TALLADEGA, Ala. - The 17th Annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony marks a class of some of the greatest achievers in motorsports history ever inducted into this prestigious Hall of Fame.
On Thursday night, the black tie ceremony at the Speed Channel Dome located outside Talladega Superspeedway honored the storied careers of the 2007 class - Junie Donlavey, Ray Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Warren Johnson, Wayne Rainey and Bruton Smith along with 2006 Driver of the Year Jimmie Johnson, reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion, as well as eight-time ARCA RE/MAX Series Champion Frank Kimmel.
"We are here tonight to honor a very diverse group of inductees," said Talladega Superspeedway Vice President/General Manager & International Motorsports Hall of Fame Executive Director Rick Humphrey. "This class includes some who have made mostly left turns, one who beat his competition turning left and right and one who still races today in a straight line. Another of tonight's inductees gave many a place to race and another provided vehicles to propel their careers. This year's class of inductees are truly Hall of Famers in every sense."
Longtime car owner Junie Donlavey, inducted by former NASCAR driver, Harry Gant, gave many of NASCAR's biggest stars their starts. Bill Dennis, Jody Ridley and Ken Schrader all won Rookie of the Year honors in Donlavey's No. 90 Fords. His biggest win as a car owner was Ridley's 1981 Dover victory. In all, an incredible total of 60 different drivers drove in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races for Donlavey.
Ray Hendrick, inducted by Alabama Gang member and former NASCAR champion, Bobby Allison, posted more than 700 victories on the modified and late model sportsman circuits, a record that earned him the distinction of being one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. Hendrick filled his schedule by taking every good opportunity that presented itself to race in various series, and therefore never undertook a full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series campaign. However, in just 17 starts in the series, he posted two top-five and six top-10 finishes. Hendrick passed away in 1990.
Jack Ingram, inducted by NASCAR Vice-President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter, won three NASCAR Late Model Sportsman titles (1972, 1973, 1974), then won two Busch Series championships (1982, 1985). When he retired in 1991, Ingram was the all-time series win leader, with 31, and remained as such until Mark Martin broke the record in 1997. Ingram competed in 275 Busch Series races, averaging five wins a year from 1982-87.
"It's mighty gratifying at the end of a racing career to be inducted in an International Motorsports Hall of Fame," Ingram said. "I don't think you can be honored any better way than to be put in this International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and join with worldwide racing people from all walks of racing. And I'm going to be one of them."
"The Professor", Warren Johnson, inducted by Bob Frey, won six NHRA Pro Stock championships, the most recent in 2001. His 96 win total is the most in Pro Stock history and is second overall to that of John Force. In 2000, Johnson was named as one of NHRA's Ten Greatest Drivers.
"Being the International Motorsports Hall of Fame expresses it best, because it takes and recognizes all types of Motorsports," Johnson said.
Wayne Rainey, inducted by longtime TV personality Dave Despain, won three consecutive 500cc Grand Prix World titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992, as was well on his way to a fourth when an injury ended his career in 1993. He posted 24 wins in only six seasons, and also won two AMA Superbike titles in 1983 and 1987.
"I'm quite humbled," Rainey said. "To be recognized for my achievements along with everybody else here, as part of this class, is truly an honor. Being the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, it's quite different than
most hall of fames, so it's pretty special.
"What's unique about the International Motorsports Hall of Fame is that we're all racers. I raced for almost 40 years. That's all I've known. Even though it's on a motorcycle, and these guys were on four wheels, we're all racers, and that's why we're here."
Entrepreneur Bruton Smith, inducted by NASCAR legend Junior Johnson, is chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns tracks at Charlotte, Atlanta, Bristol, Texas, Sears Point and Las Vegas. Smith was a pioneer in the area of fan amenities at racetracks, such as building condos at Charlotte and being the first to light a major speedway.
About the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. Each year, the annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is held on the grounds of the museum to honor those men and women chosen for induction from among the greatest names in all of motorsports. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. Combo packages that include tours of both the museum and track are $12 for adults, $8 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. PLEASE NOTE: No track tours will be given race week or the week following.
About Aaron's Dream Weekend At Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway officials are welcoming back fans for its first races of the 2007 NASCAR season during the Aaron's Dream Weekend, featuring the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series and Aaron's 499 NEXTEL Cup Series races, set for April 27-29. Race week, the Ticket Office is open from 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Saturday and 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday, CST. Talladega Superspeedway race weekend event tickets may be purchased by calling 1-877-Go2-DEGA or visiting www.racetickets.com.