International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductees Share Common Bond
There was plenty of racing diversity represented Thursday night during the induction ceremonies for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2008.
The current class of inductees included stock-car racers, drag racers, engine builders, a land-speed record setter and even a racing promoter.
But to three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996, all of the IMHoF members have one important thing in common.
“Anybody who excels to the position that they’re in this Hall of Fame has done it with a passion,” Rutherford said. “That’s the one thread through everybody’s life that makes it into this. It’s the passion for the sport, no matter whether it’s stock-car racing, Indy Car racing, midget-car racing, whatever. That thread is there, or else they’re not here.”
The six new members who were inducted Thursday night were land speed record breaker Art Arfons, NASCAR champion Robert “Red” Byron, drag racing driver and engine builder Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, car fabricator Frank Kurtis, NASCAR car owner and driver Everett “Cotton” Owens and Winston promoter Ralph Seagraves.
“This is the best of the best,” said Tim Arfons, son of the late Art Arfons. “If you get included in this, you’re on top.”
Now the Class of 2008 is forever enshrined in a museum that honors legends throughout the motorsports spectrum, from such famous drivers as Richard Petty and A.J. Foyt to such well-known names as Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford.
“This puts me in the same place with people who got a whole lot more recognition than I did,” said Jenkins with a smile that belied his “Grumpy” nickname.
Despite the different backgrounds, there is an obvious bond and genuine affection among the IMHoF members. When Rutherford first spotted Owens on Thursday, he shook hands with the 83-year-old and said, “Congratulations. It’s long overdue.”
“I’ve been amazed,” said Talladega Superspeedway President and IMHOF Executive Director Rick Humphrey, “at just how close-knit everybody is.”style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt; line-height: 150%">
Seeing his late father be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame was especially gratifying for Colbert Seagraves. He said that since Ralph Seagraves’ contribution to motorsports occurred largely away from the track, it would be easy for people to overlook him.
“I know my father would be extremely honored,” Seagraves said. “This International Motorsports Hall of Fame has such meaning because it encompasses everything. It encompasses Formula One, road racing, motorcycle racing. For him to be included in this group – with all the famous drivers – it’s huge. It just adds a lot of legitimacy to what he did.”
Rutherford, as a three-time winner of possibly the most famous race in the world, already had plenty of legitimacy to his career. But more than a decade after his induction into the IMHoF, he said the homage is still special to him.
“Having dedicated my life to motorsports, and to be able to see the individuals who have been chosen to be in this Hall of Fame, it’s quite an honor,” Rutherford said. “To be considered part of that group is something that I cherish.”
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.
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