BURBANK, Calif. – Ten racing legends – three of them family members of previous inductees – will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in ceremonies to be held July 1 in the Southern California community of Azusa.
The 2011 class is the eighth 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 105. 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 Marvin Burke, Louis “Lou” Mangini, Chuck Parko, Al Schmidhamer, George Seeger and Chuck Stevenson. All but Parko and Schmidhamer are deceased.
Inductees from the Modern era (1970 to present) are Cary Agajanian, the late Roger McCluskey, Joe Ruttman and the late Tim Williamson.
Agajanian’s father, event promoter J.C. Agajanian and Ruttman’s brother, Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman were elected to the Hall of Fame as members of its 2002 inaugural class. Mangini’s older brother, Joe Mangini Jr., was inducted in 2010.
With their induction, the Hall will feature two fathers and sons and four sets of brothers. Previous inductees with familial connections are Bert Letner and son Danny Letner and brothers Carl, Jim and Lloyd Dane and Joe and John Fernandez.
This year’s Hall of Fame induction dinner returns to 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.
Burke, Pittsburg, Calif., is one of six drivers to win the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event he entered at Oakland, Calif. in 1951. The majority of his career – and wins – came prior to the sanctioning body’s arrival on the West Coast. Burke, born in 1918, died in 1994.
Mangini, Walnut Creek, Calif., who operated a popular auto service shop, fielded mainly Plymouths driven by Bob Caswell and Danny Letner. His cars accumulated wins at Oakland, San Diego and San Jose among 100 top-10 finishes over a 10-year period that ended in 1955.
Parko, Whittier, Calif. entered stock car racing in 1957 and was associated as owner, crew chief and mechanic for – among others – West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame members Eddie Gray, Parnelli Jones, Don Noel, Marvin Porter and Bob Ross. Parko had his hands on approximately 50 winners prior to his leaving the sport in 1969.
Schmidhamer, Portland, Ore., was a prominent Pacific Northwest car owner in the 1950s and 1960s. His Ford, Oldsmobile and Dodge entries were driven by West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame members Bill Amick, Johnny Kieper and Art Watts. Schmidhamer remains active in his 90s.
Seeger, Whittier, Calif., competed in a variety of cars in the post-World War II years winning numerous non-NASCAR sanctioned races. His 20-race NASCAR Sprint Cup career spanned the years 1951-57. He posted five top-five finishes, including a second at Eureka, Calif., driving the well-known Oscar Maples Ford. Seeger, born in 1918, died in 1957.
Stevenson, Sydney, Mont. (and later Garden Grove, Calif.), won one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 1955 at the Willow Springs International Raceway near Rosamond, Calif. He drove a Peter De Paolo Ford prepared by West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame member Carl Dane. Stevenson’s greatest success was on the AAA circuits. He won the AAA National Championship Car title in 1952, the same season he won the first of back-to-back Pan American Road races in Mexico driving a Bill Stroppe-prepared Lincoln. Born in 1919, Stevenson died in 1995.
Agajanian, promoter of record for the old Ascot Park complex in Gardena, Calif., is an attorney and legal advisor to the motorsports industry for many years. Agajanian owned and sponsored many different kinds of race cars from Indianapolis to NASCAR. With good friend and former California lieutenant governor Mike Curb, he won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway. He is CEO of MMI which advises many of the sport’s top athletes including Tony Stewart. His law firm is located in Beverly Hills, Calif.
McCluskey, Tucson, Ariz., won back-to-back U.S. Auto Club stock car championships in 1969-70. His 23 victories included a 500-mile race at Pocono Raceway and wins at Infineon Raceway, Texas World Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile and Michigan International Speedway. He competed 18 times in the Indianapolis 500 and won the 1973 USAC Championship Car title. McCluskey was executive vice president of USAC when he died at age 63 in 1993.
Ruttman, Upland, Calif., won the 1980 U.S. Auto Club stock car championship and competed extensively in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 20 seasons. He scored 19 top-five finishes including a third in the Daytona 500. He also won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway in 1982. His greatest success came in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he finished second in the standings in its inaugural season of 1995. Ruttman won 13 truck races – all past the age of 50. He remains the series’ oldest pole and race winner.
Williamson, Seaside, Calif., won two NASCAR K&N Pro Series races in 1978-79 and the circuit’s rookie of the year title and second-place championship finish in his only full season of competition. Williamson was a consistent winner on both dirt and asphalt before moving to the west’s premier stock car division. He was expected to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1980 but died one day before his 24th birthday in a racing accident at the old Riverside International Raceway in Southern California.
(Note: Williamson was elected in 2010 but his induction was delayed at the request of his family which had a pre-existing conflict with the weekend of last year’s ceremonies.)
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, email@example.com.