2015 Driver Inductees

     Joe (Eugene) Finn: (pictures) Joe was a true pioneer of Stock Car Racing. His real name was Eugene but when he started driving he was too young so he used his older brothers' name. He raced Super Modifieds and Coupes in the 6 cycle & V-8 divisions. He competed at Sterling, Soldier Field, Rockford and O'Hare. He considered Freeport Speedway his home track. He was the 1st Champion to win 5 Features in a row clinching the 1951 Championship. Uncle Sam borrowed him for the Korean War in 1952 & 1953. Upon his return to racing he won Championships in 1954, 1955, 1957 & 1961. He won the Championship in 6 cycle and V-8 in the same year.


     Ken Finley: (pictures) Ken started his driving career in the early 50's racing Modifieds, Crosleys, and a very fast shortened Cadillac #777. He was a top contender at Mance Park, Mazon, Rockford, Soldier Field, Illiana, Aurora Downs and his home track Santa Fe Speedway. Ken was a 2 time Champion at Santa Fe in 1959 & 1965. In 1965 he won 13 Features and held the records on the quarter mile 6 laps on 6/14/1958, 10 laps 7/04/1965, 25 laps on 9/12/1964. Today he still holds the record for 150 lap win on 1/2 mile established on 8/07/1965. He traveled the USAC/MARCA Circuit competing at Meadowdale Raceway, Duqoin, Springfield and Milwaukee Fairgrounds. His 1958 & 1961 long track Ford carried 37's. Three digits weren't allowed on those circuits so he improvised and added an apostrophe S to simulate his famous "777". In July of 1966 at the age of 38 he won his last feature at Santa Fe. On the Victory Lap he passed away carrying the checkered flag. He was so far ahead leading in the point standings that he still finished in the top 5 that year. In just its third year of operation, Santa Fe inducted Ken into their Hall of Fame in 1971. Today Ken Finley's 1958 37's Ford Long Track Car picture is on display in the Transportation Section of the Nascar Hall of Fame in Charlotte NC.


     Bob Pronger: (pictures) Bob was a tall drink of water at 6'5", he began his racing career at Raceway Park near Blue Island, IL in 1949 at the age of 27 wheeling a 1940 Mercury in the stock Car "wars" at Raceway Park. In 1950 he got off to a fast start scoring 5 early feature victories in his 1949 Mercury #151. 1951 saw a recently paved Raceway Park host 66 stock car events Bob grabbed 19 Features and finished 2nd in points in the standings behind Champion Bill Van Allen, who won the title by a tight margin over Bob. In 1953 he burst upon the national racing scene as he established record shattering qualifying marks in Nascar Grand National competition on the beach in Daytona. He turned in a qualifying effort of 115.7 mph in his 1953 Oldsmobile 88 to earn the pole position for Nascar's 160 mile event on the 4.1 mile beach/highway course. Bob started in the first Daytona 500 in 1959 driving a 1958 Ford. In 1961 he won the Late Model Championship at Raceway Park driving a 1956 Chevy totaling up 23 feature wins. He also captured the 1969 Championship at the tight quarter-mile paved oval. He won a total of 148 feature races there. In addition to his winning at local speedways, Bob competed with a number of ‘National" racing organizations including USAC and Nascar. He seemed to race and win in all types of cars including a couple of fast Cadillacs.


     Russ Wallace: (pictures) Russ built and maintained his own cars. He was a 2-time Champion at the Granite City Speedway. In a four year span 1974-1978 he won 200 features on dirt and asphalt. In the 70's he won 12 features in a row. His style of driving was aggressive and he was feared but he was well respected by his Peers! His career was a professional Hobby. He worked a full time job to support his family during the week but raced hard every weekend. In the decades of the 60's & 70's he accumulated over 400 Feature wins on the Midwestern Short Tracks. When Russ would arrive at selected tracks his competitors tried to figure out the race so they could end up in 2nd place because they already knew Russ was going to take the checkered flag for the win.


     Pete Jenin: (pictures) Pete and his brother Nick dabbled in Midget Auto Racing. They took over the ownership and promotional reins of Chicagoland’s Raceway Park in 1947. In 1948 Pete brought many improvements to the track such as new grandstands and Track layout doing most of the work himself. During the same year he started the 300 lap Classic for Stock Cars and it became immensely popular with the fans. With Nick leaving the operation in the early 1950’s, Pete was the owner and promoter expanding their program to hold racing events 4 nights a week. The Track was affectionately dubbed the “World’s Busiest Track” holding 80 racing events per year. Through the years under his guidance his events included every type of motor sports. Not only Midgets and Stock Cars but also Super Modifieds, Go Carts, Thrill Shows, Demolitions, Motor Cycles and Enduro races. Although having a partner or two during his reign and leasing the track out several times, Pete was still in control when the track hosted its final racing event in 2000. The track recorded having 6,770 racing events and 817 different Feature winning drivers. Pete promoted Raceway Park for over 60 years.


     Stan Burdick: (pictures) Stan helped level a Farm Field in 1948 which was carved out to form Rockford Speedway. He has been a fixture at the Speedway for everyone of the Tracks 66 years of operation!! Stan has served as a Race Official and Infield Marshall. One thing he enjoyed the most was lighting the aerial bomb that started every race program. Stan has been easily one of the most recognizable personalities driving his Blue & White 1955 Chevy Pick Up which he purchased new and still drives. There is no job at the Speedway too big or too small that he hasn’t accomplished. In the early days, when the tension was at all time high levels, he would occasionally make low level bomb runs to town to restock the Pit Shack with Adult Beverages. Stan’s legacy continues, at 86 he is still at the Speedway every Saturday Night. Stan is the 1st one there to maintain law & order in the Pit Area.


     Bob Pohlman Sr.: (pictures) Bob started his racing career in 1949 at 87th Speedway. He built his own cars and earned the nickname “Fender bender Pohlman”. Through the early 50’s he became a top Feature winner at Raceway Park. In 1956 due to a work related injury he retired from racing and became a well known Car Builder proving that he was an expert at Chassis set up. His drivers included Bud Koehler, Ken Finley, Bill Mchenry, Tony Izzo, his sons Bob & Ken and his Grandson Robert Jr Pohlman. Pohlman & Koehler won the 1959 Mance Park Championship. In 1964 they won 28 features clinching the Raceway Park Championship. In 1965 Bob switched to the Santa Fe Dirt with Ken Finley as his driver. They scored 13 Features, 4 Track Records and the Championship. It was clear they were the favorite to win in 1966 for 2 in a row until Finley’s tragic and untimely death mid-season. In 1972 Bob partnered with Tony Izzo winning 4 Championships in a row 1977-1980. At the same time, he was a major force in his Sons careers, Bob & Ken. They went on to win countless features and Ken’s win in the 1980 NCTC 200 at Santa Fe. Known affectionately by “Grandpa” by then, he was the most sought after Chassis and set up Man in the Midwest during the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s. Grandpa Pohlman enjoyed fishing in later years but he always arrived in town for all the Holiday ½ mile events at Santa Fe Speedway to apply his rare finishing touches to the Chassis set up for his Grandson, Robert Jr’s, cars. Grandpa was so proud when Robert won Santa Fe & Kankakee Championships in the same year 1990. His favorite saying was “Chassis is the Secret”. When asked what he thought about the high cost Semi Trailer Rigs and double decker haulers, he would get mad and say “This is nothing but SHOWTIME I can go home and get my little tow truck, a Grand Prix frame and I’ll outrun any one of these guys. It’s not how you get here that counts, it’s how your car handles around the track.”

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