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Florence Speedway

Iowans lead Hall of Fame inductions at Florence

August 13, 2010, 10:01 am
From staff and correspondent reports

Two long-time Iowa drivers who helped usher in the modern Dirt Late Model racing highlight the eight-member Class of 2010 for the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame who will be inducted Saturday preceding the 28th annual North-South 100 at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky.

Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, a 12-time IMCA Late Model champion, and the late Ronnie Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, who piled up more than 500 career feature victories, are among six drivers who will be inducted next August. | Complete North-South 100 coverage

The Iowans will be joined by two popular Midwest drivers, Roger Long of Fithian, Ill., and Steve Kosiski of Omaha, Neb., and two popular Southern drivers, Mike Head of Ellenwood, Ga., and Billy Scott of Union, S.C.

Contributors elected to the Hall of Fame are Danville, Ky., car owner Bobby Paul, who fielded Larry Moore's first World 100 victory in 1979, and the Thomas family of Phenix City, Ala., who operate East Alabama Motor Speedway and developed Jig-A-Lo Chassis. Freddy Smith, previously inducted as a competitor, will be named the 2010 Hall of Fame Sportsman of the Year.

The inductees were voted into the Hall of Fame by a select panel of media members, promoters and others in the Dirt Late Model industry. The 2011 class will be announced Sept. 12 at Eldora Speedway's World 100.

The Hall of Fame will host a memorabilia parts auction 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Florence with all proceeds going to improve the building on the grounds at the speedway. The auction is open to the public. Also, the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame website has been given a facelift and is back in operation.

Anyone interested in making donations to the Hall of Fame can call Bill Holder at (937) 233-0924) or visit the hall's website.

Details about the Class of 2010:

Ernie Derr: One of the best products of racing-crazy Keokuk, Iowa, is the all-time winningest IMCA driver with 328 victories and won an unprecedented 12 IMCA championships, including seven straight from 1965-71. Short in stature (5-foot-8) but tall among the competition, Derr collected more than 450 victories overall including the Kansas Late Model Classic in Topeka ('68), the Illinois State Championship in Champaign ('69) and National Dirt Track 100 in Davenport, Iowa ('71). The Iowa Sports Hall of Famer, now 88, retired in 1977.

Mike Head: The burly, Ellenwood, Ga., driver, among the South's popular racing personalities, has more than 600 career feature victories and still races part time. Among his victories are the 1990 North-South 100 at Florence, the 1982 Dixie 100 at Dixie (Ga.) Speedway and the 1988 NASCAR National Dirt Classic 100 at Crossville (Tenn.) Raceway. He also won two series titles, the 1991 Southern All Stars championship and the 1997 Rick's Furniture Super Late Model Series championship. His 24 Southern All Star victories rank fourth on the all-time list.

Steve Kosiski: A member of Omaha, Neb.'s famed Kosiski family, Kosiski joins his older brother Joe, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in '08. Steve Kosiski won seven championships on the NASCAR Busch-Star Series and is the all-time winningest driver on NASCAR's only dirt tour with 50 victories (five more than brother Joe). He also won two Topless Outlaws Racing Association championships ('04-'05) and ranks second on TORA's win list. Among his 300 overall victories were three Gopher 50 triumphs in Owatonna, Minn., and five Yankee Dirt Track Classic victories in Iowa. He retired in 2006.

Roger Long: One of the winningest weekly drivers in UMP DIRTcar history, the Fithian, Ill., driver piled up more than 350 career feature victories and 15 track championships before retiring in recent years. He was a long-time regular at UMP's stalwart tracks in Illinois including Farmer City Raceway and Fairbury American Legion Speedway. Long's biggest victories include the Illinois Dirt Track Championship in East Moline ('81-'82), the Herald & Review 100 at Macon (Ill.) Speedway ('84) and the Kenny Simpson Memorial at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway ('86). He was a five-time winner on the UMP Summernationals tour.

Billy Scott: The retired Union, S.C., driver collected more than 400 feature victories and was a two-time Southern Auto Racing News Driver of the year. He raced on asphalt and dirt in NASCAR-sanctioned events in the '50s and '60s as a contemporary with drivers like Ralph Earnhardt and Tiny Lund. Among his biggest Dirt Late Model victories were the Shrine 100 in Gaston, S.C. ('73), the Pepsi 300 at 331 (N.C.) Speedway ('80), the Queen City 100 at Metrolina (N.C.) Speedway ('82) and the Stick Elliott Memorial at Cherokee (S.C.) Speedway ('85). He raced for 37 years.

Ronnie Weedon: The late Pleasant Valley, Iowa, driver raced on dirt tracks for 56 years and collected more than 500 career feature victories. Among his victories were the Mississippi Valley 50 in Davenport, Iowa ('66), the Illinois State Dirt Championships in Peoria ('73-'76), the Northern Illinois Dirt Track Championships in Kankakee ('73-'74) and the Mason-Dixon Challenge in Lake City, Fla. ('77). The Quad Cities racing regular died in 2005 at age 72 when his race slipped off the jack while he was working on it. The Weedon Award is now presented annually to a top driver in the Quad Cities.

Bobby Paul: The Danville, Ky., car owner fielded the popular No. P1, a number that highlighted his Paul's Pipeline business that sponsored his cars in the late 1970s and early '80s. Hall of Famer Larry Moore was Paul's longest-running and most prominent driver, winning major events including the '79 World 100 at Eldora Speedway. Among other drivers piloting Paul's machines were three other Hall of Famers, Ronnie Johnson, Rodney Combs and Billy Teegarden. David Speer also drove for Paul, capturing the 1976 Kentucky State Dirt Championship Series.

The Thomas family: The Phenix City, Ala., family, including Dirt Late Model and ARCA racers Billy and Bobby Thomas, made its mark on the sport in competing, chassis-building and promoting. Late patriarch Jimmy Thomas, who began everything with Jimmy's Speed Shop, established Jig-A-Lo Chassis with his sons and owned NASCAR Grand National entries in the 1960s. Charlie Hughes, the 1976 World 100 winner, was among drivers to popularize the Thomas-built Jig-a-Lo in the late 1970s. East Alabama Motor Speedway is one of the South's long-time Dirt Late Model tracks and annually hosts the National 100, one of the region's richest events. Jimmy's wife Shirley carried on at EAMS along with children Billy, Bobby, Ben and Beverly.

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