Two Northwest drivers part of ten-person group to be inducted into West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame to be held at Irwindale Speedway this summer.
West Coast Stock Car Hall to induct 10
BURBANK, Calif. – The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame announced Wednesday 10 new members for induction in ceremonies to be held July 3 at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California.
The 2009 class is the sixth in the history of the Hall which inducted its first members in 2002. The Hall, founded in 2001, memorializes significant contributors to the sport’s development and history – including designers, engineers, mechanics, drivers, race track owners, promoters, publicists and members of the motorsports media.
The latest group brings the Hall’s membership to 83. The nomination process began earlier this year followed by a final vote by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.
Elected in the Historic category (1930 through 1969) are Ben Gregory, brothers Joe and John Fernandez, Bert Letner, Chuck Meekins, Dick Rathman and Art Watts.
Inductees from the Modern era (1970 to present) are Chuck Bown, Rick Carelli, Doug George and Wayne Spears.
Bown, from Portland Ore., won three times in the NASCAR Camping World Series West before moving to the Northeast where he became the champion of the NASCAR North Series. Bown then competed in the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series winning the 1990 championship and 11 times overall. His father, Dick, was inducted into the Hall in 2003.
Carelli, a Denver, Colo. native, drew acclaim as the “High Plains Drifter” during a successful late model coast-to-coast career. He won the 1991 NASCAR Southwest Tour title and won 21 times in the division. Carelli added the 1993 NASCAR Camping World Series West championship. He won nine NCWSW races. He currently is general manager of Kevin Harvick Inc. which won the 2007 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title with Ron Hornaday Jr.
George, from Atwater, Calif., won the 1990 NASCAR Southwest Tour title. He posted nine victories before moving to the NASCAR Camping World Series West where George won six times and the 1995 title. George currently is crew chief for Billy Ballew Motorsports and Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The team has two victories in 2009.
Gregory, of Point Richmond, Calif., whose given name was Gordon Campbell raced under a pseudonym because his California Highway Patrol superiors frowned on his racing activities. He was a consistent winner in the 1950s at many Northern California tracks including the Bay Meadows mile.
The Fernandez brothers operated J&J Signal Service in Oakland, Calif., out of which many of the top drivers of the 1950s – Clyde Palmer, Marvin Panch, Johnny Soares and Lee Petty – competed and won.
Letner, from Downey, Calif., whose son Danny was inducted in the Hall’s inaugural class, was one of the 1950s’ top car owners fielding Hudson Hornets for Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman, Lou Figaro, Bill West and his son.
Meekins, a Gardena, Calif. native, raced for nearly a decade winning five NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model (now NASCAR Camping World Series West) races and numerous other stock car events. He finished second in the 1956 PCLM points standings.
Rathman, from Los Angeles, began his racing career in Southern California’s “roaring roadster” competition of the later 1940s then moved to the Southeast where he became one of the top Hudson Hornet drivers. He won 13 times in NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) Series between 1952 and 1954.
Spears, who operates a pipe valve manufacturing company in Sylmar, Calif., won a trio of NASCAR Camping World Series West championships – two with Bill Sedgwick and a third with Kevin Harvick. His Spears Manufacturing team also won the 1987 NASCAR Southwest Tour title with Roman Calczyniski. Spears was among the founding team owners of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 1995 winning races with David Starr and Dennis Setzer.
Watts, from Portland, Ore., was a top competitor in the Pacific Northwest winning many stock car races before joining NASCAR. His single PCLM win came at the old Portland Speedway.