|Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony October 13
|by Randy Lawrence, Media Director
LINCOLN, Neb. (Sept. 29, 2006) -- The 2006 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Banquet will be held on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Lincoln Firefighter's Reception Hall at 241 Victory Lane near the Speedway Motors complex in Lincoln, Neb. The members of the class of 2006 include: Clyde Baker, Ord; Jack Beck, Omaha; Gene Kidder, Omaha; Charlie Martin, Lincoln; Abe Slusky, Omaha; and Kent Tucker, Aurora.
1983 Indianapolis 500 winner Tom Sneva will be the guest speaker at the Induction Ceremony on Oct. 13. Nicknamed "The Gasman," Sneva won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500-mile race three times (1977-78, 1984). In 1977 he became the first driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 at over 200 mph, and in 1984 was the first driver to qualify at over 210 mph.
Clyde Baker was the race superintendent for the Valley County Fair from 1929-1951 and was instrumental in making the Ord, Neb., track a venue where many of the sports greatest drivers raced. The track he helped create was a challenging high-banked half-mile with long chutes resulting in high speeds. Baker’s forte’ was his rapport with the racing community. He always treated the racers fairly and honestly, creating an atmosphere where the sport’s best wanted to race. It was through his tireless effort that men such as Johnny Gerber, Lloyd Axel, Joie Chitwood, Gus Schrader and Bobby Grim in the Big Cars (now known as Sprint Cars), plus Harry McQuinn, Lloyd Ruby, Jud Larson and Bobby Parker in the Midgets began their careers. Many more traveled our country’s roads to race at Ord. Baker always made the racers feel welcome in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s.
Jack Beck was born in Loup City, Neb., and grew up near Litchfield. Beck started his racing career in 1966 and his personal driving accomplishments include twenty Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Midwest Division national points championships -- three with the Neokla Region and the last seventeen with the Nebraska Region. In addition, Beck finished on the podium five times at the SCCA National Runoffs. Beck also received numerous other awards from various levels of the SCCA, including being selected six times as the Nebraska Region National Competition Driver of the Year. In addition to his driving skills, Beck is a nationally-known engine builder and founded Orion Motor Sports in 1986. Located in northwest Omaha, Orion maintains, fabricates, restores, does engine development and provides restoration for cars that compete in vintage, SCCA and IMSA events. His engine development laurels includes various models of Alfa, Nissan, BMC and Ford Cosworth Engines.
Gene Kidder, a native of Omaha, Neb., now a resident of Mammoth Cave, Ky., began drag racing in Omaha in 1952. As a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Advisor in Division 5, he was instrumental in getting racers off the streets and onto a track at the old Flightland Airstrip in Omaha. He raced Mopars for years and set a National Record in 1966 at Denver, Colo. In 1968, Kidder left Omaha with his nitro-burning Funny Car, and in 1972 rolled the car seven times at 140 mph during a run at Miami (Fla.) Dragway. That experience encouraged him to return to his banking career, and he became president of Central Bank in West Palm Beach, Fla. In 1980, he returned to the business side of racing, working for aftermarket automotive firms such as Moroso Performance, Firepower Ignition and Holley Carburetor. Kidder is currently employed as a Certified Track Technician in Division 3 of the NHRA at the Beech Bend Park & Raceway in Bowling Green, Ky. At 73 years of age he is still active in the sport and loving it.
Charlie Martin was born in Seneca, Kan., in 1930 and moved to Lincoln where he went to work for Bob Carroll Farm Machinery in 1949. Martin started attending races in 1950 at Grandview Theatre Speedway in Omaha on Sunday afternoons and at Capital Beach in Lincoln. During the late 1950s through the early ‘60s he built and wrenched on race cars for Louie Quattrocchi. In 1965 Martin hooked up with Joe Saldana and they raced a Super Modified at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln and Eagle (Neb.) Raceway. From 1967-69, Martin was crew chief on Saldana’s “Mechanical Rabbit” roadster designed by Don Brown, finishing second in Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway points all three years. Martin and Saldana traveled throughout Midwest racing the roadster with great success. In 1971, Martin was crew chief for Lloyd Beckman in Bill Smith’s famous No. 4x compiling 19 feature wins. In 1972, Martin wrenched for R.D. “Biz” Bisping of Norfolk with Gerald Bruggeman at the wheel. From 1973-75, several drivers drove for Bisping and Martin, including Don Maxwell, Beckman and Russ Brahmer. Martin was an unassuming man with a passion for building, preparing and maintaining race cars throughout his racing career.
Abe Slusky found the land just across the river from downtown Omaha in 1947 which became known as Playland Park. He built a large wooden roller coaster, many other rides and converted the closed dog track into a track for auto racing. Playland Speedway was thus born featuring midget auto racing. Midget racing turned into stock cars in the ‘50s and Playland Speedway was the hotbed of racing in the Midwest. Among the drivers that raced at Playland Speedway were Tiny Lund, Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductees Bud and Bob Burdick along with Bob Kosiski. Playland Park closed down from 1964-1967 due to Interstate 480 construction. Slusky spent 18 years stamping his style of leadership on the local, regional and national racing scene. Slusky died from a heart condition in 1970, but over the next six years Playland Speedway enjoyed huge success until 1977 when it finally closed.
Kent Tucker was eastern and central Nebraska's dominant driver throughout much of the 1970s. The popular farmer from Aurora scored back-to-back Late Model Nationals wins in 1974 and 1975 after a near-miss runner-up finish in the inaugural event in 1973 at the Mid-Nebraska Speedway (then called Mid-Continent Raceways). In addition to numerous track championships at several of Nebraska’s dirt ovals and hundreds of feature wins throughout the Cornhusker State, Tucker was also a threat on any dirt track in any state he visited. When his familiar blue No. 57 pulled through the gate, all bets were off. Among his national driving accomplishments, he claimed the Alta Race Days championship in 1976. Battling some of the best dirt track pilots throughout the Midwest, Tucker claimed the I.M.C.A. Late Model National Championship in 1977.
To order tickets for this year's extravaganza, please contact one of the following board members:
Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame
c/o George Roseland
18 Westlake Village
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Phone: (712) 366-2605
Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame
c/o Ray Valasek
821 Driftwood Dr.
Lincoln, NE 68510
Phone: (402) 489-5171
Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame
c/o Chris Johnson
3017 West Stolley Park Rd. #99
Grand Island, NE 68801
Phone: (402) 610-5510
The purpose of the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame is to perpetuate the memory of these individuals who have brought lasting fame to the state of Nebraska through their efforts in auto racing.
Nominees to the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame must have been a resident of the state for at least two years and must be retired from the discipline they are being honored for four years. Active participants in the sport will be considered if they are 55 years of age and have been with the sport for at least 30 years.
All candidates must have made positive contributions to the sport of auto racing on a local, regional and some national prominence.
Anyone wishing to nominate a person to the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame can do so by submitting the person's name, with a list of their accomplishments to: The Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Inc., 5527 S. 20th St., Lincoln, NE 68512. Or you can call 402-421-2266, or e-mail your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org