2011-01-20 / Sports

IHOF Names 2011 Inductees

By Gerald Hodges

HOOVER, Ala – Rex White headlines the 2011 Class of Inductees of the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame, located at Talladega Superspeedway.

“When I raced we didn’t talk much about how we raced,” White said. “All we concentrated on was winning races. Usually when it was a reporter in the area I tried to dodge him.”

White is one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. He won the 1960 Sprint Cup Championship and was one of the original members of Chevrolet’s NASCAR team.

White said his scariest moment in a car didn’t happen when he was driving on a racetrack.

“Going off a cliff in Mexico,” White said, “that was my scariest moment in a car. When I got out of racing in 1965, I went to Mexico and built some Chevelles to race there.”

“I went off a cliff down there. On one side of the road they don’t even come get you. They just put a candle out where you went off. On the right side of the road, it’s about 90 feet down.”

“I was riding with the owner of the Chevelles. He was trying to play a little bit of race car driving and maybe trying to impress me a little bit. We came up on two cows in the middle of the road. In trying to miss the cows, he lost control. I tried to grab the steering wheel, but it was too late. We went over.”

In White’s 233 starts, he won 28 races; recorded 163 top-10 finishes and qualified in 36 poles.

“I don’t have any idea what it cost to run a season, but it was more than I had,” said White. “Remembering all those figures 40-something years ago is kind of tough for me. I probably didn’t keep up with the costs even back then.”

“I kept books in my left, rear pocket. When there wasn’t any money there, I wasn’t taking in enough. We didn’t write down anything. We had no bookkeeping system. But it got the job done.”

When White was asked which driver in NASCAR reminds him of himself, he said Mark Martin.

NASCAR car owner John Holman was also inducted. Holman partnered with Ralph Moody to form one of the most successful teams, Holman-Moody. They won two NASCAR Championships, and 96 races with over 30 drivers.

The third inductee was Sprint car driver Jan Opperman. He was known as the original “outlaw” driver before the development of the World of Outlaw series. He raced Indianapolis 500 twice in 1974 and 1976.

Maurice Petty, of the famed Petty family, was the fourth inductee. Petty was the chief engine builder for Petty Enterprise. Petty competed in 24 NASCAR races in 1960 and 1964.

Brian Redman was the fifth and final inductee of 2011. He drove both Formula One and CAN-AM during his Hall of Fame career. He drove in 15 points races in Formula One as well as numerous races at the 24 Hours of LeMans.

The drivers will be enshrined on April 14.

Preseason Thunder starting to rumble

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Next week’s three- day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test at Daytona International Speedway brings the first official engine firings of 2011.

Don’t think for a second that it represents the new year’s first official work.

Wide-open shops mean wide- open anticipation. Teams participating in the 2011 edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona will use the time to prepare for both the 53rd Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20, and the track’s new asphalt surface.

The test – scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20, through Saturday, Jan. 22 – runs from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. ET daily, weather permitting, with a noon-1 p.m. lunch break each day.

“It’s a very demanding time of the year,” Gustafson continued, “but it’s very gratifying because you see projects get started and you see them come to fruition.”

A successful Goodyear tire test on Dec. 15-16 set the stage for next week’s session.

Last year’s repave – only the second at 2.5-mile Daytona and the first since 1978 – began after the NASCAR Sprint Cup event on July 3 and ended in early December. During the tire test (open to all series teams), those attending validated Goodyear’s compound selection for the Daytona 500, the series’ traditional season-opener, plus drivers and crew chiefs provided the sport’s first ontrack feedback about the new pavement to track and NASCAR officials.

“It’s a huge race for everyone,” Gustafson said of the Daytona 500. “It’s a race that everybody wants to win; the biggest race of the year. Everybody had some reservations, so going down there with the tire test and coming back, it just confirms that Daytona is Daytona – it’s the track we all love. That’s wonderful to know. So going back there now, it’s trying to exploit what little nuances of speed we can.”

Racing trivia question: Which driver has the most Daytona 500 wins?

Last week’s question: Who won the first Daytona 500? Answer. Lee Petty.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodges@race500.com.

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