MISC: American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association Announces 1999 Racing Legends
4 June 1999A giant of Formula One, a pioneering journalist and one of the most colorful and outrageous of drag racers have been elected to the 1999 class of Legends in Racing. Joining them in the class of 1999 are the only man to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the World Driving Championship twice each, an early-day Indy winner and two famed outlaw sprint car racers
Members of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association voted in the largest addition to AARWBA's hall of fame since 1992, when nine were voted in on a special double-size ballot.
Elected were Frank Blunk, Enzo Ferrari, Emerson Fittipaldi, John Force, Bobby Grim, Dario Resta and Jimmie Wilburn. Both Force and Grim were chosen on only their second ballot appearance, while Resta made it in on a Last Chance vote after a dozen previous tries.
The voting was so even in most categories that "Rule Two" was invoked in all but the Historic Era. "Rule Two" provides that when the nominees in a given category split the vote so broadly that none meets the minimum vote percentage, the one candidate receiving the highest vote will be enshrined if his vote exceeds a lesser percentage figure.
Only in the Historic Era (more than 30 years ago, 1968 and earlier) were nominees able to meet the regular vote minimum. Sprint car legends Jimmie Wilburn and Bobby Grim both met the test.
Wilburn was a barnstormer whose 20-year career straddled World War II. Considered the "original outlaw," he ran up a record of more than 900 race victories in AAA, CSRA, IMCA, and non-sanctioned competitions. Although he was CSRA champion five times, winning the title both pre-war and post-war, he owed allegiance to no sanctioning body, instead pursuing and knocking off top guns nationwide. During the 1946-47 seasons, he won 121 races in 122 starts.
A decade later Grim enjoyed a similar reputation, winning some 183 features and four IMCA championships aboard Hector Honore's famed "Black Deuce" Offy. A track record he set in Tampa, Fla., stood for 26 years. He also was the 1959 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.
Blunk won in the category of Historic/Non Drivers in which the tally was so close, the top three of the five candidates were separated by just five votes. He began his journalism career in the 1920s and later became the New York Times' first Motorsports Editor through the 1950s and '60s until his retirement in 1968. Renown for his honesty and integrity, he remains a role model for journalists in all fields.
Fittipaldi, elected from Modern Era candidates, was the youngest driver to win the Formula One World Driving Championship when he took the 1972 crown at age 25, then repeated again in 1974 during an F1 career which included 14 victories. After a period of running his own F1 team and a brief retirement, he returned for a second career in CART. Thirteen years in the Champ cars brought him 22 wins including Indy 500 laurels in 1989 and 1993, and the 1989 CART championship.
One can only wonder why it took Enzo Ferrari nine ballot appearances to win election, but the answer is found in the many strong candidates on the Modern Era/Non Driver category over the years, including this year when he outpolled the late Tom Binford by just one vote. Ferrari was there at the beginning of the World Driving Championship, and 50 seasons later the cars bearing his name still own more F1 victories than any rival. During his lifetime Ferrari F1 cars ran up 94 race wins, nine driver titles and eight manufacturer crowns, and that does not even include multiple sports car triumphs in such classics as the Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, and the grueling 24-hour runs at Daytona and Le Mans.
John Force, as quick with a quip as he is on the drag strip, achieved the rare distinction of being elected from the Active Driver category in which the 80 percent vote standard is the stiffest of all. Although Force received more votes than any other person on the regular ballot, his total was exactly the minimum required under "Rule Two." It was that close, with Darrell Waltrip and Shirley Muldowney also making strong showings. As of the end of the 1998 season, Force had raised his record to eight NHRA Funny Car championships and 70 career victories.
Dario Resta, the winner of the 1916 "short race" at Indianapolis which was scheduled for only 300 miles, was elected on a Last Chance ballot. Resta was the third driver ever to go up for a Last Chance vote but the first to succeed on this final opportunity. A driver who has appeared 12 times previously is presented on this special ballot. Members are asked to vote yes or no with a 75 percent "yes" required. Resta made the cutoff easily at 83 percent. He also was the 1916 AAA National Champion, as well as the 1915 and 1916 Vanderbilt Cup winner.