WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – “For a kid who grew up in Seattle, Washington, reading about, listening to and watching motorsports, it’s an honor to be in the same room with you." So said Scott Atherton, IMSA President and board member for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA), voicing the opinion of many in an opening address to the room full of motorsports celebrities at last Wednesday’s 28th annual MSHFA induction ceremony, held to introduce seven new members.
It was the first induction ceremony held in Daytona Beach, Florida, the brand-new home for the organization, which previously had been housed in Novi, Michigan. Occupying the same venue that housed Daytona USA at Daytona International Speedway, the MSHFA is not only one of the most prominent halls of fame – and the only one to recognize men and women from every walk of racing, from boats to motorcycles to land-speed record setters – but the home in Novi, and now in Daytona, is also a racing museum, full of cars and memorabilia.
This year, the seven members inducted were, in alphabetical order:
–Everett Brashear, one of the top AMA dirt-track motorcycle racers of all-time.
–Richard Childress, former NASCAR driver and currently a NASCAR team owner.
–Gary Gabelich, who drove the jet-powered “Blue Flame" to FIA Land Speed Records of 622.407 mph over a flying mile and 630.388 mph over a flying kilometer at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
–Chip Ganassi, former IndyCar driver and now the only car owner to have won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Brickyard 400, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and as of last month, the GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the new Ford GT.
–Dave McClelland, race announcer and longtime “Voice of the NHRA.
–Sam Posey, announcer, artist, author, and former race driver in Can-Am, Trans-Am, Indy Car, sports cars, Formula One and NASCAR competition.
–Bob Sweikert , Indianapolis 500 winner in 1955, and the first driver to exceed 100 mph on a one-mile oval track.
Ganassi and Posey have the most direct connection to sports car racing, and both gave moving and emotional acceptance speeches. There was also humor: Mike Hull, Ganassi's right-hand man since 1992 and now the company's managing director, introduced Ganassi and recalled a meeting at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Ganassi, his drivers and his engineers. The engineers were taking about the time lost by accidents, and Ganassi interrupted, pointing out that every crash his drivers were involved in, no matter what the circumstances, was their fault, and thus not an accident. After the turned-somber meeting adjourned, Ganassi shouted out the door: "Oh, if your car gets hit on the track by a meteor? We'll call that an accident."
Aside from new inductees, a huge contingent of past inductees, as well as future hall of famers, were in attendance. From the Ganassi stable, Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray attended, and there were other luminaries from past and present in attendance that included Hurley Haywood, Bobby Allison, Hershel McGriff, Joe Amato, Don Garlits, Rusty Wallace, brothers Austin and Ty Dillon, Craig Breedlove, Linda Vaughn, Lesa France Kennedy, Jim France, Mike Helton, David Hobbs (who serves as the master of ceremonies), Tommy Kendall, Ed Pink, Don Prudhomme and brothers Len and Eddie Wood.
For more information on the hall, visit MSHF.com.
SHANK RACING FASTEST IN PRACTICE: The Michael Shank Racing Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 was the fastest Prototype in both practice sessions for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, the six-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance race that starts Sunday at 10 a.m. on FS1.
And the Shank car was fastest with two different drivers: Ozz Negri, Jr. in the first session, with a times of 1:36.705, and with Olivier Pla in the second session, with a lap of 1:36.155. The team is back on track after their first team outing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is Pla’s first trip to Watkins Glen.
In Prototype Challenge, Renger Van Der Zande of the Starworks team was the fastest in class at 1:38.582. In GT Le Mans, it was Joey Hand, also back from Le Mans after the Ford GT’s dominating performance there, with a lap of 1:43.309. And in GT Daytona, Lawson Aschenbach, of the Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 team, had the fastest lap at 1:46.259.
The second session was slowed by a hard crash by driver Larry DeGeorge in is Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3. He was evaluated and released by the medical center, but the Lamborghini suffered extensive damage.
There is one more practice scheduled for Saturday morning. Forty-one cars have taken practice on the newly repaved 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course.
MULTIMATIC OUT FRONT: Former 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Scott Maxwell, and freshman Le Mans participant Billy Johnson, will be starting the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race Saturday from the pole, thanks to a quick lap by Maxwell with a time of 2:00.514 minutes at 101.5 mph in his Multimatic Motorsports Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R-C.
Maxwell’s GS-class time was 0.084 seconds ahead of Daniel Burkett, who is teamed with Marc Miller, another Le Mans driver, in a CJ Wilson Porsche Cayman GT4. Third was the Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, fourth was the CJ Wilson Porsche team car.
In the ST class, Derek Jones, teamed with Matt Pombo, put the MINI USA Mini Cooper JCW on the pole with a lap of 2:19.332, just ahead of their team Mini driven by Ramin Abdolvahabi and James Vance in second. Third and fourth were HART Honda Civic Si teammates.
The two-hour, 30-minute race takes the green flag at 12:25 p.m. Saturday at Watkins Glen International, and can be viewed live on IMSA.com.