Our first inductee, Ivan Baldwin, started his racing career in 1966 with little fanfare, other than being suspended for the ’67 season after a dispute with an official.
In ’68 he was back, winning for the first time on September 29th at Orange Show Speedway. By the early 70’s he’d won many Southern California races, and points championships five times at three tracks in ‘73 and ‘74, driving cars that he had built. You see, not only could Ivan Baldwin drive a race car ,he was a master mechanic as well.
By the end of ’74 Ivan and his friend and confidant, Gary Nelson, had caught the eye of Winston West regular Jack McCoy and soon joined the growing McCoy Racing Products team, operating the West car and others. In 1976 Ivan won 28 of 44 races entered, including two Riverside races and the International Driver’s Championship in the Pacific Northwest.
Ivan, along with Carrera shock maker Dick Anderson, pioneered the coil-over suspension design and, with Gary Nelson’s vital role in development, produced what would become the standard for late model cars of the future.
In late‘76 , after receiving offers to join the new DiGard team for whom Darrell Waltrip was driving, Nelson decided to head South. Gary won with Ivan for the last time at Riverside in January of ‘77, and left for Daytona.
This split became a turning point for Ivan as well. He left the successful McCoy operation and opened his own shop with his friend Arley Cook.
He worked with Kenny Boyd in 1980, and they won 22 feature events together. Then in ‘82 and ‘83 he worked with Tim Gillett, and in ‘84 they won the Stockton Speedway Championship.
Ivan won a Winston West championship as crew chief with the legendary Hershel McGriff in 1986, and then built a Thunderbird for Tony Oddo, and it ran well, winning a Winston West race at Stockton the first time out.
Shortly after that, when Bill Elliott needed a car for Riverside, a deal was struck, and Bill drove that T-Bird. Bill hot-lapped the car and was so impressed that a car, built by this obscure car builder that he had never heard of before, could run so well.
The following year, Baldwin sold his shop and moved east, joining Elliott. The story goes that he taught Elliott how to win on short tracks.
“Ivan the Terrible” as he was known to friends and adversaries alike, grew up on the short tracks of Southern California, but he is renowned thoughout the stock car racing world as one of the best chassis men of all time.
Let’s welcome his long time friend Gary Nelson to present this well-deserved Award to Ivan’s daughter Tammy .
Kevin Green, Ray Claridge and Christine Walker
RAY CLARIDGE As most of you know, in the early ‘90’s stock car racing was becoming a main stream sport. NASCAR had a new TV deal, new tracks were being built, more races were being added and, with that, better sponsors were coming on board. This made the teams change as well, and with big haulers and clean uniforms, Cup team members were becoming more and more sophisticated. The same was beginning to happen on the west coast.
Our next inductee, Ray Claridge, moved up to the Winston West Series with his young driver, Lance Hooper, after winning the Southwest Series Championship as a car owner in 1995.
He came to race, with good cars, skilled crew members and a professional look, and together they won four races and the 1996 Winston West Championship, as well as the Rookie of the Year title in the same year, the first to do so in the modern era.
Ray followed up that winning season with second place finishes in 1997,
losing to Butch Gilliland by 77 points, and in ‘98 to Kevin Harvick by 100 points, with Sean Woodside as his driver.
Here to present the award to Ray Claridge is NASCAR West Series Media Coordinator, Kevin Green.
Jim Cook & Beryl Jackson (in car)
A product of midget auto racing when he came west from the Boston area in the early 40’s, our next inductee drove modifieds, hard tops and early late models with great success in and around the LA area.
Jim Cook moved up to the Grand National Series in 1954, driving his first race at Oakland Speedway, and enjoyed success while winning 5 times and finishing in the top 10 in points eight times, driving for Hall of fame members Floyd Johnson and Cos Cancilla.
In 1970 Jim suffered a near-fatal accident at Riverside International Raceway and never fully recovered. His life ended tragically as a victim of a robbery in Long Beach several years back.
Here to present to Jim’s son Jerry Cook is Hall of Fame member Ken Clapp.
MIKE CURB Besides the obvious, what do Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Tom Sneva, Dale Jarrett, Jason Leffler, Bobby Allison, John Andretti, Stevie Reeves and P.J. Jones have in common? They all drove for our next inductee, Mike Curb. As a sponsor and car owner, Mike’s cars have run from Daytona to Indy, and Ascot to Phoenix. Mike’s business may be music but his passion is motorsports. Whether it’s NASCAR, IRL, Champ Car, World of Outlaws, or USAC Silver Crown, Mike Curb has done it all. A former Lt. Governor of California, Mike is truly a west coast guy, but he has left his indelible mark on the whole world of motorsports. Here to present to Mike is his long time friend and race team partner, Cary Agajanian.
WALT FAULKNER Hailing from Long Beach, California our next inductee raced midgets prior to WW II, and won the Balboa Championship in 1941. After the war, and as stock car racing grew in popularity,
Walt Faulkner raced at Carrell Speedway and on the “Wall” at Oakland Speedway. In the early 50’s he became part of the Bill Stroppe factory Lincoln team that ran the Mexican Road Race. Walt even sat on the pole at Indy as a rookie for car owner JC Agajanian in 1950. He ran the very popular USAC stock car series, and drove for the factory Ford team. Walt was a real Pioneer of Stock car racing - especially on the west coast - but met an untimely death in a racing accident at Vallejo, California in 1956. To present Walt’s award to his widow, Mary Faulkner, is his friend and fellow Hall of Famer Lloyd Dane.
From Longview, Washington our next inductee was both very successful in business and a stand up guy. Beryl Jackson loved stock car racing and owned the “hottest” Oldsmobile 88 race cars. His drivers included Hall of Fame members Hershel McGriff, Len Sutton, Johnny Kieper, Bill Amick, Danny Letner, and Lloyd Dane. His racecars won lots of races, up and down the west coast -- Oakland, Bay Meadows, and Portland to name a few. He would go east for the big races in Daytona and Darlington, and his cars were always top runners. Beryl Jackson passed away over a decade ago and left behind a legacy of success in our sport and many, many wonderful memories. Here to present to his grandson Eric Prem are two of his former drivers, Hershel McGriff and John Kieper.
Another driver from the great Northwest, John Kieper started racing around 1952 at the legendary Portland Speedway. He also raced at the famed Oakland Speedway in one of Marvin Panches former Mercury’s, and later drove Hudson Hornets and then Olds 88’s for Beryl Jackson. He won a couple of NASCAR Grand National races before giving up stock car racing to go into the truck salvage and used parts business with his beloved wife and partner, Beverly. In the mid 70’s, with his family business flourishing, Johnny came back to racing - this time as both a driver and a car owner. Hershel McGriff, Derrike Cope, Jimmy Insolo, Jimmy Walker, Jimmy Bown, Mike Chase, and Greg Biffle raced for John‘s Wholesale Truck Parts team, and the # 98 car found Victory Lane on numerous occasions. As a very little kid, I remember watching John race at Portland Speedway, and particularly recall my Mom turning to me when Johnny drove out on to the track to qualify, and stating confidently. “That’s Johnny Kieper - he’s fast!” Over the years that I have known John, however, the one thing that stands out most in my mind tis that he is the literal definition of a gentleman: Courteous, respectful of others, totally ethical in business, and loyal - almost to a fault - in his personal relationships. I once had the privilege of securing a small sponsorship to help the Wholesale Truck Parts team with expenses for a late ‘80’s Riverside Winston Cup race. I had worked my tail off, trying to convince Dan Hannah of Hannah Car Wash Systems to write the team a check for the sponsorship, and agreed to accompany John and the team to Riverside to activate the sponsorship. Hannah did a “half now, half after the race” deal, but John insisted that he pay my entire commission before the race so I would have money for travel expenses. That’s the kind of human being that John Kieper is.
Above all, Johnny Kieper is committed to his family, and that family lost their wonderful wife and mother, Beverly, earlier this year. John, to me, Bev was the perfect match for you - lots of good old fashioned common sense, and a huge capacity for kindness and love. I miss her very much . . . And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply honored to present a Hall of Fame induction and award to Mr. Johnny Kieper!
Gary Nelson started in the racing business cleaning up the shop for a local San Bernardino racer named Ivan Baldwin, and grew to be one of the most respected NASCAR crews chiefs of all time. Working with Darrell Waltrip, they won their first race together - at Darlington in 1977. Gary won the 1982 Bud Shoot-Out and Daytona 500 with Bobby Allison, finishing second in points, and in 1983 - with Allison again - Gary won the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. A Pepsi 400 victory with Greg Sacks in 1985, and 1986 Daytona 500 win, with Geoff Bodine and Hendrick Motorsports, followed in succession and further solidified Gary Nelson’s winning reputation.
In fact, before he hung it up as a Crew Chief, Gary had made it to victory circle at every track on the NASCAR schedule, and had led Kyle Petty to his greatest period of success in NASCAR racing.
Gary spent the ‘88 season in the ESPN broadcast booth, and then worked tirelessly with NASCAR as NEXTEL Cup Series director, Vice President of Competition, and Vice President of Research and Development.
Gary now owns Provident Auto Supply, a North Carolina-based performance parts distributor, and the sole parts supplier for the new NASCAR West Series spec engine.
Here to present to Gary Nelson is two-time Winston West Series champion and hall of fame member Jack McCoy.
Culver City was the home of our next inductee. Don Noel started racing jalopies in the mid-fifties and moved up to grand national stock cars in 1958, driving for Chuck Parko.
He has 7 NASCAR wins and drove for Cos Cancilla, Les Richter & Carl Simon, as well as his own race team. His greatest success came in the 1962, 63 and 64 era, driving for the Galpin Ford team, with Ron Hornaday, Sr. as his teammate. From 1960-63, Don Noel finished 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, and 4th respectively in NASCAR West Series championship standings. He was outstanding on all tracks, but excelled on the tight bullrings. Ironically, his most famous win came in 1966, on the Sacramento Mile dirt, driving for Richter and Simon. I remember Don Noel racing Fords at Portland Speedway, Jantzen Beach Arena, and Hollywood Bowl Speedway in Salem, Oregon back in the late 60’s. Don Noel - famous racecar driver, all-around nice guy, and now West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame honoree. Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to induct in to our hall of fame, Mr. Don Noel!
Jim Rush Chevrolet
The former mayor of Gardena, California and owner of one of the power house Chevrolet dealerships in Southern California, Jim Rush was one of the visionary auto dealers who not only believed in the adage of “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday”, he was living proof that it was absolutely true.
Erick Erickson, Chuck Meekins, Danny Letner, Troy Ruttman and Jim Rathman all drove successfully in Jim Rush‘s racecars.
While the Jim Rush cars won many races, his 55 and 56 Chevrolets were legendary.
Here to present Jim Rush’s award to his good friend, Walt James, is fellow Hall of Fame board member Ken Clapp.