Interview with 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Bill McAnally

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West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame 2012 Inductees

Founded in 2001, the West Cost Stock Car Hall of Fame recognizes significant contributors to Stock Car Racing development and history – including designers, engineers, mechanics, drivers, racetrack owners, promoters, publicists and members of the motorsports media. The 2012 class will be inducted during a gala event June 21 during the NASCAR weekend at Infineon Raceway.

PIR sat down recently with several of the honored members from the 2012 class to discuss some of their most cherished NASCAR and West Coast Racing memories.

Bill McAnally:

“It’s a humbling sport which makes it more challenging and makes winning much more rewarding than anything I’ve done in my life.”

A five-time K&N Pro Series West owner champion, Bill McAnally is a former series driver and promoter at various west coast tracks. Founded in 1986, Bill McAnally Racing (BMR) is one of the most respected race teams on the west coast. When he’s not at the track, McAnally can be found overseeing either of his two Sacramento-area automotive repair facilities.

How did you begin your career in auto racing?

When I moved to the Sacramento area to go to college, I lived with a family in Roseville that was pretty prominent. (The father) was the president of the fair board and ran the race track at All American Speedway in Roseville. They needed to hire somebody who was certified in sound who could run the decibel meter on Saturday nights and I took the job to make a little extra cash. I had always been intrigued with racing and I had been out to the races with him. I took that job and it got me in the middle of it in 1986 and being around it motivated me to build a bomber race car. At the age of 20, me and my roommate, we built an entry-level bomber race car. It had two seats and we could actually switch driving duties, so he’d drive one weekend and I’d drive the next. The next year we built our own street stocks where we could work on the chassis more and build a better engine since you could do more to the street stock cars. From there I just worked my way on up. We won races at the street stock level and in 1990 I moved to the Premier Series at the track, the Winston Racing Series Late Models and we won the NASCAR Winston Racing Series Championship in 1999 in their Weekly Late Model Series.

What does it mean to you to be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame?

It’s an incredible honor, I didn’t see it coming at my age. I’m still building race teams and promoting races and developing drivers. I feel like being inducted into the Hall of Fame is something that happens after your career is over and we are still working hard and I am far from over with my career. But it is a huge honor. People like Les Richter and Parnell Jones and Hershel McGriff, and the people that are in the Hall of Fame, to be among that elite group of people who have done so much for West Coast racing is just a huge honor and a privilege, something that I am very proud of.

How important is it to the continued growth of NASCAR to recognize the specific accomplishments that have taken place in the West?

I think it’s fantastic. Moving this to a NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend when the Cup is out here in the wine country, what a year to be inducted. This is amazing, what Ken (West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Board Chairman, Ken Clapp) and Bryan (Phoenix International Raceway President, Bryan Sperber) and everybody involved in the Hall of Fame has done to continue to grow this. I’ve watched it go from Irwindale Speedway to a plush ballroom to a Sprint Cup weekend where competitors can partake and be part of it is fantastic. What a year to be inducted.

What is special to you about West Coast racing?

I had the opportunity in 2002 and 2003, when Brendan Gaughan drove for me, we won two NASCAR Winston West championships and we moved into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series which is now the Camping World Truck Series. I toured around and we’d literally be in New Hampshire one weekend and Texas the next weekend and I got a taste of NASCAR national touring for a couple of years racing trucks. With my family being based in Northern California and my kids playing sports, it was difficult to travel that much and miss things. I had my son give me a baseball when I got home one time — it was his first home run, and that made me realize how much I appreciate being able to race on the West Coast and to be able to make a living racing on the West Coast. It made me come back and enjoy it more than ever.

Who was the most influential person in your career?

There have been so many. Richard Childress has been great. He’s a mentor of mine. Being able to see what he has accomplished through NASCAR racing and how he deals with his sponsors and his employees and drivers. Ken Clapp has always been there to answer questions and help me from becoming a driver to a car owner and a race promoter, he’s helped so much. Jim Hunter was always there for me. I could always call Jim and bounce ideas off of him and he always gave me a clear path and some great direction.  There are so many people who have helped me, it’s hard to select a single person, there have been a lot of people who have helped.

What is it that you have enjoyed most about your career?

I have enjoyed it all and I continue to enjoy it. When I stop enjoying it, it’s time to find something else. It’s been amazing and I’m just living my dream.

What has been the toughest part of your career?

In 1994, they were having a Pinewood Derby national event and I took our race car and put it on display. We were heading out to our season opener at Mesa Marin Raceway the next morning, so I left everything loaded up and that night my truck and my trailer were stolen. I had a just a one-ton dually pickup with a 40-foot enclosed trailer and it was stolen. They took the tools and what they wanted out of it, dumped over my race fuel and ignited my trailer and burned it to the ground. (I thought) I was going to be the 1994 rookie of the year in the Winston West. We had pulled enough resources together to make a run for rookie of the year and to have that snuffed like that was a tough one to get over.

At first I was very upset and wanted to find out who did it. It was Ken Clapp’s advice to put your energy into moving forward and don’t worry about what had happened. I got help from Richard Childress, donating me parts and pieces. Chuck Rider, who owned the Pennzoil team at that time, donated parts. A lot of manufacturers and vendors (helped me). Gary Bechtel gave me a car to race for a couple of races. My competitors were very supportive, loaning me pieces to get going again and our local track took donations. It was amazing. That was the hardest struggle, but the way everybody believed in me and responded and helped, I didn’t want to let them down. It gave me inspiration that I never had. At that time I was working for a utility company full time and racing was my part-time passion and dream. It just ignited a fire in me to not let all of the people who helped me down, and rebuild my team. We did and wound up running the whole season in ’94 and finished ninth in the points.

What are your thoughts on the sport today?

It’s come a long way. Now with the NASCAR K&N Series and the drivers being 15 years old and being able to compete on this level has definitely put a new dimension on it. You’ve got a lot of kids with big ambitions and dreams coming into the sport and using it as a development series and a stepping stone that are eager to move up. I worked with Paulie Harraka most recently and helping him at the Late Model NASCAR Weekly level and the NASCAR Touring level and seeing him make in into the trucks now at the national level. They’re coming in and they’ve got a goal and they’re using it as a development series. It used to be used more as a hobby. You had guys that were wealthy and older that were doing it. You had younger guys who were doing it as a hobby and now you have 15-year-old kids who are using it as a developmental series to pave their way into the national touring series. It’s definitely a whole different series than it used to be.

What are some of the other major changes in the sport since you began your career?

When I first started in the Winston West, we actually ran under Sprint Cup rules. We had to have legal Sprint Cup cars because we would go to Phoenix and Infineon, those were scheduled points races for us that we would have to qualify under Cup rules to get our points. It was very expensive to maintain those Cup cars. Going to some of the little tracks that we’d go to, we’d beat and bang in a Cup-legal car. What NASCAR has done now with a one-piece composite body as and option, a series spec motor as an option, they’ve done some things to make it much more affordable and you’re seeing it in our car counts. We’re getting full fields. You’re getting a lot more people who can afford to be competitive. This year, there are 10 teams out there that can win. We’ve had more races with more different drivers. It’s harder to win, it’s harder to win a championship. They’ve done a lot of really good things to strengthen this series and make it more affordable for more people to participate.

What makes NASCAR special to you?

The competition. I grew up participating in sports. I went to college and was able to play collegiate sports and after that, you have a big void in your life. NASCAR brought that back to me. I still had that competitive activity that I grew up loving. It was just in stock car racing instead of putting pads on and hitting somebody. But it is the most humbling sport a man can play. Growing up, you enter a field and you have a 50 percent chance of winning that day. Half of the players and coaches are going to be winners that day. In NASCAR, you’ve got one out of 43 that’s going to leave there a winner. It’s a humbling sport which makes it more challenging and makes winning so much more rewarding than anything I’ve done in my life.

How do you want people to view your legacy?

I want to have a good reputation that I’ve treated everybody fair, that I’ve worked hard to get what I wanted. One thing that’s disturbing is when people say you’re a money team, you’ve got money. The thing is that I started out racing bomber race cars at a Saturday night track and I had nothing. I went out there and everything that I got was available for anybody to get. I wasn’t born with it. I didn’t make it in a different business and bring it in, I made it all in racing. Anybody can do it. I’m a living testament that you can start bomber racing and win five NASCAR K&N championships without being born with a bunch of money or have an outside business to pull money from. That is something that I’m very proud of.

Talk about your business?

We’ve got two full-time teams that we are running in the NASCAR K&N Series, with Eric Holmes in the No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts car and Cameron Hayley, a 15-year-old racer, in our No. 24 Cabinets by Hayley Toyota. We’ve built a great relationship with Toyota. We have five races this year where we are activating NAPA Auto Parts and Toyota sponsorships in the series. We are promoting two races as a company, and we enjoy trying to make an event that this series can be proud of. We are going to continue to promote races, we are going to continue fielding cars in the NASCAR K&N. In the NASCAR Late Model Auto program, we are fielding a young man out of Canada who will race this year at All American Speedway in Roseville and the Stockton 99 Speedway.

I have two automotive repair facilities that happened because of my racing. I was just trying to keep my race team busy during the off months and we started doing mechanical work on friends’ and family’s cars and it blossomed into another business. I just opened the second one in March right here in Roseville, so we’ve got two automotive care facilities in the greater Sacramento area.