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Tony Stewart is among 12 new inductees that will enter the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame later this year. (Kyle Dager photo)

Tony Stewart Headlines National Sprint Car Hall Of Fame Class

TULSA, Okla. – Officials from the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame have announced the latest group of inductees that will be enshrined later this year.

The inductees are Tony Stewart, Eric Gordon, Terry Gray, Tim Green, Bob Frey, Ralph Heintzelman Sr., Walter T. Ross, Dennis Roth, John Gibson, Jack Kromer, Robin Miller and Walter “Slim” Rutherford.

“This year’s inductee group is another testament to the hard work put in by our 72-member National Induction Committee,” said National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Foundation Executive Director Bob Baker. “We are really looking forward to our 32nd induction banquet on the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa on Saturday, June 4.” 

The announcement was made Tuesday during Warren CAT Qualifying Night at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

Stewart will enter the Hall of Fame in the Driver category, but could have been nominated in several categories. He was the first driver to win the USAC Triple Crown in a single season, and has also recorded wins with the World of Outlaws, All Star Circuit of Champions and several other series.  As an owner, he has accumulated more than 300 wins with the World of Outlaws, nine World of Outlaws titles, 11 Knoxville Nationals wins and five Kings Royal wins. He also has 37 wins as an owner with the All Star Circuit of Champions and 71 with the USAC National Sprint Car Series.  Among Stewart’s purchases have been Eldora Speedway, one of the premier dirt tracks in the world, and he is credited with the salvation of the All Star Circuit of Champions with his purchase of that series in 2015. 

Gray followed his father Elmer’s success into the sprint cars.  By 1980, he won his first World of Outlaws event at his hometown Riverside Speedway.  By the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Gray was a consistent winner with the NCRA, USA and World of Outlaws series’.  In 1995, he was the first ASCS National champion, and he followed that with three more.  In those four seasons, he amassed 43 wins.  In 2001, he started what has been an outstanding driving career with the United Sprint Car Series.  He has amassed 13 championships to date, and is the all-time leading feature winner with the series.

Gordon has an all-time record nine Little 500 wins in his 22 career starts in the event at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway. His 30-year sprint car career was prolific and successful.  He finished second in the USAC National Sprint Car standings in 1989, his third year behind the wheel. His battles with fellow inductee Robbie Stanley were epic the next two years as he finished second those seasons as well.  Among his many wins were 13 in USAC competition. 

In less than 20 years behind the wheel of a sprint car, Green amassed well over 200 feature wins.  The Californian struck at venues across both the United States and Australia. Green was a Knoxville Raceway champion twice, was the 1979 Western World champion at Manzanita, won three Skagit Dirt Cup events, and was a two-time NARC and Golden State titlist.  His 1992 trip to Australia with owner bob Trostle netted 11 wins in 17 starts. 

Few sprint car drivers in the 1970s and ’80s had anything for Frey on the pavement.  The five-time winner of the Little 500 racked up wins from Sandusky to southern Florida on a regular basis.  Driving the Ensign No. 37, the Durnwald No. 92 and finally Glen Niebel’s potent V6, Frey stormed to victory with USAC and several other series. Frey’s most impressive win in Anderson was probably in 1989, when he came from seven laps down to take it all. 

A native of Beaver Springs, Pa., Heintzelman was arguably the biggest manufacturer/mechanic in Pennsylvania in the 1970s.  He was hired by Luke Bogar to wrench for Jan Opperman. The result was a stunning 44-win season in 1972. The pair won a Selinsgrove track title the following year.  When Opperman left for USAC, Heintzelman kept going with driver Lynn Paxton. The wins kept coming as did a championship at Port Royal, a win at the Florida Winter Nationals and at Port Royal’s Tuscarora 50.  Before a devastating garage fire in 1980, Heintzelman was building chassis’ that were going out and winning across the country. 

Ross, iconic owner of the famous No. 56 in California, would also later become president of the Northern Auto Racing Club.  Born in Ireland, Ross grew up in New Jersey as a racing fan.  He settled in California after military service and by 1958, had built a race car that he drove successfully.  He settled on owning sprint cars in the early 1970’s, and success followed for drivers like Mike Andreetta, Hank Butcher, Lem Tolliver and Aussie Garry Rush.  His most success would come in his time with Gary Patterson. Track records and wins ensued. Others who graced the wheel of the No. 56 were Rendy Boldrini, Dave Bradway Jr. and LeRoy Van Connett, to name just a few.

In 1983, Roth would acquire the family owned Beef Packers meat processing plant and took it to great success.  By 1993, he was a sprint car owner, and in 1994 a champion in the Rebel 360 Series. The next year, he was on the World of Outlaws tour. By 1998, he was a Knoxville Nationals champion with Danny Lasoski.  His cars have won three Skagit Dirt Cups (Randy Hannagan, Kasey Kahne, Brandon Wimmer), and multiple King of the West championships. He won the Williams Grove National Open with David Gravel in 2014, and his many wins have come with the World of Outlaws, All Star Circuit of Champions and assorted other series. 

From selling programs to becoming the Voice of the World of Outlaws, Gibson has worked more than 2,000 consecutive World of Outlaws races. That’s more than 25 years of events without missing a day since 1995. Behind the scenes, Gibson has been an instrumental part of the growth of the World of Outlaws series for the last 25 years. 

Kromer has long been revered in the racing photography world. From taking shots in the stands in the 1970s, he slowly developed his craft over the years.  A devastating injury in the infield at Flemington Speedway in 1978 only slowed him for a time.  Dick Berggren recognized his talent. Kromer would score 26 covers on Open Wheel Magazine, the most by any photographer. He holds more than 30 first-place awards from the Eastern Motorsports Press Ass’n and the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters for racing imagery, and is a two-time winner of the Ace Lane Memorial Award, EMPA’s highest honor.  In addition to Stock Car and Open Wheel, Kromer has published photos in Area Auto Racing News, Program Dynamics Incorporated, Sprint Car & Midget Magazine and Popular Mechanics. 

Miller’s journalistic talents were known across racing genres.  He spent early days in garages, and raced for several years in midgets.  He’s best known for his stories and as a writer for the Indianapolis Star from 1968 to 2001. He also wrote and worked for Autoweek, Car and Driver, ESPN and Speed. Miller never forgot his first love: dirt car racing. He talked as much about Foyt, Rutherford, Andretti, Hurtubise, Bettenhausen, etc. in sprint cars as anything.  His latest television works were for NBC at Indy. 

Rutherford was one of the leading builders and fabricators in the 1930s and ’40s. The Whiting, Ind., native had many innovations in his garage, and supplied cars and motors for many other drivers. He innovated such things as creating a cam shaft out of a train box car axle for his Slim Rutherford Specials. Rutherford won races across the Midwest and was the epitome of a Big Car racer and builder in his time.

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