Tulsa, Okla., Jan. 16---Jeff Gordon was one of 14 inductees into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame Friday in ceremonies held in the new Central Park Hall building on the Tulsa State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma. The event coincided with the 23rd annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, held just to the southwest of the banquet facility.
Gordon, Kevin Doty, Ted Tappett and Dave Humphrey led the list of inductees which also included an additional 10 inductees from a list of historical candidates. Gordon unable to attend due to a testing schedule, delievered a six minute video acceptance speech.
The 10 additional inductees were: Bob Barkhimer, Myron Fohr, Carl Forberg, Mack Hellings, Ray Knepper, Jud Larson, Jerry Piper, Joe Shaheen, Karl Young and Bill Zaring. A special salute to the all 2008 Midget driving champions opened the ceremonies, emceed by racing historians Pat Sullivan and Dave Argabright.
Hall of Fame members present for the ceremony included: Floyd Alvis, Lanny Edwards, Bill Engelhart, Bob Higman, Parnelli Jones, Kevin Olson and Larry Rice. Also in attendance were three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, and USAC Triple Crown Champion Dave Darland.
Video and slide presentations accompanied the inductions. Attendees enjoyed lunch and the ceremonies were followed by an ample amount of “bench racing.” The National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame display resides in the pavilion at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wisc.
Profiles of each of the 2008 inductees follow:
Bob began racing in 1936 with the Short Track Auto Racing (STAR) group scoring many wins along the way. After World War II, Barky won the Bay Cities Racing Association title in 1945. He later retired from driving and became the business manager for BCRA. Under his guidance BCRA became one of the nation's top midget auto racing clubs. Barky also brought NASCAR to the west coast, later becoming a Vice President for the organization. During the 1950's, he operated 22 race tracks in the west and promoted more than 4,000 events. He died in 2006 at age 90.
Kevin's accomplishments include the '84 & '85 MARA and Skoal Dash Series Titles, 47 BMARA wins, 35 at Angell Park including five (5) PEPSI Midget Nationals ('88, '89, '90,'94 & '95) and the '94 BMARA Driving Title. He captured 8 USAC Midget victories, 7 USAC Sprint Car wins, the '94 Hut 100 and the '94 Belleville Midget Nationals. Kevin became one of the most highly respected and well liked drivers around. Yet, in spite of his racing success, his greatest accomplishment in life has been his unconditional love and devotion to his son, Kevin Jr. His untimely death came in August of 2005 at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Myron began winning midget races in 1937 driving his own car. He joined the powerful Bob Wilke Race Team in 1940 and continued his winning ways throughout the Midwest, also winning the indoor driving title at the Chicago Amphitheatre. He placed 4th in the 1948 Indy 500 in the Marchese Brothers entry and followed this with 100 mile victories at Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Springfield, Illinois. Fohr was also a winning force in AAA Stock Car Racing, particularly at the Milwaukee Mile in his native State of Wisconsin. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 82.
Carl was a Nebraska native who won early in his career. He relocated to Detroit, MI where he became one of the top drivers in the area. Carl won the Driving Title at Motor City Speedway in 1948. He won many races in the neighboring State of Ohio and scored an impressive win in a 100 lap AAA event at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, competing against the top name drivers in midget auto racing. He finished 7th in the 1951 Indy 500. Carl passed away in 2000 at the age of 88.
Jeff scored a dozen victories during his USAC National Midget racing career and earned the 1990 USAC National Midget Championship. Gordon captured wins in four of America’s most coveted Midget races winning the “Night Before the 500” Classics in 1989 and 1990. In 1990, he added the “Hut Hundred” and the “Belleville Midget Nationals” to his resume. In 1991 he won the “4-Crown Midget Nationals” at Rossburg, Ohio. Gordon and car owner Rollie Helmling made a formidable USAC Midget team for three USAC seasons where he landed “podium” finishes in 22 out of 40 Midget races between 1989 and 1992. In 1991, Jeff also won the USAC Silver Crown Title. Gordon is a four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion, having won nearly every major stock car race on the tour.
Mack was an Iowa native who relocated to California and began racing motorcycles. He switched to midget auto racing with great success. Competing against some of the top drivers in the nation, Hellings won 29 main events and a URA Blue Circuit Championship in 1947 and also won 35 main events in 1948. "Monopoly Mack" finished 4th in the Indy 500. His rapidly advancing career ended when he was killed in a California plane crash in 1951.
Dave was a key figure in the surge of midget racing in New England in the 1960s and 70s. The decorated World War II veteran won six NEMA championships, including five in a row, and 78 features between 1965 and 1986.
Ray began his driving career in 1939. While serving in World War II, his B-17 bomber was shot down over Germany and Ray parachuted into captivity but later escaped making his way back to freedom. After the war he renewed his career winning 23 main events and the St. Louis driving title in 1947. Ray also competed in sprint cars, champ cars and stock cars. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 79.
Jud was born in Grand Prairie, Texas in 1923 and began racing jalopies at the age of 15. After World War II he began racing midgets winning the Oklahoma-Texas AAA midget championship in 1948. He often raced in outlaw events under several aliases and was frequently on the "outs" with AAA because of it. He excelled in IMCA sprint car competition and switched to USAC where he amassed 15 sprint car wins, 6 championship 100 milers and competed in 2-Indy 500's. Jud was killed in a USAC Sprint Car race at Reading, PA in 1966 in a double fatality with fellow driver Red Riegel.
Jerry was native of Montana later moving to California. He was a star athlete while in high school and later began racing "Big Cars" in 1934. He started racing midgets in 1936 and won the Short Track Auto Racing (STAR) Title in 1939, '40 and '42. After the war he scored 15 feature wins in '46, 10 in '47, 25 in '48 and 10 in 1949 with BCRA in northern California. He retired in 1949.
Joe was best known as a successful promoter at his "Little Springfield" track but was also a winning midget car owner for Hall of Fame drivers Danny Kladis, Rex Easton and Chuck Weyant. Shaheen also fielded an Indy car in the early 1950's with Midget Hall of Fame driver Neil Carter aboard. After promoting race events at his "Little Springfield" track in Illinois from 1948 - 1981, Joe passed away in 1989 at the age of 84.
Phil Walters grew up on Long Island, New York and began midget racing in 1938. Driving under the name of Ted Tappett, he racked up 11 victories and 11 seconds in 45 starts as a rookie. The next year he won 26 consecutive races and went on to great success in the years ahead against the top AAA drivers of the era. He served during World War II as a pilot. He returned home a decorated veteran with the Air Medal, Purple Heart and 7 Bronze Stars on his chest. Phil Walters went on to have success in Road Racing competing at Le Mans from 1950-1955. He also went on to become a successful VW - Audi Dealer in New York. He passed away at age 83.
Karl was born in Chicago and began racing "Big Cars" before moving to California. He started racing midgets in 1935 and soon blossomed into a winning driver. He got a ride in the famed "Don Lee Special" scoring his first Gilmore victory and winning the Owners and Drivers Association Title in 1936. "King Karl" was a prolific winner in California and retired in 1949.
Bill was a native of Los Angeles who got the "racing bug" while watching the Big Cars at Legion Ascot in 1932. He built a jalopy and became a Muroc Dry Lakes racer before turning to midget racing. He served in the Navy during World War II. After returning he would win more than 50 main events. He captured the 1948 URA Red Circuit Title and the URA Blue Crown Title in 1949. He capped off a brilliant career by winning the last Gilmore Grand Prix in 1950. Bill died in 2003 at age 85.