Harrison TWP, MI - The votes are in and have been counted. The Class of 2023 has been selected by a vote of the Past Inductees, Past Board Members, and Board Members.
In the Other Motorsports category there are three individuals being enshrined this year and they are: Will Cronkrite a native of Howell who now resides in North Carolina right in the heart of NASCAR. Will achieved his success over the years as a Winston Cup Crewman, Crew Chief, Car Owner, and Fabricator. Will is also an accomplished author, after having penned a very successful book about his life entitled “I was a NASCAR Redneck” Will travels all around the country to book signings, autograph sessions with other NASCAR legends, and to help promote the sport of auto racing.
Joining Will in the category is the late Lee Elkins, the famed Car Owner of midgets, sprint cars, and champ cars that carried the name of his trucking company, MacNamara Trucking as well the #73. Lee was a very successful owner in USAC with drivers such as Eddie Sachs Jr., Andy Linden, Mike Nazurek, Carl Scarborough, Dick Rathman, and Bill Puterbaugh just to name a few. Eventually, Lee’s son, the late Brian Elkins would assume the seat. Lee is also a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee. He was born in 1912 and passed away in 1979.
William "Wild Bill" Barnhart has been selected as well in that category. Bill is the longtime, now retired President of the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club, the owner of WBVS Photos, retired official of the Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways, as well as another of those individuals who have worked hard to help preserve the history of the Mount Clemens Race Track.
In the Drag Racing Category, the Father and Son duo of Dan & Frank Parker received the nod. Dan started out with a ford powered Fiat before moving into a Bantam bodied, Hemi Powered B/Altered in NHRA’s Competition Eliminator setting a National Record and winning the track championship in 1975 at US 131. In 1976, Dan won four of five divisional races on the way to another National Record and the Division 3 championship for an A/Dragster. In 1979 Son Frank took over as crew chief and with Dan doing the driving chores the team won the Springnationals in Columbus Ohio. Son Frank as car owner and crew chief in Top Alcohol Funny Car has amassed numerous divisional championships and has a win at the US Nationals in Indianapolis. One of Drag Racing’s Crown Jewels.
In the Other Motorsports category, Neal "Red" Crain, who grew up around St. Clair Shores, Michigan and the waters of Lake St. Clair developed a love for the high powered Offshore racing boats. “Red" started his career in the early 70’s with teams based in the surrounding area as Lake St. Clair was the perfect testing ground for these types of high powered offshore racers. Over the years He has driven for over 35 different race teams in boats such as “Maverick”, Cat Can Do, Crain Mutiny, Lil Rhino, and many more. Red has amassed over 49 wins in APBA competition and has won the World Championship twice and the National Championship 6 times.
Joining Neal in the Other Motorsports category is Richard Kalisek from Corunna. No, you won’t see Richard on a snowmobile, or motorcycle, at least not as a racer anyways. You will see Richard honing his craft and testing his skills at the wheel of a Pulling Tractor. Richard began pulling in 1960 as a hobby and found himself pulling at the national level and in 1975 took the national championship in the 5500 Super Stock Class. Richard has competed with the NTPA, NATPA, TTPA, and Wolverine Pullers. Over the years He has collected championships in other divisions and while not pulling full time anymore,
competes in select events.
In the Oval Track Historical Era for drivers that started out at least 50 years ago, the late, Dick Mitchell was one of two selected. Dick had a long career here in Michigan and later down in Florida. Dick scored big wins in Michigan at tracks like Flat Rock and Mount Clemens as well as winning the Pittsburgher 200 at the old Heidelberg Raceway in Pennsylvania. Dick moved to Florida and raced Legends Cars for a while before hanging up his helmet.
Joining Dick is the late Wayne Bennett, driver of the famed # 98 that also propelled future NASCAR Star and local hero, Benny Parsons. While Wayne Bennett is widely known as the guy that influenced Benny and got him started, Wayne himself was a tremendously talented racer with big wins at places like the Motor City Speedway, The Michigan State Fairgrounds, Flat Rock Speedway, and Heidelberg just to name a few. With Championships at both the Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways and the Michigan Modified Stock Racing Association. Wayne moved to Alabama where he opened a garage and hung up his helmet. While he has been away from the racing scene in Michigan for many years, he is fondly remembered as one of the great talents to come from Michigan Racing.
In the Oval Track Modern Era category, Jimmy McCune, winged Sprint Car Ace and multi-time champion of the Must See Racing Series as well as winner of many races all over the Midwest in a variety of different racing vehicles. Jimmy got his start as the third-generation racer in the McCune family and is now tutoring his son to be the fourth-generation racer in the family. Jimmy has raced in Quarter Midgets, Supermodifieds, both winged and non-winged 410 Sprint Cars, USAC Silver Crown, ARCA Supercars, and HOSS Sprints.
Joining Jimmy in the Oval Track Modern Era is the Late Charlie Ryan Jr. from Leslie, Michigan. “Chargin Charlie” as he was known raced all over the state and was well known at the Spartan, Owosso, Galesburg, Springport, and Flat Rock Speedways winning many races at these tracks. Charlie was known as a hard racer and a gentleman. Charlie won races for every car owner he drove for and won championships at Spartan Speedway as well as the Harvest 100 season-ending race at the Spartan Speedway. Sadly, Charlie’s career and life were cut short as he passed away suddenly in May of 2004. One will never know how far “Chargin Charlie” may have gone in his career but he was an established star and well on his way when He left us.
The Board also selected our three Special Award Recipients for this year.
Linda Bloom is the recipient of the Lifetime Dedication Award. Linda was born into a racing family as the Daughter of the late Dick and Pat Beebe so she was naturally involved in racing and is married to Sprint Car Ace, Jeff Bloom who himself is a MMSHOF Inductee as well a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Inductee as well as being a three-time winner of the Little 500. Through all of Jeff's career, Linda has been at his side changing and measuring tires, checking things on the race car, packing lunches, driving the four-wheeler to push the car to the track, and whatever else it took to get things done and many times was Jeff's only crew member. Linda has dedicated her entire life to racing whether that is working as an official, selling MARC Times, scoring, or helping to promote races and race teams.
The Dick Beebe Memorial Award for contributions in a behind-the-scenes roll goes to Nancy Brown. Many will know Nancy as the wife and partner of the late Allan E. Brown. Together Nancy and Allan traveled the world selling the National Speedway Directory and both promoting the book and spectating at the races.
There is not a single state that the two traveled to and didn't go to see racing. Allan's calling was racing and Nancy was right there along with him and in the recent years as Allan's health began to fail, Nancy was the driver and the wheels along with the legs and the support to keep going right up until Allan couldn't go anymore. Nancy is well known in the racing circles from Michigan to Florida, to California, Washington State and beyond. She has worked ever so hard over the years in helping with the MMSHoF and has always been the first smiling face you see when coming in the door for the annual Induction Ceremony.
The recipient of the Mick Schuler Media Award is John Singler. John is a former News Director for MRN Radio and wrote a daily NASCAR Newsletter during his tenure at MRN. John has a long background in journalism and began his career in 1984 and has never looked back. He has been involved in Public Affairs/Relations as well as marketing for many NASCAR Teams and drivers as well as sponsors during his long career in Motor Sports. Singler was born in Adrian, Michigan and now makes his home in Concord, North Carolina where he works as a Regulations Analyst in the Insurance Industry. While not working in the Racing Industry anymore, his roots and experiences go back to working in the Michigan Racing Industry and the relationships made during those years.
The induction ceremony will take place on November 5, 2023 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan at the University Comfort Inn. Details will be released in early August regarding ticket sales. Tickets will be a $45.00 donation per person and will include the induction ceremony, a buffet-style Sunday Dinner, Cash Bar, Silent and 50/50 auctions as well as souvenir sales.
Story - Dave DeHem, MMHoF
Photo - Rand Thompson