Atkinson Family, Casey, Esau, Hill, Sapper, Walker complete roster for June inductions
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (March 22 2022 ) – The West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 is complete with the selection of six Heritage members, whose careers largely took place or began prior to 1972. Their selection brings to 12 the 2022 honorees who will be enshrined during this year’s induction ceremonies, presented by World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, on Thursday, June 9 at Sonoma Raceway’s VIP/Hospitality Complex in Sonoma, Calif.
The 2022 Heritage inductees are:
- Art Atkinson, a post-World War II jalopy driver, was an 1960s NASCAR field manager, reporting to West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Famer Bob Barkhimer and Tony Coldewey. Atkinson also was a track operator, managing a pair of iconic short tracks: Speedway 605, a half-mile venue in Irwindale, and the Orange Show Speedway, a quarter-mile facility in San Bernardino. His son, Michael Atkinson, was both driver and official at his father’s tracks and in 1999 was employed by the Irwindale Events Center – Irwindale Speedway and drag strip – in a number of key roles. Prior to his death in 2021 at age 63, the younger Atkinson was the facility’s senior manager and race director. Art Atkinson also is deceased.
- Phil Casey, Fresno, Calif., was a chief mechanic for 35 years and a nine-time winner in United States Auto Club National Championship competition. Heading up Fred Gerhardt’s team from 1965 through 1972, Casey had a major hand in the construction of numerous cigar–shaped and wedge-shaped versions of the much sought after Gerhardt chassis. Casey’s nine championship-level wins were earned for Gerhardt’s team, Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing and Interscope Racing. He was Janet Guthrie’s chief mechanic when she became the first female qualifier for the Indianapolis 500 in 1977. Casey is a 2015 inductee into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.
- Ron Esau won the inaugural NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championship in 1986 and finished third in the 1987 standings. The Lakeside, Calif. native won six times in the late model stock car series. Esau competed full-time in the ARCA Menards Series West in 1983-84 finishing ninth and fifth in the point standings, respectively. Esau also competed in the NASCAR Cup 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. He won the 1978 El Cajon Stock Car Racing Association (Calif.) sportsman championship. Esau passed away in 2022 at age 67.
- Phil Hill, Formula One’s first American-born World Champion, was born in Miami in 1927 but was raised in Santa Monica, Calif., where he resided until his death in 2008 at age 81. Hill studied business administration at the University of Southern California but left early to pursue auto racing, working as a mechanic on other people’s cars. Hill crossed the Atlantic in 1956. He made his debut as a Ferrari works driver in 1958 and teamed with Belgian Olivier Gendebien to become the first American-born winner of the 24 Hour of Le Mans race, a victory he repeated in 1961-62. Hill had three F1 victories and won the 1961 World Championship. After retirement Hill worked as a television and magazine journalist and created in a renowned car restoration business. Hill is a member of multiple halls of fame.
- Ken Sapper, a front-runner at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway for more than two decades, Glendale, Calif.’s Ken Sapper won three Modified Stock Car titles, consecutively from 1984-86. Among those he competed against were West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports and NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr., the 1987 champion, West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Famer Jim Thirkettle. He won 60 main events at Saugus and Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Calif. Sapper joined fellow welder Frank Deiny Sr.’s Speedway Engineering and upon Deiny’s death in 1986, he was named president of the racing chassis and parts firm, a position the 73-year-old Sapper holds today.
- Jim Walker, a dairy farmer racing out of tiny Ferndale, Calif. on California’s north coast, won multiple super stock championships at Redwood Acres Raceway in nearby Eureka, including back-to-back titles in 1970-72. He became a well-known traveler, his No. 48 Walker Blue late model becoming the car to beat on short tracks up and down the West Coast. In January 1976 won the Permatex 300 at Riverside International Raceway, besting a loaded field that included NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Allison and West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of famers Ivan Baldwin and Hershel McGriff. Walker competed in the 1976 Permatex 300 at Daytona Speedway. His notable open competition victories included the Rose Classic at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. and NorCal 150 at Shasta Speedway in Anderson, Calif. Walker is 83.
“We at the Hall are thrilled with this year’s Heritage inductees,” said Ken Clapp, Chairman and CEO of the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame. “This class represents embraces the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame’s philosophy of honoring the greatest stars from throughout the motorsports industry worldwide. I just wish all the recipients could join us on June 9.”
Previously announced members of the Class of 2022 are Greg Biffle ,NASCAR Xfinity and Campion World Truck Series champion; Garrett Evans, multiple NASCAR Northwest Series champion and track operator; Brendan Gaughan, two-time ARCA Menards Series West champion; David Gilliland, two-time ARCA Menards Series West championship crew chief and Daytona 500 pole winner; John Moore, driver and owner champion and Placer County (Calif.) Fair Board president; and Jimmy Sills, three-time U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown Series champion.
Highlights of June’s induction ceremonies will be broadcast later this summer by MAVTV. The event also will be highlighted by presentation of the 2nd Annual Knockin’ Doorz Down Philanthropist of the Year Award presented by 51FIFTY.
2022 Heritage Class
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Art Atkinson, Michael Atkinson, Phil Casey, Ron Esau, Phil Hill, Ken Sapper and Jim Walker