Thursday, August 26, 2010

Motorsports Hall of Fame's 2010 Induction Ceremonies

Racing Luminaries Hope to Inspire the Next Generation

Racing legends Dale Armstrong, Joie Chitwood, Alan Kulwicki, Jeremy McGrath, Ken Squier, Jerry Titus and Rich Vogler were inducted yesterday, August 25, into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in the organization’s 22nd annual induction ceremony at the Fillmore Theater.

With Honorary Chairman Chip Ganassi presiding, the induction ceremony was the culmination of the organization’s largest celebration ever, spanning two days of activities at the Detroit Science Center, now home of the Motorsports Hall of Fame, and at the Fillmore Theater.

“Family” and “future” were themes that pervaded this multi-generational celebration of motorsports that looked back at the lives of legends with an eye towards inspiring future generations of drivers, engineers and enthusiasts. “Driving is fun…it brings people together, it brings freedom and independence, and it is up to us to make sure that the next generation makes that connection,” said Ganassi.

The black-tie ceremony was once again hosted by Jim Mueller, track announcer for Michigan International Speedway and other ISC tracks, with Ned Jarrett, Marty Reid, Kyle Petty, Neal Pilson, Jim Farley and Gary Lee serving as presenters.

About the Inductees

Inductee: Dale Armstrong Category: Drag Racing

Well known as the mechanical genius behind the phenomenal success of Kenny Bernstein, Armstrong had an outstanding driving career himself, winning 12 NHRA National events in the 1970s. As a driver, he won the 1974 U.S. Nationals in the Pro Comp class and a season championship in 1975 that featured victories in the U.S. Nationals and World Finals. In his final Funny Car appearance as a driver, he set a national elapsed-time record of 5.891 seconds.

Inductee: Joie Chitwood (d.) Category: Historic

Accepted by Joie Chitwood III

Known as “The Chief,” Chitwood had two successful careers; one as a racer and another as a world-renowned stuntman. He was the AAA East Coast Sprint Car Champion in 1939 and 1940. He was the CSRA Sprint Car Champion in 1942. He raced at Indianapolis seven times, placing 5th on three occasions. He was the first driver to wear a seat belt at the Brickyard. His popular and long-running Joie Chitwood Thrill Show led to stunt work in motion pictures and television. Chitwood died in 1988.

Inductee: Alan Kulwicki (d.) Category: Stock Cars

Accepted by Coby Brooks

Hard working and fiercely independent, he worked his way up from the short tracks of the Midwest to become the first owner/driver since Richard Petty in 1979 to win the NASCAR Cup championship when he dramatically captured the title in 1992. The NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1986, Kulwicki inaugurated the “Polish Victory Lap” when he celebrated by circling the track clockwise after he won for the first time at Phoenix in 1988. Kulwicki died in April 1993, during his reign as NASCAR champion, when his plane crashed en route to a race in Bristol, Tenn.

Inductee: Jeremy McGrath Category: Motorcycles

This native Californian became the most popular motorcycle racer of the 1990s and perhaps all time. From 1993 until his retirement in 2002, McGrath obliterated every record in AMA Supercross racing en route to eight national championships. His unique crowd pleasing riding maneuvers, while leaping the high-flying jumps of Supercross, helped launch the sport of freestyle motocross. His tremendous fan appeal gave impetus to the rapid growth of Supercross, but his popularity transcended the sport. McGrath appeared regularly on national television shows and commercials, along with starring in video games that topped the sales charts during his reign as the “King of Supercross.”

Inductee: Ken Squier Category: At Large

The owner of the voice that introduced millions to stock car racing began his career as a track announcer in the 1950s. While owning radio stations that formed the Radio Vermont Group, he acquired the Thunder Road track in Barre, Vt., and later became the lead voice of the Motor Racing Network providing NASCAR coverage on national radio. He was one an ABC motorsports announcer in 1964 before moving to CBS for the first flag-to-flag live coverage of the Daytona 500 in 1979. His call of that historic event is credited by many to have been a major contributor to a significant growth spurt for the phenomenal popularity of NASCAR. He still plies his trade as a commentator on SPEED & FOX.

Inductee: Jerry Titus (d.) Category: Sports Cars

Accepted by Rick Titus

During the 1960s, the glory days of Trans Am racing, Titus was one of the series’ dominant drivers. His five wins in 1967 won the championship and the manufacturer’s trophy for Ford. He placed third in points in 1968 and 1969. An accomplished writer and editor of Sports Car Graphic Magazine, Titus was killed in a racing crash at Road America in 1970. Titus' name is remembered annually by the America Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association when it presents its choice for driver of the year with the “Jerry Titus Memorial Award.”

Inductee: Rich Vogler (d.) Category: Open Wheel

Accepted by Eleanor Vogler

In 1980, Vogler became the first driver to capture both the USAC sprint and midget titles in the same season. He also won the midget crown in 1978, 1983, 1986 and 1988. He won additional sprint car titles in 1980 and 1989. A five-time Indy 500 qualifier, Vogler’s best showing was an 8th place finish in 1989. His record of 134 national event wins in various divisions of United States Auto Club competition ranks second behind only Inaugural Hall of Fame inductee A.J. Foyt. Vogler's last victory came when, at age 39, he lost his life in an accident on the final lap while in the lead of a sprint car race at Salem Speedway in his home state of Indiana.

This year’s annual induction celebration also served as the formal debut of the new relationship between the Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Detroit Science Center, which is the current home to the Hall’s impressive motorsports collection and actual Hall of Fame member displays. The alliance between the two organizations is bringing renewed focus to the technological innovations that are vital to success in motor racing.

The Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame is operated by the Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame of America Foundation Inc. Currently housed in the Detroit Science Center in the Motor City’s Museum District, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America features more than 30 racing and high performance vehicles. The constantly changing collection features racing machines from the world of Indy Cars, Stock Cars, Sports Cars, Can-Am, Trans-Am, Sprint Cars, Powerboats, Truck Racing, Drag Racing, Motorcycles, Air Racing and even Snowmobiles.

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful the DSC has been to these drivers. Jennifer, the events director made the room look very inviting & sophisticated. Pat, the production manager made sure every detail at the Filmore was perfect. The drivers were all so friendly & I think the MotorSports Hall of Fame is outstanding. I can't wait until it moves to the 4th floor so they can bring in more cars. I enjoyed taking pictures during set up. It was the big thrill of my week.