PHOENIX, Ariz. – A NASCAR K&N Pro Series West double champion, a pair of pioneer hard top competitors, an acclaimed short track racer with multiple titles and an industry agent/marketer comprise the five-member Class of 2016 to be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
The latest inductees – John Bickford, Mike Duncan, Johnny Key, Al Pombo and Jim Thirkettle – were announced March 13 prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Induction of the five will take place June 23 at the Meritage Resort in Napa, Calif. during Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series/K&N Pro Series West weekend.
This year’s class marks the first time that voting was broadened to include nominees from a variety of historic and present stock car disciplines that include weekly racing competition and tours as well as NASCAR modified stock car racing.
Bickford, originally from Vallejo, Calif., is the step-father of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and current FOX Sports analyst Jeff Gordon. He directed the youngster’s early, open-wheel career in California and Indiana and as Gordon’s de facto agent and off-track tutor, Bickford molded Gordon into a superstar in NASCAR’s post-1990, television-centric era.
Duncan, a former minor league baseball player and Bakersfield, Calif.-area rancher, won back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships in 2004-05. He was the series’ rookie of the year in 2000 and voted Most Popular Driver in 2007, his final season of competition. Duncan won eight times in the division, along with 20 poles and finished more than 60 percent of his 96 races among the top 10.
The late Johnny Key won four championships in roadster and hard top racing, competing in California and Arizona. In 1952, the Salinas, Calif. driver won 54 times – including eight races over a seven-day span in the California Stock Car Racing Association plus three open wheel events. Key suffered fatal injuries during a AAA midget race in Cincinnati, Ohio in June 1954.
Pombo, born in the Azores but raised in Merced, Calif., competed in dirt cars, hard tops, sprint cars and super modifieds beginning in 1954 and won more than 500 main events, seven NASCAR super modified titles and numerous championships at short track throughout California before retiring in 1971. Racing out of Fresno, Calif., Pombo also briefly competed in what’s now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 85.
Thirkettle starred as a short track campaigner throughout southern California and became the all-time winner and super stock champion at the now-defunct Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. He won five titles and posted 78 victories at the half-mile paved oval. The Sylmar, Calif. competitor showed his all-around capabilities by posting three NASCAR premier series top 10s at the Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway road course. He won two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races and one NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Series event.
June’s induction ceremonies are open to the general public on a limited, space-available basis. Information is available by emailing the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at firstname.lastname@example.org.