Would the region support a Circle Track Hall of Fame? According to one racing expert the answer is yes. Who to induct first is a bigger question.
With this week’s announcement of the inaugural class for NASCAR’s Hall of Fame many in the Northwest have voiced the need for a regional-based hall that would honor auto racing’s great who cut their teeth and moved on to national series or simply dominated the local circuits for many years.
According to Kelly Hart, owner of NWracechat.com and a veteran of race track media relations for over 25 years, the initial list would be a who’s who of the Northwest scene be it dirt tracks or asphalt ovals.
One name that quickly comes to mind for most fans is Hershel McGriff, according to Hart.
“McGriff has been honored as one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers, holds several records on what is now known as the NASCAR Camping World West Series and is from the Oregon area. He would definitely be one of the first five I would suggest as an entrant,” he added.
After that Hart tossed out the name Kasey Kahne. Yes, that Kasey Kahne.
Long before he was driving the Budweiser Dodge on the NASCAR Sprint Car Series, the Enumclaw, Wash. native cut his teeth on the dirt ovals of the Northwest including Skagit Speedway, where Hart called many of Kahne’s victories.
“Kasey was dominating sprint car racing at the age of 15 or 16 years old long before anyone in NASCAR knew about his talents,” Hart noted. “He really could have built a career in the World of Outlaws or other forms of racing due to his talent. There is no doubt that Kasey’s worthy of being in a Northwest Circle Track Hall of Fame.”
Garrett Evans, the region’s long time late model star that has won races across the country, would be member number four to the group.
“Having watched Garret for many years then working at his race track in Wenatchee, I feel there is no other driver that deserve to be included from the late model world more so then (Evans),” Hart said. “He has won in late models at just about any track he’s competed at and is an ambassador for our sport outside of the region.”
When you look at the Inland Empire the name Sneva makes perfect sense as an inductee. From the obvious of Tom Sneva’s victory in the Indianapolis 500 and accomplishments in the region along the way to brother Blaine and father Edsel, the family has left a mark on racing in the Northwest that reaches around the world.
“The Sneva’s history in racing is among the most historic of any in this area,” Hart said. “They have done so much and have a legacy like no other that including their family in an initial group makes plenty of sense.”
When a region of great drivers is looked at for an initial Hall of Fame, the Northwest has the added benefit of including Canadian stars.
Pete Harding would be the natural choice for a first class, Hart noted.
“Pete has won the Yakima Speedway Apple Cup and Fall Classic on many occasions,” he said. “Those races are two of the premier events for late model stock cars in our region and when you throw in the fact that Harding won a NASCAR Northwest championship in 1999 and has come close so many other times he would be as good a choice as anyone from Western Canada to go in first.”
The question of where a Northwest Circle Track Hall of Fame would be housed or built has come up and for now that is the biggest challenge. Fans and racers alike have noted that a race track in the region or even a company such as Longacre Racing Products in Monroe, Wash. would be a perfect place for the hall because access to the enshrined drivers plaques and memorabilia is key to the success of such a project, Hart said.
“If it’s built the chance to have it tied into a big race event weekend, similar to what NASCAR is doing next year with its group during the two weeks the series is in Charlotte is important. Also, accessibility to the hall at all times of the year is another aspect that would need to be considered.”
So race fans the question is simple; is there an interest in a Northwest Circle Track Hall of Fame? Where should it be housed and most importantly who are the first five honorees to go in?
Let us know and we’ll follow-up over the course of the coming weeks.