LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inducted seven new members on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014 at the Fireman’s Hall in Lincoln, Neb. This was the 17th class for the NARHoF which was created in 1998 to honor Nebraskans, both native and adopted, for their contributions to the sport of auto racing.
Nearly 300 attendees enjoyed the event in which Tom Lathen was the Master of Ceremonies. Tom did an outstanding job in his first year as emcee. The first order of business for the event was the presentation of the Gordie Shuck Sportsmanship Award. It was presented to Joyce Smith of Speedway Motors for her half century of support of the sport of auto racing. Carson Smith, Joyce’s oldest son accepted the award for his mother. Next on the agenda was the induction of the seven new members into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
The seven newest inductees in the Hall of Fame are:
Buck Huston, Scottsbluff
Huston’s racing career began quite by accident when he was 16 years old. He was working with a traveling carnival following the county fair circuit through Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Midget drivers followed the same circuit driving tracks which were scrapped out of pastures with a few bales of hay placed on the curves. As fate would have it, one evening one of the drivers showed up too drunk to drive. The owner asked for a volunteer to drive his car. Young Buck stepped up to the plate. Buck continued his racing ventures, working with Miles Spickler building midgets and racing them at Lakeside Speedway. In 1949, Buck drove in the inaugural race at Scottsbluff Speedway but midget racing ended in Scottsbluff in 1951, a year when Buck scored 12 victories. Stock car racing began in Scottsbluff in 1952, with Huston in the thick of it. During one of the early races, he started in last position because of having fast time. At the end of the 25-lap race, buck was well ahead of the pack. During the years that followed, Huston continued to set the pace for the other racers. Although others tried, the “Two Bucks,” Buck Huston and Buck Olson, became the two men to beat, as one or the other would win most of the time. Even the newspapers got in on the action with headlines that read, “The Bucks Stops Here!” Buck’s daughters, Sharon Ingram and Charlotte Staehr, accepted for their father.
Bob Westphal, Fremont
Westphal was fascinated by the inner workings of engines since childhood. “I can’t tell you how many times I took apart and rebuilt my parent’s lawnmower, my mini-bike, car engines, whatever,” says Westphal. Bob was born and raised in Fremont, then moved to Burbank, California, in 1968 and shortly thereafter, was hired by Ed Pink Racing Engines. Bob built top fuel and funny car engines at Pinks’ for such stars as Larry Dixon Sr., Ed “The Ace” McCulloch, Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Dale Pulde, Don Schumacher, Barry Setzer and many others. Westphal was employed by Pink from 1969 to 1977 and won numerous NHRA National events and championships during that time. In 1979, Westphal was hired by drag racer, Raymond Beadle, to manage his newly formed machine shop. With Bob maintaining Beadle’s funny car engines, the Blue Max team won the NHRA title in 1979-’80-’81. Westphal put all his experience to use and Wesmar Racing Engines was born in 1986. Partnering with Steve Carbone, another top fuel engine builder at Pink’s, the two set up shop in Bixby, Oklahoma and began building 360 and 410 cubic inch sprint car engines. Bob Westphal passed away at age, 71, on June 9, 2013, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Bob’s son, Kelly accepted for his father.
The following inductees were able to accept their awards in person:
Don Weyhrich, Norfolk
Weyhrich quickly established himself as one of the fastest drivers in the area. Driving his patented $1.98, Weyhrich challenged the best in northeast Nebraska at tracks such as Riviera Raceway in Norfolk, Creighton Speedway, Boone County Speedway in Albion and Skylark Speedway in Columbus. By the early 1970s, Don was branching out to Hastings Raceway, Collins Field in LeMars, Iowa and Mid-Contentent Speedway in Doniphan. He won season point titles at Riveria in 1972 and ’75, and was a three-time champ at Doniphan in 1976-’78. Weyhrich won the Inaugural Modified World Championship at Mid-Continent in 1975 and the sprint car portion of the Nebraska Triple Crown at Sunset Speedway in 1977. In mid-1976, Don started racing at Husets Speedway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and, in 1977, he purchased a Trostle sprint car and began racing at Jackson, Minnesota. In the 1980’s Weyhrich dropped out the sprint car ranks and turned to late models. One of his biggest wins in this class was the 1984 Nebraska Cup at Eagle Raceway which he won with a brand new Bullitt Chassis.
J.J. Riggins, Lincoln
Riggins progressed through the years with an impressive accomplishment in 1970 of qualifying for the C feature at the Knoxville Nationals. In 1977, Riggins was awarded Knoxville Raceway’s Most Improved Driver of the Year. A real break came in the late summer of 1981 when J.J. was offered a ride in John Tucker’s sprint car. On Labor Day weekend, Riggins won his first A feature at Midwest Speedway and his sprint car success grew to new heights over the next several years. In 1982, J.J. took the famed 14J to Knoxville, Iowa, and made a statement with 360 racing by setting fast time, started 16th in the A feature and ran away with the first ever 360 sprint car feature in 15 laps at Knoxville Raceway. This was the beginning of 360 sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway. J.J. earned three season point championships at Eagle Raceway. From 1984 through 1992, Riggins won 30 A features at Eagle Raceway.
Steve Kosiski, Omaha
Kosiski registered more than 325 victories before retiring from racing in 2006. Steve and his brother, Joe, dominated the Busch All Star tour. Steve was the winningest driver in series history, winning seven Busch All Star Tour titles and 50 features, a record as well. Steve was the 1985 National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Central Region Weekly Series Champion with 20 wins. He was a two-time champion of the O’Reilly Topless Outlaw Racing Association, winning the title in 2004 and ’05. He is the only driver to win the prestigious Yankee Dirt Classic five times and he won the Gopher 50 three times at Owatonna, Minnesota. Other major wins include Spring Spectacular at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas; the NASCAR Winston 50 at Mid-Nebraska Speedway in Doniphan; Western Shootout at Dodge City, Kansas; the Pepsi USA 100 at Burlington, Iowa; the Alphabet Soup race at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska and Multiple Cornhusker Classics. Steve was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2010 and was named one of the top 25 drivers in the history of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Marty Bassett, Lincoln
Bassett started out working for “Speedy” Bill Smith in the late 1950s at Speedway Motors. One of Bassett’s early projects was welding up the 1932 Ford Sedan modified which Smith campaigned with great success. Starting in 1960, the car, with Lloyd Beckman driving, won 16 features in a row at Capitol Beach Speedway in Lincoln, Nebraska. The biggest win for the team came in the Tri-State Championship at Spencer, Iowa. Larry Swanson hired Bassett as crew chief in 1971, and had Lonnie Jensen doing the driving. The team won the 1971 and ’72 BCRA owners championship for Swanson and the 1972 driving title with Jensen. Race wins in 1971, included, Knoxville, Belleville, Eagle and Beatrice. The 1972 season was even better with the team winning six features at Eagle, two at Knoxville and one at Belleville. Point titles came with the NMRA, BCRA and Knoxville. Bassett helped Jan Opperman in the mid-1970s on several cars including the famous Luke Bogar Chevy, and also co-owned a USAC Silver Crown car with Fred Aden which Gary Patterson drove in the early-1980s.
Randy Hunt, Lincoln
Hunt grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and went to school with Jay Opperman, Jan’s younger brother. After graduation, Randy was on the sprint car circuit with Jan Opperman, running up and down the west coast at such venues as Calistoga, Chico and Ascot. Hunt moved to Nebraska with Jan in 1968, helping him on several cars. In 1971, Opperman put together a deal with Ken and Larry Cahill for an assault on Central Pennsylvania. Jan asked Randy if he wanted to be part of the team. They won 25 races during the year including the Knoxville Nationals. In 1972, Maxwell hired Randy as a welder and soon Hunt, who could weld virtually anything, found himself specializing in building racing seats. Up until then there was no magic to a racing seat and no safety factor either. It was Hunt who first realized that an exceptionally built seat, properly mounted in the car, had a big effect on the ability of a driver to walk away from a crash. It was at about this time that Hunt came up with the “double wrap” seat, which was another big leap in seat safety. At one point, Randy was building 400 seats a month and barely keeping up with the demand.