MARTIN, McELREATH INDUCTED INTO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY SPORTS HALL OF FAME Mark Martin And Jim McElreath, Along With Jimmie Johnson, Sam Hornish Jr. And Arie Luyendyk, Honored During Annual Ceremony FORT WORTH, Texas (April 2, 2008): NASCAR ...
MARTIN, McELREATH INDUCTED INTO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Mark Martin And Jim McElreath, Along With Jimmie Johnson, Sam Hornish Jr. And Arie Luyendyk, Honored During Annual Ceremony
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 2, 2008): NASCAR veteran driver Mark Martin and open-wheel star Jim McElreath were inducted into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies held tonight at The Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway.
In addition, Texas Motor Speedway and Happy Hill Farm Academy honored Jimmie Johnson, the two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and defending Dickies 500 winner; Sam Hornish Jr., a three-time IndyCar Series champion and last season's Bombardier Learjet 550k winner; and Indy-car veteran Arie Luyendyk, who won the first nighttime Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, with special awards during the ceremony.
McElreath and Martin join previous inductees A.J. Foyt (2003), Johnny Rutherford (2003), Terry Labonte (2004), Lee Shepherd (2004), Kenny Bernstein (2005), Jim Hall (2005) and Eddie Hill (2006) into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
"I first want to thank my wife Shirley for sticking by me for the last 56 years," McElreath said. "It's been an amazing ride. I could not have done any of this without her support. To think how I started in racing and where I wound up is still shocking to me. I had the help and support of a lot of great people through the years that allowed me to have success as a race car driver. I'm humbled to be standing here in front of you tonight and it means so much to me to be inducted into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame with legends like A.J. Foyt and Johnny Rutherford."
McElreath, a native of Arlington, Texas, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2002. McElreath began his rise in racing as a 17-year-old youngster running modified stock cars at the famed Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite.
His open-wheel career began in 1961 in USAC, where he made 170 career starts. McElreath competed in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1962, finishing sixth. He would go on to record three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 15 starts in the Indianapolis 500. Through his illustrious career, McElreath competed in over 180 open-wheel events posting five victories, 48 top-five finishes and 22 podium finishes along with two poles. The 80-year-old also made four starts in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
McElreath competed in the 1964 Daytona 500 alongside open-wheel stars Johnny Rutherford, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones. Upon retiring from racing in 1983, McElreath and his wife, Shirley, reside in Arlington, where he works on restoring vintage open- wheel race cars and land development projects.
Martin, a native of Batesville, Ark., is in the midst of his 26th season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and will once again compete on a part-time basis in 2008. Martin, who earlier this season made his 700th career start, has been a four-time series runner-up (1990, '94, '98, 2002) and has earned 35 victories and 41 poles. Martin's tie to Texas is the large amount of success he has enjoyed at Texas Motor Speedway, including becoming the first driver to win a Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series race at "The Great American Speedway!"
He won the inaugural Coca-Cola 300 Nationwide Series race in 1997 and followed that up with his first Sprint Cup win at TMS, capturing the Texas 500 in 1998.
In 14 Sprint Cup Series starts, Martin has posted one victory, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes. In the Nationwide Series, he won three of the first four races held at Texas Motor Speedway (1997, '99, 2000) and has four top-five finishes in eight career starts.
The Bruton Smith Legends Award, a lifetime achievement award given to a legendary figure in motorsports, was presented to Luyendyk. Luyendyk is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner (1990, '97) and three-time Indy 500 pole winner that is equally well known in Texas for the circumstances surrounding his victory in the inaugural IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997.
"It means a lot to me to be standing here tonight receiving this honor," Luyendyk said. "Eddie Gossage and everyone at Texas Motor Speedway have been so kind to me over the years. I definitely have a strong bond with this speedway after getting the first Indy Car win here in 1997 in the most unusual way. While it's hard for me to think of myself as a legend in the sport, I'm honored to be here tonight to accept this award."
Luyendyk's name will be forever etched in the TMS history books for his famous Victory Lane skirmish with A.J. Foyt in the inaugural nighttime IndyCar Series race at "The Great American Speedway!" Billy Boat, Foyt's driver, was celebrating the apparent win in Victory Lane when Luyendyk came in to protest the official results and claim he was the winner. Foyt took offense to the visit by Luyendyk and the two tangled in Victory Lane.
USAC officials investigated the protest and made the announcement the following day that Boat was being stripped of the win and declared Luyendyk the winner due to malfunctioning timing and scoring equipment.
In his career, Luyendyk made 170 starts in Indy car competition, posting seven victories, 35 top-five and 81 top-10 finishes.
Luyendyk, now retired from racing, spends his days working with son Arie Luyendyk Jr. on his open wheel career aspirations.
Johnson was honored as the Texas Motor Speedway Racer of the Year. His victory in last fall's Dickies 500 played a pivotal role in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Johnson left Texas Motor Speedway as the point leader and would go on to capture his second consecutive Sprint Cup Series championship.
Hornish Jr., now a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie after an illustrious IndyCar Series career, was recognized with the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award. Hornish Jr.'s charitable contributions to Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter have not gone unnoticed. For the past three years, Hornish Jr. has hosted the Sam Hornish Jr. Celebrity Bowling Tournament prior to the Bombardier Learjet 550k race weekend.
Last year's event raised $125,000 to bring the three-year total to $308,500. Hornish Jr. became the first three-time IndyCar Series winner at Texas Motor Speedway with his dominating victory in last June's Bombardier Learjet 550k. Hornish Jr., the three-time IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner, is beginning a new chapter in his racing career this season as he made the transition over to stock cars. Hornish Jr., driving for Penske Racing, is competing for Rookie of the Year honors this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Tonight's ceremony also featured the appearance by two surprise guests in attendance. NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series driver Kyle Busch joined Norm Miller, chairman of the board of Interstate Batteries, on stage for a Q&A session with emcee Matt Yocum.
"It's an honor to be here tonight with Norm Miller from Interstate Batteries who sponsors the TMS Racer of the Year Award," Busch said. "This event is important to me because it supports a charity like Happy Hill Farm that is truly making a difference in the lives of young people. That's the goal of my charity foundation as well and I'm glad I was able to be here tonight to show my support of the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame."
Bobby Allison, a NASCAR legend, was also in attendance tonight to show support for his long-time friend McElreath being inducted into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
The Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame ceremony benefits Happy Hill Farm Academy, located just south of Granbury, Texas. The 500-acre working farm provides specialized services for children who need another start in life. Happy Hill Farm Academy serves children with a broad range of behavioral and academic issues sometimes a result of abuse and neglect. The environment provided at Happy Hill Farm Academy allows residents to flourish in a non-traditional setting.