Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Eight 2015 USAC Hall of Fame inductees announced

The first eight inductees into the 2015 USAC (United States Auto Club)  Hall of Fame have been announced with four more inductees to be selected by popular vote from a list of 16 eligible candidates distributed through social media will be announced April 15, 2015.

The fourth annual USAC Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held July 25 2015 at the Lincoln Tech Indianapolis Speedrome in Indianapolis, Ind. in conjunction with the inaugural "Tony Stewart Classic" Midget race. The special "non-points" event will bring together Midget participants from across the country in what promises to be an exciting night of pavement short-track racing on the track which has hosted more USAC races (494) than any track in history.

The eight members of the 2015 class of inductees included five drivers, two car owners and a chief mechanic. They are (alphabetically) Clint Brawner, Larry “Butch” Hartman, Lindsey Hopkins, Jim Hurtubise, Fred Lorenzen, Roger Penske, Clark “Shorty” Templeman and Ron “Sleepy” Tripp.

Clint Brawner, of Phoenix, Ariz., was one of the most accomplished of all car builders and crew chiefs and won National driving titles as a car owner with drivers Jimmy Bryan (1954, 1956 and 1957) and Mario Andretti (1965, 1966 and 1969). He finally entered victory lane as the winning crew chief with driver Andretti in 1969, who piloted his Brawner Hawk to victory.

Brawner amassed 51 championship wins and his impressive driver list includes the likes of Bryan, Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Bob Sweikert, Roger McCluskey, Troy Ruttman, Rodger Ward and Eddie Sachs. Brawner's cars won the first four Hoosier Hundreds with drivers Sweikert and Bryan and, in 1957, he won the 500-mile "Race of Two Worlds" at Monza, Italy with Bryan. Each May, a crew chief or mechanic at the Indianapolis ‘500’ is awarded the prestigious Clint Brawner Mechanical Achievement Award in his memory.

Larry “Butch” Hartman, of Zanesville, Ohio, won five USAC Stock car championships in the 1970s with a total of 29 USAC Stock car victories in his career. The 1966 USAC Stock car Rookie of the Year and 1967 USAC Most Improved Driver, then won the first USAC 500-mile stock car race held at Pocono, Pa Raceway in 1971.

Lindsey Hopkins, from Miami, Fla., fielded competitive National Championship cars for three decades, entering up to four cars on occasion at the Indianapolis 500. Never an Indy 500 winner, he appeared headed for that achievement in 1955 until his driver, two-time "500" winner Bill Vukovich, perished in an accident while leading in an effort to score his third consecutive victory.

In 1957 and 1959, Hopkins scored a second-place finish at Indy with driver Jim Rathmann. In 1972, Roger McCluskey won the 1972 Ontario 500 in a Hopkins entry, and then earned the 1973 USAC National Championship in another Hopkins car. Championship wins also came for Hopkins at Phoenix, Ariz., Atlanta, Ga., Milwaukee, Wisc., Langhorne, Pa., Springfield, Ill. and Brooklyn, Mich. with drivers McCluskey, George Amick, Tony Bettenhausen, Bobby Marshman and Jim Rathmann. In 1959, Rathmann won the "special" Championship race driving for Hopkins at the Daytona International Motor Speedway.

Jim Hurtubise, of North Tonawanda, N.Y., stood the racing world on its ear in 1960 when he flirted with the 150-mph. barrier at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was that year's Indianapolis "500" Rookie of the Year. National Championship wins came at Sacramento, Calif., Langhorne, Pa. and Springfield, Ill. (twice), before suffering serious burns in an accident at Milwaukee, Wisc. in 1964. He was the last driver to wheel a front-engined car in the Indy 500 in 1968. A spectacular Sprint car racer, he won 14 USAC features, including five in a row at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. Also an accomplished stock car veteran, he won the 1966 Atlanta 500 NASCAR race. In 1993 he was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Fred Lorenzen, of Elmhurst, Ill., was the 1958 and 1959 USAC Stock Car Champion, with 12 USAC feature victories during his career. The 1965 Daytona 500 winner, he also won the 1963 and 1965 World 600 in Charlotte, N.C. Named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, "Fearless Freddie" was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001. He was also a multiple race winner at NASCAR ovals at Richmond and Martinsville, Va. In nine Daytona 500 starts, he finished out of the top-10 only once. Fred was a 2015 inductee into the NASCAR Stock Car Hall of Fame.

Roger Penske, born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, has set the gold standard for car owners, winning a record 15 Indianapolis 500s. An astute businessman, he was USAC's 1962 Road Racing Champion but his extensive motorsports involvement has earned the respect of everyone, earning numerous championships and race victories in multiple disciplines.

Penske is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and numerous other Halls of Fame, the "Captain" actually competed in the 1961 and 1962 United States Grand Prix Formula One races. His list of top-caliber drivers has included Indianapolis 500 winners Mark Donohue, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Sr. and Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Helio Castroneves, Gil DeFerran and Sam Hornish, Jr.

Clark “Shorty” Templeman was USAC's National Midget Champion in its first three seasons, 1956, 1957 and 1958. He scored 22 USAC Midget wins prior to his untimely death in a crash at Marion, Ohio in 1962. A multiple Midget racing champion in the northwest, he scored a "sweep" of the three features comprising the 1956 "Night Before the 500" program in Indianapolis, Ind. Inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 1984, he competed in five Indianapolis 500s, earning a fourth-place finish in 1961.

Ron “Sleepy” Tripp, of Costa Mesa, Calif., scored more USAC Midget victories (total National and Regional) than anyone in history. His total of 161 lists him third on the all-time USAC list behind Rich Vogler (171) and A.J. Foyt (162). The 1986 inductee into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame won a pair of USAC National Midget titles (1975 and 1976) and seven championships in the Western Midget Series.

Tripp also earned notoriety with his exploits to New Zealand, which resulted in numerous major race victories and championships, including an amazing nine wins in the prestigious 50-Lap Classic at Auckland. In 1985 and 1987, he also won the prestigious Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. In addition to his United States and New Zealand successes, his career also included victories in Australia and Canada.

Information furnished by United States Auto Club press office

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