Brian Stewart

Brian Stewart wins at Mosport (1960’s)

Inducted 2004

Quick now. What do Paul Tracy, Brian Herta, Airton Dare, Scott Maxwell, P.J. Jones, Marty Roth, Jacques Lazier and Cristiano da Matta have in common? Well, at one time or another, they’ve all driven race cars for Brian Stewart, of Sutton, Ont., who is one of Canada’s most successful racers. Not a race driver, but a racer all the same. Brian Stewart is known internationally as a fellow who produces winners. He is the owner of racing cars who prepares them, takes them to the circuits and then provides the drivers with everything from logistical to psychological support while they’re there. Stewart started in Formula Vees and raced them for three years, winning the Canadian championship in 1970. In 1972, he moved up to Formula Fords and won the national championship in that class. A trip to the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in Britain saw him finish 12th out of 200 who entered. When no one seemed interested in hiring him as a driver, Stewart decided to go into the business of managing race teams and preparing race cars for other people to drive. In the late 1980s, Stewart formed Brian Stewart Racing and entered the Indy Lights series. From that first season, when Tommy Byrne finished second, through the championship years of Tracy, Eric Bachelart, Robbie Buhl and all the others, Brian Stewart Racing has enjoyed unparalleled success. When CART decided to shut down the Indy Lights series, Stewart thought of going to Formula Atlantic but considered it a step backward. Instead, the Indy Racing League invented the Infiniti Pro Series and invited Brian to join. He continues in that series to this day.

Gordon Reelie

Inducted 2004

Gordon Reelie represents a sub-culture of automobile racing that often goes unnoticed: that of the car owner. Gordon Reelie was such an owner. From B.C. to California, his midget race cars were instantly recognized and admired for their preparation and presentation. In fact, one was once displayed at the Vancouver Art Gallery. His infatuation with motorsport began in the 1920s when he first heard the roar of racing engines at Vancouver’s Hastings Park while standing in the backyard of his family’s North Burnaby home. But it wasn’t until after World War II that his career took off. Gordon tried driving once, won and promptly retired. From then until his death in 1994, Reelie’s cars were always contenders for feature wins, if not season championships. He was instrumental in laying out the dimensions for both the Digney and False Creek Speedways – he patterned them exactly after Seattle’s Aurora Stadium – and he was president of the B.C. Midget Auto Racing Association (BCMRA) for several years. He raced up and down the west coast, winning as far south as the famed Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles with Hank Butcher driving. Other famous drivers like Rich Vogler took turns behind the wheel of Reelie’s cars. Palmer Crowell drove for Reelie for 20 years and racked up more than 50 Washington Midget Racing Association victories and several WMRA championships. Dennis Kitts, who wasn’t born when Reelie started racing, won him his last championship, in 1992. Over the years, his cars were powered by Ford V-8-60s, Offenhausers, VWs and whatever else would get them around the track and to the front, including – on the odd occasion – a little nitro.

Gord Jenner

Gord Jenner in the Royal Canadian

Inducted 2000

Gordie Bonin, Ron Hodgson, Gordon Jenner; these three people could well make up what is arguably the most successful drag racing team in Canadian motorsport history.

Gordie Bonin, the driver, won 9 NHRA Funny Car national events, the AHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1989 and numerous other runoffs. Gordie also served as the NHRA’s director of marketing for six years. After a short retirement, Gordie returned to action two years ago, competing in the FIA’s European Top Fuel category.

Ron Hodgson, the team member, ran Edmonton International Speedway from 1974 to 1979. He also fine-tuned dragsters that won 6 NHRA Funny Car national event victories, two AHRA Top Fuel World Championships and numerous other events. Ron today is associated with the top fuel dragster driven by Craig Smith out of Spokane. He also campaigns a sprint car with his youngest son, Jeff.

Gordon Jenner was, for years, associated with a number of drag racing teams, acting as crew chief. He joined the Bonin-Hodgson team for the first time in 1972 and was crew chief when many of the team’s victories were recorded. Gordon worked as crew chief on a team with driver Terry Capp in 1988 that won the NHRA’s World Championship. In 1989, he rejoined Bonin-Hodgson in time for the World Championship, which they won. True drag racers, they were quick to lend a helping hand to fellow competitors when the need arose and over the years they worked with Gary Beck and Ed McCullough, among others.

Image via Drag Race Alberta

Ray Peets

Inducted 1999

One of the most successful teams in Canadian motorsport history, Gary Beck and Ray Peets captured the 1974 National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel World Championship, the highest honour in the toughest and fastest class in drag racing. From their homebase in Edmonton, Beck and Peets won an amazing 79% of the NHRA and American Hot Rod Association events they entered that year – 59 wins in 74 runs. They were runner-ups in the 1975 World Championship.

Grant King

Grant King at 1999 Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame ceremonies in 1999

Inducted 1999

Grant King started building racing cars as a teenager in his hometown of Victoria, B.C. He made his first visit to the Indy 500 (with Canadian builder Rollo Vollstedt) in 1963. From then to the late eighties, Grant King was builder, crew chief or owner of dozens of Indy cars. Grant fielded USAC cars for Al Unser, Canadian Billy Foster, Len Sutton, Sheldon Kinser, Tom Sneva, Gary Bettenhausen and a memorable Pikes Peak car for Mario Andretti. One year, Grant King Racing had three entries in the Indy 500 field.

Image via Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame

Dave Greenblatt

Dave Greenblatt in 1960 at St. Eugene with Gorries Chev Corvette.

Inducted 1998

Dave Greenblatt was the constructor of a series of fiercely fast Dailu specials that were driven by Dave, John Cannon and Peter Lerch. The Dailu Mk I was built in 1961-62 by Dave, Luigi Cassiani and Mike Saggers. It was exceptionally fast, if not always entirely reliable. But when it was running, it was the match of anything on the racetrack, including Lotuses, Ferraris, Porsches and Chaparrals. There followed three more Dailus, all with monster V8s and all with blinding speed.

Sandy Elliott

Inducted 1998

For more than three years, the Sandy Elliot Drag Racing Team was the scourge of Super Stock racing in the U.S. and Canada. In 1968, Elliot’s son John became the first Canadian to win an NHRA stock class. In 1970, Barrie Poole was the first Canadian to win a National Eliminator title. By 1971, competing in 17 NHRA Nationals, both cars made the finals16 times, winning three Nationals, were runner-up at two more, made the semi-finals 12 times and set nine national records. Sandy Elliot earned the title of Super Stock Crew Chief of the Year and was named to Car Craft magazine’s All Star Drag Racing Team in 1971.

Image via Bison Dragways

Jim Gunn

Inducted 1997

No one in the history of Canadian motorsport is more deserving of the title Builder than Jim Gunn. In addition to organizing the Trans-Canada Rally (1960-61) and the Shell 4000 rallies (1962 to1968), Jim Gunn was a founder and the first secretary of the Canadian Automobile Sport Committee in 1951. Later renamed the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs, CASC became the sanctioning body for all motorsport in Canada, and Gunn, now deceased, served as president from 1956 to 1961, when CASC grew from 40 member clubs to 92.

Walter Wolf

Inducted 1996

As a Formula 1 owner, Walter Wolf gave Canada a presence in Grand Prix and Can-Am racing in the late ’70s. In 1977, Jody Scheckter drove a Wolf-Ford to a win in Argentine in its first race ever, then followed with wins at the Monaco and Mosport. Wolf’s cars also competed in Can-Am with Gilles Villeneuve driving and in European Formula 1. Austrian-born Wolf became a Canadian citizen in 1967 and always carried the Canadian flag on his cars.

Brad Francis

Inducted 2005

For 35 years, Brad Francis has built winning cars for every major form of racing in North America. A self-taught racing engineer, he was for 20 years an integral part of the successes of Performance Engineering of Thornhill, Ontario. (Indy, Can-Am, NHRA, shorttrack stock cars, Trans-Am). He built championship-winning IMSA and Trans-Am cars for General Motors before becoming manager of special projects for Richard Childress’ NASCAR Winston Cup Team and director of R&D for Bill Davis Racing. In 2004 Francis was Director of Safety for Rousch Racing, part of the Nextel Cup winning effort of Kurt Busch.

Photo courtesy of Margie Gerard.