When the International Motorsports Hall of Fame holds its 2008 Induction Ceremony on Thursday April 24th, the attendees will include a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, a pair of drivers who combined for a total of five NASCAR Cup Series championships, a longtime NASCAR executive, and two of the top promoters in motorsports history.
And that is not a list of the inductees. It is a list of those who will introduce the inductees during this year’s black-tie ceremony.
In addition to the Class of 2008 – which consists of land speed record breaker Art Arfons, NASCAR champion Robert “Red” Byron, drag racing guru Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, car fabricator Frank Kurtis, NASCAR car owner and driver Everett “Cotton” Owens and Winston promoter Ralph Seagraves – this year’s induction ceremony includes a group of presenters who could fill out a pretty good Hall of Fame class of their own.
“The International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is an event steeped in history,” said Talladega Superspeedway President and IMHoF Executive Director Rick Humphrey. “This year’s inductees and presenters have had such far-reaching influence on the field of motorsports that it is difficult to even put into perspective. Fans of racing and racing history need to attend this event, because the opportunity to see this many legends of racing under the same roof is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Johnny Rutherford will introduce Frank Kurtis. Rutherford won the prestigious Indianapolis 500 in 1974, ’76 and ’80. Those Indy triumphs were the highlight of 27 career victories for Rutherford in Indy Car racing, ranking him fifth on the circuit’s all-time win list. Rutherford finished in the top-10 in approximately half of his Indy Car starts. After retiring as a driver, Rutherford had a successful career as a television racing analyst. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1998.
David Pearson will introduce Cotton Owens. In addition to winning the Cup Series championship three times in a four-year span from 1966-69, Pearson racked up a total of 105 official Cup victories, placing him second to Richard Petty on the all-time win list. In 574 Cup starts during his 27-year career, Pearson qualified on the pole 113 times and had a staggering 301 top-five finishes. He was inducted into the IMHoF in 1990.
Ned Jarrett will introduce Red Byron. Jarrett won NASCAR’s Cup Series title in 1961 and 1965. He is credited with 50 Cup victories in his career, tying him with Junior Johnson for 10th place on the all-time list. He also captured 36 pole positions. He managed all these accomplishments despite retiring as a driver in 1966 at the age of 34, making him the only driver to ever retire as the NASCAR champion. He went on to have a lengthy career in radio and television. Jarrett was inducted into the IMHoF in 1991.
H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler will introduce Art Arfons. As the President and General Manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., since 1975, Wheeler has developed a reputation as one of the premier promoters in motorsports. Under his direction, LMS became the first NASCAR superspeedway to hold night racing, and the track was among the first to offer VIP suites, condominiums, extravagant pre-race entertainment and “all-you-can-eat” grandstand sections. Wheeler was inducted into the IMHoF in 2006.
Jim Hunter will introduce Ralph Seagraves. Hunter’s 40-year career in motorsports includes stints as a track promoter and publicist at Talladega Superspeedway and Darlington Raceway. He spent 12 years (1981-93) working as the Public Relations Director for NASCAR, and since 2001 he has been NASCAR’s Vice President of Corporate Communications.
Buddy Martin will introduce Grumpy Jenkins. While Martin’s career began in the driver’s seat, his legacy was formed when he turned to the keys over to drag-racing ace Ronnie Sox. Martin managed the Sox & Martin team that dominated dragstrips through the mid to late sixties. Sox’s driving skills propelled the team to wins and Martin’s business savvy attracted the sponsors necessary to fund a winning race team.