CMHF to induct Carter, Magill, Maxwell, McDonald and Tracy

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Scott Maxwell and Paul Tracy were fierce rivals as rookies, but they’re sharing the checkered flag as both are inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
Now 50 and 45 respectively, they’re to be honored along with road racer Diana Carter and builders John Magill and Norris McDonald, Sept. 27 in the hall’s 20th annual induction ceremonies, presented by Canadian Tire Corporation.

Having accelerated away from more formal black-tie ceremonies, the fan-friendly Hall of Fame celebration is returning to the Glen Gould Studio in downtown Toronto for a second year.
“It is especially ironic to be inducted with Paul, as we have now come full circle from our early Formula Ford days in the 1980’s, where we cut our teeth as youngsters and established our reputations going head to head against one another” said Maxwell,” a class winner in the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans and veteran of the American Le Mans and NASCAR Rolex Grand-Am series who continues racing while operating a highly popular motorsport enthusiasts’ store in downtown Toronto.
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2014 CMHF Celebration of Speed in pictures

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Easter Monday couldn’t have provided better weather for the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame’s annual charity track day at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. I was excited to join Canadian racing legends Bill Brack and Ludwig Heimrath on track, representing Wheels at the event at the helm of a stunning new Jaguar F-Type V8S roadster. 300 excited guests queued up to buy tickets to go for a ride in supercars like an Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo, along with Corvettes, a fleet of Scion FR-S and even an MG TC that once belonged to Hamilton driver Tommy Hoan, who began racing the tiny car in 1950. From 9 am until the end of the day, there was a line of Jaguar fans waiting for a fast tour of the historic circuit. 34 drivers came out to take part in the lapping day with a surprisingly high number of first time drivers. Gary Grant from the Toronto Star Wheels.

For more images, visit Vic Henderson.

Watch the 2013 Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductions

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Earlier this fall in a sold-out ceremony at the Glen Gould theatre, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inducted six new members. Wheels editor Norris McDonald was the emcee of the event, which was presented for the first time by new partner Canadian Tire. Six Canadians, including racer and administrator Bob Armstrong, sprint car racer and team manager Jimmy Carr, track owners Sharon and John Fletcher and racing superstar Ron Fellows were inducted. Formula 1 and Indycar legend Mario Andretti was inducted into the International category.

If you were not fortunate enough to be on hand for the emotional evening, you can now watch the entire ceremony below.

Bob Armstrong

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Inducted 2012

A true competitor and a gentleman in the world of Canadian road racing, the late Bob Armstrong excelled in the sport in a wide variety of classes, from Formula Fords through to V8-powered Triumph TR8 and later raced a turbocharged Nissan.

While his credentials on the track are exemplary, it was his work behind the scenes where Armstrong made his biggest influence on the sport.

Armstrong’s formative years were ones of Formula One racing on the European circuits of the 1960s witnessing greats such as Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, and Jim Clark. Motorcycle racing and sports endurance racing also influenced the young Armstrong.

His vocation was an air traffic controller, but his passion was at the race track. In 1969 he became a track marshal at Mosport and four years later was able to start his racing career with a Toyota-supported Corona in the Canadian Showroom Stock Championship, placing a respectable third in his rookie year.

In 1974 he bought and climbed into a Merlyn Formula Ford, and took well to the open-wheeled class, taking nine top-fives in his first year of competition. He then raced a Lola T-340 at this time while winning the Formula Ford championship in 1976. For the next two years he raced with his Crossle, a car that helped him with numerous victories and lap records, including a posting at Mosport that stood in the class for the next 20 years.

Armstrong returned to a full-bodied car in 1980 with a sponsored ride driving a Sunoco CAM2 Motor Oil TR8, a team that included such racing luminaries as Scott Goodyear, John Buffum, and Don Prudhomme. There were some teething issues with the Triumph, but in true Armstrong style he persevered and placed fourth in the CASC National Championships.

Following that there was some racing in the Canadian Molyslip Enduro Series, a ride in the IMSA GT series, and more Formula Ford racing.

In 1985 Armstrong was appointed Chief Steward for the Canadian Professional F2000 Series working with the CASC and ASN Canada FIA. He was also the head of the Rothmans Porsche Cup where he firmly but fairly dealt with the on and off-track temperaments of racers such as Bill Adam, Paul Tracy, and Ron Fellows.

In 1990 Armstrong took on an important role as Director of Track Safety for Canada’s involvement in Formula One activities, maintaining track safety, fire requirements and emergency services. In 1997 he was elected a Director and Vice-President of the Automobile Club de I’lle Notre-Dame, the FIA-delegated organizing club of the Canadian Grand Prix, where he applied his track coordination and services skills to not only the F1 races but to the popular NASCAR races which came to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from 2008 through 2012.
Armstrong continued to wear his racing helmet while working behind the scenes, competing in the World Challenge Endurance Series, the Firestone Firehawk Series and the Honda Michelin Series in the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning races and a few championships along the way. He continued to race a full schedule into 2005 with his Armstrong Motorsports Nissan, dominating the Touring GT class.

Along with his on-track activities, Armstrong was a director of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, and as with everything else he did in life, rolled up his sleeves and performed his duties on many projects, including working tirelessly with the CMHF’s Induction process and new members.

Among the many tributes for Armstrong after his passing in April of this year, ASN-FIA Canada Vice-President summed this man’s contributions best:

“If there is a Royal Family of Canadian Racing, it is certainly the Armstrongs. On any given weekend it was not unusual to find Bob the father, Cindy the mother, and Jennifer the daughter at a race event in any number of roles from track preparation, race driving, officiating, training, or whatever needed to be done. To know Bob was to respect his wealth of experience, knowledge, and willingness and ability to share with others. More importantly, to know him was to like him.

“Motorsport in Canada is better because Bob was here.”

Canadian auto racing legend, CMHF Inductee, Wallie Branston dies

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One of Canadian motorsport’s pioneer racers who went on to become a famous race official and continued throughout his life to be an all-’round booster of the sport, Wallie Branston, has died at age 90.

An energetic and vigorous man until just a few years ago, Branston had been in ill health recently and that old heart — the heart of a lion — gave out on him Thursday morning.

I have had few heroes in my time but Wallie was one of them. I’ll tell you why: he was national sales manager for Subaru Canada when he was 79. He’d just overseen an expansion of the company’s national dealer network when he was asked to retire. As someone who’s working well past “normal” retirement age, I can tell you that Wallie was my kinda guy.

He lived, ate and breathed automobiles and he did everything – everything – in racing. His amazing contributions were recognized in 1997 when he was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

He was one of a half-dozen original stock car racers in the Toronto area. He was one of the first stock car racers in Canada to have major sponsorship. He raced on both dirt, pavement, road courses and ovals. He was a performer in an automobile thrill show that scared the living daylights out of the people watching. He raced sports cars and was a rally driver. When Mosport opened in 1961, Branston was the flagman/starter and he did that job for 15 years.

You can’t have a more complete automotive career than that.
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Mario Andretti

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Inducted 2012

He could drive the wheels off anything he raced. He was adept and comfortable in race cars with and without fenders. He won the Formula One Grand Prix Championship. He won the Daytona 500. He won the Indianapolis 500.

And even though his racing career stretched over five decades since coming to North America from his native Italy, Mario Andretti still has the passion and competitive nature to suit up and get into a race car.

And he would make a good showing of himself as well.

After the Andretti family settled into its Nazareth, Pennsylvania home in 1955, Mario and his twin brother Aldo already had racing on their minds after witnessing the Italian Grand Prix in Monza before gathering up and heading to America. Outside of Nazareth was a half-mile dirt oval, and the brothers built and raced a 1948 Hudson Hornet starting in 1959.

By 1964 the future superstar was racing on the USAC Sprint Car circuit as well as driving a Midget in the Eastern States. In fact, his first visit to Canada to race was during a USAC Midget race held on the CNE racetrack in Toronto.

It was also in 1965 that Andretti won his first Indy Car race, and he placed third in the Indy 500 that year, along with the championship, the youngest driver (he was 25) to do so. The next year, in 1966, he once again dominated the Champ Car Trail, winning eight races and his second straight championship.

For 1967, Andretti had a stellar year, winning NASCAR’s Daytona 500, winning his first of three 12 Hours of Sebring, and finishing second in the Champ cars. He was able to get into a Formula One car the next year, qualifying on the pole in his first race, the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, but was forced out with mechanical problems.

He would return to the sport’s highest echelon in the 1970s, and in a big way.

Andretti returned to Indy Car racing and in 1969 won the 500, leading 116 laps at the Brickyard. He won nine events that year, going on to win his third Indy Car title.

Andretti’s success continued in the early 1970s. He won at Sebring in 1970, and driving for Ferrari, won his first GP race at South Africa in 1971. Driving a Ferrari 312P, he won the Six Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the BAOC 1000 KM at Brands Hatch, and the Watkins Glen Six Hours, all in 1972.

At this time he continued where he started, on dirt tracks, winning USAC’s National Dirt Track Championship, along with winning seven Formula 5000 races in 1974 and 1975.

Working with Colin Chapman and Lotus, Andretti returned to F1 racing in 1976, winning races around the globe, and his efforts were culminated in 1978 when he won the World Championship, the first driver in history to win both the Formula One and Indy Car championships.

Andretti continued to race F1 in the 1980s, but success eluded him, and he returned to Indy Car racing, winning this championship once again in 1984. Throughout the decade he was a dominate racer in the series, and after winning his 51st Indy Car race in 1988, concentrated on the historic first father-son team with son Michael as they raced together.

In 1993 Andretti set another benchmark, winning his 52nd Indy Car victory, and making him the first driver to win Indy Car races in four decades and the first to win races in five decades.

In 1994 Andretti decided it would be his last year of active competition, and his Arrivederci, Mario Tour was a season-long campaign that was well received by his legions of fans and fellow racers.

Today Andretti continues to be in the mainstream of motorsport, working with several companies and associations as a spokesperson and associate. He continues to be totally involved in the sport while maintaining other interests such waterskiing, flying his ultra light, and his winery.

And today we honor Mario Andretti into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame, truly one of the sport’s greatest.

Ron Fellows

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Inducted 2012

Few Canadians have raced in NASCAR’s top division. Few Canadians have raced in the iconic Le Mans 24-hours. And even fewer Canadian racers have cars named after them.

But Ron Fellows has accomplished all of the above, and a whole bunch more. From his Windsor home where he started in karting and then advanced to Formula Ford and the Players Challenge Series, Fellows became a dominant name in SCCA Trans-Am racing in the late 1980s, along with competing in the IMSA GT series. He also drove in the Cadillac LMP program of the early 2000s.

Less than 10 years later, he became involved with Corvette’s racing program, and was a driver of the team that took the racing world by storm in IMSA, ALMS, and Le Mans racing with the GTS CR-5 and CR-6 Corvettes, highlighted with a class win twice at Le Mans, a class win at Daytona, and a class win at Sebring.

Fellows shifted camps so to speak during this time, racing in NASCAR’s Cup, Nationwide, and Truck series from 2002 to the present, where he has won two truck races and four Nationwide events, including the NAPA 200 on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal in 2008, perhaps his most memorable and satisfying accomplishment in the sport.

Ron Fellows has had a racing career as one of North America’s most versatile and successful road racers in several racing venues. As a patron of Canadian motorsport, he has quietly counseled and mentored young racers with his Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship, and of late, has helped in the rejuvenation of one of Canada’s most iconic road racing tracks, the former Mosport Park, now known as Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

And the car named after him? The Ron Fellows edition Corvette Z06 of 2008, compete with a signature trim package. This Corvette was the first signed special edition in the history of the US sports car, and with only 399 samples produced is a fitting tribute to one of Canada’s top racing ambassadors.

Tom Walters

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Inducted 2012

This competitor has been racing on Southern Ontario’s short tracks for over 40 years. His approach to oval track racing has so far carried him to a total of 30 division championships, and he continues building on this legacy in 2013.

Tom Walters did not get into racing through the normal channels of family or friends. After a neighbor invited Walters to watch him race at Sunset Speedway in 1970, the neighbor told Walters he’d had enough after three straight rain-outs and his race car was for sale.

Walters bought the car, won a race that season, and found out he enjoyed the sport, competing up to three times a week over the next several years on the bullrings of Sunset, Wasaga Beach, and Pinecrest.

During this time Walters developed friendships and track rivalries while competing with racers such as Tom Milligan, Nate Gaiter, and Tom Waite. In 1979 he hit the track with his first new car, a Camaro Late Model, built by noted car-builder Jim Ward.

By 1990 Walters had certainly found his way around an oval. He won the Sunset Late Model championship every year from 1990 through to 1998. He also won the Molson Export Super Series title in 1991 and 1992, along with the 1993 Goodyear Challenge Cup and a couple of championships in the ALSTAR series.

Walters continued with his success going into the new century, with titles in the Lucas Oil as well as championships at both Barrie and Kawartha Speedways. In 2010 he raced three different cars, and more titles, at Sunset and the touring McColl Racing series.

Now, after more than four decades of weekly racing, Walters continues to rack up the wins. The Bradford, Ontario native has shown no indication of slowing down, picking up a win at Sunset in typical fashion against younger but strong competitors such as Billy Zardo, Andy Kamrath, and Jason Witty in his Mustang-bodied Late Model earlier this year to add to his total of several feature victories.
When not competing, Walters is heavily involved in programs to help special needs athletes the opportunity to stay active and socialize in the community, working with such groups as the Ontario South Simcoe Special Olympic Athletes and Project Track Champion.

A passionate individual about his racing, Walters is thankful for the dedication of family, friends, and sponsors to allow him to race over the years, and plans on continuing to race as long possible.

John and Sharon Fletcher

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Inducted 2012

From Hamilton, Ontario, this family ran a successful automotive speed shop, but selling customers high-performance parts wasn’t enough. In 1982 they decided to buy a drag strip and through perseverance and hard work revitalized Dragway Park just outside of Cayuga Ontario in Southern Ontario.

Purchasing the facility from bankruptcy trustees, the Fletchers had their work cut out for them, as a great deal of equipment was missing, including the all-important quarter-mile timing clocks and equipment.

Also missing was the trust from the racing community, which had a bad taste in its mouth from the former owners, and this trust had to be re-established.

But John and Sharon, and the rest of the family not only built the former Cayuga drag strip back to a viable track, they also fostered and received support from the racers, fans, and sponsors.

They also expanded the track and its facility, and welcomed some new classes of drag cars that were becoming popular as well as maintaining a solid foundation with regular local racers.

With the sponsorship of the Becker’s Milk Company, the Fletchers introduced such classes as Pro Modified and Super Gas at the track in the late 1980s, and hosted the first Canadian national event under the sanctioning of the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), a sanctioning body that would visit the track several more times over the years.

After these accomplishments, the Fletchers were presented with an offer of selling Cayuga that they could not refuse. And they left the track, which is Canada’s oldest drag racing track and in operation since 1954, in solid shape. But instead of taking the money and retiring, they purchased another historic track about 80 miles west along Highway 3 from Cayuga.
Saint Thomas Dragway is located in Sparta, Ontario, and was developed in 1962 by the Harvey Family. It had long been an NHRA track and the home of some of the biggest events in the country. With some spit and polish, and modernized equipment, Saint Thomas returned to its former glory under the work and guidance of the Fletchers, who continued to operate the track under the NHRA with the name of London Motorsports Park in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

One of their most noted endeavours while at Saint Thomas was to bring in the biggest name in the sport, and racing icon John Force wowed the fans three times with his nitromethane-burning Funny Car.

The Fletchers have stepped away from the day-to-day operations at Saint Thomas, but their positive hand at the track continues. To take not only one, but two ailing race facilities and return them to a viable place for competitors and fans of drag racing is to be highly commended.

Jimmy Carr

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Inducted 2012

One of the most influential people in Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car endeavors is a quiet former drag racer from Canada’s West Coast who has been so behind the scenes he has been almost invisible.

From the bullrings of British Columbia, Jimmy Carr entered the world of Sprint Car racing spending more time running up and down the I5 than he did on the dirt ovals in Washington, Oregon, and California, but by 1990 he was ready to take a shot at fulltime racing in the World of Outlaws Series.

He became a quick study, taking rookie of the year honors in the WoO and placing eighth in 1991, but it was an expensive experience, and he went to turn wrenches for WoO regular Danny Lasoski while driving one of the winged warriors once in a while.

Through Lasoski, Carr met up with Stewart and the Chili Bowl, who was still racing in the IRL, just before Stewart embarked on his NASCAR Cup career. Stewart always wanted to get into a Sprint Car, and Carr and Lasoski planned and prepared an Outlaw team for the future Cup superstar in 1999 while continuing to race on the dirt tracks when he could.

But by 2001 building the new team was taking all Carr’s time, and for the past 12 years he has been a crew chief or in a management role helping to build Tony Stewart Racing into one of the WoO’s dominant racing team, along other successful efforts in dirt racing such as winning USAC’s National Sprint Car and Silver Crown titles in 2011 along with the prestigious Knoxville Nationals with driver Donny Schatz.

Carr has also played a dominate role in Stewart’s success behind the wheel of a Sprint Car, where the team has several victories, including two in a row at Ohsweken Speedway when the Outlaws have made their annual appearance at that Southern Ontario track.

Carr, who manages five race teams from Brownsburg Indiana, has said that winning in Canada as part of the Stewart effort has made him very proud.

“That’s a huge notch in my belt to put Tony in victory lane at an Outlaw race,” he said. “That’s probably one of the coolest things to happen to me. In all the years I’ve raced, I didn’t get a chance to race in Canada very often, but when we did I never got a win, so his first-time win was a first-time win for me as well.”