USAC Names 2023 Hall of Fame Class

Tracy Hines in the Wilke-owned No. 11 Midget - Dave Gansert photo

The United States Auto Club (USAC) will celebrate its 2023 Hall of Fame class on Friday afternoon, September 29th during the Driven2SaveLives BC39 weekend at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There’s a lot to celebrate in this group of six inductees, made up of drivers, technical innovators, multi-faceted members of USAC and team owners.

The Driven2SaveLives celebration of the late Bryan Clauson’s excellence behind the wheel of USAC’s open wheel cars and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES land-based projectiles is the right place to acknowledge the greatness of others in the USAC fold. This new Hall of Fame class includes champion driver Bobby East, safety innovator Ted Halibrand, champion driver Tracy Hines, television producer Terry Lingner, Jack-of-all-Trades vice president/general manager/editor/media/general manager Bill Marvel and team owners The Wilke Family.

Bobby East becomes the fourth second-generation USAC Hall of Fame inductee as the late driver joins his dad Bob, as well as Tony and Gary Bettenhausen, Duane and Pancho Carter, along with Doug and Jimmy Caruthers in the Hall. Versatile behind the wheel, Bobby East succeeded in USAC, ARCA and NASCAR, a member of Ford’s driver development program in the latter two series.

His love for open wheel motorsports allowed East to capture 22 USAC National Midget feature victories, most of which came in Steve Lewis’ famed “Nine Cars”, built by his father. His stellar wins were in feature races like the Hut 100, the Belleville Nationals, the Turkey Night Grand Prix, the Night Before the 500 and the Copper World Classic. He earned 11 USAC Silver Crown wins and 15 USAC National Sprint Car victories. Bobby East is one of only nine drivers in USAC’s long history to win on dirt and pavement tracks in all three USAC National divisions. He passed in July of 2022 after being stabbed in Westminster, CA.

Ted Halibrand is widely known as the designer of magnesium wheels and for his work in designing disc brakes. Known far and wide in the industry, Halibrand focused on safety aspects throughout the sport. As Los Angeles Times’ legendary sportswriter Shav Glick aptly wrote, “Thanks to Halibrand, drivers can get old.” Born in New Jersey Halibrand migrated to California and was a long-time chairman of USAC’s safety committee. In this position he introduced regulations for car design and race track construction that remain viable today. Halibrand’s safety innovations were widely adopted around the world and his ideas were ultimately illustrated in a series of Halibrand Engineering manuals.

When Pat Clancy’s six-wheel entry arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1948, it was equipped with Halibrand magnesium wheels. In 1951 Lee Willard won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing using Halibrand mag wheels. His disc brakes outfitted Bill Vukovich’s 1953 winner. Halibrand’s quick-change rear end assemblies, his steering gears and suspension components were on every Indianapolis 500 winner from 1951 until 1965. As the rear-engine revolution changed major open wheel racing, Halibrand pivoted to building complete chassis that he named Shrike.

Tracy Hines in the Wilke-owned No. 11 Midget – Dave Gansert photo

Anyone that’s followed recent USAC racing knows the name and exploits of Tracy Hines, the New Castle, IN native whose family has long been involved in the sport. Hines’ father Jim and brother, Ted, were both successful midget racing champions before Tracy entered the field. Tracy Hines has been a star in USAC’s three national divisions for nearly a quarter-century. In 1996 he became nationally known for the wrong reason, a fiery accident. In his first race back from injury, Hines scored his first career USAC National Midget victory at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway, which helped him earn the series’ Most Improved Driver award that year.

Tracy Hines scored his first USAC title in 2000 in Silver Crown and added a National Sprint title two years later. After announcing his retirement midway through the 2015 season, he finished the year by completing the Triple Crown as National Midget champ. In all, Tracy Hines owns 91 USAC National victories across all three divisions, 47 of which came in Sprint Cars, 35 in Midgets and nine in the Silver Crown discipline. He won at least one USAC National feature in 19 straight seasons between 1996 and 2014.

Terry Lingner is the creative force behind USAC’s national revival during the 1980s and 1990s, innovating USAC’s Thursday and Saturday Night Thunder programs on ESPN. Those “Thunder” shows enticed multiple generations of race fans to tune in and turned grassroots racers into household names. He introduced drivers like Rich Vogler, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kenny Irwin Jr., Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and so many others to the spectating public by placing them in front of national audiences.

An Indianapolis native, Lingner was ESPN’s second hired employee in their production department, joining the now-giant broadcaster in 1980. That came after a stint as associate producer for ABC Sports in the late 1970s, working alongside legendary Jim McKay. Lingner is responsible for many ESPN racing programs of the 1980s, including Speedweek and Speedworld; he won numerous Emmy and Cable Ace awards for his work. In 1989, Lingner formed his own Lingner Group Productions, which continued to produce USAC’s Thunder series until the final, 2002 episode. Lingner received USAC’s President’s Award from Dick King in 1989; in 1993 he was instrumental in the creation of the memorable Fast Master Championship, held at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

There’s nobody in USAC racing that’s worn more hats than Bill Marvel. A charter member of USAC, Marvel was present during the first event at Fort Wayne, IN’s Memorial Coliseum in 1956, presenting winner Gene Hartley with a Hoosier Auto Racing Fans jacket – he was president of that group at the time. Marvel served as USAC corporate advisor from 1978 through 1982 and was vice president/corporate affairs from 1983 to 1997. He then served as executive director of the USAC Benevolent Foundation. In 1997, Bill Marvel received the Ross Hadley achievement Award; in 2014 he was the recipient of USAC’s Roger McCluskey Award.

Marvel served as the news media liaison officer for Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1953 to 1956, then as general manager and director of public relations at Pocono Raceway, Texas World Speedway, Trenton Speedway, the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Winchester Speedway. He was the editor and publisher of Charger Auto Racing News and he was a reporter for WIBC and a color commentator for WISH-TV in Indianapolis, working on their Indianapolis 500 broadcasts. Marvel also had his hand in the film business, as a consultant for the 1969 movie, “Winning,” introducing actor Paul Newman to the sport, and he organized the first USAC indoor dirt midget race at Houston Astrodome.

When USAC was formed in 1956, the Wilke family of Wisconsin was there from the start, spanning four generations in the sport that continues in 2023. Family patriarch Bob Wilke fielded entries in USAC’s National Championship Sprint, Midget and Road Racing divisions, taking Leader Card Racers to six USAC National entrant titles in 1959-60-62-64-67 and 1968. The family has amassed a total of 136 USAC National feature wins, fifth all-time. Among the Wilke family victories are three Indianapolis 500 wins with Rodger Ward in 1959 and 1962, as well as Bobby Unser’s 1968 victory.

Bob Wilke’s son Ralph was no less prolific as a car owner, winning 16 USAC National Midget features, plus the USAC Dirt Car Championships, with George Snider in 1971 and in 1979 with Bobby Oliver. Ralph’s USAC Midgets were driven by the era’s greatest, including Don Branson, Chuck Weyant, Rodger Ward, Parnelli Jones, Bobby Marshman, Bob Tattersall, Bob Wente and Johnny White, all winners for Ralph Wilke’s teams. Mike Mosley scored victories for the team’s INDYCAR operation in the 1970s.

Ralph’s sons, Mark and Greg, became USAC car owners in the 1980s, winning in Silver Crown competition with Rich Vogler and Stevie Reeves. As Wilke racers, USAC National Midget championships went to drivers like Rich Vogler, Kevin Olson, Tracy Hines and Jerry Coons Jr. during the period of 1984, 1987, 2005 and 2007. A fourth generation, Greg’s son Chris joined the team as a mechanic and fabricator in the current century. Chris Wilke also served as the promoter of Angels Park Speedway, while Greg’s daughter Nikki Klepper (Wilke) has worked in USAC’s front office for several years, in charge of licensing. Recently, she has taken on the role as head of USAC’s Benevolent Foundation – USAC RAceAid.

This 2023 Hall of Fame class in only the tenth in USAC history. There were no inductees during the COVID-19 pandemic:

USAC HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES:

2012: J.C. Agajanian, Mario Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen, Tom Binford, Jimmy Bryan, Duane Carter, A.J. Foyt, Tony Hulman, Parnelli Jones, Mel Kenyon, Roger McCluskey & Rich Vogler

2013: Earl Baltes, Henry Banks, Tony Bettenhausen, Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, Jack Hewitt, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, A.J. Watson, Don White & Bob Wilke

2014: Rollie Beale, George Bignotti, Don Branson, Larry Dickson, Gus Hoffman, Jud Larson, Norm Nelson, Eddie Sachs, Don Smith, Bob Stroud, Rodger Ward & Bob Wente

2015: Clint Brawner, Jimmy Caruthers, Butch Hartman, Lindsey Hopkins, Jim Hurtubise, Don Kenyon, Sheldon Kinser, Fred Lorenzen, Roger Penske, Larry Rice, Shorty Templeman & Sleepy Tripp

2016: Steve Butler, Russ Clendenen, Jimmy Davies, Willie Davis, Bob Higman, Tommy Hinnershitz, Dick King, Rick Mears, Pat O’Connor, Kevin Olson, Tony Stewart & Bob Tattersall

2017: Donald Davidson, Frankie DelRoy, Bob East, Chuck Gurney, Gene Hartley, Steve Lewis, Howard Linne, Lloyd Ruby, Ken Schrader, Robbie Stanley, Steve Stapp & Johnny Thomson

2018: Mike Devin, Tony Elliott, Paul Goldsmith, Jason Leffler, Bill Lipkey, Troy Ruttman, Bob/Gene Shannon & Jimmy Sills

2019: Bryan Clauson, Johnny Capels, Dick Jordan & Dave Steele

2020: None

2021: None

2022: Doug Caruthers, Jay Drake, Galen Fox, Jeff Gordon, Dan Gurney, Ray Nichels, Johnny Vance & Joe Shaheen

2023: Bobby East, Ted Halibrand, Tracy Hines, Terry Lingner, Bill Marvel & The Wilke Family

By Anne Proffit

About Anne Proffit 1270 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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