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Drivers Honored at Texas Motorsports HOF Ceremony Print E-mail
by Austin Kilgore    Thu, Apr 3, 2008, 12:21 AM

NASCAR veteran Mark Martin and open wheel racing legend and Arlington native Jim McElreath were inducted in the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame at a ceremony Wednesday at the Texas Motor Speedway, but a last-minute appearance by NASCAR legend Bobby Allison stole the show.

“It makes you feel good when you look at all the guys that are in [the hall of fame],” McElreath said. “Some of them I raced with, some of them I haven’t, some of them I don’t even know, but I know what they’ve done to be here, it makes me feel real good about it.”

Two-time defending NASCAR Cup Champion and most recent winner at TMS Jimmie Johnson was also honored with the Racer of the Year award, and Sam Hornish, Jr., the winningest driver in the Indy Racing League history and the series’ only three-time champion, was awarded the TMS Sportsmanship Award. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk was awarded the Bruton Smith Legends Award.

Luyendyk’s name is synonymous with the first IndyCar race at TMS back in 1997, after he and A.J. Foyt got a skirmish in Victory Lane over who was the rightful winner of the race. After official review, Luyendyk would eventually be awarded the win, even thought Foyt’s driver, Billy Boat, was original declared the winner.

“It’s nice to get the recognition now because the race was won under such strange circumstances, it’s always been one of those things that should have been different, but it wasn’t,” Luyendyk said. “This track has always brought so much excitement racing-wise, and that evening, it brought not only a lot of excitement racing-wise, but also in Victory Lane.”

Luyendyk and McElreath were the only honorees that attended the event, but guests were surprised by a visit by NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. Busch’s sponsor, Interstate Batteries, is based in Dallas, and he participated in an onstage Q&A with Interstate Batteries CEO Norm Miller and NASCAR television reporter Matt Yocum, the evening’s emcee.

Fans were even more surprised by a last-minute appearance of Allison, who arrived in North Texas Wednesday afternoon in advance of the weekend’s NASCAR events at TMS. Allison, a longtime friend of inductee McElreath, said he came to the speedway as soon as he heard about his friend’s induction.

“Jim is just one of those guys that I’ve enjoyed along the way. I liked his competitiveness, his behind-the-wheel activity, but I also got to know him as a friend at the racetrack, and I’m just really pleased he got inducted,” Allison said.

Allison is a three-time winner of the Daytona 500, the sport’s 1983 champion, and is best known for his infamous fistfight with Cale Yarborough alongside brother Donnie Allison in the first NASCAR event televised live in its entirety. The event is widely considered one of the sports defining moments.

The event, in its fourth year, has raised more than $308,500 for the Happy Hills Farm Academy, a 500-acre farm and boarding school for underprivileged youth located in Granbury, south of Ft. Worth.

“Not only will we raise money, but at the same time, we’ll introduce the concept of who we are, what we are, and what we do to a whole other group of people that are here tonight as guests and friends,” said Ed Shipman, founder of the Happy Hills Farm Academy.

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