Twelve inducted into 2007 NSCHoF
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
By Kathy Bell, Knoxville, Iowa
Twelve men were inducted into this year’s National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in front of a large crowd at the Dyer-Hudson building on the Marion County Fairgrounds, last Saturday afternoon. Doing an outstanding job, as emcees of the prestigious ceremony were Dave Argabright and Pat Sullivan.
The twelve men inducted into the 18th Annual NSCHoF were; Shane Carson, Jerry “Scratch” Daniels, Rajo Jack, Kenny Jacobs, Bayliss Levrett, Hal Minyard, Earl Gaerte, Joe Jagersberger, Glen Niebel, Ken Coles, Emmett Hahn and Bill White. Nearly 20 past inductees were also present for the national event including, Clarence “Mutt” Anderson, Rollie Beale, Jerry Blundy, Ralph Capitani, Lanny Edwards, Ray Lee Goodwin, Bill Hill, Vickie Agan, daughter of past inductee Eddie Leavitt, Harold Lee, John Mahoney, Jerry Richert Jr., son of past inductee Jerry Richert Sr., Jim McElreath, Lynn Paxton, Speedy Bill Smith, Steve Stapp, Bob Trostle, Bill Utz, Pat Woodside wife of past inductee Jay Woodside and Gordon Woolley.
Rajo Jack was the first to be inducted. Rajo was a successful race car driver more than 50 years ago. As an African American, Rajo raced under a totally different set of standards. He raced under three different names and hid his face at some tracks so he could race without controversy. His wife, Ruth, accompanied Rajo to the races in case he did win because in his day, a black man could not be pictured with a white trophy girl so Ruth would present the trophy to her husband. Larry Ball Jr. accepted the award in Rajo’s behalf.
Joe Jagersberger was inducted into the NSCHoF as a race car driver who later worked on the development of an engine for the Model T Ford in 1919. Back in the day when all parts were produced by hand, Joe could be found building or working on equipment on the kitchen table. He was one of the true, first engineers and fabricators of racing. Some of his work went on to be patented. Jim Haas, his grandson, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Hollywood” Bill White was inducted into the NSCHoF Class of 2007 as a successful car owner. A well-known Los Angeles businessman, Bill owned Big Cars and Indy Cars in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. In 1927 his car won the Indy 500. In his day he was a big name in the race promotions business. His first 250-laps midget race at the Coliseum in 1946 drew 65,000 fans. Knoxville Raceway Race Director, Ralph Capitani, accepted the award on his behalf.
Bayliss Levrett was inducted into this year’s National Sprint Car Hall of Fame as a race car driver. His career began in the early 1930’s. A severe accident, which burned the back of both of his legs, ended his career. Notably he qualified and competed in several Indy 500 races. John Levrett, his son, accepted the award on his behalf.
Glen Niebel was inducted for his successful efforts as both a car owner and builder-mechanic. He was one of the first to successfully put a competitive V-6 engine in a sprint car. He also did research and development for a project for Chevrolet. In the early 1990’s he hired the then unknown kid, Tony Stewart to drive for him. One story he loved to tell was when he had to give Tony a good tongue lashing since the kid didn’t show up when and where he was supposed to be, away from the race track. After giving Tony a stern and lengthy talking to, Tony looked up at him and said, “Can we stop at McDonald on the way to the track and get something to eat, I’m hungry.” Glen was impressed that Tony could take a good lecture and not let it bother him. Glen’s wife, Carolyn Niebel, accepted the award on his behalf.
Ken Coles, has been in the race photography business since just after WWII. He has taken 1000’s of racing photos over the years in the unsure days of shooting film and hoping your pictures came out while developing them in the darkroom. Ken Coles is a long-time member of the racing media who has garnered much respect from his media peers and the racing community.
Emmett Hahn was inducted into the 2007 NSCHoF as a former race car driver, race promoter and series founder. Emmett said he was touched by the honor as he is, “Probably one of the biggest race fans out there to this day.” His dad was involved with the NCRA and Emmett raced sprint cars and USAC dirt champ cars. He retired as a racer in 1982. He and friend/business partner, past NSCHoF inductee, Lanny Edwards founded the biggest midget race of the season, the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals which draws some of the best drivers from all racing venues to their January extravaganza at the Tulsa Expo Center in Oklahoma. Emmett founded what is today the largest 360 touring sprint car racing series in the nation, the ASCS series. Emmett said, “When I heard I was being inducted as a promoter I remember promoting a race for $35,000 where I lost $25,000. I never thought that much of myself as a promoter.”
Hal Minyard was inducted as a former midget racer turned equipment manufacturer. As a midget racer Hal decided to make a safer helmet, which he, himself wore in 1952. He thought the helmet felt good and immediately after wearing the McHal Helmet, he obtained 11 orders from other racers. Orders kept coming in and they found themselves in the helmet business. Hal said they would put the helmets in the oven to pop out the dents. Later Hal worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Always the racer, he still lives near Gate 4 of the IMS.
Earl Gaerte was inducted with the Class of 2007 as a professional engine builder. He started years ago as an employee of a Chevrolet dealership, which is where he learned how to work on and build engines. Earl has worked with Indy cars, midgets, dirt late models, sprint cars, Silver Crown cars, supermodifieds, tractor pullers, boats and NASCAR Winston Cup restrictor plate engines. It was his association with the team of Karl and Steve Kinser during the World of Outlaws second season that his sprint car engine career took off. He told of the rivalry between Karl/Steve and LaVern Nance and his driver Sammy Swindell. He said Sammy was always trying to make Steve believe Earl was giving them the advantage, which as Earl said, didn’t help him at all as he had to convince Karl and Steve that Sammy was just trying to get them wound up. Earl said his business really took off after Karl and Steve broke away from Gaerte. “Most of the drivers thought I’d give Karl and Steve special attention. Once they left my business really took off,” he said. Earl’s son Joe Gaerte, a former sprint car racer, now manages Gaerte Engines. However, Earl said he keeps his eye on his son and the business.
Jerry “Scratch” Daniels was inducted as a race car driver with a 15 year career in IMCA and USAC racing. Most of his career spanned throughout the 1950-1960’s. He said he retired from racing due to the enormous amount of traveling a racer had to do. Beginning in jalopies at age 15 he retired at the early age of 31. When asked, how do you drive on of those things, Scratch told people, “You just get in and keep a tight butt.”
Shane Carson was inducted this year as a former driver and race promoter who to this day has kept active in keeping the sprint car racing business alive. Shane was a 125cc motorcycle champ in 1973. He raced for some notable sprint car owners such as LaVern Nance and Bob Trostle in 1977-78. Trostle called Shane, “Noodle Arms.” Shane won the Knoxville Raceway track championship in 1978 and he was one of the first to win a high dollar sprint car purse collecting $10,000 from Earl Baltes at Eldora. Shane was one of the first American sprint car racers to accept an invitation to run in the winter circuit in Australia. He promoted races in Oklahoma, involved with both the WoO and NCRA. He was the 2006 Master’s Classic champion and to this day, continues to race a 360 sprinter. Presently, Shane is the Vice President of Industry Relations for the World of Outlaws.
Kenny Jacobs was inducted into the NSCHoF as a race car driver. He is of the third generation of Jacobs’ in the racing business as his grandfather, Pete, built the Wayne County Speedway near Orrville, Ohio. His dad, Jake, has always been involved not only with his son’s Kenny, Bud and Dean’s racing but also with the Speedway and as a former pace car driver for the World of Outlaws. Kenny got his nickname, “Mouse” back in the days of his high school wrestling career. He has driven over 50 different sprint cars in his career, eight dirt champ cars, six midgets and a few late models. He is a four-time All Star titlist (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001) with 97 All Star wins, six WoO wins, four WoO preliminary wins and he has been in victory lane more than 200 times in his career which started in 1973 in his dad’s car. Kenny still races today. “I’ve never been very talented but I’ve always worked very, very hard to make up for it and I’ve always surrounded myself with good car owners and mechanics,” he said. Kenny’s son Lee is a sprint car racer who is continuing the Jacobs’ family racing legacy in the fourth generation.