The initial eight 2017 inductees into the USAC Hall of Fame have been announced and four more, selected by popular vote from a list of 16 eligibles distributed through social mediums, will be announced tomorrow.
The sixth annual USAC Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held July 20 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. in conjunction with the “Rich Vogler Classic” USAC Silver Crown race.
The eight-member class of inductees announced today includes three drivers, three car owners and two officials. Alphabetically they are Donald Davidson, Frank DelRoy, Gene Hartley, Steve Lewis, Howard Linne, Robbie Stanley, Steve Stapp and Johnny Thomson.
Online voting for the final four additional 2017 inductees into the USAC Hall of Fame will be available on the USAC website Monday (June 21) at www.usacracing.com.
Davidson, of Salisbury, England and residing in Speedway, Ind. served as USAC’s statistician and historian from 1965-1997 and during that time preserved the bulk of USAC’s historical archives. His work in the sport has earned him a place in the Auto Racing Hall of Fame. During his USAC tenure he recorded driver and car owner records for all of USAC’s participants, including statistical data and prize money earnings. His enormous ability to retain information has earned him legendary status in our sport and he is constantly sought out for historical correctness. His enormous knowledge of the World’s Largest Single-Day Sporting Event began with memorizing the statistics which were displayed in the Indianapolis 500 Floyd Clymer Yearbooks, which he found each year in a downtown London bookstore. Few in our sport have ever exhibited the skill for memory and the passion which Donald has exhibited and he continues to this day as the Official Historian of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he is constantly in demand for appearances as a speaker, regaling his memories of those persons involved in the sport since its very beginning.
DelRoy, of Philadelphia,PA, served USAC as its Technical Director from 1970 until his untimely death in the chartered USAC plane crash in April of 1978 returning from a Championship race in Trenton, N.J. He grew up in Paterson, N.J., location of the famed “Gasoline Alley,” and at age 19 began racing. In the 1930s he served as a riding mechanic at the Indianapolis 500, his car earning the pole in 1937 with driver Bill Cummings. He was involved with 1941 Indy 500 winner Mauri Rose and also worked with legendary driver Ted Horn before Horn’s demise at DuQuoin, Ill. in 1948. In 1951 DelRoy was the chief mechanic for Mike Nazaruk who earned a second place finish in the “500.” His mechanical expertise was immense and he was highly regarded as one of the sport’s top mechanics for many years. He also worked tirelessly for safety in the sport leading to many innovations regarding safety regulations.
Hartley, of Roanoke, Ind., will best be remembered as the driver who captured USAC’s inaugural race, held January 8, 1956 at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind. The son of Ted Hartley, who himself competed as a Midget racer into his 70s, was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1985 and earned 31 USAC Midget victories, which still ranks among the top-10 on the all-time list and he was among the “top-three” in USAC National Midget points five straight years (1957-1961). In 1959 he was crowned the champion of the USAC National Midget Series. In addition to his Midget racing he also competed in AAA and USAC Championship Cars and among his 10 starts in the Indianapolis 500 was a 10th in 1957 and three 11ths. At the famed Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway in 1956 he finished second behind George Amick. After retiring as a driver, he joined forces with racer Leroy Warriner as co-promoter at the Indianapolis Speedrome. In 2016 the Indiana Racing Memorial Association erected a commemorative plaque in Roanoke to Hartley’s honor. Gene passed in 1993.
Lewis, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was one of USAC’s most proficient car owners. Nearly every major name driver competed for him during his tenure with USAC, racing up a record 133 National victories, more than anyone in history. His victories included basically every major race in America and during the 10-year stretch between 1993 and 2004 he was nearly unbeatable, winning 10 USAC National Car Owner titles with drivers Stevie Reeves, Tony Stewart, Kenny Irwin Jr., Jason Leffler, Kasey Kahne, Dave Darland, J.J. Yeley and Bobby East! The founder of the sport’s highly acclaimed Performance Racing Industry trade show, Steve set new standards for excellence in the sport which may never be matched. As a race promoter, he organized lucrative race events in Indianapolis, Ind. and Orlando, Fla. which offered a $50,000 bonus for any driver who could claim double victories in either. In 2006 he was inducted into the Belleville High Banks Hall of Fame in Kansas and in 2004 he was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He also earned USAC’s coveted Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence in 2009.
Linne, of Mendota, Ill, amassed 69 USAC National Midget feature wins during his long career which involved a multi-car stable which attracted many of the top drivers of his day. In 1961 he won the USAC National Midget Car Owner title with driver Jimmy Davies. In 1996 he was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame and drivers of his cars included the likes of the great Tony Bettenhausen, Bob Tattersall, Parnelli Jones, Mike McGreevy, Lee Kunzman and Henry Pens. He operated a race car parts shop in Mendota and also owned a farm implement dealership. In 2005 he was inducted into the Mazon Speed Bowl and Grundy County Speedway Halls of Fame. He passed away in 2008. It was not uncommon for Linne cars to dominate the podium at USAC National Midget races.
Robbie Stanley, of Brownsburg, Indiana, ushered in a new era of USAC Sprint Car racing in the 1990s. In just three full-time seasons (1991-1993), Stanley became one of just three drivers to have won three consecutive USAC National Sprint Car titles. His initial series victory in the 1991 season opener at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway was considered a major upset at the time, but soon, many would discover that the driver who cut his sprint car racing teeth on the dirt and with a wing affixed up top, had a transcendent talent that would make him one of the sport’s greatest young stars. The 1989 All Star Circuit of Champions titlist was one of two drivers between 1991 and early 1994 to win a USAC National Sprint Car feature on both dirt and pavement. In fact, of his nine career series wins, six came on the high banked paved oval in Winchester where, his brief, but bright shining light was dimmed during a feature event on May 26, 1994 when he lost his life in a fiery crash. For several years, a USAC event at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway bore his name and the phrase “No Regrets” became a rallying cry among the racing community. Stanley is a 2005 inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
Stapp, of Brownsburg, Ind., held the top spot among USAC winning Sprint Car owners for many years, his 51 victories eventually eclipsed by Dynamics, Inc. and Tony Stewart Racing. He continues to rank third all-time in USAC National Sprint feature wins and among his most memorable wins were those posted by Pancho Carter. USAC National Sprint Car Owner Championships came in 1974 and 1976. A 1999 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, he is the son of famed racer Babe Stapp. He even tried a stint as a driver with much success. A total of 40 wins came with Carter as his driver between 1973 and 1980, including “Tony Hulman Classic” wins at Terre Haute, Ind. in 1975 and 1979. He also claimed the prestigious “Joe James/Pat O’Connor” Memorial at Salem, Ind. four straight years, 1974-77. An outstanding car builder, Steve’s final USAC victory came at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway in 1996 with driver Mark Cassella.
Thomson, of Boyertown, Pa., was one of the sport’s most beloved competitiors. In 1948 he won the UCOA New England Midget title after winning 32 races. He would repeat as UCOA champion in 1950. In 1952 he claimed the AAA Eastern Midget crown. Known as the “Flying Scot,” he was the first driver to complete a 100-mile dirt-track race in less than an hour in winning at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway in 1957. He was proficient in the AAA and USAC Championship Cars, finishing third in the final standings three times, and started the Indianapolis 500 each year from 1953-1960, recording a third in 1959 after starting from the pole. Among his Championship race victories were four during the 1958 season. In 1958 he won the USAC Eastern Sprint Car title, a title he had earlier won under AAA sanction in 1954. Inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1997, he perished in a Sprint race at the Allentown (Pa.) Fairgrounds in 1960. As an aside, he was a competitor on the highly-acclaimed TV show, Bud Collyer’s Beat the Clock!