Basile, Foland, Gerhardt, Rescino, Van Conett to be enshrined in June 8 ceremonies
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (March 22, 2023) – The West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 is complete with the selection of five Heritage members, whose careers largely took place or began prior to 1972. Their selection brings to 10 the 2023 honorees who will be enshrined during this year’s induction ceremonies, presented by World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, on Thursday, June 8 at Sonoma Raceway’s Turn 11 Club in Sonoma, Calif.
The 2023 Heritage inductees are:
- Don Basile got a late start in his racing career, at 31 years of age when he started driving stock cars at Carrell Speedway in 1947. With J.C. Agajanian, Bob Estes and Gordon Betz, Basile helped form the West Coast Stock Car Racing Association and became its first champion. He became Carrell’s general manager in the early 1950s and learned dirt track prep. When Carrell closed in 1955, Basile became Aggie’s partner in Agajanian Enterprises and for the next 20 years they would organize thousands of races. He wore many hats, selling billboard advertising, publicity, taking drivers to TV/radio/newspaper interviews, and advanced and race day ticket sales – all the while, with a blade man, preparing the dirt surface. When Ascot Speedway closed, Basile struck out on his own, taking over South Bay Speedway Park in Chula Vista, Calif. He changed its name to Speedway 117. Basile worked with all major sanctioning organizations including American Automobile Association, United States Auto Club, NASCAR and American Motorcycle Association. Basile was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1999. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 82.
- Burt Foland was born in Mountain View, Calif. in 1931, living there for six decades before retiring to Coarsegold in the Sierra foothills. Foland began racing a Model A pickup truck at a nearby drag strip in San Carlos in 1953. Later that year and in 1954 he took a coupe to land speed contests at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. By 1957, Foland had found his way to San Jose Speedway and in June won his first NASCAR Hardtop feature, setting a the 1/3-mile track record in the process. Foland won over 30 main events over the next couple of seasons including the prestigious Johnny Key Classic twice. Having competed sporadically in the midget competition, Foland earned a seat in the Jack London Offy and won Bay Cities Racing Association titles in 1967-68. He won his first United States Auto Club national championship midget race in 1968 at the old Irwindale Speedway, beating a packed field of Indianapolis 500 drivers. Foland signed to drive a championship car in 1970 but a ride never materialized. In his career Foland won five USAC championship races, 41 BCRA features and an estimated 75 NASCAR Hardtop races on both pavement and dirt. He won in four decades – 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
- Fred Gerhardt, a native of Fresno, Calif., was an engineer and race car builder. Prior to World War II, he entered his first race at Newman, Calif. with a souped-up Chevrolet for driver Duane Carter. He built a second car for fellow teen Bill Vukovich and the partnership dominated midget racing for many years to come. The pair won the Pacific Coast Midget championships in 1945 and 1946 and in 1950 the American Automobile Association (AAA) national title. Johnny Parsons captured the 1956 Pacific Coast title in another of Gerhardt’s cars. From 1957 to 1976, Gerhardt and son Don entered cars in the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of third by Mel Kenyon in 1968. His cars were driven by Vukovich, Parsons, Bill Cheesbourg, Johnny Rutherford, George Snider and Gary Bettenhausen, among others. As a car owner, Gerhardt and Bettenhausen won championship car races at Phoenix Raceway and Michigan Speedway. Together, 36 Gerhardt Indy cars were built. Gerhardt was inducted into the National Midget Hall of Fame in 2007. He passed away in 2001.
- Nick Rescino, One of the all-time greats to race in California, Nick Rescino won a total of six San Jose Speedway Super Modified championships, at both the paved track and the fairgrounds. Nick won the 1972 and 1975 titles on the high banks of San Jose Speedway and the 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984 championships at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. His 86 main event wins rank him near the top on that list. Rescino won the prestigious Johnny Key Classic six times, in 1972, 1974-75, 1982, 1984 and 1986. Nick is the only driver in history to win a World of Outlaws A-Feature driving a super modified, at Sacramento, Calif.’s West Capital Raceway June 8, 1979. Rescino set more than 200 career fastest qualifying times at 17 different tracks. The San Francisco competitor was the Motor Sports Press Association’s 1979 Oval Track Driver of the Year. He is a member of the MSPA’s Hall of Fame as well as the San Jose Speedway Hall of Fame.
- Leroy Van Conett, known as the “Dragon from Galt,” was born in Stockton, Calif. on April 15, 1935. He began racing jalopies in 1955 at Stockton 99 Speedway. During the late 50s, he graduated to modifieds and supermodifieds, maintaining most of his own equipment. In the mid-1960s, Van Conett raced open competition sprint cars at West Capital Speedway in Sacramento and various tracks in the region, winning several times. He won his first of eight Northern California Auto Racing (NARC) championships in 1969 driving for Lyle McCray. Van Conett also won titles in 1970, 1975, 1977-78, 1980-81 and 1984. His record of eight titles was finally broken in 1996 – ironically by Brent Kaeding, who also will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2023. He won 65 NARC features, and a California Racing Association (CRA) feature at Ascot Park. Van Conett was particularly effective at Calistoga’s treacherous half-mile, winning five times in 1981. He attempted to qualify, unsuccessfully, for the 1982 Indianapolis 500. Van Conett was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1999.
“As the years have moved ahead, it has become more and more difficult to identify those from the period from World War II and 1970 who have achieved above and beyond in motorsports,” said Ken Clapp, Chairman and CEO of the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame. “The inductees for 2023 are diversified and are extremely deserving to be honored.
“As the Hall moves closer to the gala and induction dinner on Jue 8, we also will be recognizing those pre-World War II figures who have not been inducted. In 2023 we will induct 10; we will do likewise in each succeeding year until the executive board feels we have covered all the bases.”
Previously announced members of the Class of 2023 are Matt Crafton, Tulare, Calif., a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and winner of 15 NASCAR national series races; Brent Kaeding, Campbell, Calif., a 13-time Northern Auto Racing Club (NARC) sprint car champion and World of Outlaws winner; and Lyn St. James, Phoenix, Ariz., International Motor Sports (IMSA) class winner at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year and leader in furthering through Women in Racing North America.
Highlights of the induction ceremonies will be broadcast by Speed Sport1 later this summer, air dates and broadcast times to be announced.
The event also will be highlighted by presentation of the 3rd Annual Knockin’ Doorz Down Philanthropist of the Year Award presented by 51FIFTY.
2023 Heritage Class
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Don Basile, Burt Foland, Fred Gerhardt,
Nick Rescino, LeRoy Van Conett
About the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame:
The West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame was conceived in 2001 as a means of recognizing significant contributors and contributions to the sport of stock car/motorsports competition. The mission of the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame is founded to preserve history and heritage of the important role west coast stock car and motorsports figures 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.
The Hall is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, dedicated to supporting a variety of organizations and groups from coast to coast. During its tenure, the Hall has raised more than $700,000 in the past five of its 22 years for youth, health and safety, hospitals, animal rescue, military and other charitable causes.
For more information on the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall of Fame visit: www.WestCoastStockCarHallofFame.com
Owen A. Kearns