Midwestern drivers lead Hall's Class of 2016
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (Oct. 20) — Four championship-winning Midwestern drivers, including two who found success with NASCAR, will join standout Georgia pilot Fulmer Lance as inductees into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame next year.
Iowa drivers Tom Hearst of Muscatine, the inaugural NASCAR Weekly Racing Series champion in 1982, and the late Tiny Lund of Harlan, the 1963 Daytona 500 winner who succeeded on superspeedways and dirt ovals, are slated to join the Hall of Fame along with nine-time Santa Fe Speedway champion Tony Izzo Sr. of Chicago, Ill., and three-time Silver 1000 champion Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wis.
The five drivers in the Class of 2016 will be joined by three contributors, including engine builder and North Carolina team owner Lee Roy Rumley, who in 2015 is enjoying the most successful season a career of more of than 50 years. Joining Rumley will be Steve Norris of Batesville, Ark., long-time crew chief for Hall of Fame driver Billy Moyer, and Ed Petroff, whose Caseyville, Ill.-based Petroff Towing has long sponsored many major drivers, including Moyer, Shannon Babb, Josh Richards and Dale McDowell.
Next year’s induction ceremonies are scheduled for Aug. 13 at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky., during the Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100. A closer look at the Class of 2016:
Tom Hearst, Muscatine, Iowa: One of the region’s winningest drivers in the 1980s, his crowning achievement was capturing the $20,000 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series title for car owners Keith Simmons (engine builder) and Gary Oliver (chassis builder of Tri-City Buggy). Hearst won 27 of 50 NASCAR-sanctioned events and 42 of 67 overall in his best-ever season. The retired Hearst was a three-time Yankee Dirt Track Classic winner (1982, ’85-’86) at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and also captured the ’85 Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs. Other major victories came in the 1980 Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 in East Moline, Ill., and the 1981 and ’82 Frostbuster Classics at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Hearst and Tiny Lund are the ninth and 10th Iowa inductees.
Tony Izzo Sr., Chicago Ill.: The retired Chicagoland racer racked up checkered flags on dirt and asphalt tracks, including hundreds of victories at Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs, Ill., where he was a nine-time track champion. Three times Izzo captured Santa Fe’s National Clay Track Championships (1974, ’77-’78) and twice won Santa Fe’s Prairie Dirt Classic (’83, ’85). He also had a pair of NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour victories at Santa Fe and Sycamore (Ill.) Speedways while notching seven career Busch Central States Tour victories. Among his biggest asphalt victories was the 1978 Tony Bettenhausen Memorial at Illiana Motor Speedway. After his driving career, he and family members promoted Kankakee and La Salle Speedways.
Fulmer Lance, Washington, Ga.: The retired Lance, one of Georgia’s winningest dirt racers in the 1970s and early 1980s, was a first-season winner on the National Dirt Racing Association. Lance’s victory on NDRA’s national tour came at Pearson National Speedway in Louisville, Miss., in a 100-lapper. Lance, who frequently drove a No. 88 as a contemporary to Hall of Famers Charlie Hughes and Leon Archer, also won the 1975 Late Model Dirt Championship at Cleveland (Tenn.) Speedway, the 1979 North-South Challenge at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, and the 1984 Turkey 100 at Concord, N.C. He was twice a third-place finisher in East Alabama’s National 100. Lance is the eighth Georgia driver to join the Hall.
Tiny Lund, Harlan, Iowa: DeWayne Louis Lund’s nickname came from his imposing size, and he was imposing on dirt and asphalt tracks, too, carving out a NASCAR career while sprinkling in major dirt victories in the 1960s and '70s. Lund drove the famed Wood Brothers ride to the 1963 Daytona 500 victory, subbing after driver Marvin Panch was injured in a fiery accident in which Lund pulled him from the car. Lund’s career included more than 500 victories and four NASCAR Grand National titles. He also had major dirt victories in the Gobbler 100 and Southeastern 200 at Jacksonville, Fla., the Michigan State Dirt Championships in Flint and the Patriot 200 in Summerville, S.C., in 1975, the same year he died after a Winston Cup accident at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Leon Plank, Mondovi, Wis.: The 68-year-old Plank becomes the second Wisconsin driving Hall of Famer, joining Pete Parker of Kaukauna. While Plank is a member of the Red Cedar Speedway Hall of Fame and had home-state success in his No. 71, many of his biggest victories came in Minnesota, including three triumphs (1975, ’80, ’85) in Proctor Speedway’s Silver 1000 and two (’80, ’85) in the Gopher State 50 at Owatonna, Minn. The wide-traveling racer also captured Minnesota victories in Dodge County Speedway’s Thunderbird Open (’79-’80, ’83, ’85) and won the 1981 Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, along with the 1984 North Dakota Dirt Championships in Minot.
Steve Norris, Batesville, Ark.: Serving as crew chief for Hall of Fame driver Billy Moyer for most of the six-time World 100 winner’s career, Norris is known as one of the best tire specialists in the business. The bespectacled Norris, wearing short pants no matter how cold the temperatures, typically didn’t show up in victory lane photos but was a loyal, behind-the-scenes force helping Moyer win most of the sport’s biggest races, including the Dream, Knoxville, DTWC and more.
Ed Petroff, Caseyville, Ill.: Few sponsors, car owners and team supporters have put as much into Dirt Late Model racing as Petroff, whose successful Petroff Towing operations allowed him to spread sponsorship help among multiple traveling teams over three decades. Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley and Brandon Sheppard were among home-state drivers receiving Petroff sponsorship along with national touring stars Billy Moyer, Don O’Neal, Josh Richards, Dale McDowell and others. His 2002 sponsorship of Moyer, Babb and O’Neal — all piloting yellow-and-red cars — came to be known as the Petroff Posse with the trio accumulating more than 50 special event victories among them in ’02 alone.
Lee Roy Rumley, Greensboro, N.C.: Fielding race cars since his Alabama Gang-influenced brother hauled a 1937 Ford Coupe back to North Carolina nearly 60 years ago, Rumley has operated a winning team ever since, never going a season without a victory. The 79-year-old engine builder’s son Kevin to K&L Rumley Enterprises in the late 1990s and the team branched out with Ray Tucker, Billy Hicks, Steve Lucas, Booper Bare and Steve Shaver among successful drivers on regional and national tours. Jonathan Davenport’s second stint with the team exploded into a mindboggling 2015 season with nearly a half-million dollars in winning purses including victories the Show-Me 100, World 100, Dream, USA Nationals and North-South 100.