarter century. With son Troy at the wheel, Beebe’s Taco Bell-sponsored cars won nearly 20 times. His NASCAR K&N Pro Series West tenure culminated in Eric Holmes’ 2006 championship.
Chase, who currently supervises shock technology at Penske Racing in North Carolina, was a consistent winner in all forms of local and touring stock car competition winning the championship of the old NASCAR Southwest Series. He won the 1994 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title and also competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series before becoming a respected racing technician.
Osterlund, a San Jose, Calif. builder, is the only individual from the West Coast to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship. He won the 1980 title with Dale Earnhardt, the first of seven won by the legendary competitor.
Smith, a Southern California custom wheel manufacturer, is one of four off-road racers who took the concept of racing pickup trucks on oval tracks to NASCAR President Bill France Jr. The idea became the hugely popular NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where Smith’s Ultra Motorsports drivers included Ted Musgrave, the circuit’s 2005 champion.
Martin was The Chronicle’s motorsports correspondent for 35 years writing three-times weekly column and covering NASCAR races and other forms of motorsports throughout the west and the nation. Martin is the second motorsports journalist to be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame joining the late Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times.
Beebe, Chase, Clinton, Fernandez, Osterlund and Smith won induction into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in their first year appearing on the ballot.
Larson, well known in his role as a spokesman for Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, competed for NASCAR’s convertible championship in 1956. His generosity to the racing fraternity and as a spokesman through writings in a number of trade publications including National Speed Sport News is being recognized by The Hall in making a first-time Career Contributor award.
Additional information about this year’s West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame class and the 2010 awards dinner and induction ceremonies can be obtained from Dusty Brandel, 818-842-7005 or 925-552-9887, firstname.lastname@example.org.