Motorsports Hall of Fame of America welcomes seven new members
The 30th anniversary of the Motorsports Hall Of Fame of America featured seven new members inducted at an evening gala at The Shores Resort in Daytona Beach. The star-studded event was only the third one held in Florida after the hall’s move from Detroit three years ago.
The format for the MSHOFA induction ceremonies, emceed by British racing great, the hilariously droll David Hobbs, and chaired this year by racing legend Mario Andretti, has a famous person from motorsports introduce each of the new inductees after a video of that person’s career is shown.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles introduced the late Carl Fisher, one of the visionaries who founded the speedway back in 1909, for induction as the Historic member for 2018 and accepted the trophy on his behalf.
Next up for the trophy in Sports Cars was Jaguar IMSA racing driver and team owner Bob Tullius of Group 44 Racing in Virginia, presented for induction by former Group 44 PR man and racer Paul Brand.
In the Open Wheel category, three-time Indy 500 winner and Patrick Racing owner U.E. “Pat” Patrick was presented for induction by one of his Indy-winning drivers, world champion Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil. He was followed by previous inductee, Patrick’s Indycar crew chief Jim McGee, who told stories before Patrick’s brief speech.
The Drag Racing inductee for 2018 was not a driver or team owner, but rather a legendary car builder, the late John Buttera, whose career included many championship dragsters and funny cars as well as Indycars and street rods. Buttera was introduced by the most successful team owner in the sport, Don Schumacher, whose first race car was built by Buttera. His trophy was accepted by daughter Leigh Buttera of Indianapolis.
World champion motorcycle racer Freddie Spencer was there to introduce 2018 honoree, two-time world superbike and three-time AMA superbike champion, Honda racer Fast Fred Merkel.
In the Aviation category, the late billionaire Howard Hughes was presented for induction by the chairman of the Sun’N’Fun air show in nearby Lakeland, John Leenhouts, for Hughes’ many accomplishments in air racing and aviation record-setting before he expanded his career and empire. Hughes set a speed record of 352 mph in 1935, set a record for LA-to-New York and set an around-the-world record of 91 hours, 17 minutes in 1938.
The last introduction of the evening fell to NASCAR chairman Mike Helton, who introduced on of the sport’s most successful drivers ever, Jeff Gordon, who competed in over 800 races without missing a start and recorded 93 victories, second only to Richard Petty, and four championships.
The Bill France Ballroom at The Shores was packed with previous inductees and racing celebrities, including NASCAR’s Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace, Bobby and Donnie Allison, endurance racing champion Hurley Haywood, IMSA and Trans Am champions Tommy Kendall and Scott Pruett, Firestone racing tire boss Al Speyer, drag racer Darrell Gwynn, NHRA funny car champion Courtney Force and her husband, Indycar driver Graham Rahal, and of course, everybody’s favorite, Linda Vaughn.
The hardware on display included one of Tullius’s beautiful Jaguar race cars, the No. 20 Marlboro car owned by Pat Patrick and driven to an Indy 500 win by Fittipaldi, Howard Hughes’ Rolls-Royce roadster, and Fred Merkel’s Honda superbike.