West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2018… Ken Clapp, Chairman of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, today announced that six individuals – Joe Garone, J.D. Gibbs, Oren Prosser, Greg Pursley, Dick Woodland, and Larry Albedi – had been elected to the roster of honored racing greats. The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame was founded in 2001 to preserve the history and heritage of the stock car racing in all its forms in the western United States and Canada. Honorees have included designers, engineers, mechanics, drivers, race track owners, promoters, publicists and members of the motorsports media. For more information contact Owen Kearns ( email@example.com ).
KEN CLAPP, Chairman of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame
CLAPP: “I appreciate you all being here. I know you have a busy schedule, so I will make this as informative and brief as I possibly can. A little history first. The Hall of Fame started in 2001. In the very beginning it was a reunion that became a Hall of Fame in 2002. We were based in Los Angeles originally. We moved up to be compatible with the Sonoma NASCAR weekend about seven years ago. We induct five (hall of fame members) a year. We have a final of 20 nominations, very similar to the NASCAR National Hall of Fame. We do have, not every year but occasionally, we do have a media award and this year we will be doing one and I will announce that in a moment and we have five historic inductees. This is the first year that we have had a historic category. We are not going to announce those today. In most cases they are no longer with us, but that list will come out through Owen Kearns of the Hall of Fame in the next couple of weeks. This year’s inductees: first – and certainly nobody’s first, everybody’s equal – Joe Garone, the president of Furniture Row, a product of Denver, Colorado, former K&N West Champion and chief mechanic involved for a long time with hall of famer Rick Carelli. Joe is a very popular selection. He’s very excited about this incidentally and very humble about it. We are glad to have Joe coming in this year.
Next, and I will be very honest, this is probably the most emotional nominee and voted upon inductee we have ever had, born in Los Angeles, played football in his early years and eventually took over JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), J.D. Gibbs. I can’t tell you how happy we are that he is being inducted. I might also add seldom do we ever carry a 100 percent of the votes of the voting board, but J.D. did. Our third inductee this year an old, old West coast name Oren Prosser. Oren was very good and very fast in the late (19)50s through the 60s and into the early 70s. He won over 300 feature events on all kinds of tracks. He won the Permatex Race at Riverside once. That is the same event Hershel McGriff won 14 times. Had Oren have gone East, he probably would be in the annals of the greats. He was just a very talented guy. (He is) still alive, still putting horseshoes on horses for a living. His son-in-law, Tim Huddleston, just took over the Irwindale Raceway. Oren is a very popular inductee. We are happy about it.
“Our fourth selection for 2018 is Richard Woodland–Dick Woodland, from San Luis Obispo, California. Long-time car owner. He started a museum in San Luis Obispo for military aircraft and race cars a number of years ago. A very diversified businessman, a great friend of racing, through the years he’s had some very impressive names in his cars, including Parnelli Jones back in the day. A good friend of the (West Coast Stock Car) Hall of Fame’s since day one and he’s certainly been a very generous friend of the Hall of Fame.
“As I mentioned earlier, we do not have a media award every year. This year it will be a man who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for over 60 years. We lost him recently, Larry Albedi. Larry was a mechanic in the early days, back in the 1940s for George Bignotti. He started driving stock cars in the old Oakland Speedway high-wall days. I actually saw him tear the whole body off of a 1951 Kaiser—the whole body. He found that probably announcing and public relations was probably a better way to go in his case and he did it. He was the voice of Sonoma Raceway, previously Sear’s Point for many, many years. He was a Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar dealer in Vallejo, California, and a very worthy inductee.
“Last but not least, Greg Pursley. Greg Pursley had a very impressive record over a span of years. He drove for Gene Price, Lake Havasu, California. Two championships, 20 wins (including three at ISM Raceway), retired now. Very popular with the fans and the media. He is the final inductee for this year, so that gives us six. We are having our induction dinner on Thursday night, June 21st, at the Meritage Resort in Napa, California. That’ll kick of the Sonoma weekend. Everybody in this room that’s related to the media is invited as our guest. We get quite a few of you who join us, and we do appreciate that very much. It’s a very nice party. The president of the Hall of Fame just came in and sat down for a moment and I’d like to extend our gratitude to Bryan Sperber, who is our host this weekend. Bryan and I have a long history and he’s been a very instrumental part in allowing us to gain the success that we have and being able to recognize those who have accomplished above and beyond.”
Q: Who was behind the set-up of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2001?
CLAPP: “In the very beginning it was a reunion, and it was held on the Fourth of July weekend at Irwindale Speedway, suburb of Los Angeles. And the fellow who put the reunion together’s name was Tim Meyer. I went to Tim after the reunion that day and said ‘you’ve got the makings of a hall of fame here, and the west coast needs a good, solid hall of fame.’ That was something he wasn’t very familiar with, but several others got behind him, coached him and put it together. So, the (West Coast Stock Car) Hall of Fame today, as we know it, actually started in 2002.”
Q: Is the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame a museum for the public? Is it possible to visit it?
CLAPP: “No, and I’ll be very candid with you. I give Bryan Sperber a lot of credit for this, in the very beginning we had visions and dreams of having a permanent location. Bryan felt that we would be better served to have a virtual hall of fame, and we stuck to our guns with that. We’ve had multiple facilities come to us and want us to establish a base. Period, we have not done that. We have a pretty impressive collection of memorabilia, but we don’t plan to have a base. We plan to keep it virtual and, very candidly, the reason is we don’t have a light bill, we don’t have a payroll of any consequence. We set out to be financially solid in the very beginning. We take a great pride in being able to give money to those less fortunate, and every year for the last four years, including this year, because I know where we are right now for this year; we’ve given $320,000 to charities. That’s the way we’re operating. We’re a 501C3, we’ve very fortunately drawn the interest of major corporations involved in racing across America. I’m not going to go into the list, but it’s extensive. That’s where we are.”
Q: Could you explain to everybody here the distinction between the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
CLAPP: “The NASCAR Hall of Fame, which I’m fortunate to be a part of as well, recognizes only persons who have achieved above and beyond in NASCAR, in all categories. Just like the West Coast [Stock Car Hall of Fame], it gets tougher and tougher every year, it’s not easy. It’s amazing to sit in one of the meetings and hear the exchange that goes on. We set out to be strictly stock car related in the beginning. One day, several years ago, I was sitting in the trailer up at Auto Club Speedway with Mike Helton. We were just talking, and he said ‘I’ve got a suggestion, do with it as you wish, but i want to throw it out, why don’t you open it up?’ because at that point we had grown rather significantly. ‘Why don’t you open it up to anybody from the west coast?’ which is a part of our criteria. You don’t have to have been born here, but you have to have come here at a pretty young age. I listened to what Mike said and discussed it with Bryan, several other board members. It made sense, because we had a lot of people that had competed in stock car racing, all the way back into the 1930s, as we go all the way back, but they had actually gained their fame, and in some cases fortune, through Indy cars, road racing, etc. etc. Some good examples, Scott Pruett was inducted several years ago. Scott was a very good stock car driver, but his focus was always on road racing, but I think he’s a very very good induction into our organization. Going back further, Parnelli (Jones) was very strong in the (SCCA) Trans-Am series, and that was against some tough competition. NASCAR sticks strictly with NASCAR.”
Q: The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Is it open for membership and if so, do the members have to live on the West Coast of the U.S?
CLAPP: “We don’t have anyone on our board of directors who isn’t from the West Coast. No Exceptions. We recently reviewed a gentleman who is not here today but very well known to all of you, and I thought he was born in California, and he wasn’t. So, I had to apologize and excuse ourselves from talking to him about it. He understood. It was fine. But no, for the board, you’ve got to be from out here. Now in Bryan Sperber’s case, we consider him based here for life. I don’t see him ever leaving. He likes it here. I think we can all see he is one of the best operators in the country. He meets those qualifications. In answer to your question a bit further, if you’re a mechanic, car owner, promoter or driver and you came here early in your life and you established your roots on the Pacific Coast or Hawaii, but we’ve never had a Hawaiian nomination, that would be part of our territory, you’re eligible.”
Q: That means in principle also foreigners (going to or living in the West Coast) can become members (or board of directors at West Coast Hall of Fame)?
CLAPP: “If they came here young and started out here. Well, he was from Phoenix. I was going to use Eddie Cheever as an example, as Eddie did run IROC and he came from here when he went to Formula One many years ago, but I think he was born here. I’m trying to think of somebody that I can put a name on that would be a good example…well, there’s Parnelli Jones. He was born in Arkansas, came here as a little boy to Los Angeles. He totally meets our requirements.”
Q: What about (Hawaii native) Danny Ongais?
CLAPP: “His name’s been brought up. He has not been nominated. It probably would meet the qualifications. I think he is more looked upon as a drag racer and an Indianapolis driver than he ever was connected to any kind of stock car racing. You know that kind of briefly allows me to elaborate on how tough it is getting. It’s not easy to get into this (West Coast Stock Car) Hall of fame. It’s tough. Just like it is with the National NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.”
Q: Ken, could you tell us a little about the selection process? Who actually creates the nominations and how those people might be elected?
CLAPP: “Yes, anybody is welcome to submit a bio on somebody they feel is worthy. We have a selection committee within the board which consists of Owen Kearns, who everybody here knows, myself and several others. We get a lot of bios that just don’t have the credentials. Period. They just don’t have them. We’re very discreet. We’re very fair, and we go to great ends to be sure we’re covering all the bases. Then, the nominations are narrowed down to about 25. It can vary a bit. From that, we finally agree on 20 by committee, which is comprised of 17 people. So, 20 (nominations) go to vote. We take 10. Those 10 go to vote and we end up with five (selections) plus the media recognition.”