Daytona Beach, FL – The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America announced Thursday (Feb. 27) that it will induct Wally Dallenbach Sr. — considered the best chief steward in the history of American racing — to its ranks.
“Wally Dallenbach was an outstanding driver,” said MSHFA President George Levy. “But the work he did as chief steward changed racing and saved lives. Few have had a bigger impact on the sport.”
A self-made racer from New Jersey, Dallenbach competed in dragsters, stock cars, midgets and sprint cars before making his name as the winner of five IndyCar races with the team owned by 2018 inductee U.E. “Pat” Patrick in the mid-1970s, including the 1973 California 500. Dallenbach also started the Colorado 500 charity motorcycle ride — now in its 45th year — before retiring in 1980 to become CART’s chief steward.
Over the next two decades Dallenbach built a reputation as a cool-headed, even-handed steward who spearheaded improvements in all aspects of motor racing safety. With the help of physicians Steve Olvey and Terry Trammell, along with safety directors Steve Edwards and Lon Bromley, he developed the sport’s most progressive, state-of-the-art safety and medical team. By working closely with the teams and car builders, Dallenbach and his group also influenced improvements in car and cockpit construction, especially better ways to absorb energy on impact.
“The big thing that I’m especially proud of is that I had my part in improving safety,” Dallenbach told Gordon Kirby, author of Wally Dallenbach: Steward of the Sport, published by Racemaker Press. “Back in those days (some of the other sanctioning bodies) had their heads in the sand and we were moving ahead. We were the innovators and eventually, after they lost some people, they learned from us.”
The MSHFA’s 32nd Induction Ceremony Presented by Firestone is March 17. In addition to Dallenbach, who will be inducted in the Open Wheel category, the evening’s honorees will be Red Byron (Historic); Chris Carr (Motorcycles); Floyd Clymer (At Large); Rick Hendrick (Stock Cars)’ Jacky Ickx (Sports Cars); Tiny Lund (Historic); “Ohio George” Montgomery (Drag Racing); and Ivan “Ironman” Stewart (Off Road).