Written by Brian Liskai
June 05, 2014
Here’s a look at the drivers who were to be inducted into the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame Saturday night:
Eric Rankine. Now living in Indiana, Rankine is an official with the United States Auto Club. He claimed the 1991 (in his own car) and 2000 (in Dick “Soup” Sabo’s car) sprint car championships at Fremont Speedway. Rankine has four career feature wins at Fremont Speedway. Besides being an official for USAC, Eric also concentrates on his son’s racing career.
Todd Vance. Vance raced throughout the 1980s and early 1990s at Fremont Speedway, scoring the 1988 sprint track championship. Vance, piloting the family owned familiar No. 32, recorded six career feature wins at Fremont Speedway. He was the 1985 All Star Circuit of Champions Rookie of the Year.
L.J. Connors. Connors grew up around Fremont Speedway and spent many days of his youth in local racers garages. Later he also hand-lettered many race cars. Connors jumped from being a crew member to getting behind the wheel in 1978, winning a feature his first season. Connors claimed Fremont’s Street Stock track championship in 1979 and 1981. In 1980 there were no points kept, but Connors won nine features driving for Bob and Bobby Sears. Connors also won the track champion at McCutchenville Speedway in 1981. In 1987 he won the Trick or Treat 200 Enduro at Fremont by 14 laps. He ran several more endures around Ohio and Michigan, winning several. L.J. raced in Fremont’s truck division in 1999. All total, Connors scored 13 feature wins at Fremont Speedway.
Jim Ward. Ward is another who grew up at Fremont Speedway and followed hall of famer Paul Strasser’s career as a child. When he raced later in life, Ward recorded championships in the Sports Stock Class at Fremont in 1978 and 1979 also adding championships on the asphalt at Sandusky Speedway. Ward recorded 17 career feature wins at Fremont and around 25 at Sandusky. Ward credits his father-in-law Mike Beechler for much of his racing success. Ward has remained active in racing, owning a dirt truck his son, Cory drives and the duo won the Fremont championship in 2007.
Clay Keim. Keim was a dominant force in 305 sprint racing at Fremont. Though no championship points were kept for a few years, had they been tallied he would have won a track title or two. He won a combined 14 features at Fremont in the 305 and 360 sprints. He was the 1992 305 sprint track champion at Attica Raceway Park and had 12 feature wins there.
Here’s a look at the car owners inducted:
Harold Kemenah. Affectionately known as “Flakey Jake” by many, Kemenah’s racing ventures came in 1966 by painting cars for hall of famers Jim Roepke, Jim Ford, Harold Van Ness, Don Eckhardt and Len Malloy. He also worked on the USAC car owned by Loren Weyant and driven by Jimmy Smith and Rocky Fisher. In 1976 he purchased his own sprint car driven by hall of famer Al Liskai. In 1977 Kemenah hired hall of famer Johnny Beaber to drive his familiar No. 3x. Beaber would drive Kemenah’s sprint car to track championships at Limaland Speedway in 1977 and 1978. After that Kenny Jacobs and Ed Haudenschild drove his cars before hall of famer Jack Hewitt took over in 1979 and 1980, travelling all over the country with the World of Outlaws. Harold’s son, Brian became very involved with the team during the Hewitt years. In 1980, hall of famer Fred Linder took over Harold’s No. 3x and would win the All Star Circuit of Champions titles in 1984 and 1986. Harold’s last season of owning a car was in 1987 with Al Hager behind the wheel.
Joe Wright and Bob Leaser. The duo fielded cars driven by hall of famers Herb Robinson, Harold McGilton, Al Franks and Fred Linder. It all began around 1948 when Bob Leaser, Tom Leaser, Mason Simmons and Joe Wright purchased an old sectioned Crosley Body from John Auxter and hired Robinson to drive and he won the Six-Cylinder Sportsman championship at Fremont. In 1963 Wright and Leaser bought a CAE sprint car kit and with McGilton behind the wheel the team – one of the first to use a “wing” - won the Fremont championship in 1964. Mason would split from the team in 1965, taking McGilton with him. Wright and Leaser would then hire Franks to wheel their No. 55 car. That combination won features and track championships all over the region. When Franks left the team, Ralph Quarterson then drove the car and won double features at Findlay the first night out followed by a win at Mercer Raceway the next night and a fourth with the All Stars at Sharon Speedway. Linder would join the Wright/Leaser team in 1971 and the team won several features. The Wright/Leaser team would retire from racing in 1972. Hall of famer Gug Keegan also drove the Wright/Leaser machine to a Fremont feature win.
Visit Fremont Speedway’s website at www.fremontohspeedway.com or the hall of fame website at www.fremontspeedwayhof.com.