AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 10, 2018) – Twenty individuals reflecting the varied history of the motor racing industry, including four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, have been nominated for induction into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
The organization’s ballot, from which the five inductees ultimately will be chosen, contains a pair of NASCAR national touring champions, a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West owner champion and two Indianapolis 500 winners. The list spans historic (pre-1970) and modern eras of the sport. Seven individuals are nominated for the first time.
First-time nominees are Gordon; multiple NASCAR national series team owner Gary Bechtel; NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Mike Bliss; NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship owner Bob Bruncati; NASCAR K&N Pro Series champion Mike David; four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and Indianapolis 500 winner Tom Sneva.
Nominated again after appearing on previous ballots are Ernie Cope, Ron Esau, Garrett Evans, George Follmer, Tom Gloy, Lance Hooper, Tommy Kendall, Doug McCoun, Eric Norris, Jim Pettit II, Greg Pickett and Boris Said.
Joe Gibbs Racing executive J.D. Gibbs, elected to the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2018, also will be enshrined. His induction was postponed at the request of Gibbs’ family. The organization will induct its second Heritage class of five individuals whose careers largely ended prior to 1970. The Heritage inductees will be named in spring 2019.
“We are rapidly approaching our 20th year as the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and I can’t recall ever having a stouter list of nominees from many walks of competition who have touched all forms of stock car racing,” said West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame chairman Ken Clapp. “As I look at these 20 nominations, I am not yet sure how I’m going to vote. I am certain all of our board members will be equally challenged.”
The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame annually nominates for induction worthy individuals who competed in traditional stock car racing as well as other full-bodied racing vehicles primarily on road courses under international and national sanction by the FIA, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), GRAND-AM and the Sports Car Club of America.
The Board of Directors’ first round of balloting, from which 10 semi-finalists are to be chosen, begins later this month and ends Jan. 4, 2019. Final voting begins Jan. 11, 2019 and ends Jan. 31, 2019 with the five inductees to be named during the March 8-10, 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
The Class of 2019 will be enshrined June 20, 2019 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. The event, presented by Gateway Motorsports Park, again accompanies the annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West weekend at nearby Sonoma Raceway.
Here are the 20 nominees by category (*first time 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). Evans also has two Southwest Tour wins. Competed in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Continues to operate Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Raceway.
Gary Bechtel. San Francisco native Gary Bechtel formed Diamond Ridge Racing in 1992, competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with series veteran John Krebs. Over three seasons, Krebs fashioned 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes including a trio of seconds and a fourth at Texas World Speedway in a 1994 combination event with the Automobile Racing Club of American (ARCA). The team finished fourth in 1992 and third in 1994 championship standings. Moving east, Diamond Ridge fielded full-season entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series from 1994 through 1997 with Steve Grissom, Greg Sacks and Robert Pressley among others. The team’s best finish, fourth, came with Jeff Green in 1997 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Diamond Ridge’s best success came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, posting 10 victories with Elliott Sadler (five), Grissom (three) and Sacks and Green. Grissom won at Daytona while Sacks was victorious at Talladega Super Speedway, both in 1996. The team merged with Joe Gibbs Racing in 1999 with Jeff Purvis finishing sixth in the championship.*
Bob Bruncati. Born in New York City in 1943, Bob Bruncati moved to Southern California as a young man and became interested in sports car racing with the California Sports Car Club SCCA. He raced a Turner roadster for a number of years, until his sons Tony and James became interested in go-karts. In 2000, he formed Sunrise Ford Racing so the boys could race late model stocks at the Irwindale Events Center. The owner of Ford dealerships in the San Fernando Valley and Fontana, Calif., Bruncati’s team graduated to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series (with James) in 2006. Sunrise Ford Racing has competed in more than 284 events, winning 29 times and capturing series championships in 2009 (driver Jason Bowles) and 2013 and 2018 (Derek Thorn). The team’s three drivers ranked 1-2 and 6 in the 2018 championship. Bruncati’s drivers have posted 14 top-five championship finishes since 2007. He has fielded cars for five Sunoco Rookies of the Year – Bowles, Luis Martinez Jr., Austin Dyne, Dylan Lupton and James Bickford.*
Competition Director/Crew Chief
Ernie Cope. Ernie Cope, 49, is a native of Spanaway, Wash. whose father and uncle built professional dragster engines. His cousin, Derrike, is a Daytona 500 winner. Cope began racing in the NASCAR Northwest Series at the age of 19, posting 24 top-five finishes in the late model stock car touring series. He finished third in the championship in 1994 and moved to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West the following year, scoring two victories in Lew Miller’s Chevrolet en route to a second-place points finish. Cope swapped driving gloves for a crew chief’s headset, competing in more than 400 national series races. He won nine times in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – six of them with Kevin Harvick. Cope’s NASCAR Xfinity Series record shows 285 races, 16 poles, 15 wins, 106 top fives and 170 top 10s. His drivers finished runnerup in two seasons – Elliott Sadler in 2011 and Chase Elliott in 2015. Cope currently is competition director at JTG Daugherty Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Mike Bliss. Mike Bliss won national championships in U.S. Auto Club (USAC) and NASCAR – part of a very small fraternity to accomplish the feat. Bliss, 53, began racing near his Milwaukie, Ore. hometown, at the old Portland Speedway and other northwest tracks. Open-wheel racing beckoned and Bliss eventually reached USAC’s Silver Crown division to become its 1993 champion. His 10 victories rank co-10th in Silver Crown rankings. Bliss changed gears with the creation of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He won 13 times and captured the 2002 championship, driving for fellow Northwesterner Dave Fuge. Bliss became a fulltime Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor, eventually participating in a combined 538 events. He finished fourth in Richmond Raceway’s 2004 spring Cup race driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Bliss won twice in the Xfinity Series in which he logged 29 top-five and 76 top-10 finishes and three times finished top-five in point standings. Both victories came at Charlotte Motor Speedway, for JGR in 2004 and James Finch in 2011. He was selected to compete in the 2003 International Race of Champions and won the Chicagoland Speedway round.*
Dave Byrd. Dave Byrd is one of the most versatile west coast stock car drivers of his era, having won six championships on dirt and six championships on pavement at seven different tracks. In 1978, he was offered, but turned down, the Rod Osterlund-owned NASCAR premier series car that ultimately went to Dale Earnhardt. Byrd’s crowning achievement was winning the 1983 NASCAR Pacific Coast Region championship, driving a late model stock car on several northern California dirt tracks. The Los Gatos, Calif. resident also raced for many years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and Southwest series, posting two top-five and 12 top-10 finishes on the latter tour. His last big victory was in 2002 when he won the Duel in Desert at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is by far the biggest IMCA race anywhere in the western United States. Sixteen states were represented with 144 drivers in attendance. Byrd, 60, has at least 140 feature race victories over a career spanning five decades – 1976 through 2015.
Mike David. Mike David of Modesto, Calif. is the 2007 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion. David, 51, competed in 91 K&N Pro Series events between 2001 and 2012, most of them behind the wheel of the Bennett Wineries Ford owned by 2013 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame inductee Randy Lynch. Three of his seven victories – including David’s first, in 2004 – came at the Stockton 99 Speedway, a quarter-mile paved oval in California’s Central Valley. David previously captured a Stockton late model title. His final series victory came at ISM Raceway in 2008 driving Lynch’s Toyota. David’s K&N Pro Series line shows 43 top-five and 66 top-10 finishes and three poles. He finished third in the 2006 Toyota All-Star Showdown at the Irwindale Events Center and also competed in the NASCAR Elite Southwest Series with a best result of second at Madera (Calif.) Speedway.*
Ron Esau. Ron Esau won inaugural NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championship (1986) and finished third in the 1987 standings, winning six times in the late model stock car series. The 64-year-old Lakeside, Calif. native ran 55 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races from 1975-98, posting three poles, eight top fives and 20 top 10s. His best finishes, two seconds, came at Willow Springs (Calif.) Raceway and Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park. He competed full-time in the series in 1983-84 finishing ninth and fifth, respectively. Esau also competed in the NASCAR premier series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series, with a ninth-place finish in the latter subbing for injured Ken Schrader at Evergreen (Wash.) Speedway in 1995. Esau’s best Cup finish (in 17 starts) was a 14th-place performance in the 1976 Winston West 500 at Riverside International Raceway. Esau won the 1978 El Cajon Stock Car Racing Association (Calif.) sportsman championship.
George Follmer. George Follmer was one of America’s most versatile motorsport figures in the middle of the 20th Century. He collected points in Formula One; won SCCA Can-Am and Trans-Am titles; won a U.S. Auto Club Championship Car race at Phoenix Raceway and posted top-five finishes in NASCAR’s premier series. Follmer, now 84, was born in Arizona but moved with his family to Southern California shortly thereafter. He raced out of Arcadia, where he owned an auto dealership. He won SCCA’s United States Road Racing Championship in 1965; the organization’s Can-Am title in 1972, subbing for Mark Donohue in Roger Penske’s Porsche 917/10; and SCCA Trans-Am titles in 1972 (Javelin) and 1976 (Porsche). Follmer spent a single season in F1 – 1973 – driving Don Nichols’ UOP Shadow and collected a third-place podium at the Spanish Grand Prix. A year later, Follmer took the wheel of Bud Moore’s Fords in a 13-race NASCAR Cup schedule, logging a fourth-place finish in Atlanta and fifths at Dover and Rockingham. He competed in six NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events – including dirt track events in Gardena and Vallejo, Calif. Follmer also won an International Race of Champions (IROC) event at Riverside International Raceway.
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, 71, entered Ford F150s in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for three seasons. His drivers collected three top-five finishes including a second by Tony Roper at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Jeff Gordon. Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon is the first west coast- born titleholder in NASCAR’s premier series. Gordon won his first championship at age 23 in 1993, his third full season in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He claimed back-to-back titles in 1997-98 and his final crown in 2001. The Vallejo, Calif. native, whose family moved to Pittsboro, Ind. so the teenage Gordon could race sprint cars, drove Hendrick cars to 11 top-10 championship finishes, winning 93 times in 805 starts – third all-time in NASCAR’s premier series. Gordon posted 325 top-five and 477 top-10 finishes and won 81 poles. He won five NASCAR Xfinity Series races, an International Race of Champions (IROC) event in 1998 and shared the Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning Cadillac DP.i-V.R. in 2017. Gordon, 47, will be enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2019. His step-father, John Bickford, was elected to the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2016.*
Lance Hooper. Hooper is a member of the “Palmdale Posse,” a group of NASCAR racers that raced out of Palmdale, Calif. headed by West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. The 51-year-old Hooper, like Hornaday, is a second-generation competitor whose family raced stock cars throughout Southern California and called Saugus (Calif.) Speedway home. Driving for West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Ray Claridge, Hooper won championships in consecutive seasons – NASCAR Elite Southwest Series in 1995 and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1996. Hooper won four times in K&N; seven times in the late model Southwest Series. Later, Hooper competed in all three NASCAR national series, finishing 10th in a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway. Hooper transitioned to a crew chief’s role with nearly 100 events over seven seasons. He posted top-10 finishes with Clay Rogers and Jeff Green and spent a full season at ThorSport Racing with Kerry Earnhardt.
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 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 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, 62, also is a television broadcaster.
Doug McCoun. Doug McCoun was the first west coast driver to win a NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship (1985) under contemporary points format and second to capture a NASCAR national title from the west. The Prunedale, Calif. resident, driving a late model stock car owned by his father, won 27 of the 53 races he entered at Watsonville and Merced fairgrounds dirt tracks and other northern California ovals in 1985. McCoun also won the organization’s Pacific Coast Region title in 1986. Competing in the NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour, McCoun, 60, 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.
Rick Mears. Transplanted Kansan Rick Mears grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., the youngest member of the racing Mears Gang comprised of father Bill and older brother Roger. Rick drove a Chevrolet stock car at Bakersfield Speedway, where Roger was a frequent winner. The pair excelled in dune buggy competition at Ascot Park and ultimately desert racing throughout the southwest United States and in Baja California. West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Parnelli Jones took an interest in Rick, who shared Jones’ off-road trucks and posted multiple class victories. Safety equipment manufacturer Bill Simpson introduced him to U.S. Auto Club championship cars, leading to a career-long association with Roger Penske. With Penske, Mears became one of just three to win the Indianapolis 500 four times – and continues to hold the record for poles (six) and front row starts (11). He won the 500 in 1979, 1983, 1989 and 1991. He won three USAC titles (seven wins) and three Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) titles (26 wins). Mears was selected to four International Race of Champions (IROC), finishing second at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Following retirement, Mears, 47, has remained in a consulting role with Team Penske.*
Eric Norris. Eric Norris of Redondo Beach, Calif. balanced a career in the entertainment industry with a successful stint in NASCAR racing. Norris, the youngest son of actor and martial arts champion Chuck Norris, won the 2002 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship. He competed in the series from 1996 through 2012, posting three wins, two poles, 18 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes. The majority of his success came in Ultra Wheels Fords. Norris, 53, also competed in the NASCAR Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck series. Norris has acted in a number of motion pictures and television productions as well as working as stuntman, stunt coordinator and second and main unit director.
Jim Pettit II won the 1984 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Pacific Coast Region championship at age 19. Pettit was one of the most accomplished northern California dirt track late model stock car competitors, competing at tracks in San Jose, Antioch, Watsonville and Merced. During his championship season – in which total points/starts were tabulated – Pettit raced on Saturday in California, then with two crew members towed overnight to Portland Speedway, barely making it in time for a Sunday afternoon event. The Seaside, Calif. driver won two NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championships back to back (2004-05), winning eight times. Pettit, 53, finished among the top 10 in more than 50 percent of his Southwest Tour starts (54 of 103).
Greg Pickett. Greg Pickett of Alamo, Calif. is the only driver to have won SCCA Trans-Am races in four decades of competition. The 71-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.
Boris Said. Boris Said is best known for his sports car successes while being an acknowledged “road course ringer” in NASCAR. Said, born in New York City but living throughout his career in Carlsbad, Calif., won the 2002 SCCA Trans-Am championship and the 2004 Rolex Grand-Am GT title. Driving a BMW, Said shared back to back GT class victories in the 1997-98 24 Hours of Daytona. Said won 10 times in the Rolex Series. He competed in the LeMans 24 Hour race, won in GT cars in Germany and also raced in Australian Super Cars. Said, whose father Bob was a pioneer post-World War II sports car driver, won poles in all three NASCAR national series. Although recognized for his road racing prowess, Said captured the pole for the 2006 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke 400 at Daytona International Speedway and finished fourth. He won a NASCAR Xfinity Series race in Montreal as well as a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event at Sonoma Raceway. He frequently was called on to tutor NASCAR’s top stars on the art of road racing. The 56-year-old Said’s final NASCAR premier series start came in August at Watkins Glen International.
Tom Sneva. From supermodifieds to the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, Spokane, Wash.’s Tom Sneva more than earned the nickname “The Gas Man.” Sneva, a high school math teacher and bus driver after graduating from Eastern Washington State University, was a top competitor on the Canadian-American Modified Racing Association (CAMRA) before catching the eye of U.S. Auto Club owners – most notably Roger Penske and later West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer George Bignotti. Driving for Team Penske, Sneva became The Captain’s first champion (USAC, 1977). He won back-to-back 500 poles in 1977-78, ultimately winning the race in 1982 – the last 500 triumph by chief mechanic Bignotti. Sneva won 10 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) events, notably four of them at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. He competed in eight NASCAR premier series races with a best finish of seventh in the 1983 Daytona 500. Sneva, 70, was selected to five International Race of Champions (IROC) events, posting a best finish of second in 1985 at Daytona International Speedway.*
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 2019 awards dinner, contact Jenniffer Wentzel at 623-463-5400. A limited number of tickets will be made available to the public beginning April 1, 2019. Inquiries should be forwarded to jwentzel@ISM.com.
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.
Owen A. Kearns