Two first-time nominees, Craig Keough and Jerry Pitts, make final ballot
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (January 10, 2020) – Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series champion Mike Bliss headline the 10 finalists for 2020 election into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
Mears and Bliss are among nine, multi-time nominees to emerge from the Hall’s first round of voting that ended Dec. 31, 2019. Only two first-time nominees – Craig Keough and Jerry Pitts – transferred onto the final ballot.
Previous nominees advancing to the final vote are Mears, Bliss, Ernie Cope, Tom Gloy, Tommy Kendall, Jim Pettit II, Greg Pickett and Tom Sneva.
Final voting by the Hall’s board of directors continues through Jan. 31. to select the five 2020 inductees, whose identities will be announced during the February 28-March 1 NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Five Heritage candidates from racing’s historic era also will be inducted in the Class of 2020. Their selection will be announced later this spring.
The Class of 2020 will be enshrined June 11, 2020 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. The event, presented by World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, again accompanies the annual NASCAR Cup Series and ARCA Menards Series West weekend at nearby Sonoma Raceway.
“We’re proud to announce that the Round 1 voting was the closest since the Hall’s inception with just a few votes separating the first and 11thfinalists,” said Ken Clapp, Chairman and CEO of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. ”Each of the 11 was supported by a majority of the votes cast.
“The 2020 class will be among the most diverse in terms of motorsport disciplines – from weekly racing to national and international stardom. Choosing just five will be extremely difficult.”
For additional information about the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame or to obtain details about table sponsorship for the 2020 awards dinner, please visit WestCoastStockCarHallofFame.com or contact Ken Clapp, 925-552-9887, email@example.com. A limited number of tickets will be made available to the public beginning April 1, 2020.
Biographies of the 10 finalists (*first time nominee)
Mike Bliss. Mike Bliss won national championships in U.S. Auto Club (USAC) and NASCAR – part of a very small fraternity to accomplish the feat. Bliss, 54, began racing near his Milwaukie, Ore. hometown, at the old Portland Speedway and other northwest tracks. Open-wheel racing beckoned and Bliss eventually reached USAC’s Silver Crown division to become its 1993 champion. His 10 victories rank co-10thin Silver Crown rankings. Bliss changed gears with the creation of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors and RV Truck Series. He won 13 times and captured the 2002 championship, driving for fellow Northwesterner Dave Fuge. Bliss became a fulltime NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor, eventually participating in a combined 538 events. He finished fourth in Richmond Raceway’s 2004 spring Cup race driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Bliss won twice in the Xfinity Series in which he logged 29 top-five and 76 top-10 finishes and three times finished top-five in point standings. Both victories came at Charlotte Motor Speedway, for JGR in 2004 and James Finch in 2011. He was selected to compete in the 2003 International Race of Champions and won the Chicagoland Speedway round. *Previous nominee
Ernie Cope. ErnieCope, 50, is a native of Spanaway, Wash. whose father and uncle built professional dragster engines. His cousin, Derrike, is a Daytona 500 winner. Cope began racing in the NASCAR Northwest Series at the age of 19, posting 24 top-five finishes in the late model stock car touring series. He finished third in the championship in 1994 and moved to the ARCA Menards Series West the following year, scoring two victories in Lew Miller’s Chevrolet en route to a second-place points finish. Cope swapped driving gloves for a crew chief’s headset, competing in more than 400 national series races. He won nine times in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – six of them with Kevin Harvick. Cope’s NASCAR Xfinity Series record shows 285 races, 16 poles, 15 wins, 106 top fives and 170 top 10s. His drivers finished runnerup in two seasons – Elliott Sadler in 2011 and Chase Elliott in 2015. Cope currently is competition director at JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. *Previous nominee
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, 72, entered Ford F150s in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors and RV Truck Series for three seasons. His drivers collected three top-five finishes including a second by Tony Roper at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. *Previous nominee
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 Cup Series 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, 63, also is a television broadcaster.*Previous nominee
Craig Keough.Many casual race fans may be unaware of Craig Keough’s 25-year impact on West Coast stock car racing. Insiders, however, call the Las Vegas team owner/race sponsor “a legend.” The owner of Star Nursery, Keough entered late model competition with the late Chris Trickle and the driver’s father, Chuck Trickle. The relationship led to a conversation in Tucson, Ariz. with a young driver, Kurt Busch, who asked for $50 to buy tires. Keough wound up purchasing Trickle’s equipment and sponsoring Busch, who won the 1999 NASCAR Elite Southwest Series. Keough’s recognition of Kurt’s talent was the springboard to a Roush Fenway Racing ride in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors and RV Truck Series and ultimately the 2003 NASCAR Cup Series title. Behind the scenes, Keough sponsored numerous events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Bullring” and at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. and Madera (Calif.) Speedway. Most recently he was responsible for the return of the ARCA Menards Series West to LVMS’ dirt track.
Rick Mears. Transplanted Kansan Rick Mears grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., the youngest member of the racing Mears Gang comprised of father Bill and older brother Roger. Rick drove a Chevrolet stock car at Bakersfield Speedway, where Roger was a frequent winner. The pair excelled in dune buggy competition at Ascot Park and ultimately desert racing throughout the southwest United States and in Baja California. West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer Parnelli Jones took an interest in Rick, who shared Jones’ off-road trucks and posted multiple class victories. Safety equipment manufacturer Bill Simpson introduced him to U.S. Auto Club championship cars, leading to a career-long association with Roger Penske. With Penske, Mears became one of just three to win the Indianapolis 500 four times – and continues to hold the record for poles (six) and front row starts (11). He won the 500 in 1979, 1983, 1989 and 1991. He won three USAC titles (seven wins) and three Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) titles (26 wins). Mears was selected to four International Race of Champions (IROC), finishing second at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Following retirement, Mears, 68, has remained in a consulting role with Team Penske. *Previous nominee
Jim Pettit II. Jim Pettit IIwon the 1984 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Pacific Coast Region championship at age 19. Pettit was one of the most accomplished northern California dirt track late model stock car competitors, competing at tracks in San Jose, Antioch, Watsonville and Merced. During his championship season – in which total points/starts were tabulated – Pettit raced on Saturday in California, then with two crew members towed overnight to Portland Speedway, barely making it in time for a Sunday afternoon event. The Seaside, Calif. driver won two NASCAR Elite Series Southwest Tour championships back to back (2004-05), winning eight times. Pettit, 54, finished among the top 10 in more than 50 percent of his Southwest Tour starts (54 of 103). *Previous 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 72-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 Southwest Series events finishing sixth at the Los Angeles Coliseum and Sonoma Raceway. *Previous nominee
Jerry Pitts. Jerry Pitts is a three-time ARCA Menards Series West championship crew chief, winning titles with West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famers, Gregg Pursley, Gene Price and Eric Norris. Arguably among the best crew chiefs over the past 15 years, the Bakersfield, Calif. native turned the wrenches en route to 28 West victories and two ARCA Menards Series East triumphs. Both driver and car builder in the 1970s, Pitts’ chassis captured championships at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and Mesa Marin Raceway. In two stints on the East Coast, Pitts worked for Robert Yates Racing, Bahari Racing and Phoenix Racing in both NASCAR premier series and Xfinity Series with nearly two dozen drivers including Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett and Kyle Busch. Pitts, 58, continues to operate Jerry Pitts Racing in Pahrump, Nev.
Tom Sneva. From supermodifieds to the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, Spokane, Wash.’s Tom Sneva more than earned the nickname “The Gas Man.” Sneva, a high school math teacher and bus driver after graduating from Eastern Washington State University, was a top competitor on the Canadian-American Modified Racing Association (CAMRA) before catching the eye of U.S. Auto Club owners – most notably Roger Penske and later West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer George Bignotti. Driving for Team Penske, Sneva became The Captain’s first champion (USAC, 1977). He won back-to-back 500 poles in 1977-78, ultimately winning the race in 1982 – the last 500 triumph by chief mechanic Bignotti. Sneva won 10 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) events, notably four of them at Phoenix Raceway. He competed in eight NASCAR premier series races with a best finish of seventh in the 1983 Daytona 500. Sneva, 71, was selected to five International Race of Champions (IROC) events, posting a best finish of second in 1985 at Daytona International Speedway. *Previous nominee
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.
Over the past three years, the induction has helped raise a half million dollars for charitable causes. The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The group’s current list of charities and foundations – expected to increase – counts 25 different groups. They include charities dedicated to health, including autism research, children’s cancer, breast cancer and Parkinson’s; education; history; animal rescue; homelessness and military and veterans’ assistance.
For a complete list of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s charity partners please go to http://westcoaststockcarhalloffame.com/our-charities/.
Owen A. Kearns