High Banks Hall of Fame to Induct Ten

Rich Vogler. - Jim Fisher Photo

From Bob Mays

BELLEVILLE, Ks (April 30, 2019) – Ten new inductees will be enshrined in the High Banks Hall of Fame in Belleville, Kansas on August 1, 2019. This will be the 21st class for the Hall, which held its first induction in 1999.

The 2019 inductees are:

Don Branson drove in the USAC Champ Car series and also in sprint cars, racing champ cars in the 1956–1966 seasons with 128 starts, including the 1959–1966 Indianapolis 500 races. He finished in the top ten 85 times, with 7 victories.

Branson was also the 1959 and 1964 USAC Sprint Car Series Champion.

Bill Chennault was the most dominant midget driver of the 1950’s in the Heartland. He became the KCMARA Midget Champion in 1953, 55, 56, 57, and 58, only losing to the great Jud Larson in 1954 during his streak.

Ernie DiCroce owned cars which were driven by some of the best. Sprinters were his focus but his midgets were equally tough. Among his drivers were, Jan Opperman, Mike Gregg, Keith Hightshoe, and Wally Pankratz.

Ted Hall won the 1966 Knoxville Nationals and the BCRA title with driver, Jay Woodside. Hall worked for Grant King building sprints, Silver Crown and Indy Cars.

Troy Ruttman’s most famous accomplishment is winning the 1952 Indy 500, being the last person to do so in an upright dirt car. When Ruttman came out of the California track roadster and midget ranks, he was invincible in the AAA Midwest circuit.

Buddy Taylor won 11 New Mexico state titles but of his favorite tracks was the Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. He won 36 races during his career there along with point titles in 1973 and 1978.

Rich Vogler became the first driver to win the USAC Sprint Car and Midget championships in the same year (1980). He won two USAC National Sprint Car Series championships and five USAC Midget titles.

A.J. Watson won two Indy 500s before joining forces with owner, Bob Wilke, and driver Rodger Ward in 1959, nicknamed the three W’s. Watson, Ward and Wilke, ran roughshod over the USAC Championship for the next several years scoring two more Indy 500s.

Johnny White was considered an ultrahard charger with the cunning necessary to win in any company. Johnny was near the top of the sprint car sport by the early sixties. He won the IMCA championship in 1962.

Dizz Wilson was a longtime car owner, winning the IMCA championship 1962 with Johnny White. Other notable drivers for Wilson included Dick Gaines, Jim McElreath, Buzz Rose, and Johnny Rutherford.

The ceremony will be held at the After 5 Sports Bar & Grill, 1826 M St., Belleville, at 12noon. Admission is free and a goodwill donation is requested.