Author Archives: Barbara Rainey

Cliff Flannery

They call it the dirt ‘Field of Dreams’, 400 acres of off-road nirvana in Crandon, Wisconsin.  Crandon International Raceway plays host to home town races as well as some of the largest televised short course events in the world.

While his brother Jack was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his racing success, Cliff is the one who provided his brother Jack, and countless other racers, the opportunity to race at a world class facility.

Crandon Raceway is one of the few off-road facilities outside of the American Southwest, and has been Cliff’s life work for nearly 50 years.

The dream of Crandon Raceway was born in 1968, after a group that would become known as the Wolfs Head Sportsman Club watched a broadcast of the Mexican 1000 on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  The group decided to hold their own race through the woods around the tiny Northwoods Wisconsin town of Crandon. The track was originally a 101-mile race consisting of four 25-mile loops and a big mud pit.

By the mid-1970s, under Cliff Flannery’s leadership, the group decided to build upon the success of their race and purchase land just one mile from downtown Crandon. It was on this ground that Cliff Flannery began to build the largest short-course facility of its type in the world. Cliff has continued to grow and improve the facility over the years, and in 2016 Crandon hosted the inaugural Crandon World Cup, the first independent off-road short course ‘Super Bowl’ that is part of the prestigious Red Bull Signature Series.

While creating and managing a facility like Crandon is certainly a Hall of Fame worthy achievement, it was Cliff Flannery’s philanthropic work that made the biggest impact on the voting committee.  Each year, Crandon donates nearly $70,000 to support local youth and charity organizations, a tradition started by Cliff Flannery decades ago. Over the years, the donations from Crandon Raceway have had an economic impact of more than $2 million in the local community of only 1,300 residents. Crandon Raceway also provides up to $30,000 in college scholarships to local students each year.

The Citizens of Crandon, Wisconsin received the 2017 Volunteer Award from the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Bob Gordon

He won so many races south of the border that he earned the well-deserved nickname of “Baja Bob’.  The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Legacy Inductee Bob Gordon.

Bob was introduced to the sport of off-road racing by Frank ‘Scoop’ Vessels, also a Hall of Fame inductee. Bob Gordon quickly found success behind the wheel of one of the ‘BFG Blazers’ as part of a two car team sponsored by BFGoodrich Tires.

In the 1980s and 90s, Bob built a relationship with Chenowth and started racking up an impressive list of victories.

In 1987, Bob won the Baja 1000 with Malcolm Smith, and teamed up with son Robby and daughter Robyn to win again in 1990.  After retiring from racing to help Robby run his off road programs, Bob brought his favorite Chenowth, affectionately known as ‘Betsy’ out of retirement to compete for several years in the NORRA Mexican 1000, where he was the overall winner in 2010, 2011, and 2015. Bob passed away in 2016.

A statement from the Gordon family reads, “The Gordon Family would like to thank everyone for making this possible for our father, ‘Baja Bob’ Gordon to be inducted in to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. He would be humbled and honored to be recognized alongside racing legends and friends; Scoop Vessels, Malcolm Smith, Parnelli Jones, Mickey Thomspon, Walker Evans, and Ivan Stewart. Desert racing and Baja have become an integral part of our lives. Baja will never be the same without him, but his legacy and spirit will race on. We know he will be with us at every race mile marker along the way.”

Photo (Below):  March 7, 1984 — The father-and-son team of Bob and Robby Gordon made it two-in-a-row at the HDRA Gold Coast 300, once again claiming both the overall victory and Class 2 honors in the BFGoodrich-equipped Chenowth-Porsche desert buggy. Plagued by a broken power steering pump that forced 18-year-old Robby to stop five times on the final lap for repairs, the Gordons still managed to finish more than 10 minutes ahead of their nearest competitor.

Bill Savage

College student Bill Savage opened TMAG welding in 1972.  After spectating the Baja 1000 in 1974, Bill was hooked. It took him several years, between finishing college and managing his busy shop, before his first car was ready to race. Bill entered the 1979 Baja 1000, winning his class.
TMAG has designed and built a wide variety of innovative off-road parts and vehicles, including a VW production parts, off-road shocks, steering systems, and one of the first all tube space frame trucks ever built.

Among his many business ventures, Bill partnered with Todd Clement and started Wide Open Baja, a tour company that would give non-racers the Baja 1000 experience. The prototype cars were built at TMAG, with another 42 cars being built at Todd’s Horsepower Ranch in Baja. In subsequent years, Bill relocated his company and changed the name from TMAG to SPD Products. Speed and Performance by Design (SPD) built off-road trucks that went on to win many races, including the Baja 500 and Baja 1000.

It was then that NASA came calling, inviting Bill to attend a meeting with NASA engineers. They wanted Bill’s help in designing and building a new Lunar Rover. Bill jumped at the chance. SPD built three Lunar Rovers, and helped with testing. NASA wasn’t done with Bill yet, next it was a Mars Rover they were wanting. SPD went on to build two Mars Rovers for NASA, and have since been involved with several more NASA projects.

Throughout his career as an off-road innovator, Bill has always circled back to his interest in keeping the racers safe. He has written the rule books for every major off-road association for the past 37 years.  Bill has spent countless hours organizing teams to manage pre- and post-tech race inspections, a thankless and controversial job to say the least. Bill continues his quest to keep the racers safe in his current position as Technical Director for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.

Tracy Valenta

Tracy Valenta began off-road racing in 1971 and soon his passion for the sport exploded.  One of his many significant impacts on the world of off-road motorsports was his promoting a foundation of a Team concept and a professional image for his drivers and as a team owner.  Tracy and his Party Ice team were considered the premier off-road racing organization of the 1970s and ‘80s by the media, race promoters as well as by his competitors.  He promoted his team to increase publicity to not only put fans in the stands, but to help his competitors as well harvest sponsorships and grow the sport.

Tracy’s team consisted of some of the most talented drivers in off-road racing including legendary Malcom Smith and Bud Feldkamp, Rick and Roger Mears, stunt drivers Bobby Ferro and Kitty O’Neal plus rock legend Ted Nugent.  Also motocross superstars Bob Hannah, Marty Tripes and Sue Fish.

They achieved victories at all major desert, closed course and stadium race events from the wilds of Baja and Southern California deserts to stadium races in L. A., Pasadena, San Diego, Anaheim, Pomona and Phoenix.  In addition, Tracy’s team raced and won at far flung venues in Seattle, Michigan, New York as well as British Columbia, Montreal and Quebec, Canada.  Tracy’s achievements in size, scope and sponsorships were unparalleled during his tenure in the sport.

Larry Ragland

The legend “Lightning Larry” Ragland needs to introduction. In fact, it would be hard to tell the history of off-road without Larry Ragland.

In 1976 Larry started his off-road career on dirt bikes. He would win on every level of racing he ever entered, and the wins were often followed by championships.

Larry moved to Class 1 Unlimited, partnering with Jim Halford in Jim’s FUNCO. It only took three races before the duo hit their stride, winning the 1981 Parker 400 overall. They didn’t stop there, and went on to win the Baja 500 and San Felipe 250.

By 1983 Larry decided it was time to have a car of his own and build his own team. The Woodstuff Chaparral Class 1 would start winning races soon after. Larry’s first SCORE championship for Class 1 came in 1983. In 1984 Larry continued his winning ways and earned a second consecutive championship.

In the early days, Larry was known for not prerunning the race course. His logic was, ‘don’t drive faster than you can see and you’ll be all right.’  Larry’s logic served him well, and he went on to win two straight Frontier 500s and the Mint 400 overall.

Larry’s hard work and success brought him to the attention of Chevrolet. He became a factory driver in a Class 7 mini truck, winning multiple races and a Class 7 championship between 1986 and 1989.

In 1990 Larry moved up to the prerunner truck division known as Class 8, where he earned two more championships and his first Baja 1000 overall win. The age of the Trophy Truck dawned in 1995, and Larry was ready. with tV and full factory support, off-road racing had hit the big time. The field was stacked with the best drivers that off-road racing had to offer. Larry didn’t disappoint, earning four more Baja 1000 overall wins. A remarkable achievement.

Over the next ten years, Larry would race with Brian Collins, Roger Norman, and raced for a short time with the Toyota team. His resume of wins continued to grow, with four more Baja 500s, the Parker 400, Primm 300, Nevada 1000, Vegas to Reno and Terribles Town 250. Larry’s success went beyond traditional off-road, winning at both the Atlas Rally and Pikes Peak.

Photo credit: Mad Media

 

Jim Ober

For many in our sport, we are behind the wheel, chasing the dust, the sun, and the never ending rough terrain. We get to the finish to start telling our stories about what happened during the race. But telling the stories and seeing what actually happened are two different things. And this is what separates Jim Ober from the racers, fabricators and crews. Jim captured those moments, in the middle of nowhere, on his own. He pioneered the profession of off-road photo journalism.

Trackside Photo was born in the early days of off-road racing. Jim was one of the only photographers to capture and preserve what would turn into a rich history, where a single photo could tell an entire story.  Trackside Photo is also where dozens of photographers got their start in the industry.  Jim’s photographers were taught how to shoot safely and respect the land. Trackside Photo’s dynamic action shots of off-road racing in the US and Baja accompanied stories in newspaper and magazines, the only event coverage available at the time.

Jim Ober and Trackside Photo have been recognized throughout the off-road industry, earning the SCORE Photographer of the Year award a remarkable 17 times.

Without Trackside Photo’s photographic record documenting 40 years of off-road, much of the history of the sport would be lost forever.

Bud Feldkamp

Bud Feldkamp grew up in Central Nevada, where he was driving his dad’s pickup truck across the desert by the age of 12. Bud took up motorcycles, and met Malcolm Smith when he took his bike to Smith’s shop for repairs. Eventually both men joined the Riverside, California based Sandwinder buggy racing team, one of the big teams in off road racing in the early 1970s.

Bud got a taste of buggy racing in 1971 when, with Mel Tryee, he finished fourth in the Baja 500. Bud went on co-driving with others on the Sandwinder team, sometimes in the unlimited class, and often in the growing 1200cc class. Bud co-drove with Don Rountree, mentor of the Sandwinder group, to second overall at the Dam 500 in 1973, and that was that race that saw overall honors go to Malcolm Smith in a similar buggy.

Feldkamp went on racing in 1973 and took home the 1200cc honors at the Firecracker 250 that year. Then, heading for the Baja 1000, Malcolm and Bud joined forces to drive the Sandwinder to second place in Class 1. They found their style of driving quite similar, and decided then to go together as a full-fledged team. In Mexico, Bud drove the second half of the race, and went the final 75 miles on three wheels. That spirit of carrying on regardless of the problems is common to the two men and one factor in their amazing finishing record. Over the coming years the pair celebrated many first overall wins in their Funco chassis car, including the 1975 Baja 1000, two consecutive Mint 400 victories, and back to back High Desert and SCORE titles in 1977 and 1978. The blue Bel Ray Bullet of Bud Feldkamp and Malcolm Smith is one of the most iconic vehicles in off-road racing history, with Off-Road magazine giving the nod to the Bullet as one of the greatest off-road racing machines ever.

The sleek Bel-Ray Bullet represented the progression of technology and construction that began in earnest in the late 1970s, took off in the 80s and hasn’t stopped since. The Bel-Ray Bullet was based a Funco chassis that featured a much longer wheelbase than previous models to help better absorb rough terrain. To aid in shock cooling, aluminum fins were incorporated into the Bilstein shocks. Most significantly, the Bullet was one of the first buggies featuring an independent rear suspension. The move away from the clumsy and constricting swing-axle rear suspension allowed for the use of a Volkswagen Type II transaxle and cv joints which greatly increased wheel travel and improved camber characteristics. Of course, the result was speed; the Bullet quickly racked up victories, proving that buggies were no longer cute but rather serious race weapons.

In the mid-1980s, Bud turned his sites toward building Glen Helen Raceway, which to this day, is one of the premier racing facilities in the West. Glen Helen Raceway is located North of San Bernardino, California. This area is against a great mountain side in which Glen Helen Raceway has created it raceway facility of 256 acres, dominated by giant trackside letters spelling out G L E N    H E L E N in the style of the old Hollywood sign.

Glen Helen Raceway started its fame back in 1985, it had several Sand Drag events, Off Road events and Motocross events. In 1991 Glen Helen Raceway hosted its first major event, the United States World Championship Motocross and again in 1992. With these two events added to the Glen Helen Raceway venue it was the beginning of a growing and nationally known track.

In 1995 and 1996 two more major events came to Glen Helen Raceway, the Off-Road Winter Series and the AMA 125/250 MX Nationals. In the years that followed, Glen Helen added many memorable events to the schedule, including Ultra4 Unlimited Off-Road Racing, and recently announced that the 2017 Motocross of Nations will be held at the facility. Under Feldkamp’s leadership, Glen Helen Raceway has become one of the most seen and raced on tracks in the world.

‘The opportunity to welcome the world of motocross to our back yard in Southern California, for the first time in its 70-year history, is something that we do not take lightly at Glen Helen. I look forward to doing everything in my power to make this a truly historic motocross event for all the teams and fans from around the world,’ said Bud.

Bud Feldkamp’s remarkable achievements spanning five decades of off-road, both as a racer and as an event promoter, make him a welcome addition to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Don Amador

For over 25 years, Don Amador has been a nationally recognized pioneer advocate for off-road motorsports in the fields of on-highway and off-road motorcycling, ATV, side-by-side, 4-wheel drive and snowmobile access to responsible recreation. Currently serving as Western Representative for the Blue Ribbon Coalition, Don is also a noted consultant in off-road issues, to include ‘sound’ initiatives and testing, trail design, managed OHV recreation, Environmental Protection Agency comments and appeals, grant writing and political strategy development. Don has truly become a ‘go to guy’ for off-road motorsports.

Don has worked tirelessly through the grass roots, administrative, legal and political processes to promote and protect our access to responsible OHV recreation on public lands, to make sure the competitive as well as recreational off-road activities will live on forever. His goal is to lead by example and to empower the local off-roader to help shape their own trail destiny. He spends countless hours in meetings, orchestrating conference calls on a national level, and bringing enthusiasts into a new light of understanding how land use advocacy, racing and off-roading in general all come together in the efforts to politically save our access for off-road events and recreation.

Recognized by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) District 36 with their highest honor, the Jim Hutzler Award, Don sets the standard for keeping off-road motorcycle sports alive and well, from the halls of Washington DC to the local dirt tracks around the country.

Founder of the Trail Political Action Committee (TPAC), Don Amador has broken new ground and initiated huge accomplishments in getting off-road motorsports in front of political candidates and national leaders. Don established the TPAC as the first national non-partisan political action committee dedicated solely to championing responsible off-highway recreation on designated roads, trails and areas on public lands through the electoral and legislative process.

Don embodies the spirit of off-road motorsports with his unending energy and dedication in keeping off-road enthusiasts engaged in the political, administrative and legislative processes to keep motorsports going for all. He maintains websites for his primary consulting company, Quiet Warrior Racing, and the TPAC, as well as blogs on a regular basis, informing off-road enthusiasts on key issues that affect them.

He attends countless meetings, writes official comment letters on hundreds of issues every year, blogs nearly daily on off-road issues and updates, and sets a standard for other land use activists to follow. Don took his dedication further a few years back and ran for Congress (unsuccessfully, but he learned a lot). He also served as Chairman for the State of California Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission. Don leads; Don does; Don doesn’t just talk about it.

Don has designed strategies on a national level to combat unnecessary restrictions on off-road sports. He has ridden thousands of miles of roads and trails to better understand the needs of enthusiasts who love motorsports. Over the past 25 years, Don has written and prepared comments and letters for groups like Share Trails/Blue Ribbon Coalition, the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, and the American Motorcyclist Association. His mastery of the administrative, legislative, and political processes that make this country run is unmatched in the off-road world. Don truly belongs in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

By Del Albright

Jerry Penhall

Jerry Penhall is a man of few words, not seeking attention for his endeavors or achievements. He has been in the industry, both fabricating and racing, for 39 years. During this time, he has accumulated many recognized accomplishments. He built three cars for the COPS racing team, personally driving one to a first place finish at the Baja 1000. Jerry has a special ability to keep his business of off-road racing current, competitive and ever-evolving, all the while continuing to win races for four decades. He used he talent to give back, by helping students of local schools in Orange County, California. For nine years, he worked with Coastline Community College, Huntington Beach and Newport Harbor High Schools, placing students in his shop to mentor and introduce them to fabricating.