CLASS OF 2021 INDUCTED INTO NEBRASKA AUTO RACING HALL OF FAME
Seven inductees enshrined during Lincoln ceremony
(Lincoln, NE) Seven members of the Class of 2021 were inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame during festivities held at Courtside Banquet Hall in Lincoln on Saturday, October 16. This year’s inductees were the 23rd class inducted into the Hall of Fame, after last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.
Board President Jim Riggins opened the ceremony by welcoming the large crowd in attendance. Following the invocation by Board Member Tony Glenn and the National Anthem, sung by fellow Board Member Stan Cisar, the Beatrice Speedway Women For Racing were presented with the prestigious Gordie Shuck Lifetime Achievement Award by members of the Shuck family. Founded in 1988, Women For Racing assists the Gage County Fair Board in keeping racing vibrant at Beatrice Speedway by raising money for the track’s all-important point fund and by putting on special events to develop and maintain fan interest in the speedway. Over the past 33 years, the organization has dedicated countless volunteer hours and raised thousands of dollars for the benefit of racers and racing at Beatrice Speedway.
Following the presentation of the Gordie Shuck award, the seven new inductees were recognized. Those recognized include Don Barker of Lincoln, Mel Earnest of Wood River, Jim Eilts of Grand Island, Ed Jochim of Omaha, Kevin Larkins of Greenwood, Wayne “Bromo” Selser of Omaha, and Rallen “Rallie” Zeitner of Omaha.
Don Barker. After attending races at Lincoln Speedway at Capital Beach as a teenager, Don Barker’s first hands-on involvement in auto racing came in the late 1960s when he joined the crew of Nebraska Auto Racing Hall-of-Fame Sprint Car driver Jim Riggins. Later, Barker turned wrenches for Larry Swanson’s number-14 Sprint Car team driven by such notables as Lonnie Jensen, Lloyd Beckman, Don Maxwell, Jan Opperman, Joe Saldana, and Roger Rager. After moving to Arizona in 1974, Barker was hired on as Team Mechanic for the Sprint Car team of Ronnie Shuman, which eventually led to his tenure with the Indy Champ Car team of Lloyd Ruby. Other Barker racing accomplishments include two years with the Gary Stanton race team, with Shuman and Leland McSpadden turning the wheel, and a year as Crew Chief for Bobby Unser, Jr. In 1979, Barker became a car owner with McSpadden, Shuman, Johnny Parsons, Jr., Chuck Gurney, Dub May, and Randy Smith, among others, handling the driving chores over the years. Major wins for Barker include the Western States Championship at Manzanita Speedway in 1975 and the Pacific Coast Open Wheel Championships in 1976.
Mel Earnest. Mel Earnest fielded his first race car in 1967, and with Dean Ward behind the wheel, raced at Kearney, Hastings, Columbus and Nebraska City, picking up numerous track championships over the next four seasons. In 1971, Earnest teamed with Don Wilson of Grand Island, and the pair purchased a powerful American Motors engine and mounted it into a specially-designed Nance Sprint Car chassis. The team won the points championship at Hastings Raceway that year, and the following year, after the departure of Wilson, picked up a major event win at the prestigious Nebraska Triple Crown at Sunset Speedway in Omaha. A year later, with Kenny McCarty at the wheel, the team secured the track championship at Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan. Earnest eventually became a consultant with Laverne Nance Racing in Wichita and during his tenure at Nance, turned wrenches for Shane Carson, when the young driver scored his first Sprint Car main event win at Phenix City, Alabama. Throughout the 1980s, Earnest traveled with numerous Sprint Car teams, and during his long career, his cars successfully competed in ten different states from Wyoming through Florida.
Jim Eilts. Jim Eilts began his racing career as a crew member in 1968, and fielded his first car, a 1934 Ford Sedan, a couple of years later, eventually winning a track championship at Dawson County Raceway in Lexington with Billy Meyers at the controls. Eilts became a Central Nebraska racing pioneer in 1973, when he and business partner Don Schmidt built a Chevrolet Nova and embarked on an ambitious traveling schedule, participating in IMCA touring events at State Fairground race tracks throughout the Midwest and the South, racing to fourth place finishes in the final IMCA Late Model touring standings in both 1974 and 1975. With driver Galen Keas turning the wheel, Eilts continued to keep up a torrid traveling schedule, finishing in the top-ten at the Western World 100 at Manzanita Speedway in Arizona in 1979 and 1980, and racing through the Dakotas and Southern Canada participating with the NODAK Tour in 1980. In the late 1980s, Eilts opened Starlight Chassis Development in Grand Island and built dozens of winning IMCA Modifieds, Broncos, Hobby Stocks and Sportsman cars and his racing parts business became a staple at race tracks throughout Central Nebraska.
Ed Jochim. Ed Jochim began his drag racing career in the late 1950s at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue and burst onto the national racing seen in 1961, when his 1961 Ford Starliner, described at the time as the “Fastest Drag Car in Nebraska,” raced at the NHRA Summernationals in Indianapolis. A couple of years later, in 1963, Jochim raced at both the NHRA Winternationals and Summernationals events, reaching the semi-final round at the Winternationals in the Stock Eliminator class in his supercharged 1957 Ford hardtop. During his career, Jochim raced at numerous drag racing venues in eastern Nebraska, as well as central Nebraska tracks in both Kearney and Grand Island, and the drag strip in Sioux City, Iowa. He also participated in NHRA national events in Pamona, California and Indianapolis, Indiana. During his career, Jochim held numerous local track records and won countless class eliminator trophies.
Kevin Larkins. Kevin Larkins began his driving career as a 17 year old teenager in 1982, and after spending three seasons in a Sportsman car, placed his emphasis on IMCA Modifieds beginning in 1985. In 1994, he racked up 24 feature race wins, enough to win the IMCA North Central Region championship and finish a close second, by hundredths of a point, in the final IMCA National point standings. During his 33 year driving career, Larkins raced at over 100 tracks in nearly two dozen states, scoring over 250 feature race wins and winning 19 track championships. During that period, he raced both dirt and asphalt Late Models, Sportsmen, Sprint Cars and Modifieds. In the early 1990s, after working for Sardeson Racing in Greenwood for nearly eight years, he opened Larkins Racing in Adams, Nebraska, where he built upwards of 30 IMCA-type Modifieds each year. In 1995, Larkins began working at Speedway Motors in Lincoln, where he now manages four divisions for the company. His continued involvement in motorsports has spanned a period of over 40 years.
Wayne “Bromo” Selser. Wayne “Bromo” Selser began his racing career in 1946, racing Roadsters and eventually Midgets in Southern California. After moving to Omaha in 1949, he began racing the former Chet Wilson Midget and a year later, moved into the seat of the Otto Ramer Offenhauser Midget, winning the season opener in Topeka, Kansas and finishing fifth in Kansas City Midget Auto Racing Association (KCMARA) point standings. Selser was on the track for the final Midget race held at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles in 1950, and won twice at renowned Olympic Stadium in Kansas City in 1951, but retired from Midget racing a few years later to turn his full attention to Sprint Cars. He chauffeured the Les Vaughan Sprinter on the IMCA circuit and scored a marquee win at Belleville, Kansas in 1954. During his driving career, Selser successfully raced Midgets, ¾ Midgets, and Sprint Cars from California to Washington, DC.
Rallen Zeitner. Rallen Zeitner began racing Super Modifieds in South Dakota in 1965 and during a 13 year career behind the wheel scored over 50 feature race wins at various local racing venues in Watertown, Brookings and Madison, South Dakota and Canby, Minnesota. Upon moving to Omaha in 1977, Zeitner hung up his racing helmet and immediately began assisting his four sons, Al, Mel, Dale, and Leon, and eventually grandsons Justin, Corey, Kevin, and Zach, begin racing careers of their own. As a multi-team car owner and sponsor, Zeitner’s cars have successfully raced throughout much of the Midwest, scoring over 250 feature race victories, winning eight track championships in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, and touring successfully with both the NASCAR All-Star Series and the WORLD Dirt Racing League. Zeitner is a former winner of the NASCAR Central Region True Value Gold Wrench Mechanic Award.
The Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inducted its first class 1998 and since that time has enshrined over 150 members of the Nebraska racing community. The purpose of the organization is to perpetuate the memory of individuals who have brought lasting fame and positive recognition to the state of Nebraska through their achievements in the sport of auto racing.