Twenty-five nominees selected for WCSCHOF’s first-round ballot
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.
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 in alphabetical order (*first time nominee):
George Bignotti*, Larry Burton*, Ron Esau, Garrett Evans, Walker Evans*, Dave Fuge, Blackie Gejeian*, Tom Gloy*, the Goularte brothers*, Rick Henderson, Howard Kaeding*, Tommy Kendall*, Joe Leonard*, Doug McCoun, Jim Pettit II, Greg Pickett*, Gene Price, Clyde Prickett, Oren Prosser, Scott Pruett*, Marshall Sargent*, Frank Secrist, George Snider*, Gene Welch* and Richard Woodland*.
2017 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Nominees
George Bignotti. George Bignotti was born in San Francisco, and with two older brothers, both of whom were racing mechanics, learned how to handle a wrench at an early age. The boys eventually bought a midget and raced the car several times a week, with George as the substitute driver if the regular driver didn't show for a race. He competed in stock cars prior to World War II and in 1954 owned the Oldsmobile Jim Graham raced in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events. Bignotti ultimately decided that his place was as a mechanic. Bignotti and A. J. Foyt teamed up in 1960, and in 1961 and 1964 they won the Indianapolis 500. They also won the USAC Championship three times in four years. He won the Indianapolis 500 a record seven times with six different drivers. Bignotti passed away in 2013 at age 97.
Larry Burton. Known as “The Roseville Rocket,” Larry Burton was a stellar hard top and supermodified driver who once won 25 consecutive races. Burton was credited with multiple track championships including five (1957, 1959-60, 1963, 1965) at the West Capital Speedway near Sacramento, Calif. Burton was among top drivers who competed in Australia during the off-season. He also drove in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West for Scotty Cain. He operated Roseville’s All American Speedway for 12 years, where he presented a high-dollar open competition race that drew the nation’s top drivers. Burton moved to Carson City, Nev. where he purchased and promoted T-Car Speedway. The Roseville, Calif. resident died in 2007 at the age of 73.
Ron Esau. Won inaugural NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championship (1986) and finished third in the 1987 standings. Won six times in the series. Competed full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1983-84 finishing ninth and fifth, respectively. Esau also competed in the NASCAR premier series and Camping World Truck Series, with a ninth-place finish in the latter subbing for injured Ken Schrader at Evergreen (Wash.) Speedway in 1995). Won 1978 El Cajon Stock Car Racing Association (Calif.) sportsman championship. *2016 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). Also has two Southwest Tour wins. Competed in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Continues to operate Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Raceway. *2016 nominee
Walker Evans. Roger Walker Evans, born Dec. 3, 1938 in Cedar Lake, Mich., started Walker Evans Racing in 1977 to field his own off-road racing team after driving for West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famers Bill Stroppe and Parnelli Jones. The Riverside, Calif. resident won the Baja 1000 nine times in specially built trucks. He was the first to win the grueling race overall in a truck. His 142 victories and 21 championships have come in a variety of disciplines – desert, Mickey Thompson stadium series and short course races. After serving as crew chief for two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series champion Brendan Gaughan, Evans competed for two seasons (1995-96) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he posted three top-10 finishes as owner/driver. Evans is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Dave Fuge. Dave Fuge’s continuing career is that of race car builder, team owner and crew chief. A Washington native, Fuge has worked with a virtual Who’s Who of drivers including West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame members, Derrike Cope, Ron Eaton, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Bill Schmitt. Fuge won championships in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Mike Bliss (1992) and Travis Kvapil (1994) and 11 races overall. The late Bobby Hamilton won the NASCAR premier series rookie of the year title driving for Tri-Star Motorsports which Fuge co-owned with Mark Smith and George Bradshaw.*2016 nominee
Blackie Gejeian. Michael Gejeian, born in 1926, was a preeminent promoter of auto races and car shows in California’s Central Valley. Returning from World War II in which he served in the U.S. Navy, the Easton, Calif. native built a roadster which he wrecked in its first race. He rebuilt it as a shiny black show car, which he accompanied clad in all black leathers – deriving the nickname “Blackie” by which most knew him. Gejeian won five racing championships and promoted NASCAR weekly races at Clovis and Madera speedways as well as the Fresno Dragway, which he operated for 18 years. Gejeian’s Fresno Autorama was known as one America’s largest car shows and ran for 51 years beginning in 1958. Gejeian died on Sept. 2, 2016 at age 90.
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, 69, entered Ford F150s in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for three seasons. His drivers collected three top-five finishes including a second by Tony Roper at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Goularte Brothers. Brothers Harry and Anthony (Tony) Goularte, from Morgan Hill, Calif., started building hard tops in the early 1950s. They were known as being able to build, repair or modify anything. One of their first drivers was Joe Soares, who was on pace to win the San Jose Speedway championship when he was drafted. West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Johnny Key then took over and continued to win. Danny Graves, Clyde Palmer, Joe Leonard and Ernie Rose also drove for them and won scores of races. Both brothers are deceased, Harry in 1999 and Tony in 2013.
Rick Henderson. Rick Henderson of Petaluma, Calif. was the first west coast driver to win a NASCAR national racing championship, capturing the 1959 sportsman title. Henderson also won the State of California championship in the same season, a title he previously won in 1957 and subsequently won in 1961-62. He won five additional track championships with three coming at San Jose (Calif.) Speedway, one at Kearney Bowl in Fresno, Calif. and one at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Speedway. Henderson competed in a trio of NASCAR premier series/Pacific Coast Late Model events at Oakland and Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif. in 1954 at age 22. Henderson passed away in 2001 at age 69.*2016 nominee
Howard Kaeding. Howard Kaeding and his family moved from Nebraska to the Campbell, Calif. area – outside San Jose – in 1939. He began track racing at the age of 23 in 1954. Kaeding was among the top drivers at the old San Jose Speedway, winning NASCAR supermodified championships in 1973-74. He once won 23 races in a row at the third-mile paved oval. Kaeding won Clovis Speedway NASCAR championships in 1970-71 and was NASCAR’s State of California championship from 1970-72. The Howard Kaeding Classic is held annually in his honor each July in Watsonville, Calif.
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 NASCAR Sprint Cup 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, 60, also is a television broadcaster.
Joe Leonard. Born in San Diego in 1932, Joe Leonard exceled on two and four wheels. Leonard won three American Motorcyclist Association championships (1954, 1956-57), winning 27 races including the famed Daytona 200 twice. Switching genres, began racing hard tops and NASCAR supermodifieds in central California. Leonard then moved to the U.S. Auto Club’s championship car circuit. In 98 races, Leonard won six times including the 1971 California 500 at the Ontario Motor Speedway and captured the 1971-72 national championships. He finished third twice in the Indianapolis 500 and also won a USAC stock car race at the DuQuoin (Ill.) Fairgrounds in 1964. Leonard made one NASCAR premier series start, driving for Smokey Yunick in the 1969 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Doug McCoun. Only west coast driver to win a NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship (1985). Competing in the NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour, McCoun 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. *2016 nominee
Jim Pettit II. Won the 1984 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Pacific Coast Region championship at age 19. One of most accomplished northern California dirt track late model stock car competitors. Won two NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championships back to back (2004-05), winning eight times. Pettit finished among the top 10 in more than 50% of his starts (54 of 103). *2016 nominee
Greg Pickett. Greg Pickett of Alamo, Calif. is the only driver to have won SCCA Trans-Am races in four decades of competition. The 70-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.
Gene Price. Few owners have had more success than Gene Price and his Gene Price Motorsports team in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Price’s drivers accounted for three championships among six consecutive top-five points finishes between 2009 and 2014. Greg Pursley won titles in 2011 and 2014 and Dylan Kwasniewski captured the 2013 championship – just eight points ahead of runner up Pursley. Cameron Hayley finished second to Pursley in 2014. The three drivers accounted for 26 wins and 90 top-five and 114 top-10 finishes in a combined 144 starts. Gene Price Motorsports also won twice in the NASCAR Elite Southwest Series and competed briefly in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. *2016 nominee
Clyde Prickett. Fresno, Calif. competitor known as a charger won once in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, driving Chevrolets. Prickett was especially fast on short tracks, winning the NASCAR California State Championship for hard tops in 1955. Prickett competed in three NASCAR premier series events, all at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway with a best finish of 14th in 1968. He drove the famed No. 34 Ford for NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in 1966. Prickett’s lone K&N Pro Series victory came at Medford, Ore.’s Rogue Valley Speedway in 1968. Never a full-time campaigner, he still finished seventh in the 1968 point standings and went on to establish a successful Coca-Cola distributorship in his hometown. *2016 nominee
Oren Prosser. Oren Prosser was virtually unbeatable at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway in the 1960s and 1970s, winning five sportsman stock car championships (1964, 1967-72). He won nine consecutive feature races at the flat, .333-mile track in 1966. In 1971 Prosser won the July 4 Firecracker 400 – capturing all four 100-lap races at four southern California tracks. He also won Saugus’ first 330-lap event in 1975. Prosser won the NASCAR Permatex 300 in 1967 at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway and competed in three NASCAR premier series events. He drove Chevrolets for owner Donnie Johnson. *2016 nominee
Scott Pruett. Scott Pruett of Roseville, Calif. has won races in full-bodied cars, sports cars and championship cars. Pruett, 57, won three SCCA Trans-Am titles (1987, 1994 and 2003) and a pair of IMSA GTO championships (1986, 1988). He won two Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) events and was the Indianapolis 500 co-rookie of the year in 1989. Pruett’s greatest success came in Rolex GRAND-AM/WeatherTech sports car racing: five championships (2004, 2008, 2010-11, and 2013) and 45 victories, including five overall wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing. Pruett competed in 40 NASCAR premier series races (including a full season in 2000) with three top-five and six top-10 finishes that include a second at Watkins Glen International in 2003. He won a NASCAR XFINITY Series pole in Mexico City. Owner of Pruett Vineyards, Pruett also has been a television commentator.
Marshall Sargent. Marshall Sargent was a true international star, winning an estimated 500 feature races in the United States and Australia during a 20-year racing career. The Salinas, Calif. native, who raced out of San Jose, starred in hard tops and supermodifieds and won the NASCAR State of California championship in 1960. He won 88 races at the old San Jose Speedway, a paved third-mile track, including 1960 and 1963 Johnny Key Classics. Sargent was the 1960 San Jose champion and also won titles at Alviso, Salinas and Sacramento. Sargent also competed in the NASCAR premier series, qualifying for the 1961 Daytona 500. He had three top-10 finishes in 12 appearances, the best a seventh at Eureka, Calif. in 1957. Sargent won a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at the Gardena (Calif.) Stadium in 1957, driving the Howard Cams Chevrolet. Sargent died in 1990 at age 59.
Frank Secrist. Frank Secrist of Oildale, Calif. won 1951-54 jalopy championships – then the top weekly racing division – at Bakersfield Speedway as well as the 1953-55 jalopy titles at Hanford, Calif. Secrist won the 1960 modified sportsman championship in Bakersfield and finished third in NASCAR’s California standings in 1961. He also competed at Daytona International Speedway, setting track records in the division in 1961 and 62 – in the latter event erasing NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough’s speed from the books. He won nine of 11 super modified races in 1963 and won the first USAC midget race he entered in 1966. Secrist competed in eight NASCAR premier series races winning one pole at the 1.4-mile Marchbanks Speedway in Hanford. His best finish was fourth at Sacramento’s old state fairgrounds mile track in 1961. *2016 nominee
George Snider. Born in Fresno, Calif. but living for most of his career in Bakersfield, George Snider, 77, began drag racing at the age of 15 and soon began competing in jalopies, hard tops and supermodifieds. He was one of the first to mount a wing on his No. 72 coupe, winning races at Kearney Bowl in Fresno and on other central California tracks. Snider won the 1964 Johnny Key Classic at the old San Jose Speedway. He won the 1971 U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown championship and was the organization’s final Gold Crown champion in 1981-82. Snider made 22 Indianapolis 500 starts – most by a non-winner – most of them as a teammate to A.J. Foyt. His best finish was eighth, in 1975 and 1978. He is a member of the Bob Elias Sports Hall of Fame in Bakersfield.
Gene Welch. George Welch operated Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. before moving west to Orangevale, Calif. where he owned Welch Racing Enterprises. He sponsored numerous drivers who captured multiple championships at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. He led contingents of drivers to race in Australia and New Zealand during the winter months. He was crew chief for his son, Mark, who won back to back NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships in 1999-2000. Gene Welch died in 2015 at the age of 90.
Dick Woodland. Dick Woodland, Templeton, Calif., built his first race car, a jalopy, in 1958 at age 15. In 1963, driver Mark Ward drove his supermodified to the top 20 in NASCAR national points. In 1964 Woodland turned 21 and raced for the first time, with a best feature finish in NASCAR competition at Fresno, Calif.’s Kearney Bowl. After military service, Woodland drove a California Racing Association sprint car at Ascot Park in Gardena but with a growing family, turned owner and hired Frank Secrist and Jim Eiland. Later, he teamed with Billy Wilkerson. Their drivers included P.J. Jones, Rip Williams and Ron Shuman, who won the initial SCRA championship for the team. Woodland entered the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. in 1991 and continued with his son, Rich Jr. In 55 races, they won once (at Phoenix in 1998) and finished fifth in the 1995 standings. They also entered several NASCAR premier series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series events.