An overflow crowd of family, friends, inductees and motorsports legends and leaders turned out for last week’s record-setting Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) 35th Induction Ceremony presented by Toyota Racing. The evening was the crowning event of a two-day Induction Celebration that was the biggest in MSHFA history.
The accomplished and legendary MSHFA Class of 2023 includes the man who turned Corvette into an international racing champion Zora Arkus-Duntov (Sports Cars), national champion driver and trailblazing USAC official Henry Banks (Historic), America’s most successful enduro rider, Dick Burleson (Motorcycles), air racing superstar Art Chester (Aviation), one of NASCAR’s most innovative crew chiefs, Ray Evernham (Stock Cars), early NASCAR fan favorite Fonty Flock (Historic), one of the NHRA’s 50 Greatest All-Time Drivers, Darrell Gwynn (Drag Racing), prolific land speed record-setter Ab Jenkins (Speed Records) and two men who revolutionized racetrack emergency services, saving countless lives and careers, Drs. Stephen Olvey and Terry Trammell (Open Wheel), who were inducted as duo.
These additions to the MSHFA increases to 287 the total number of “Heroes of Horsepower” enshrined in the “The Hall of Fame of All Motorsports.”
Highlight moments of last week’s two-day celebration include:
Second-Year Sellouts: For the second-straight year, both last Tuesday’s Induction Ceremony presented by Toyota Racing at the Shores Resort and Spa and the Heroes of Horsepower Reception presented by Firestone Monday night at the MSHFA Museum on the grounds of Daytona International Speedway (DIS) were sold out early. Format and layout enhancements for both events allowed more guests to attend than ever before, but even those extra tickets and tables were quickly purchased weeks before the 2023 Induction Celebration.
Announcements and Presentations: Both Tuesday’s Induction Ceremony and Monday’s Reception featured surprise announcements and special presentations. The blockbuster was Tuesday’s announcement of the Don Panoz Endowment for The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Made possible by the Panoz Family, the endowment brings valuable funding for the MSHFA’s ongoing and non-profit mission of preserving the legacy and history of all facets of American motorsports and provides a lasting memorial for the late Dr. Don Panoz in the MSHFA Museum. Monday night featured the first presentation since 2017 of the Bob Russo Heritage Award, the MSHFA’s highest honor next to induction, which went to Bass Pro Shops Founder and CEO Johnny Morris. The award, named in honor of the longtime motorsports journalist and historian Bob Russo, is presented at the recommendation of the MSHFA Board of Directors in recognition of the recipient’s contributions to motorsports throughout their career.
Another surprise came when John Skopos, a friend of Linda Vaughn (MSHFA Class of 2019), generously donated a helmet in honor of the First Lady of Motorsports that includes the signatures of competitors in the 2001 IROC Series. The drivers, including NASCAR Cup Series Champions Dale Earnhardt (MSHFA Class of 2002), Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart (MSHFA Class of 2019) and Bobby Labonte, Indianapolis 500 winners Eddie Cheever and Buddy Lazier and Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Mark Dismore, signed the helmet during the season-opener at Daytona. Earnhardt added his autograph shortly before the start of that weekend’s Daytona 500. In addition to the helmet donation, a group led by Morris, but including Bruce Smith, Larry Cope, Frank Phillips, Pam Yates and former drag racer Jeff Gordon donated a much-needed car mover to the Hall’s Museum.
The Stars Come Out: The incredible achievements and star power of the Class of 2023 were complemented by an impressive gathering of fellow racing champions, motorsports industry leaders and family and friends that came from all corners to laud and celebrate the MSHFA’s 35th induction class. More than two dozen previously inducted motorsports legends were among Tuesday evening’s guests while several others enshrined in the MSHFA were proudly represented by family members. Historic inductees Flock and Banks were formally brought into the MSHFA in Tuesday morning’s Inductee Brunch presented by American Honda. Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles and Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher appropriately teamed up to induct Banks and Flock, respectively. Banks’ daughter, Kathy Orr, graciously received her father’s honor while Flock’s son, Victor Flock, spoke and accepted the induction on behalf of his colorful and race-winning father.
Additional presenters at Tuesday night’s gala included three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti (MSHFA Class of 2019) for Drs. Olvey and Trammell, popular motorsports television pit reporter and host Matt Yocum, who lauded his longtime friend and colleague Evernham, and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, the very first MSHFA inductee in the Drag Racing category as part of the inaugural 1989 Class, who presented Gwynn. Tim Weinschenker, President of the Society of Air Racing Historians, presented Chester for induction while Jenkins was enthusiastically ushered into the MSHFA by “Landspeed” Louise Noeth.
Automotive, motorcycle and motorsports executives were also well represented at the Induction Ceremony head table. John Hinz, the President of KTM North America, presented Burleson for induction while General Motors President Mark Reuss did the honors for Arkus-Duntov. Tuesday evening’s Honorary Chair was IMSA President John Doonan, who is also an active and longtime supporter of the MSHFA, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2013 – 2017 and continuing today as a member of the Board of Trustees.
David Hobbs (MSHFA Class of 2009) once again shined as the 35th Induction Ceremony Master of Ceremonies and was ably assisted by longtime motorsports broadcasting pro Marty Reid, who in turn stepped into the spotlight on his own as the host of Monday night’s “HoH” reception and Tuesday’s Inductee Brunch presented by American Honda at the Rolex Lounge at Daytona International Speedway.
Full Schedule of Events: The 35th Induction Celebration’s premier nighttime events were supported by an expanded lineup of afternoon panel discussions that joined the traditional Tuesday Inductee Brunch presented by American Honda and Monday’s Inductee Luncheon at The Shores in the biggest lineup of daytime events in MSHFA Induction history. The panels included Monday’s “Zora As We Knew Him: 6 Corvette Legends Remember” that was presented by General Motors and Fabulous Restorations. Former GM engineers Herb Fishel and Gib Hufstader joined retired Corvette racers Burt Greenwood, Tony DeLorenzo and Jerry Thompson and avid collector and performance tuner Ken Lingenfelter in remembering the great Belgian-born Class of 2023 inductee who transformed the Corvette into a world-class race car. Tom Peters, former Director of Design for the GM Performance Car Studio, moderated the discussion.
Monday also featured 2023 inductees Drs. Olvey and Trammell who shared some insight and behind-the-scenes stories on various screenings of scenes from their movie, co-directed by Michael Miles, “Rapid Response.” The moving and inspiring panel discussion was hosted by Tommy Kendall (MSHFA Class of 2015) who overcame his own devastating injuries at the peak of his career to win several more championships and dozens of races. The final panel discussion on Tuesday brought together a collection of MSHFA Sports Cars inductees for “The 24-Hour Wars: Stories from the Front Lines.” Judy Stropus (MSHFA Class of 2021), Derek Bell (MSHFA Class of 2012), Elliott Forbes-Robinson (MSHFA Class of 2006), Brian Redman (MSHFA Class of 2002) and Hobbs shared some stories, and even a few laughs, in the entertaining and insightful session that was hosted by 2023 inductee Evernham, a frequent road racing competitor in both historic and contemporary sports car racing.
Records of three different livestreams from the Tuesday Induction Ceremony are currently available for viewing on the MSHFA Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. Produced by Vid Monster and sponsored by Speedvision, the encore programming includes a preview Red Carpet show on the MSHFA Facebook and a behind-the-scenes Back Stage show, hosted by Ryan Myrehn, on the MSHFA YouTube Channel.
Vote counts have been completed and the MSHFA’s Class of 2024 will be announced later this spring in preparation for next year’s 36th MSHFA Induction Celebration.
More information about the MSHFA, including ongoing events, can be found HERE.