Southern drivers lead Hall of Fame inductees
UNION, Ky. (Aug. 8) — The inaugural World 100 winner, four storied Southern drivers and a chassis manufacturer were among members the Class of 2009 inducted Saturday into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. The inductees were honored before the 27th annual Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100 at Florence Speedway.
Bruce Gould of Milford, Ohio, the 1971 World 100 winner at Eldora Speedway who died last year, led six driver inductees, four of whom inducted posthumously. The other late inductees were Tennessee's Tootle Estes, North Carolina's Stick Elliott and Alabama's Gene Chupp, the father of veteran crew chief and driver Randle Chupp, who accepted his award. Also inducted was semi-retired Michigan driver Kris Patterson and Mississippi's Don Hester, the first-ever champion on the 27-year-old O'Reilly Southern All Star Series.
Those entering the hall as outstanding contributors to Dirt Late Model racing were Carlton Lamm, long-time car owner with North Carolina-based Dunn-Benson Motorsports, and Mark Richards, the co-founder of West Virginia's Rocket Chassis. Long-time NASCAR driver and Dirt Late Model racer Ken Schrader was inducted with the 2009 Hall of Fame Sportsman Award.
Also honored was former Florence Speedway promoter Preston Sandlin, who tearfully received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Here's a closer look at the inductees:
Gene Chupp: The late Alabama driver with more than 500 career feature victories piled up 30 victories in 1979 alone and was among the South's winningest drivers through the 1980s. Among victories were the 1982 Winchester 50 at Winchester (Tenn.) Speedway, three wins in the Rebel Dirt Track Championships at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala., and the World Class 100 at Southern Raceway in Milton, Fla. Three times he finished in the top three in Southern All Star points and was second to fellow inductee Don Hester in the first series season. Chupp's son Randle was an accomplished crew chief before starting his own driving career in the mid-1990s.
Stick Elliott: The late North Carolina driver, a contemporary of NASCAR legends Ralph and Dale Earnhardt, collected more than 400 career feature victories, 106 of them from 1967-69 while driving for Toy Bolton. He drove a Ralph Earnhardt-owned car in 1973, winning 18 straight races, and Carolina legend says he tutored Dale Earnhardt how to race on dirt. He had four Super Big Ten Series victories at Metrolina Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., and piled up at least nine track championships. He also had 93 starts in NASCAR's premier division from 1962-71. Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C., annually runs an event honoring the driver who died Nov. 1, 1980, at age 46 from cryptococcal meningitis.
Herbert "Tootle" Estes: The east Tennessee driver captured more than 1,500 victories overall in several divisions during his career from 1951-82, including more than 200 in Dirt Late Models. During one season alone in the early 1960s, Estes, who was tabbed "Tootle" by his grandmother when he was 6 years old, won 85 races in 104 starts at tracks across the Southeast. A full-time racer, his career also included some NASCAR starts, including a 10th-place finish in the 1958 Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C. Among his major Dirt Late Model victories was the 1974 Firecracker 75 in Gadsden, Ala., the 1975 Hall of Fame 200 at Atomic Speedway near Knoxville, Tenn., and the 1980 Volunteer 100 at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. Estes died of a heart attack at Volunteer Speedway shortly after winning the night's feature event.
Bruce Gould: The late Ohio driver was the first driver to claim the checkered flag in World 100 at Eldora, the race that's become the most prestigious Dirt Late Model event in the country. Besides winning the inaugural event, he was third and fourth each of the next two years in his only other starts in the events. Among his other victories was the 1966 Indiana Governor's Cup at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 1980 Southern Ohio Invitational at Southern Ohio Speedway and the 1981 NDRA Schlitz 50 Qualifier at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky. He also had 17 victories in the ARCA New Car division.
Don Hester: The Tupelo, Miss., racer piled up 500 career victories on dirt and goes down in history as the first champion on B.J. Parker's O'Reilly Southern All Star circuit, one of the longest-running Dirt Late Model tours. In 1979 alone he raced to an amazing 51 feature victories. Among his noteworthy career Dirt Late Model victories were the 1977-78 Southeastern Winternationals at Volusia County Speedway in Barberville, Fla., the 1980 Boss 100 at Rome (Ga.) Speedway and the 1982 Tri-State Championship at Whynot Speedway near Meridian, Miss. He also captured the lucrative National 100 in 1979 at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, Ala.
Kris Patterson: One of Michigan's winningest Dirt Late Model drivers, the the 54-year-old veteran has more than 530 career feature victories after launching his career in other divisions and settling into Late Models in the mid-1980s. He's a six-time champion on the Sunoco American Late Model Series and the all-time winningest driver on the series with 36 victories, 14 more than the next winningest driver. He owns more than 20 track championships, including five titles at Eldora Speedway, where he had five World 100 starts. Besides his ALMS victories, Patterson is a three-time winner of the Barney Oldfield Memorial at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, won Eldora's Johnny Appleseed in 1993 and captured the STARS stop at Crystal (Mich.) Raceway in 1988. He announced his retirement last September but has competed in some Crate Late Model events in 2009.
Carlton Lamm: The long-time team owner for Dunn-Benson Motorsports fielded cars for accomplished drivers including Rodney Combs, Clint Smith and Earl Pearson Jr., who capped the Lamm family's ownership era in 2006 with a World 100 victory at Eldora Speedway. Carlton, who operated the team with his son Kemp, sold the team to Bobby Labonte Motorsports at the conclusion of 2006.
Mark Richards: Richards, who co-founded Rocket Chassis along with Steve Baker, developed the Shinnston, W.Va., chassis manufacturer into one of Dirt Late Model racing's major players in recent years. Richards, who originally worked with WRC Race Cars, has also successfully fielded the Rocket Chassis house car team for drivers including Tim Hitt, Steve Francis, Bart Hartman and Josh Richards, his 21-year-old son who is a regular on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.
Ken Schrader: Although the 54-year-old driver has competed in NASCAR's highest ranks since the mid-1980s, winning four times, the Fenton, Mo., native has never truly left the bullrings where he first started racing. Schrader regularly competes in Late Model and modified events at dirt tracks throughout the country. He also owns I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., near St. Louis and co-owns Macon (Ill.) Speedway. He captured one of his richest Dirt Late Model victories last season at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway when he outdueled Jason Feger for a $6,000 Northern Allstars victory.