When old timers are sitting around and talking about the great drivers of our sport Troy Ruttman's name will almost always come up. Not just anyone wins the Indy 500 at 22 years of age, or breaks the all time track record at the Langhorn mile, when most young boys are still figuring out what they are going to do after high school graduation. Troy Ruttman did many things before he was even out of his teens. After Troy won the 1952 Indianapolis 500, driving the JC Agijanian special, he focused more than ever before on stock car racing and was instantly in the winners circle. Driving for Bill Stroppe, Carl Dane, Rush Chevrolet and Peter DePaolo, he added many AAA and USAC victories to his already stellar career. Troy's career had pretty much ended by the time most men are just at their prime, as injuries had started to take their toll on him and he decided to retire from racing. Troy passed away a couple of years ago, and here to receive his Hall of Fame induction is his son Joshua Troy Ruttman.
A product of sportsman racing on and around Southern California tracks before joining the Winston West Series in 1978, Jim Robinson became one of the very top stars of the '70s and '80s era. He asked no quarter and gave none, however, he was very popular with his fellow drivers and fans. Jim finished no worse than fifth in points eight years in a row; his 13 victories rank him 12th all time and tie him with Butch Gilliland, Danny Letner and Ron Hornaday, Sr. His greatest accomplishment, however, was three NASCAR Winston West titles in a row. Jim accomplished this feat in 1983, 1984, and 1985! Jim would be proud to be here this evening and we would be proud to have him; unfortunately we all lost Jim Robinson some years ago after an earlier accident. Jim Robinson, a racers racer, and a man's man, anybody who knew him still misses him terribly. Here to proudly accept his induction is his daughter Brenna.
Our next inductee has been one of west coast stock car racing’s best friend ever, and he continues to be a fine ambassador of the sport today. To look at his accomplishments in racing and business simply does not tell the whole story about Jack McCoy. Jack is the winningest driver in West Coast Stock Car Racing History, with 54 victories. In over 60 plus years, no one has won as many times in Late Model Stock Car Racing as Jack McCoy. Jack won the 1966 and 1973 NASCAR titles, he finished ten times in the top ten in final championship points from 1965 thru 1974 and did it with flair and style. Jack also built up one of the top racing tire and parts businesses in the country, which is still going strong today. He raised a family, helped many young racers get started with their careers, and rumor has it plans to field a new racing team, perhaps as soon as next season. Jack McCoy is still going strong and enjoying life in Modest, California as he markets his new book on the history of the West Coast Stock Car Racing fittingly titled “The Real McCoy”. Please welcome to the stage one of the true heroes of stock car racing on the Pacific Coast Jack McCoy.
Good things sometimes happen in indirect and funny ways. In the early 1950’s the United States Navy decided it needed the services of one William C. France of Daytona Beach, Florida at the northern California Navy Air Base known as Moffett Field. Had it not been for that military decision, the relationship of our next inductee and the growth of stock car racing on the west coast might have happened much differently than it did. When Bill France, Jr. arrived on the west coast his father NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. asked him to look up a fellow by the name of Bob Barkhimer around San Jose California. He told him that this fellow Barkhimer ran about 22 different speedways of various shapes and sizes and headed up and organization called California Stock Car Racing Association. Young Bill did as asked, and developed a relationship with Bob Barkhimer and his partner Margo Burke. He went to events with them, stayed weekends with them and generally became very familiar with racing on the west coast. This led to “Barky”, as he is still fondly called by his friends, to journey to Daytona Beach and meet with Bill France, Sr. On more or less of a hand shake, Barky returned to California and the rest is history, in the spring of 1954, NASCAR under Barky’s guidance, became the stock car sanctioning body on the Pacific Coast. Barky earlier had become involved with midget racing and became one of the stars of WWII racing all over northern California. When the war was over he started venturing up to Portland and down to Southern California. Barky loved promotion and had a real strong desire to bring racing to a higher level on the west coast. He could see midget racing starting to lose its crown appeal in the late 40’s and was a huge driving force towards bringing hard top racing to prominence. In 1949 Late Model Stock Car Racing really started to take off and Barky was right there and on top of things to see that this new type of racing would succeed. Retiring after promoting over 3000 races in his career, Bob Barkhimer and partner Margo Burke sold their corporation to Ken Clapp, a young man who they had helped and known since he was a teenager. That organization today is known as CARS Inc.
During the early years of late model stock car racing on the west coast, no name was more well known than that of the South Gate, California driver Lou Figaro. Figaro started his racing career in the early 1930’s and drove everything he could get his hands on. He liked stock cars, and by the end of WWII had decided to direct most of his energy to that type of racing. He was always a Hudson man and when the Hudson Hornet came out in 1951 Lou was there driving one of Jimmy Dane’s cars. He ran the Mexican Road Race with a Hudson and nearly lost his life in that effort. Lou raced with AAA, NASCAR, IMCA and WAR and won many races. He was especially fast on the high bands of Oakland, and the ½ mile dirt at Carrell Speedway. He won the 1953 WAR Championship for Late Models and in 1954 had decided to concentrate on running NASCAR Grand National events in the south. In 1954 in North Wilkesboro, NC he had dinner with Hershel McGriff. The next day McGriff won, and Lou Figaro met his untimely demise. Gone but not forgotten, as we invite his granddaughter Tracy Davis to the stage to accept his Hall of Fame induction.
In 1966, a team of racers, consisting of neighbors, relatives and farmers from the Fresno area, showed up on the NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model Circuit with a used Dodge that they purchased from Jack McCoy’s team. No one gave them much thought at the first race, which was at Stockton, however, the very next week at Ascot they won their first of 47 victories. That just so happens to put their driver second on the all-time win list. Ray Elder, the racing farmer from Carruthers, California. Ray was just plain good everywhere he went. In 1971 and again in 1972 he won the Winston Cup Race at Riverside International Raceway. When he went to Daytona, he was a top-ten guy and in the hunt all day long. Dirt, road coarse, super speedway or short track made no difference to Ray Elder, as he could control and dominate on any of them with his powerful Dodges. It is unlikely that anyone will ever win six titles on the west coast, but Ray Elder did just that, 1969, ’70, ’71, ’72, ’74, and ’75. Interrupted only in 1973 by Jack McCoy. For eleven years Ray ranked in the top three championship standings and was ten times voted most popular driver by his fans and peers. At this time I would ask Ray Elder “champion of champions,” to come forward and receive his West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Induction.
From a late start in racing Jalopy’s to winning the first Riverside 500 just does not come close to describing Eddie Gray. “Steady Eddie” Gray was a smart and patient driver who put together 20 victories, which places him sixth all time on the west coast. He was the 1958 NASCAR West Coast Champ, and came back to win the title again in 1961 and 1962. In addition to winning the 1958 Riverside 500, Eddie won at the Sacramento Mile three times. Most of Eddie’s success came at the wheel of Vel Melitich and Frank Galpin owned Fords. “Steady Eddie” had four Winston Cup victories and over 100 main event wins in late model sportsman cars. Eddie Gray was simply a nice guy who loved racing, and we are pleased to have his son with us tonight to receive his induction award. Would Larry Gray please come to the podium.
In the early 1950’s a young man from Portland Oregon started making his presence known up and down the west coast. His last name was very familiar to racing fans, as his brother George had already established himself as one of the top midget drivers in the country. By 1953 Bill Amick was winning races and had become a top contender wherever he went. Bill was a hard charger, very colorful and sometimes controversial with his driving style, and his day-in and day-out demeanor. In 1955 he finished seventh in NASCAR points with the Pacific Coast Late Model Series. In 1956, after successful driving stints with Joe Fisher and Burl Jackson, Bill Amick went east and drove and won for Holman and Moody, repeating again in 1957. For a few years after 1957 he did not pursue a championship, nor did he score any wins of consequence, however, in 1961 he returned in a powerful Pontiac and was stronger than ever before, setting records and winning races wherever he traveled. In 1962 he drove at Daytona for the famed Wood Brothers. In 1964, running a full program, he finished second in the Pacific Coast Grand National Standings and came back to win the 1965 championship in the Dick Niles Mercury, with one of the most outstanding seasons ever recorded in the history of west coast stock car racing. After the 1965 title Bill focused on road racing for a couple of seasons, running the old Can-Am Series, and eventually re-focused his activities on operating speedways. In 1994 Portland Speedway hosted a dinner for Bill Amick to celebrate his accomplishments. It was attended by the “Who’s Who” of west coast racing, the next day at Portland Speedway a countless number of fans and old friends came to see Bill and pay tribute to him. Bill passed away the very next year. Bill’s mark in the record books shows 21 career wins in NASCAR, plus another 10 or so with other organizations. The 21 wins places him fifth on the west coast wins list, plus several Winston Cup victories.
(left) J.C." Aggie" Agajanian and Johnny Mantz
Possibly the most colorful motor sports promoter of all time and certainly one of the most honest and respected, a promoter’s promoter, JC Agajanian owned two Indy 500 winning cars and put everything back into racing he ever took out and then some. JC Agajanian or “Aggie” which he was affectionately known as, got interested in this sport in the late 1920’s. This was much against the wishes of his father who founded the family empire. However, with a compromise or two, which included Aggie not driving race cars, his dad agreed to let this effort go forward and even funded his first race car. The contributions that he made are far beyond the norm, and his always-burning desire to better west coast racing never faltered. Aggie was by far the largest promoter of stock car races under the AAA & USAC sanctions and later NASCAR from the year 1951, up till the late 1980’s in California. His Indy 500 wins with Troy Ruttman in 1952 and Parnelli Jones in 1963 certainly were among highlights in Aggie’s fabulous career. Raising a fine family and being a good person were of great importance to him as well and the racing world was left poorer with his passing nearly 20 years ago.
Les Richter (L) and Bill France Jr.
We have thirty inductees this evening that well be place din the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame forever. Just one of the thirty has set such a standard that he has been not only successful, but considered a powerful contributor to two sports in his career. Twice All American football player for the University of California, Berkeley, a college Hall of Famer and still the largest trade in the history of professional football with eleven men being traded by the Los Angeles Rams for just one man. Obviously we are talking about the “Coach” as he is fondly referred to by his many friends, Les Richter. Les left football in the early ‘60’s to take over a big plot of land out in Riverside, California, known as the Riverside International Raceway. For 25 years he guided Riverside into being one of the premiere road courses in the world. He found time during that 25 years to form the International Race of Champions with Roger Penske and Jay Signore. Lobbying in Washington DC for the betterment of motor racing in general and look after the welfare of West Coast Stock Car Racing. In 1983 Les Richter became a NASCAR Vice President, joining the management team of long time friend Bill France, Jr. For many years Les was the guiding force in the Winston Cup Series and after he left that enormous responsibility, was awarded the prestigious Buddy Shuman Award. After all of this, perhaps the largest contribution that Les made to motor sports has been his dominant role in developing California Speedway. Today Les Richter still serves as a Vice President of International Speedway Corporation and works very closely on a daily basis with ISC Track Presidents all over the country. Les Richter “Our Coach” please come to the stage for your award.
Jim Insolo (R)
Jimmy Insolo was one of the most versatile, hard charging drivers to ever climb into a stock car on the west coast. He won on the dirt and pavement, ovals and road courses alike. In fact Jimmy won 25 times, which places him fourth all time in the west coast modern era. Three times Jimmy was voted most popular driver by his fans and peers and capped it off by winning the 1978 NASCAR Winston West Championship. He was highly regarded by many Winston Cup car owners and driver, and had he elected to relocate to the Deep South, would have been a top competitor there as well. His late model sportsman and tour victories were numerous over a 20-year span on the west coast. Would Jimmy Insolo please come forward and receive his Hall of Fame Induction.
Carl Dane (Center)
Carl Dane, one of the most successful car owners and crew chiefs to ever compete on the west coast, was one-third of one of the west’s most famous stock car racing families. It is fair to say, when you have had drivers as named Jones, Andretti, Moody, Roberts, Rathmann, Faulkner, Hanks, Ruttman, Stevenson, Letner, Porter and little brother Lloyd Dane, you had to be one of the best. Carl Dane was just that, while competing in AAA, USAC and NASCAR during his career and winning more races than anyone as a car owner. He was always respected and admired. His ability to read a car, communicate with his driver and his precise approach to preparation left little to chance. We are very honored to have not only Carl, but also his family with us to celebrate this honor.
Entrepreneur, inventor, visionary from the time he was a teenager, Bruce Alexander made such significant contributions to racing thru his development of racing tires in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s that one simply can’t count all of them. The founder of Bruce’s Recaps in Oakland, California, Bruce developed and built tires for Hershel McGriff, John Soares, Lee Petty, Marshall Teague and the list goes on and on. Always connected with Firestone, Bruce helped them with the development of their first stock car racing tire that was introduced in 1956. Bruce Alexander was much more than just a racing tire pioneer in stock car racing and other types of racing. His safety innovations and contributions to law enforcement agencies and keen interest in furthering safety for highway use have won him countless awards and honors. Bruce Alexander is still and active businessman and at 84 years young leads a daily life mare active than most men half his age.
Jerry Oliver, and Cos
Our next inductee exemplified stock car racing for over 40 years. The list of drivers would be too long to read, but to name a few; Danny Letner, Parnelli Jones, Buck Baker, Hershel McGriff, Bill Amick, Don Noel, Al Pombo, Marshall Teague, Marvin Porter, Eli Vokuvich, Dick Rathman and Jim Blomgren and there were many more. This man was as good as Oldsmobile factory brass could identify in America in the 1949 thru 1955 era. We are of course, talking about one Cozmo Cancilla, “Cos” Starting at the old Oakland Mile before WWII. Cos won the 1955 NASCAR Title on the west coast with Danny Letner as his driver. His 20 plus wins in the early and middle ‘50’s and on into the ‘60’s as a crew chief and an owner included events at Bay Meadows, Portland, Carrell Speedway, Gardena Stadium, Oakland, Stockton, Saugus and on and on. Much like the late Alan Kulwicki, Cos did it his way, and sometimes against very difficult odds. A true pioneer and a good friend to all Cos Cancilla truly made a big contribution to this sport. He would have never expected such and award as he is receiving this evening.