2009 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America inductees – Click above for high-res image gallery
Talk to most gearheads about induction and they'll be picturing turbos and superchargers. But at this year's Woodward Dream Cruise, seven legendary figures from American racing were chosen for induction of another kind – into the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Not to be confused with the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is located in Novi, Michigan, on the outskirts of Detroit. This year's induction ceremony, however, was held at the old Fillmore Theater in Detroit proper, where Kenny Bernstein, David Hobbs, Scott Parker, Les Richter, Al Unser, Jr., H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler and Joe Weatherly were officially inducted.
Known as the King of Speed, Bernstein is a four-time Funny Car champion and was the first in NHRA history to break 300 mph. Bernstein was inducted by NHRA president Tom Compton. A former SCCA Trans Am champion and F1 driver, David Hobbs was inducted by his fellow Speed Channel presenter Bob Varsha. Scott Parker scored 94 wins and nine dirt track championships for Harley-Davidson, whose chief Willie G. Davidson inducted him. Former pro football player Les Richter was inducted by Roger Penske for his revival of the Riverside International Raceway and activities as a race organizer.
Former CART champion and two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, Jr. was inducted by his father. Humpy Wheeler's management of Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte earned him his place, presented by racing broadcaster Ken Squier. And finally, Joe Weatherly was posthumously induced by stock car legend Ned Jarrett for his numerous titles both on motorcycles and in NASCAR. Follow the jump for more details in the full press release.
[Source: Motorsports Hall of Fame]
INSPIRATION AND EMOTION RULE AS BERNSTEIN, HOBBS, PARKER, RICHTER, UNSER JR, WHEELER AND WEATHERLY ARE INDUCTEDINTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME OF AMERICA
NOVI, MI – Racing legends Kenny Bernstein, David Hobbs, Scott Parker, Les Richter, Al Unser, Jr., H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler and Joe Weatherly were inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America during an inspirational and emotional ceremony on Wednesday, August, 12, 2009 at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit.
In addition to those being honored, several racing notables took part in the proceedings. Track announcer Jim Mueller served as master of ceremonies. Hall of Fame hydroplane racer Mira Slovak read the stirring patriotic "My Creed" by Dean Alfange. Forrest and Charlotte Lucas, whose Lucas Oil Co. supporter nearly every form of motorsports, were on hand.
At this year's Induction Ceremony, the list of presenters was nearly as impressive as the list of those being honored. Speed Channel's Bob Varsha introduced Hobbs. Harley-Davidson's Willie G. Davidson presented Parker. Roger Penske inducted Richter. Hall of Fame stock car legend Ned Jarrett presented and accepted on behalf of Weatherly. Long-time racing broadcaster Ken Squier introduced Wheeler. NHRA President Tom Compton presented Bernstein. And four-time Indy 500 champ Al Unser inducted his son.
Each year, those in attendance are treated to stirring video presentations that document the accomplishments of the honored Heroes of Horsepower. This year was no exception.
Bernstein's video detailed how he became the King of Speed in 1992 when he was the first NHRA driver to break the 300 MPH barrier. He is a four-time Winston Funny Car champion and an IHRA Winston World Funny Car champ. Bernstein also is a two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion. He is still actively involved in drag racing as an owner.
The Hobbs presentation followed his exploits from three decades driving sports cars to his current role as a television broadcaster on Speed Channel. His driving career saw him win the SCCA Trans Am championship and close to 40 major race victories. Hobbs also fared well in his four Indy 500 starts and his Formula 1 debut in 1966.
Parker rode Harley-Davidsons for 21 years amassing 94 wins and a record nine dirt track championships. He is the only rider to have been named American Motorcyclist Athlete of the Year three times.
Richter was a former eight-time Pro Bowl football player with the Los Angeles Rams before becoming one of the co-owners of Riverside International Raceway and helped turn that track into one of the finest in the world. He also co-founded the International Race of Champions, became a vice president of NASCAR and played a dominant role in the development of California Speedway.
Unser, Jr. is known in racing circles as "Little Al" but his accomplishments are as big as his family name. Unser visited the winner circle at Indianapolis twice and also captured the CART crown and the IROC title two times.
For nearly three decades, Wheeler was the innovative president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte and helped make it one of the premiere racing facilities in the world, being the first to offer extensive VIP suites and condominiums.
Weatherly began his racing career and won three championships on motorcycles before switching to NASCAR, winning the 1953 Modified championship. Then, he went on to win the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championship in 1962 and 1963. He ranks 19th in all-time Cup wins with 24. He died in a 1964 accident at Riverside Raceway in California.
Plans already are underway for the 22nd annual Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Induction Ceremony.