AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 9, 2018) – Freddie Agabashian and George Bignotti, two Californians who share a common racing legacy, are among five 2018 Heritage inductees who will be enshrined in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame later this summer.
The Class of 2018 will be inducted June 21, 2018 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.
Agabashian, a pre-World War II stock car racer, won consecutive Bay Cities Racing Association midget titles in 1947-48 at the wheel of cars owned and prepared by Bignotti. Each gained national fame through lengthy careers in AAA/U.S. Auto Club and especially the Indianapolis 500, in which Bignotti was a seven-time winning chief mechanic.
Chosen for induction, as well, are Arizona’s Bill Cheesbourg, whose stock car racing career spanned four decades and included six Indianapolis 500 starts; NASCAR State of California hardtop champion and K&N Pro Series West winner Clyde Prickett; and stadium off-road and motocross promoter and land speed record setter Mickey Thompson.
The five were selected for induction by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s Heritage committee, which considers figures from the pre-1970 era qualified for enshrinement but not previously selected by a vote of the organization’s full board of directors.
The elected Class of 2018, announced earlier this month, is comprised of Larry Albedi, Joe Garone, Oren Prosser, Greg Pursley and Dick Woodland. The enshrinement of J.D. Gibbs is being withheld until 2019 at the request of Joe Gibbs Racing.
A special election from semi-final candidates selected Bryan R. Sperber to complete the roster of 2018 inductees. Sperber is president of ISM Raceway, as well as president of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s board of directors. His biography accompanies this release.
“This class of inductees is among the greatest in the last decade and a half,” said Ken Clapp, chairman of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. “The board of directors couldn’t be happier with its vote.
“We’re extremely pleased to be able to honor the pioneers of our sport, figures whose accomplishments are unquestioned but which may not be well-known to media members and fans of the current era. They deserve to be honored for their achievements that brought us to where we are today.”
Here are the biographies of Sperber and the five Heritage inductees
Bryan R. Sperber. For nearly 30 years, Sperber has been an integral part of the motorsports and entertainment industry at its highest levels, consistently spearheading change and innovation from coast to coast. Currently the president of ISM Raceway, Sperber has guided the strategic and operational vision for one of the most popular venues in the sports, for both fans and drivers alike. Throughout his 15 years as president of ISM Raceway, he has guided the track through significant capital expansion, overseen addition of a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, as well as helped secure the return of the Verizon IndyCar Series to the raceway. The jewel of his tenure at ISM Raceway is the current $178 million modernization project. Prior to arriving at ISM Raceway, Sperber was president of Watkins Glen International, where he was the youngest track president in NASCAR at age 30. While serving as president of ISM Raceway, Sperber also was chairman of Auto Club Speedway from 2006-07, overseeing the facility’s day-to-day operations, while helping lead the transition team for new leadership. Sperber is president of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and member of the board of directors of the Fiesta Bowl.
Freddie Agabashian. Best known for competing in the Indianapolis 500 after winning four midget championships in Northern California, Agabashian began racing stock cars in 1934 in San Jose, Calif. The Modesto, Calif.-born driver won 500-mile stock car races at the Oakland (Calif.) Mile, as well as events at Southern Ascot in the Los Angeles area. He last raced in a U.S. Auto Club (USAC) event at Western Speedway in Vallejo, Calif., driving a Dodge D500 for West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Jim Dane. Agabashian was a veteran of 11 Indianapolis 500s from 1947 through 1957, winning the pole for the 1952 race in the Cummins Diesel Special. His best finish, fourth, was recorded in 1953. After retiring from driving, Agabashian was a member of the Champion Spark Plug Safety Team which toured high schools throughout America speaking about racing and safety on the streets. The Alamo, Calif. resident died in 1989 at age 76.
George Bignotti. A San Francisco native, George Bignotti raced stock cars prior to World War II and owned an Oldsmobile campaigned in NASCAR premier series/K&N Pro Series West events in 1954. Bignotti was a top midget owner in post-war Northern California, his cars winning four Bay Cities Racing Association titles, two with fellow Heritage inductee Freddie Agabashian. He drove midgets as well, once winning 14 of 18 starts. Bignotti, along with Frank Kurtis, is credited with creating the first Indianapolis roadster. As a chief mechanic, he won a record seven 500s, with AJ Foyt (two), Al Unser (two), Graham Hill, Gordon Johncock and Tom Sneva. Bignotti’s cars won multiple Indianapolis-type championships and 85 races, including setting the USAC Championship record (twice) for 10 wins in a season. Bignotti died in 2013 at age 97.
William Bernard (Bill) Cheesbourg Jr. The Tucson, Ariz. resident, born in 1927, began his racing career at age 11 at the wheel of a Soap Box Derby entry that shed its garden hose-fabricated tires a few feet after push-off. Cheesbourg began racing jalopies in his hometown, later journeying to Phoenix-area tracks and won the 1955 Arizona Jalopy Association championship. Driving a 1932 Ford nicknamed Bobalu, Cheesbourg once won 73 of the 75 races he entered. Cheesbourg made six Indianapolis 500 starts with a best finish of 10th in 1958 and continues to hold the record for the most cars passed on the race’s opening lap – 17. He competed in two NASCAR premier series events and seven NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races, winning at Manzanita (Ariz.) Speedway in 1975. Cheesbourg, enshrined in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame, also won a U.S. Auto Club stock car race. He died in 1995 at age 67.
Clyde Prickett. The Fresno, Calif., resident won the 1955 NASCAR State of California championship in hard tops, as well as the title at Fresno’s Kearney Bowl track. Prickett was a top driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West despite his status as a part-time competitor. He scored his lone K&N Pro victory at Medford, Ore.’s Rogue Valley Speedway in 1968. Prickett competed in three NASCAR premier series events at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway with a best finish of 14th in 1968 on the 2.62-mile road course. Now 85, Prickett continues as president of the Coca-Cola distributorship in his San Joaquin Valley hometown.
Marion Lee “Mickey” Thompson. Born in 1928 in Alhambra, Calif., Thompson was a pioneer in multiple motorsports genres: drag racing, land speed, the Indianapolis 500 and off-road competition. Thompson, a top fuel drag racer, was the first manager of Lion’s Drag Strip in Wilmington, Calif. He later created SCORE, a preeminent off-road promotional group with events in the U.S. and Mexico. Thompson also organized indoor and stadium off-road racing under the Mickey Thompson Event Group (MTEG). In 1960, Thompson became the first American to eclipse the 400 mph on land, driving his Challenger I car to a one-way top speed of 406.60 mph on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. Thompson brought out-side-the-box designed cars to the Indianapolis 500 from 1962-65 and 67-68. His best finish was ninth in 1962. Thompson, the victim with his wife Trudy of a murder-for-hire plot, died in 1988 at age 69. He is a member of multiple halls of fame.
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 2018 awards dinner, contact Jenniffer Wentzel at 623-463-5400. A limited number of tickets will be make available to the public beginning April 1, 2018. Inquiries should be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
About Gateway Motorsports Park
Gateway Motorsports Park is the home of INDYCAR, NASCAR and NHRA racing in the St. Louis region. Located just five minutes from downtown St. Louis and covering more than 340 acres, Gateway Motorsports Park is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the area. Gateway Motorsports Park’s facilities include a 1/4-mile drag strip, 1.25-mile superspeedway, 1.6-mile road course, a state-of-the-art karting facility and a 14-acre, multi-purpose dirt off-road venue. Gateway Motorsports Park was the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Facility of the Year Award from the Race Track Business Conference and the 2017 Spirit of St. Louis Award from St. Louis Attractions Association.
West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame
Owen A. Kearns
Gateway Motorsports Park
(618) 215-8888 ext. 119