Hall Of Fame September 1
2015 Hall of Fame Inductees Announced for Calistoga Speedway
by: Troy Hennig Contributing: Tom Motter and Gary Thomas
ROSEVILLE, CA – (April 15, 2015)…The Louie Vermeil Classic sprint car and midget race at the historic half-mile Calistoga Speedway has always been about showcasing the present but remembering the past. While many of the auto racing fans plan there Labor Day weekend around visiting the picturesque Napa Valley and enjoying some traditional dirt track racing, on Friday night, September 4th, the 4th Annual Hall of Fame Induction will kick things off with an evening dedicated to the introduction of seven new members into the Calistoga Speedway Hall of Fame.
On behalf of HMC-Promotions it is with great pleasure that we now reveal the seven newest members of the Calistoga Hall of Fame; Gary Patterson, Jimmy Sills, Norm Rapp, Art Shanoin, Bob Neilson, Sam and Fred Bailey.
The Preacher Gary Patterson was a certified Calistoga legend. He ranks seventh on the all-time Calistoga Speedway win list with 10 victories to his credit. His first triumph at the famed half-mile came while driving for Don Snow on July 4, 1971. His greatest success at the track however, came aboard the well know Ross 56 Sprinter, in which he drove to seven wins throughout the years. Patterson once amazingly held the track record for 10-seasons during a span from 1975-1985. No matter how far he traveled GP always considered Calistoga to be his favorite track. Patterson unfortunately paid the ultimate price at Calistoga when he lost his life in an accident on Memorial Day weekend in 1983.
Jimmy Sills was a three-time United States Auto Club Silver Crown champion and a winner of five sprint car main events at the Calistoga Speedway. His first came in 1983 aboard the famed Bailey Bros #01 machine. Sills also won the Calistoga Classic in 1986 for car owner Eddie Chinnen and captured the ’87 Tribute to Gary Patterson aboard the Owen & Smith No. 14. He then claimed another Tribute to GP victory in 1990 driving the familiar Danell & Dehardt No. 5 mount and earned his final Calistoga win in 1995 driving the Berry Bros No. 7 during a NARC Speedweek event.
Norm Rapp scored over 40 wins as a midget and sprint car driver over his 19-year career, but he is probably recognized more as the man who supplied parts, tires and fuel since for race cars since 1953. In fact, to this day, he still answers the business phone the same way he always has, “Zoom-Zoom, Norm Rapp Racing Equipment.” Norm’s love of auto racing comes from his father Gene, who was a fixture at the local tracks. While Rapp had a solid driving career, he found his true calling as a parts dealer. Norm Rapp Racing Equipment has been at its present location since 1963. Nestled in the heart of San Francisco the building has an old school feel. Sprint car driver Andy Forsberg said, “Walking through Norm’s shop is like going back in time. He has stuff from the 70’s still in the original packaging.” Rapp is one of the few racing legends who have supported local racing as a driver and businessman.
In sprint car racing there are cars that you can associate fond memories with just by the way they look. The famous Bailey Bros. #01 is one of those cars. Fred and Sam Bailey have always been associated with their sprint cars trademark yellow frame, black paint and yellow vinyl numbers. The car has 10 career main event wins at Calistoga, placing the brothers at fifth on the all-times wins list as owners. Drivers like Jimmy Sills, current inductee, Lealand McSpadden, and LeRoy Van Connet, have all driven the famed Bailey Bros. #01. In fact, their love for sprint car racing and distaste for broken engines encouraged the brothers into starting their racing engine–building business, which attracts buyers from all over the world. Bailey Brothers Performance is located alongside Highway 29 in what is now the city’s industrial district of American Canyon. Fred and Sam Bailey said it’s their perfectionism that has them beginning their fourth decade in business.
Art Shanoian, one of the pioneers in post-WWII sprint car racing, brought out his first sprint car (the famous, pre-war, many-time-rebuilt), Atlas Chrome Special during A.R.A.’s (American Racing Association) 1946 racing season. From 1946 through the 1969 season, Art provided an excellently groomed sprinter for the likes of Northern California favorites Eli Vukovich, Leroy VanConnett, Johnny Baldwin, Mike McGreevey and Bob Burbridge. In 1963, the Shanoian sprinter won N.A.R.C.’s (Northern Auto Racing Club) Car-Owner Championship. In 1970 Art switched from sprint racing to midget racing. Between 1970 and 1993, Art’s cars had won over 100 midget main-events running with BCRA, USRC, USAC, VMRA and WMRA. In 1973, with Chuck Gurney driving the Shanoian midget, Art won the BCRA midget owner Championship. The list of midget drivers running Shanoian cars is long indeed, and includes a number of relatives: Ken Nichols (son-in-law), Jimmy Screeton (grandson), and Chad Nichols (grandson). Even today, it’s possible to see Art’s sons, Doug Shanoian, driving the vintage, Shanoian Offy at Vintage Exhibition races held in Northern California.
Ukiah’s Bob Neilson was a well-known and respected sprint car owner. On May 24, 1981, Neilson’s #2 sprint car won for the first time at Calistoga Speedway. The driver was Hank Butcher. Throughout his career as an owner, Neilson’s car won a total of eight main events at Calistoga Speedway ranking him tied for tenth place on the all-time owner wins list. In 1983 he won the Northern Auto Racing Club owner champion with LeRoy Van Conett at the helm. In 1984, Neilson teamed back up with the legendary Van Conett to win another NARC owners championship. For Van Conett, it was his 8th and final driving championship with NARC. Neilson and Van Conett won seven main events in 1984. Neilson’s final win as a car owner at Calistoga took place on August 8, 1987.
The 4th Annual Hall of Fame Induction will take place inside the Tubbs Building located at the Calistoga Speedway. Doors will open at 5 PM and dinner is scheduled to be served at 6:30 PM. Veteran television auto racing reporter Bobby Gerould will once again be the master of ceremonies. Dinner will include Tri-Tip, salad, potatoes, veggies, and pasta along with dessert. Refreshments will include Wine, Beer, Water, Lemonade or Coffee. Price for this night is $40.00 per person. Tickets can be purchased through HMC-Promotions by calling (916) 773-7225 Monday thru Friday 9 AM to 5 PM or Saturday 9 AM to 4 PM. No dinner tickets sold at the door.
The 8th Annual Louie Vermeil Classic is scheduled to take place September 5th and 6th at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds in Calistoga. Front gate will open up at 5 pm with racing scheduled to start at 6:30 PM each night. Tickets for the Louie Vermeil Classic can be purchased by calling 916-773-7223. The traditional racing format will feature both non-wing sprint cars and midgets with entrants from all over the United States.