This class features seven drivers, two car owners, and the Sportsman Award winner, sponsor
Dirt Late Models have continued to grow in popularity across the country and rate as the most numerous-and many think the most exciting-of all racing machines. The sport has matured with dozens of series, a cadre of skilled car and engine builders, purses that allow many drivers to make a living at it, and a handful of high-paying classic races like the Dream 100 and Dirt Track World Championship.
But it didn't all magically happen. It evolved through the decades to reach this level. There have been a number of pioneers who set the course to get the sport where it is today.
The National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame at Florence Speedway in Union, Kentucky, was established in 2001 to recognize those individuals. The 2008 class honors seven drivers, two car owners, and an annual winner of the Sportsman Award. The drivers are Danny Dean, Herman Goddard, Joe Kosiski, Chuck McWilliams, Gary Stuhler, Gary Webb, and Paul "Butterball" Wooldridge. The car owners are Morgan Chandler and Porter Lanigan, while the Sportsman Award recipient is Skip Arp.
Danny Dean of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, may not have made a big splash on the national dirt racing scene, but his impressive list of regional wins in the Buckeye State certainly qualify him as one of the more successful racers in the mid-Ohio Valley. With more than 500 feature wins to his credit, Dean carved out a name for himself against the likes of Jim Dunn, Jim Gentry, Blaine Aber, and Charlie Swartz.
Although not generally thought of as a travelling professional, Dean more than held his own when the recognized stars of the day came calling on his home turf. With wins in the 1980 Wayne County Speedway Invitational and the 1981 Great Lakes Classic in Fremont, Ohio, Dean quietly earned the reputation of a driver who could not only compete with higher profile interlopers but actually win against them. When he chose to stray from the friendly confines of his home state, Dean also tasted success with wins in the 1978 Mountain State Forest Festival at Elkins, West Virginia, and the 1980 Tri-City (Pennsylvania) Invitational.
Dean is perhaps best known for his success at venerable Pennsboro Speedway in West Virginia. The now defunct Ritchie County Fairgrounds oval was known as treacherous and unyielding to many racers, but Dean took a liking to the century-plus old horse racing surface and earned arguably the two most impressive wins of his long career with victories in both the 1971 and the 1979 Hillbilly 100. And even in the waning stages of his career when he opted to run Open Wheel Modifieds rather than Late Models, Dean used his knowledge of and fondness for the cantankerous dry, slick surface to score an AMRA win in 2003.
Dean also earned a reputation for helping aspiring young drivers. He played an instrumental role in teaching a young man from Frazeysburg, Ohio, how to set up and drive dirt cars and that young man has gone on to a phenomenal career. Now, Donnie Moran, one of the modern-day superstars of Dirt Late Model racing, will be joined in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame by his friend and mentor, Mr. Danny Dean.
Goddard is the fifth Tennessee driver to reach the Hall.
Apparently 50-plus years in racing are not quite enough for Herman Goddard of Knoxville, Tennessee. The eldest of three brothers involved in racing, the nearly 70-year-old driver is still making his presence felt on the clay ovals of eastern Tennessee. Having already secured a spot in the Tennessee Racing Hall of Fame, Goddard now becomes a member of the elite group comprising the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
To be able to amass over 500 feature wins competing against the likes of Tootle Estes, Bill Morton, fellow Hall of Famer H. E. Vineyard, Bill Corum, and a host of other legendary drivers, speaks volumes to Goddard's talent behind the wheel, but to still have the desire to strap himself into a 750hp Dirt Late Model after so many campaigns says much about the man's determination and genuine love for the sport.
Goddard earned much of his notoriety and success on the high banks of the now defunct Atomic Speedway near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but there are no clay ovals in the state that have escaped his siege. At Atomic, Goddard earned marquee wins in the Memorial 100 and the J.T. Kerr Automotive 100, but earned arguably his biggest win at the 1/3-mile "bowl" in the 1984 Tennessee Dirt Track Championship.
Today, Goddard turns the wheel primarily at Volunteer Speedway in Bull's Gap, which proudly claims to be the world's fastest dirt track. Spending one's Saturday nights wrestling a Dirt Late Model through 12-second laps on 34-degree banking is not exactly what most retirement age folks visualize doing, but Goddard would have it no other way as he still has the competitive fire. For his enviable record, longevity and untiring love and devotion of the sport, Herman Goddard becomes the fifth driver from the state of Tennessee to enter the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame and most deservedly so.-Tony Hammett
Spun from a family legacy of dirt stock car weekend warriors, Joe Kosiski is the first of his Omaha, Nebraska, race family to be inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. His father competed from 1952 through 1979, followed by younger brothers Steve and Ed.
Joe began his days in the cockpit in 1975. Since then, he has garnered 400 feature wins in over 20 states with countless track and series titles to his credit.
His name is inscribed in NASCAR weekly short track record books. He was the 1986 and 1992 Central Region Champ, the 1999 and 2000 Midwest Champ, the 2006 Division II Champ, and in 1986 was the Weekly National Champion. He was in the Top 10 of the NASCAR Weekly Series Divisional Standings from 1985 to 2002. He's also a five-time champion of the O'Reilly All-Star Series with 45 wins.
Kosiski has 16 track championships with nine coming at his home track, Sunset Speedway in Nebraska. Big race wins have also come his way, including the Gold Cup Invitational and the Grand National races in Iowa, multiple Thunderbird Opens in Minnesota, the Colorado All-Star Invitational and the Winston 100 in Missouri.
He's also run with a number of sanctioning bodies, including the World Dirt Racing League, the IMCA Deery Brothers, the MLRA, the NCRA, and many more. He also saw action with ARCA, running and finishing well in races at Atlanta and Talladega.
Today, he continues his dirt magic in his famous No. 53.
Back in the 1960s and '70s, the heart of the Dirt Late Model sport lay in the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky area and Chuck McWilliams was one of the stars of the period. There were hundreds of career wins and numerous Top 3s, but he never kept count.
McWilliams was around for an amazing 52 seasons from 1954 to 2005. He recalled his primitive beginnings in a '46 Plymouth Jalopy, as they called those cars at Queen City Speedway near Cincinnati.
A truck driver by trade, the six-foot-three driver spent part of his career with the national traveling series of ARCA and USAC.
"I ran with the ARCA group from 1970 through 1972," he recalls. "I ran at Daytona three times and had finishes of Third, Fifth, and Seventh."
With USAC, he had a great 1972 season and was named Rookie of the Year after winning two dirt races, including a win at his home track of Tri-County Speedway in Ohio.
During his USAC/ARCA days, McWilliams was a Mopar man of the first order. "Those Hemi-powered cars were really something," he says. "I ran models like the Dodge Charger and the Plymouth Road Runner."
Having done well with ARCA and USAC, McWilliams said he thought about trying NASCAR, but decided against it. "I was getting started on my salvage business," he recalls, "and to move south, it would have been very tough on the family. About 1975, though, I decided that I would finish my career running on the dirt on area dirt tracks."
Two of his car owners were 2008 HOF Inductees Morgan Chandler and Porter Lanigan.
"I still long to race," McWilliams says.
Greencastle, Pennsylvania's Gary Stuhler is currently competing in his 31st season at the wheel of a dirt racing machine. His driving prowess has landed him in the seat of several famous car owners, including Bobby Allen, Speedy Hayes, and Dale Beitler, and Stuhler is currently plying his trade for Nininger Racing.
But the soft-spoken driver is the antithesis of his racing moniker, the "Beast of the East." The all-time winningest driver in the history of Hagerstown (Maryland) Speedway has tasted victory up and down the Eastern Seaboard and has also been called "Mr. Smooth" by many, paying homage to his willingness to save his equipment until the moment dictates that he push the envelope. With hundreds of victories and an utterly amazing record in the special events both at Hagerstown and Winchester (Virginia) speedways, Stuhler has earned the right to take his place in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
To put into perspective the magnitude of his dominance in his region, many drivers have tried to win the Hub City 150 at Hagerstown and the Winchester 200 just down Interstate 81. Not only has Stuhler accomplished that feat, he has won the Hub City three times and has tasted victory in the Winchester 200 an astounding nine times. Couple that with six Stanley Schetrompf Memorial wins, six Johnny Roberts Memorial wins, eight Shorty Bowers/Bull Durham Memorial wins at Hagerstown, not to mention winning in every major sanctioning body in the history of the sport, and it is easy to see that Stuhler's credentials are impeccable.
He has already tasted victory this season and shows no signs of letting up even in his third decade of racing. The quiet man who always seems to be there at the end will no doubt add to his impressive win total and possibly seek to earn his third Hagerstown track title while occasionally stepping out to do battle with the touring pros he has proven very capable of defeating in the past.
Iowa, forever a hotbed for dirt stock car racing, has contributed yet another of its legendary racers to the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. Gary Webb, from Bluegrass, Iowa, follows Hawkeye greats and past inductees Ed Sanger and Verlin Eaker during ceremonies for the upcoming 2008 Class.
During his illustrious 36-year career, Webb's phenomenal resume lists 517 feature wins at an incredible 68 tracks in 20 different states.
Through an enormous amount of hard work, dedication to the sport, and raw talent, Webb is easily classified as a master. Over the years, he has filled his trophy room with hardware from 27 track titles, including 17 at his home track of East Moline Speedway in Illinois. When the UMP organization was formed in 1984, Webb jumped aboard and became its first National Champion, a feat he duplicated in 1985. He was also the 1999 NASCAR Regional Weekly Champion. He did it again in 2000 with 16 wins out of 18 races.
In addition, the Hawkeye veteran has registered three IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series Championships with 22 total wins, and won the All-Iowa Points Championship six times.
He's won the Yankee Dirt Track Classic twice, has three IMCA Supernational wins, two Illinois State Dirt Championships, and many others. One of his most satisfying wins was on the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile-track.
Webb has piloted cars from his own garage much of his career, but has also driven cars owned by others. He's still winning today in his No. 56 car.
Paul "Butterball" WooldridgeKentucky
When this legendary dirt racer is posthumously accepted into the 2008 Class of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, his recognition will be long overdue. Nicknamed "Butterball" for his large physical stature, Wooldridge was well recognized for his winning ways on dirt ovals from the 1950s till the 1980s.
Woolridge after one of his many wins.
Based out of Frankfort, Kentucky, he set countless track records, collected numerous track championships and had hundreds of feature wins. He competed weekly at Kentucky bullrings like Richmond Speedway, Franklin County, Clay City, and Taylor County, going against greats like Fats Coffey, Floyd Gilbert, Vern Lefever, Billy Teegarden, Pat Patrick, and David Speer.
His most memorable campaign came during the 1971-'72 seasons piloting the famous "Duncan's Delight" Chevelle of R.L. Duncan and wrenched by Charles and Logan Grider. During those two seasons, the big man garnered a remarkable 85 wins. Major wins included the Kentucky Dirt Track Championship, the Richmond Open, the Franklin County 100, the Southeastern Winter Nationals, and many others.
He also finished Fourth in the first running of the World 100 at Eldora. There were many other big wins in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana during the 1970s.
Aside from his deal with Duncan, Batterball saw action in competitive cars fielded by Hall of Famer Ray Callahan, Jack Wagoner, Bobby Dale, Vernon Hawley, and Dale Napper.
He retired from racing in 1982 and passed away on Christmas Day in 1987.
Morgan Chandler's was a shining career that lasted through two decades (1965-1985) as a car owner and showed a total of 189 victories with an impressive collection of 20 talented drivers, half of them already in the Hall of Fame.
This was not a full-time deal for Chandler, though, as he also had a regular job.
"Didn't get much sleep during many of those years, sometimes getting home in time to go to work," he says.
It was a time, says Chandler, when the driver was a lot more important than the car, quite different from today.
"There is a lot more technology today, but there are still similarities," he says. "Heck, I used to have the left-front tire up just like today."
Chandler laughs when he recalls that he once built a 539-cubic-inch engine derived from a 427 truck engine. "It made about 750 hp, something that small block engines can make today," he says.
Through most of his career, he converted street cars to build his racecars. His built his first car from the ground up in 1978.
A studebaker fielded by Chandler.
Chandler says that he ran with NASCAR in 1968 at Clay City Speedway, Kentucky. It was a dirt track, of course, but he also competed on pavement, using his dirt cars rather than a purpose-built pavement car. "Won a big race on the paved Dayton (Ohio) Speedway," he recalls.
His top driver was Floyd Gilbert, and they won 27 races in a row and 42 overall in 1972 and '73. And there was Ralph Latham, who was behind the wheel of a Chandler car for 25 wins in 1970.
It began quite simply with a figure-eight car that won 18 of 21 races at nearby Northern Kentucky Speedway in 1964. The driver of that car incidentally was 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Chuck McWilliams. From that point a successful career took off for Porter Lanigan.
Shortly thereafter, he was in Florida and really liked the pavement racing he saw.
"I knew Ralph Latham and asked him if he would like to drive for me," Lanigan recalls. In 1967, Latham won the Daytona 250 in one of Porter's cars. That same year, Ramo Stott drove a Lanigan car to a Fourth Place finish in the Daytona 300, and then ran in the Daytona 500.
Lanigan, right, with Ralp Latham.
Later, there was success in USAC and ARCA races.
But dirt was Lanigan's bag and Stott and Lanigan finished Second in the IMCA points in both 1967 and '68. But Lanigan says that Eldora was one of his favorite tracks. He recalls a big win at the track, with Bruce Gould taking a $1,000-to-win race.
Lanigan was also very successful on nearby Tri-County Speedway. He noted that the now-closed track was better than the NASCAR and USAC tracks where he had raced his cars.
But Lanigan is probably best recalled by younger fans from his sponsorship of his highly successful dirt car driving son, Darrell.
An auto dealer by trade, Lanigan says that his racing has certainly helped his business through the years. "Since I've been in this game, I've met a lot of people and many of them know cars, and many of them showed up to do business with me."
The Sportsman Award, sponsored by Stock Car Racing, is annually awarded to an active driver who supports the sport by working with track owners, other drivers, and the fans.
Skip Arp from Georgetown, Tennessee, is the 2008 winner of this award. Previous winners include Steve Francis, Bill Frye, Mike Balzano, Rick Eckert, Ray Cook, and Mike Jewell.
Arp is known for his association with GRT Racecars, where he has been a technical consultant since 2002. Since 2005, he has had his own racecars and parts business.
He has always had a great relationship with the fans and is also good with kids. During the days when he was on the road he had a popular Web site.
If anybody is having car problems, Arp is the guy they seek out for help. He will provide any assistance possible.