AVONDALE, Ariz. (June 26, 2018) – The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame conducted its 15th Annual Induction Ceremony, presented by Gateway Motorsports Park, on June 21. The latest 11 inductees bring the Hall’s membership to 152, dating to its inaugural class of 2002.
Present for induction were former NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion crew chief and Furniture Row Racing president Joe Garone; Southern California short track champion Oren Prosser; ISM Raceway president Bryan R. Sperber and longtime NASCAR and sprint car owner Richard “Dick” Woodland, as well as K&N Pro driver and hardtop champion Clyde Prickett, a member of the Hall’s first Heritage class.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West double champion Greg Pursley was unable to attend the inductions due to illness. Inducted posthumously were five-decade race announcer Larry Albedi and Heritage members Freddie Agabashian and George Bignotti, early stock car and midget competitors and Indianapolis 500 legends; Bill Cheesbourg, an Arizona stock car champion and Indianapolis 500 competitor and drag racing and off-road racer and organizer Mickey Thompson.
The induction ceremonies were held at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif.
Ken Clapp, chairman of the Hall’s board of directors, told attendees, “I thank each and every person in this room for your continued belief and support of the hall as we enter out 15th year. Never in the world did any of us realize that we would reach the heights we have.
“Nor did we ever think we would someday be able to gift to those less fortunate – and especially children, military and animals – nearly $400,0000 in less than four years. A thank you to those who have made that possible.”
National Speed Sport publisher and television personality Ralph Sheheen served as master of ceremonies for the event. Previously inducted Hall of Fame members in attendance included Clapp, Allen Beebe, John Bickford, Rick Carelli, Mike Duncan, Ed Justice Jr., Owen A. Kearns, Bill McAnally, Hershel McGriff, Steve Page, Bill Sedgwick, Jim Williams and Kenny Takeuchi.
Some induction evening highlights:
Carelli, a 2009 inductee, recalled his close relationship with Garone. The two, along with team owner Marshall Chesrown – enshrined in 2014 – won two NASCAR championships and more than 30 races in three touring divisions.
“We logged a lot of laps together; good times and bad times,” Carelli said. “He had a great vision and to me, this isn’t a surprise. It was his drive: pushing, pushing, pushing.”
“I heard about this (being elected) and I thought, ‘me?’ The shock was substantial,” said Garone, who held crew chief positions with a trio of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams and was NASCAR’s director of competition. Furniture Row Racing, owned by Barney Visser, won the 2018 MENCS championship with driver Martin Truex Jr.
Longtime journalist, television commentator and competitor Dick Berggren inducted Pursley, who was unable to attend while the Southern California native recovers from cardiac surgery. In addition to winning a pair of K&N Pro Series West titles – and 20 victories in just 100 starts – Pursley captured the 2004 NASCAR weekly series national championship.
“Greg is truly exceptional,” said Berggren. “He didn’t find rides. Rides found him. ”
Pursley’s induction comes one year after the hall welcomed into membership his team owner, Gene Price. Tyler Pursley, the driver’s son, accepted his WCSCHOF Spire. “Gene Price Motorsports is not a shop. We are a family,” he said.
FOX TV’s Michael Waltrip inducted Sperber, who is overseeing a major renovation of the former Phoenix International Raceway, now ISM Raceway. The $178 million project will be completed shortly before the International Speedway Corp.-owned facility hosts the Nov. 9-11 Can-Am 500 weekend.
“What a vision he had,” Waltrip said of Sperber’s plan.
Sperber, a Florida native, said, “Racing was in my blood from my early days.” His 30-year journey has taken Sperber from Daytona Beach to Watkins Glen, N.Y. to Fontana, Calif. and finally the Valley of the Sun.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with a staff (which is) smart, dedicated and passionate,” Sperber said.
Tim Huddleston inducted Prosser, his father-in-law, noting the five-time Saugus (Calif.) Speedway sportsman champion frequently attracted the attention of NASCAR premier series car owners. “That gold ring came time after time but he turned it down for his family,” said Huddleston.
Prosser, 77, admitted his career got off to a slow start. “I was a man with a plan (but) I was a kid with an attitude, banging the wall,” the Granada Hills resident admitted. He pointed to a 20-year relationship with owner/crew chief Donnie Johnson a major reason for his success, which included winning the 1967 NASCAR Permatex 300 at Riverside International Raceway.
“He (Johnson) was the greatest to me,” said Prosser. “We won four championships together and saw country I’d never seen before. If I had it to do over again, I’d never change anything.”
Takeuchi, a longtime publicist and PA announcer, inducted Woodland, a resident of Paso Robles, Calif. Their racing careers intersected at many Central California hardtop tracks.
“I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by a great group” of drivers and industry figures, said Woodland, whose cars were driven by NASCAR and West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame member Ron Hornaday Jr., Parnelli Jones, Billy Wilkerson and his son, Rich Jr. “I’ll always cherish this; an evening I’ll never forget.”
Voting will begin on the next class of nominees in November. The 2019 inductees will be announced in March.
— West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame —