Danville Resident Ken Clapp to be Inducted into Infineon Raceway Wall of Fame SONOMA, Calif. (June 3, 2008) -- Ken Clapp was present at then-Sears Point Raceway when the first shovel was put into the ground in August of 1967, but he had no...
Danville Resident Ken Clapp to be Inducted into Infineon Raceway Wall of Fame
SONOMA, Calif. (June 3, 2008) -- Ken Clapp was present at then-Sears Point Raceway when the first shovel was put into the ground in August of 1967, but he had no idea that more than 40 years later, the facility would evolve into one of the premier motor sports and entertainment venues in the country.
Clapp was instrumental in the creation of Sears Point Raceway, and he was also one of the principals that helped bring the then-NASCAR Winston Cup Series to the Sonoma Valley in 1989. It seems only fitting that Clapp, who resides in Danville in the East Bay, be inducted into the Infineon Raceway Wall of Fame.
That honor will come on Friday, June 20, of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend at Infineon Raceway. It is perfect timing as the raceway celebrates its 40th anniversary season in 2008, as well as the 20th anniversary of NASCAR Cup racing in Sonoma.
"I had it in the back of my mind that maybe we'd do an IndyCar event, but I had no idea it would turn into the incredible facility that it is today," said Clapp, 69. "This is my 57th year in motor sports and I don't want to take anything away from anyone else who has been inducted into this Wall of Fame, but this is the most important honor that I have ever been given. I am so close to so many people at the raceway and I am proud of what the track has become."
Sears Point Raceway held its first event in 1968, a Sports Car Club of America Enduro, but Clapp was responsible for bringing the first big-time event to the Sonoma Valley in 1970 with the USAC IndyCar 150. The race featured notable drivers like Mario Andretti, Al and Bobby Unser and race-winner Dan Gurney -- it was the last victory of Gurney's legendary career.
Clapp also helped bring the NASCAR West Series to Sears Point Raceway with a pair of events in 1969, as well as a huge Funny Car drag meet featuring 27 floppers from all over the United States.
Clapp worked directly for the raceway for just a few years, but he left an incredible mark on the Sonoma Valley facility.
"Ken was there at the beginning and at many points along the way as this facility has developed and grown into what it is today," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Infineon Raceway. "He is a true friend, both personally and professionally and very deserving of this recognition."
Clapp has also had several positions within NASCAR, most notably Vice President of Western Operations for nearly 20 years, followed by Vice President of Marketing and Development, until his retirement in 1999, at which time he became a senior consultant -- a responsibility he enjoys to this day. He worked with NASCAR colleague Les Richter to bring the Cup Series to Sonoma in 1989.
"We knew we needed a Cup race in California when Riverside shut down. California was such a great market and it made sense," Clapp said. "I was the kind of guy who kept pushing and saying we needed it and Bill France Jr. listened to me and Les. I'd say without Les Richter, though, it might not have happened. He played a huge role in bringing Cup to Sonoma."
Clapp officially retired from NASCAR in 1999 but still serves in a consultant role on various projects, and he also keeps close ties to Infineon Raceway. In all, the Oakland native has devoted his lifetime to motor sports.
"I really love that track and am impressed at what it has become," Clapp said. "This is a tremendous honor and one that I will never forget."