Massey, Weaver among 2019 Hall of Fame class
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (Oct. 20) — One of Dixie Speedway’s winningest drivers, the Arkansas pilot of the famed UFO car, an Alabama standout who had ARCA success and two hard-charging Illinois drivers are among eight inductees heading for the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2019.
Stan Massey of Mableton, Ga., Wayne Brooks of Bald Knob, Ark., Billy Thomas of Phenix City, Ala., John Provenzano of Streator, Ill., and Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill. are part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 along with long-time Arkansas promoter Mooney Starr, IMCA modified founder Keith Knaack and Cornett Racing engines founder Red Cornett and his son Jack. Knaack and Red Cornett will be inducted posthumously.
The inductees were revealed at Portsmouth Raceway Park during the 38th running of the Rhino Ag Dirt Track World Championship presented by Optima Batteries, the finale on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Here’s a closer look at 2019’s inductees next August at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky., during the Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100 weekend (listed alphabetically):
Wayne Brooks, Bald Knob, Ark.: The driver of the famed UFO car raced to more than 500 career dirt racing victories in Late Models and modifieds. Brooks began his career in the late 1960s and raced to major Late Model victories including the 1982 National Dirt Racing Association event at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark. Other major victories include the Miller Spooker at Tri-State Speedway in Pocola, Okla., the GRT Southern Nationals at Winchester (Tenn.) Speedway and an All-Star Circuit of Champions victory at Florida Speedweeks in 1991. The famed driver and fabricator mostly moved to modified racing in the second half of his career and is still competing at age 69 while also operating the Brooks-Shaw Driving School.
Stan Massey, Mableton, Ga.: The driver known as “Handsome Stan” scored his first victory in 1972 at Senoia (Ga.) Raceway and his last in 2000 at Seven Flags Speedway in Douglasville, Ga., during a career with 188 documented victories and scores more unrecorded. The four-time Dixie Speedway champion is among the Woodstock, Ga., track’s winningest driver with 69 victories, including NDRA races in the 1981 and ‘83 Dixie Nationals, the first paying $17,000-to-win. Other major victories included the 1995 Ice Bowl at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala., the Turkey Shootout at Valdosta (Ga.) Speedway and the Miller 100 at Senoia. Among Massey’s team owners were his father Ed and Ronnie Dobbins, who owned Shane Clanton’s World 100-winning car.
John Provenzano, Streator, Ill.: Known far and wide as “Lil’ John,” Provenzano has piled up more than 550 feature victories and 10 championships over 40 years of dirt racing. Still dabbling in Late Models at the age of 63, some of Provenzano’s best seasons came in the Dependable Carburetor entry fielded by Lee and Dottie Byers (2018 Hall of Famers). His biggest victories included five National Clay Track Championship 200s at Santa Fe Speedway, including 1987-’88 and the track’s final major event in 1995. Other major victories include the UMP Spring Shootout at Kankakee (Ill.) Speedway and Roderick Memorial at La Salle (Ill.) Speedway, both in 1997. He’s the third winningest driver in Kankakee history with 44 victories and was July 28’s winner at Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill. The most recent of Provenzano's 10 track championships came at La Salle in 2010.
Billy Thomas, Phenix City, Ala.: During a relatively brief 11-year Late Model career starting in 1972, Thomas racked up more than 200 victories and finished fourth in points in the first season of the National Dirt Racing Association. One of his biggest victories came in 1978’s National 200 (later the National 100) at East Alabama Motor Speedway, where he also won multiple track titles. Thomas saw his career cut short to return home and help operate EAMS after his father Jimmy’s death, along with assisting with the Jig-A-Lo Chassis operations the family founded. Thomas, who still promotes the East Alabama oval today, continued part-time racing in ARCA Racing competition, primarily in Illinois mile-track races at Springfield and DuQuoin. Thomas won once at Springfield and four times at DuQuoin and finished his ARCA career with 16 top-five finishes from 1987-’03.
Kevin Weaver, Gibson City, Ill.: The “Flatland Flash” has piled up 325 feature victories in a career that began in 1981 and continues with five track championships over the past four seasons. The bespectacled Weaver’s career highlights include the 2000 DIRTcar Summer Nationals championship along with a 1992 UMP (now DIRTcar) weekly title. Other major victories include Macon (Ill.) Speedway’s Herald & Review 100 (four times), Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway’s Prairie Dirt Classic (1991) and UMP’s Fall Nationals at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway (1997). He’s Fairbury’s all-time winningest driver with 68 victories and owns Northern Allstars (2009), UMP Challenge of Champions (2003-’04) and Monster Midwest (2008) titles. Weaver has eight career World 100 starts, including a runner-up finish in 1998.
Cornett Racing Engines (Red and Jack Cornett): The Somerset, Ky., engine builder is among the most successful in modern-era Dirt Late Model racing, powering cars to victories in the World 100 and scores of other major events as well as nine national titles on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series. Ira Jackson “Red” Cornett founded Cornett Machine Shop in 1948 and was joined in 1976 by son Jack, who guides racing operations today. The elder Cornett continued working until his 2012 death at the age of 95. Successful Cornett drivers over the last 35 seasons include Scott Bloomquist, Josh Richards, Darrell Lanigan, Jimmy Owens, Jack Boggs, Bart Hartman, Rick Eckert and Jonathan Davenport.
Keith Knaack: The founder of the Hawkeye Racing News developed and founded the racing class that evolved into the IMCA modified division. The Vinton, Iowa, racer began promoting with the Cedar Valley Racing Association in his hometown in the late 1950s and founded Iowa’s long-time racing newspaper in 1967. Knaack purchased the bankrupt International Motor Contest Association in 1976 and, along with Larry Sommerfelt, developed the IMCA modified division for a new, more affordable path for hobby racers starting in 1979. Knaack, who also promoted Tunis Speedway along with the Vinton oval, died in 1992 of heart disease at age 64 and the Knaack family sold IMCA to Kathy Root, the organization’s first employee, in 1996.
Mooney Starr: The flamboyant promoter whose oversized personality matches his hefty stature nurtured the innovative Topless 100 at his Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway and popularized double-wide restarts in the Late Model division. Initially a driver at Pocahontas Speedway, Starr turned to announcing and then took over Batesville promotions with wife Connie in 1995. He founded the Mid-America Racing Series (MARS) in 2000, immediately making it among the most popular and successful regional tours with Bill Frye, Terry Phillips and Wendell Wallace among regulars from Missouri and Arkansas. Series innovations included double-wide restarts that eventually spread to virtually all of Dirt Late Model racing, just as his topless event popularized occasional roofless racing nationally. Starr, who previously operated Starrs Cars in St. Louis, Mo. (and fielded a Starrs Cars-sponsored Late Model for Wallace in the 1990s), serves as general manager at Mark Martin’s auto dealership in Batesville.
Corrections: Fixes Provenzano's Illinois hometown to Streator sted Hinckley; clarifies Massey as among Dixie's winningest drivers.