Former Cal Star Les Richter to Be Inducted into Racing Hall of Fame
July 7, 2009
BERKELEY - Former California football All-American Les Richter, who co-founded the International Race of Champions and became a vice president of NASCAR, will be inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America when the organization stages its annual ceremony Aug. 12 at the Fillmore Theater in Detroit.
Joining Richter in the Class of 2009 are Kenny Bernstein, David Hobbs, Scott Parker, Al Unser Jr., H.A. 'Humpy' Wheeler and Joe Weatherly.
'Innovation and competitive spirit are hallmarks of the class of 2009,' said Hall of Fame president Ron Watson. 'These men have exemplified leadership and teamwork both on the track and in the front office.'
A member of both the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, Richter was a two-time All-American during his 1949-51 career with the Golden Bears. He played in a pair of Rose Bowls and also served as valedictorian of his graduating class. Richter went on to a nine-year NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams, where he was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.
After retiring from football, Richter became one of the co-owners of Riverside International Raceway and helped turn that track into one of the finest in the world. He also co-founded the International Race of Champions, became a vice president of NASCAR and played a dominant role in the development of California Speedway.
Bernstein became the King of Speed in 1992 when he was the first NHRA driver to break the 300 MPH barrier. He is a four-time NHRA Funny Car champion and an IHRA World Funny Car titlist. After changing classes to Top Fuel, Bernstein garnered two additional NHRA driving crowns, becoming the first to win championships in both nitro categories. He is still actively involved in drag racing as an owner.
Hobbs is currently a television broadcaster on Speed Channel whose sports car driving career spanned three decades. While accumulating some 40 major victories at all levels of motorsports, he captured the 1971 U.S. Formula 5000 championship and the 1983 SCCA Trans Am title.
Parker dominated the nation's flat dirt tracks on his Harley Davidson, establishing two all-time records with 94 national event wins and nine Grand National championships at the time of his retirement in 2002. Parker was named American Motorcyclist Association Pro Athlete of the Year three times during his 22-year career.
Unser, known in racing circles as 'Little Al,' visited Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500 twice and was also a two-time season series winner in CART and the International Race of Champions. He will join his father, Al Unser, and his uncle, Bobby Unser, in the Hall of Fame.
Wheeler is known as a consummate promoter. He was the innovative president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., for nearly three decades. He was instrumental in making it one of the premiere racing facilities in the world, being the first to offer extensive VIP suites and condominiums.
Weatherly began his racing career and won three championships on motorcycles before switching to NASCAR, winning the 1953 Modified championship. Then, he went on to win the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championship in 1962 and 1963. He ranks 19th in all-time Cup wins with 24. He died in a 1964 accident at Riverside Raceway in California.
Tickets for the induction ceremony can be purchased by calling 248-349-RACE (7223).
The Motorsports Museum & Hall of Fame is operated by the nonprofit Motorsports Museum and Hall of Fame of America Foundation Inc. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a museum housing more than 40 racing and high performance vehicles, and showcasing the stories of 175 Hall of Famers known as the Heroes of Horsepower. The collection features racers from the world of Indy cars, stock cars, Can Am, TransAm, sprint cars, powerboats, truck racing, drag racing, motorcycles, air racing and snowmobiles. Among the highlights are Art Arfons' jet car and stock cars driven by Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott.