AZ (September 19, 2006)
The racing on the track will be more than serious as the USAC/CRA west
coast sprinters take to Manzanita Speedway's half mile track in their final tune
up for the November 10-12 running of the Budweiser/Checker Auto Parts Western
The preleminaries, however, will be fun as eleven great drivers from a bygone
era will be joined by five new inductees into the Arizona Motorsports Hall of
Fame in a two hour autograph and bench racing session. The gates will open at
5:00 PM and that is when the drivers will be there to sign the programs. The
souvenir program will contain half page action pictures of each of them.
Pictures of those being inducted into the Hall of Fame are also in the program.
Those drivers for the autograph session are Bob Huebner, Lealand McSpadden,
Bob Cleberg, Marion Smiley, Jimmy Oskie, Jerry McClung, Dee Jones, Jimmy Woods,
Art Mankel and both of the Shuman brothers, Billy and Ronnie.
They will all have something to brag about..Huebner won the 1969 Western and
is a two time Arizona champion. Cleberg won the first Western and won the 1969
sprint car driving championshp. Oskie is a five time CRA champ, Smiley won Late
Model Westerns three times and also three driving titles. McClung won the 1970
Western and two driving titles; Woods won 13 features at Manzy in the famous
"Flying Ford"; Jones ran three years with the CRA, finishing sixth,
third and second in points and then moved to the midwest where he raced Indy
Cars and Sprints; McSpadden is "The Tempe Tornado", arguably one of
the best and most popular drivers ever at Manzanita. Art Mankel is special. He
was known as the "King of the Semi Mains". He was as popular
throughout the nation as the drivers who were winning the main events. Ronnie
Shuman won just about everything, four Westerns, eight times the Turkey Night
midget championship, four Pacific Coast titles, Arizona championships won
Knoxville, won with the World of Outlaws and multiple championshps with the CRA.
Billy Shuman was at home in the midgets as well as the sprints. He won the
Arizona Driving title, numerous features and then was dominant when he chose to
run midgets. Of the drivers on hand most are in the Hall of Fame: Jones and
McClung in 1987, Huebner and Cleberg in '88, Billy Shuman in 1994, Smiley in
'96, McSpadden in 1998, Ron Shuman in2001 and Mankel in 2002.
The 2006 Hall of Fame inductees are very special and very deserving, probably
none more so than Larry Ragland. The committee had to use the
"Trimmer Rule" for his induction because, like Carl Trimmer before
him, Larry may never retire. Since he is over 60, he is eligible for induction.
He is not only the top off road racer from Arizona, he is also one of the very
best in his sport. He has won every major off road race. Not just best of class
but overall. He has won more desert off road races Overall than has anyone else
in the nation.
Dennis Wood has been involved in auto racing for most of his adult life.
First he covered motorsports as a reporter for the Phoemix Gazette. Then he
drove super modifieds and midgets and was successful in both. He worked a couple
of stints at Manzy and then at PIR. He and Warner Hogsden purchased PIR in 1984
and then Wood bought out his partner the next year. He later sold the facility
to Buddy Jobe but stayed on as a consultant. He put in over 20 years at PIR. He
has promoted races throughout the MIdwest with A.J. Foyt. He is currently the
G.M. at Manzy.
Warren Wample has been active in auto racing for most of his life. He
has driven sprints, midgets and super modifieds. He was instrumental in getting
and keeping auto racing in the Globe-Miami area and is now working with a group
hoping to get racing back.
Dennis "Duke" Nalon did his racing before moving to Phoenix but
he became a proud Arizonan in 1952. He served as President of the Late Model
stocks , drove the Indy Pace Car for years and re,mained a USAC official. He
passed away a couple of years ago and was a big loss to big time racing.
Without Ernie Mohamed there may not have even been a Manzanita. When
the Thomas Road track closed down in 1948 Midgets were left without a track.
Ernie came to the rescue and built South Mountain Speedway and opened the gates
July 30, 1949. His track was the training ground for the Greats--Bobby Ball,
Jimmy Bryan, Bill Cheesbourg and Roger McCluskey. His induction has been long
Of course the real racing will get underway when the West Coast sprinters
battle the clocks at 6:45. It is more than an even money bet that Damion Gardner
will be the quickest qualifier. He usually is. He has outqualified the field 16
times this year.
The chase for the USAC/CRA title has become the Damion and Cory show. Gardner
has a slight edge of 43 points heading into the Saturday night showdown. Both
drivers have won on the big half mile track Cory has been at it longer and has
11 wins at Manzy and Garder has won in each of his three season.He won the 2002
Hall of Fame Vintage Classic and won it again last year.
All of the top ten drivers are expected. Behind Gardner and Kruseman are Tony
Jones, Mike Spencer, Danny Sheridan, Rip Williams, Josh Ford, Blake Miller,
David Cardy and Ricky Gaunt.
Local drivers expected to be in the field inlcude Charles Davis, Jr., winner
of the 2003 Hall of Fame race, R.J. Johnson, the 2005 USAC/CRA rookie of the
year, Arizona champion Jeremy Sherman, the 1998 Arizona champion Bob Ream, Jr.,
Brandon Lane and possibly Nathan High.
Vintage Cars will not only be on display but will also run a series of
exhibitions for both sprint cars and midgets.