The state known for its horsepower will recognize the history and contributions of 11 individuals who have impacted the motorsports world as the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame inducts its 2016 class of honorees.
The ninth annual ceremony takes place this Saturday, November 5, 2016, at 3 pm on the second floor of the Owensboro Science and History Museum, which houses the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame inside the Speedzeum.
The 11 inductees include:
- Powerboat and open wheel specialist Bill Cantrell,
- Custom car builder Pat Keating,
- Drag racing team Jackie Lawson, Gary Eldridge, and Billy Adams along with Cooper Hayden (of Owensboro) and Conway Witten of the straight line speedsters.
- Circle dirt track specialists Butch Shay and Wayne Coakley
- Pioneer Inductee – David L. Green, the drag racer turned father to three NASCAR main series drivers
- Visionary Inductee – CJ Rayburn, former Drag Racer who turned to a career of building and engineering racing chassis and motors.
The Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame’s intention is to publically acknowledge and commemorate the individuals, family or team of Kentucky-born contributors to the motorsports community on a local, state or national level that set a high standard of tradition and reputation that withstands the test of time and honors Kentucky roots.
Based in the Owensboro Science and History Museum’s Speedzeum, the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame houses plagues and memories of the inductees in addition to numerous exhibits of the various forms of Kentucky Motorsports.
Wild Bill Cantrell may be the most varied inductee in the 9 years of inductions to the Hall of Fame. Noted for winning four times in the Madison, Indiana Hydroplane race, Cantrell also was a three-time starter in the Indy 500, won the 1949 Gold Cup in Hydroplanes and even was a stunt driver in the movies To Please a Lady and The Big Wheel. Cantrell has previously been recognized in Madison with a historical plague riverside and is an inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America that recently moved from Detroit to Daytona Beach.
Wayne Coakley’s induction recognizes a tradition in the motorsports community that distinguishes itself apart from stick and ball sports. Unlike other sports that retire numbers of milestone players, the motorsports highest praise typically takes the form of Memorial Races for passed legends at their home track they established their dominance at. For Coakley, that has taken the form of not just one track but a long list of tracks laying claim to the success and hosting memorial racers for the dirt driving Stock Car Racing driver. Coakley’s track championships and wins established the former coal miner as the standard that many Kentucky stock car racers are compared to today. Killed in an accident with a drunk driver as he returned home from a race, Coakley will be posthumously inducted as is Cantrell, Green and Butch Shay.
Butch Shay joins Coakley as a dirt track racing standout being inducted as a multi-track champion and winner. Shay’s 50 years of racing dirt cars seen him win races in 8 states and collect track championships at Richmond and Florence, KY dirt tracks.
Inductee Pat Keating’s path to the Hall of Fame comes on the tails of recently being inducted into the National Custom Car Hall of Fame in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2015. Noted for being an outstanding builder of championship cars and custom cars, Keating’s work dates back to the 1959 and has been highlighted with numerous magazine covers of his detailed work.
Dating back to 1959 also, Cooper Hayden helped build the first drag strip in his hometown of Owensboro and turned that involvement into a lifetime of being involved in the go fast form of sports. Hayden’s winning drag race entries took him from Owensboro to the California coast as he established himself as a leading contributor to the sport. Building race cars, travel and aging eventually led the Owensboro born back home to raise a family, but not leaving the impacting of the sport as he continues today in his 80’s to building and tinkering with hot rods.
For twenty years Willmoth Conway Witten Jr. was a winning drag racer, establishing some 30 records and winning 23 times including a national win in National Hot Rod Association competition before becoming one of today’s leading cylinder head specialist for NHRA Super Stock motors.
Inducted for their team effort, Gary Eldridge, Jackie Lawson and Billy Adams formed a drag racing team that took them to victory lane in some of the biggest drag races of the day. They won the NHRA Nationals at Indianapolis to gain the national stage spotlight. Two national wins highlight the team’s success as well as numerous class titles and numerous tracks.
The class of ’16 will also spotlight a Pioneer designated award winner as David Lloyd Green has been selected for the marque induction for his supportive and exemplary support of his three sons, David, Mark and Jeff Green. Making their mark in NASCARs top level of competition, the Owensboro born family the senior Green used his racing and life knowledge to propel his son’s to their own success and contributions to representing their home state to a standard fitting of the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame.
The inductees will join family, friends and fans on Saturday, November 5, 2016in downtown Owensboro at the Speedzeum for a reception and a mid-afternoon induction ceremony on the second floor of the Owensboro Science and History Museum.
As part of the day activities, inductee Witten will share his personal testimony in a pre-induction event held during the 2 pm hour on the second floor of the museum. A DVD presentation of his racing story and religious experience is a moving story from death to life.
More information on the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame can be found on its website at KentuckyMotorsportsHallofFame.com or it’s Facebook page at the same name.