Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The 2017 Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
Can Be Heard HERE

The 2017 Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame

August 12th was Hall Of Fame Night at Southern Oregon Speedway.  It began a new tradition of honoring the people who have helped make Southern Oregon racing so special through the years.  On display at the entrance were three display boards with clippings of articles and photos from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.  These were put together by Oregon racing historians Curt and Denny Deatherage.  The Deatherage brothers helped put together this event and founded Cottage Grove Speedway Historical Night some 15 years ago.

The Hall Of Fame Night concept is an idea long overdue.  The Medford area has had many great racers and multiple tracks that have come and gone going back to the 1920’s.  Perhaps the most famous of those tracks was the Medford Speedway located at The Posse Grounds.

Leading the “Class of 2017” is Harold Hardesty.  Harold was a championship winning race car driver, won many races at race tracks up and down the West Coast and promoted races at Medford Speedway.  Sadly, he was reported missing in April of this year, and the search still continues.  A prayer was said prior to his induction that he might be found.  Accepting his award was his son Steve and his nephew Neil.

Ben Neel, who won championships in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, was also inducted.  His daughter, Lisa Gray, accepted his award.  The C&M Auto Parts Street Stock Championship Race Perpetual Trophy, which bore his name twice as winner in 1982 and 1983, was on display at the souvenir booth.

One of the top racers of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Don Hood, was there with his family to accept his award.  Jerry McGrew, who was a championship car owner teaming up with Don Harper, was there to receive his award as well.  The Hall Of Fame Night was also a chance for McGrew to see Harper’s daughter, Valarie Fowler.  Valarie was there to accept Don Harper’s Hall Of Fame Award.  One of Oregon’s top engine builders, Bert Beck, did not attend, but his sons and 2013 Late Model Lites champion John Barger were there to accept the honor for “The Silver Fox”.  Many racers have won races with Beck’s motors. 

Our seventh inductee, Peg Henry, was unable to attend, but her son Jon and daughter Kelly were there to receive her award.  Peg was an unsung hero who worked behind the scenes as concessioner and assistant manager of the Posse Grounds track from the 1970’s through the 1980’s.  The Hall Of Fame will continue to honor those who made a difference and contributed to the success of the sport, whether behind the scenes or on the track.

The First Hall Of Fame event was a success.  Many people came out to celebrate the past and enjoy a night of racing.  There were people there who hadn’t been to the races in a long time, and they had an opportunity to catch up with old friends.  This event will grow and get bigger in the years to come.  It’s all about our racing family.  As we look ahead to the future and making our sport better, we must look back at the past and remember what made it all so special in the first place.  It was “The Legends Of Southern Oregon Racing” who paved the way for us to continue to do what he do at Southern Oregon Speedway, and we are proud to honor them by having a Hall Of Fame Night and by keeping this race track going for future generations to enjoy.

Note:  These are the notes I was able to provide Bryce Burtner for the ceremony.  I apologize that I was unable to do as good a job as they all deserved, but I hope I got the point across of how much these seven people meant to our sport.  I will be gathering more information, working with others, to help get more of this history organized and put in one place for all to be able to see.

Special Thanks to

Curt & Denny Deatherage for all of their hard work, research and for helping organize this event and their work in creating our three display boards with pictures and news clippings. They are truly two of the leading Oregon racing historians.

Southern Oregon Racing History

Within the Medford area, had multiple tracks going back nearly 100 years to the fairgrounds track.  Ashland Speedway operated from 1949-1960.  In the 1950’s, there was the track near the airport and the famed Posse Grounds track.  There was also the White City track that operated  in the 1960’s.  The Posse Grounds operated until 1989, and Southern Oregon Speedway opened in 1996 to continue the great tradition of dirt track racing in the area.

We are proud to begin a new, and long overdue tradition of celebrating all of the people who have made the sport as special as it is.  Our Hall Of Fame is here to honor those who have paved the way for us to enjoy the sport that we love.  This year, we induct our first class of seven.  Within this group, we have people who have excelled in racing, building and maintaining cars, building engines and promoting.

Our first inductee is Peggy Henry

Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Peggy was a member of the Rogue Valley Racing Association.  She ran the concessions at the old Medford (Posse Grounds) Speedway and was often left to oversee the day to day operations of the race track.  Peggy is truly an unsung hero of the track, but her efforts behind the scenes helped make it all possible.  Tonight, we proudly induct Peggy Henry into the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame.  Accepting on her behalf will be her son, Jon and daughter Kelly

Our Next Inductee is Don Harper

Story About the Get Don Harper Trophy can be viewed HERE

Don started racing in Medford in the late 1960’s and quickly rose to become one of the top drivers and a champion.  In the mid 1970’s, Don was winning races everywhere he went, and this included some big money races.  In 1974, he was on a winning streak at Eugene Speedway.  The promoter created a “Get Don Harper Night” with a big trophy going to the winner, Jay Bugbee.  After Jay passed away, Don was presented with that trophy in a surprise presentation on Historical Night at Cottage Grove Speedway in 2010.  Don won his share of big trophies through the years, but this one was particularly special to him as it had been created as an incentive for his competition.  Tonight, we proudly induct Don Harper into the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame.  Accepting on Don behalf will be his daughter Valarie

Our Next Inductee is Don Hood

Don was another championship winning driver of the 1960’s and 70’s.  He was a threat to win wherever he went, and that included several victories at Medford Speedway.  He also held the track record on various occasions.  Don built fast and competitive races cars, and there were several other racers driving cars he built in the late 1970’s.   He has been inducted into the Cottage Grove Speedway Hall Of Fame, and tonight we proudly induct Don Hood into the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame.

Our Next Inductee Is Bert Beck

Bert didn’t race often at Medford Speedway, but when he did, he was fast.  He was a Main Event winner on several occasions on the Oregon circuit,  However, Bert may be better known as an expert engine man.  Several drivers won races and even championships with his motors through the years, and there are still drivers out there running motors built at his shop.  It’s not just about driving the race car.  You have to have a reliable motor, and Bert was one of the best motor builders in the sport.  Tonight, we proudly induct Bret Beck into the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame.  Accepting on Bert’s behalf will be his son Rick

Our Next Inductee Is Jerry McGrew

There have been many racers through the years who could win in any car you put them in.  We are inducting a few such competitors this year.  However, there are also car owners out there that gave their drivers the best opportunity to win with well maintained and expertly built race cars.  Jerry McGrew is one such person.  Jerry’s cars won races and championships, and his partnership with Don Harper made them one of the toughest teams to beat on race day.  Tonight, we proudly induct car owner Jerry McGrew into the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame.

Our Next Inductee is Ben Neel

Ben is truly one of the greatest Medford area racers of all time.  He beat the best in multiple eras as a champion in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.  Ben was one of the hardest racers and yet one of the most respected competitors at the track.  In the 1960’s, his friendly rivalry with Harold Hardesty brought out the best in both of them as the two battled for the 1966 and 1967 track championships.  Neel won them both.  Ben cited Hardesty as one of the biggest influences of his career.  Tonight, we proudly induct Ben Neel into the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame.  Accepting on Ben’s behalf will be his daughter Lisa Gray

Our final Inductee Of 2017 Is Harold Hardesty

An informative article about Harold can be viewed HERE

During the time period in which he competed at Medford Speedway, Harold was one of the top drivers on the Main Event winner’s list.  He enjoyed racing, but he also bore the responsibility of organizing the races as the Medford Speedway promoter for several seasons.  Harold was hired by many owners to drive their cars and was a winner on the NASCAR West circuit on multiple occasions.  He even had a Top 20 finish out of 70 cars in a NASCAR race at Darlington  He’s also a member of the NASCAR and West Coast Stock Car Hall Of Fame.  To illustrate Harold’s ability, he ran a NASCAR West race at Eureka in the late 1960’s in a car ten years older than the others.  Car count was a bit low, so he was allowed to start as long as he retired early.  The car ran strong that day, and he kept racing and won the race.  NASCAR was not pleased and let him know.  He was not acknowledged as the winner until a few year later.   Through the years, Medford has had some amazing racers, and  Hardesty is certainly one of the greatest of all time.

Before we formally induct Harold onto the Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame, we ask that you join us in a silent prayer.  As you know, Harold has been missing for several months and we ask that you pray for him to be located.

Harold's son Steve Hardesty and nephew Neil are here to accept the award.

 Final Thoughts On The First Hall Of Fame Night

Racing history matters.  This is a belief I've carried with me since I was a kid.  I spent many years of my life focused primarily on racing, while I covered my own home track in Antioch, California and other tracks.  I started keeping points records and win lists and all of that.  I grew to realize that much of that information had fallen by the wayside.  Track management only worried about the bottom line at most places.  How many people came to watch and how much money was made?  It is a business, after all.  If bills don't get paid, races don't happen.

My frustrations stemmed from the fact that most of the tracks I covered didn't bother to keep records.  With the advent of the internet, where there is plenty of room to at least archive your points and race results articles, most race tracks still wiped that information off of their web pages at the end of each season.  When you think about the fact that most tracks that have been around that long have had web pages for over 20 years, that's 20 years of history that was wiped out for no good reason.  So, I started making it a goal to grab things off of the web in case they disappeared.  I saved racing magazines, newspaper clippings and that sort of thing.

Medford has a long and storied racing history, and I admit I'm still learning the history.  There is a lot to learn.  My research online found lots of interesting information from the early 1950's all the way to 1963.  What I'd like to do is get a champions list together and eventually start a Main Event winners list as well.  It will be a work in progress.  Hall Of Fame Night was something Promoter Mike McCann and I talked about from Day 1.  Mike saw a need for this to happen, and he was able to book a date this year to get it started.

The work of Curt and Denny Deatherage in helping us put this together was invaluable.  If we had not had them, this event may not have happened.  It was a challenge getting in contact with some people, but we were fortunate to get in touch with the people or the families involved.  Curt and Denny have been compiling clippings and photos this year, and the three boards they put together were amazing.  They were originally doing two to get us started.  The boards are a nice glimpse into those days gone by.

Hall Of Fame night has started.  I envision it growing and becoming something where we may have a ceremony before the races in a picnic type setting or even the night before, and then inductees would be honored guests on race night to be introduced to the fans.  Organization could have been a bit better this year, but it worked out.  We would have also liked to have had signups from alumni who were on hand so that we could have made mention of them to the crowd.  There's room for improvement, but general consensus was that it went well.

We have other important races on the schedule that honor people who have helped our sport.  The Roger Haudenshild Tribute was held in June.  It was the fifth annual running of this race, and I'd like to think we've made this race bigger and something Roger would have been proud of.  On September 2nd and 3rd, another event important to us is happening.  It's the R. Charles Snyder Salute, honoring the man who was "The Voice of Medford Racing" for many years.  The Race Tower will be dedicated in his honor.  This is something Mike, Uncle Rich and I have been discussing since the start of last season, and it's finally happening!

Racing history matters.  It's where we've been to get us where we are today.  Hall Of Fame Night will be one of the most important events on our schedule going forward.  I want to close by thanking all of the Hall Of Fame Members for their contributions to the sport.  Sadly, some of them have passed on, but it's important that their family knows how much they are loved.  I want to thank all of the alumni for coming out last week to be a part of this event.  I want to thank Bryce Burtner for expertly handling the MC duties.  Also, thank you to all of the staff, the fans and the racers.  We couldn't do it without you.  We're going to make Southern Oregon Speedway something we can all be proud of.  The best is yet to come!