MULDOWNEY, FRANCE LEAD 1ST ROUND MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME VOTING

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    If 1st round voting is any indication, then the Class of 2004 at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame could have a pair of "seconds". Veteran drag racer Shirley Muldowney could become the second female ever inducted, and Bill France, Jr. could become the second generation of sanctioning body executives, if they are chosen among the five individuals who will be inducted next spring.

     Muldowney, who has won four Top Fuel championships and been named All-American five times, could join Louise Smith as the only two females in the 102-member Hall of Fame. France, if elected, would join his father, NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., who was inducted in the inaugural class in 1990.

     Muldowney and France headed the first round of voting by an international panel of Motorsports media that selected 22 individuals who will be on the final ballot from which the five-member class of 2004 will be selected. The voting panel was asked to select the Top 20, but ties for the final slot increased the number to 22. An announcement of the new inductees will be made in the fall.

     "In keeping with our mission of honoring deserving individuals from all forms of racing, we look at this list of finalists as being a true cross-section of our sport," said Executive Director Jim Freeman. "We have representation from drag racing, stock cars, Indy cars, sprint cars, sports cars, endurance racing, motorcycle racing, powerboat racing, world record setters and racing administrators. Our panel will be making tough choices"

     Others getting strong support included NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series star Harry Gant, legendary short track racer Red Farmer, Modified and Late Model Sportsman champion Ray Hendrick, stock car racer and builder Cotton Owens, five-time late model champion Jack Ingram, and Bobby Rahal, who won three CART championships and the 1986 Indianapolis 500.

     Newcomers to the Top 20 include Humpy Wheeler, innovative promoter at Lowes Motor Speedway, Lee Shepard, who has claimed six major drag racing titles, and 1960 Winston Cup Champion Rex White.

     Others who have previously made the Top 20 include record-setting Cannonball Baker, NASCAR stars Red Byron, Jerry Cook and LeeRoy Yarbrough, IndyCar standout Pete DePaolo, AMA champion Wayne Rainey, Unlimited Hydroplane champ Bill Muncey, sports car, Indy car and stock car driver Janet Guthrie, road racing icon Olivier Gendebein, sprint car legend Jan Opperman and record-setting test pilot Chuck Yeager.

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