2018 Driver Inductees
Earl J Hubert: Earl started his racing career at Kankakee Fairgrounds in the late 1950’s. After the fairgrounds closed in 1960 due to a driver’s strike. Earl continued his career by driving at Sugar Island Speedway winning the 1964 Late Model Championship driving a 1960 Chevy Impala.

In 1967 Earl was the driving force and personally responsible along with a few others who brought about the return of Stock Car Racing to the Kankakee Area. The group he formed was able to secure steel sheets for a new retaining wall, improved lighting and participating in the preparation for the re-opening of the Kankakee Fairgrounds.

After the 1st year Earl formed a corporation to promote races, purchase heavy equipment to maintain the track and run the concession stands. The corporation operated under the name of Kankakee Speedway Improvement Incorporated with Earl serving as President.

Earl’s Legacy will always be that he was the first to race a small block Ford engine and win races! When the #43 hot lapped & qualified, every fan and crew member could hear his Ford engine screaming over 9,000 rpm. Earl built and assembled his own cars as well as his own engines and perfected them to be fast and to require minimal maintenance. In the 1970’s Hubert revitalized Short Track Dirt Racing when everyone followed his example and switched from, big block to small block engines.

Already having numerous Holiday Championship feature wins, Earl mastered Kankakee’s mid-week open competition series winning its individual Championship over season Champion Tony “Shaggy” Izzo. It was the “Run what you brung” series. Earl’s screaming Torinos and Mustangs were winning races at Santa Fe, Kankakee and scoring Championships at Boswell in 1974 and Rensselaer in 1976. In 1973, he switched to a Buick powered car and recorded his biggest win of his career, the Santa Fe National Clay Track 200 Lapper. It was the first and only time it was won by a Buick.

On July 4, 1976 at Boswell Speedway, with over 100 cars in the Pits for the Holiday Firecracker 100 lapper, Earl failed to qualify. He started last in the semi-feature and raced his way to a win qualifying him to move to the 100 lap Main event. He once again started last and craftily moved through traffic to score a popular win to the delight of his many fans. Earl J Hubert is listed 12th on the All Time Feature win list at Kankakee Fairgrounds with 23 Feature wins. Earl will always be remembered for his warm smile and willingness to assist and mentor rookie drivers.

So It is my pleasure on this 24th day of March 2018 to induct Earl J Hubert into the Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame.

     Jim Leka: Jim’s racing career spanned 17 years from 1972-2008. He is one of the all time Feature race winners in Illinois with over 500 late model wins, 10 minis stock wins and 75 modified feature events. Jim has recorded 23 Championships and set track records at Farmer City, Macon and Springfield Speedway. Jim, in 1975, is the only driver to win the Macon Speedway 300 and the Harold Review 100 lap Championship Race. He won 3 Summer National Events, Macon Speedway 1989, Hawkeye Speedway 1989 and Farmer City Speedway 1990. Jim was the UMP Champion in 1989. Jims Late Model Championship tally is 15 as follows:
Macon Speedway 1975,77,80,84,88,89
Springfield Speedway 1976,78,80,83,87
Farmer City Speedway 1982,88
Godfrey Speedway 1987
Brownstown Speedway 1989

Jim’s Championship record is unprecedented even in today’s record books.

     John Knaus:John made his first appearance at Rockford Speedway driving in the Road Runner class in 1968. He started racing at Freeport Speedway on the Dirt in 1972 winning the Rookie of the Year award;. For many years John raced weekly on both dirt and asphalt driving the same car. In 1973 John and his Dad formed Knaus Racing. They built a new car that winter and Rockford Speedway changed their rules meaning the car wasn’t legal there so they went racing weekly at Grundy County and Dells Motor Speedway. They won their 1st Late Model Feature event that summer at Dells Motor Speedway.

From 1979 through 1982, John traveled the ARTGO & ASA circuit racing from Canada to Atlanta and as far west as Colorado. They raced at Michigan International, Bristol Tennessee, Minnesota State Fair, and the Milwaukee Mile. John recorded a career best a 2nd place finish to Mark Martin in Anderson, Indiana. Knaus Racing made some grueling road trips racing 3 nights in a row from Toledo Ohio to Berlin Michigan to Sunday afternoon racers in Kaukana Wisconsin yet making it home Monday morning in time to go to work in Rockford Illinois.

John teamed up with Gary Bagwell in 1983 and won the Late Model Championship at Freeport Speedway on the 1/2 mile dirt track. They also made special appearances at Farley & Davenport Iowa, as well as Hales Corners Wisconsin. In 1985 John returned to Rockford Speedway and took a 2nd place finish in the point standings. Teaming up with Harry Boyden, he won a record 4 Championships in a row at Rockford Speedway from 1987-1990.

In the spring of 1987, Dave Johnson of Alpine Body Shop out of Rockford Il told John if he won the Championship at Rockford Speedway that year he would rent a Lear jet to transport John to Charlotte NC to attend the NASCAR Banquet to accept his award.

John won the Championship and Dave being a man of his word chartered a jet. Now that’s incentive.

John drove for Bob Laken starting in 1992 and repeated a Championship streak winning 3 in a row from 1992-1994. John won the Great Northern Winston Racing Series Championship in 1994. The Knaus/Laken team set a record by finishing in the top 2 positions in 22 of 26 races that year winning his 7th Championship at Rockford Speedway.

John’s final year of competition was in 2002 driving for Bill Scott, he finished 2nd in points at Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin.

So It is my pleasure on this 24th day of March 2018 to induct John Knaus into the Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame.

     Keith Simmons: Keith started his racing career in 1971. His goal has always been to build the best cars and engines available. Jim Leverington won Keith his first big win and a Championship at Freeport Speedway. John Connolly won 4 Championships in a row driving for Keith. Tom Hearst won 2 in a row in 1982-83 to dominate Freeport Speedway competition. They also won the Inaugural National Winston Racing Series Championship in 1982. Keith moved to the ARCA series in 1982 with Bob Schacht winning 2 races, 3 poles and ended 2nd in points. In 1987 Keith reunited with Tim Hearst returning to the Dirt winning 11 out of 13 races.

In the 90’s Keith relocated to North Carolina and worked for Bill Davis Racing maintaining cars and building Ford engines for Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon winning several races on the Bush Grand National series. In 1993 Bill Davis moved up to the Winston Cup series and Keith was working with Bobby Labonte, Kyle Petty, Sterlin Martin, Richard Childress, Darrel Waltrip and the Ward Burton.

In 2000 Keith’s love for the dirt tracks lured him back to the Midwest landing in Iowa where he purchased Farley Speedway and leased Dubuque Fairgrounds, West Liberty Raceway and Davenport Speedway. Keith enjoys restoring the Championship cars of Freeport Speedway. Keith has already completed cars driven by Joe Finn, Darrell Dake and John Connolly.

     Larry Middleton: Larry got into late model stock car racing at Blue Island’s Raceway Park in 1963 when he purchased the Legs Whitcomb’s opening day/feature race-winning “57 Chevy. Putting #71 on the yellow and blue car. He joined the tough competition at the “World’s Busiest Track.” He was a regular competitor in Raceway’s weekly action. He was 18th in points in 1964 and 16th in 1965, driving updated 1963/64 Chevrolets, Chevelles and Novas were Larry’s chosen race cars for a time. He was the 10th ranking driver at Raceway Park in 1970, but was still looking for his first career feature win. In 1973 he jumped to 6th in points winning three feature races. He climbed to 4th in 1974, grabbing 4 main event victories along the way. Larry came home 3rd in the standings in 1975, winning 7 feature races, including the track’s annual 300 lap classic.

Larry called East Hazel Crest, IL home. In 1976 he finished 2nd in points notching 8 feature victories in his own “74 Camaro. 1977 was his “big” year at Raceway Park as he garnered an impressive 20 feature wins as well as another 300 lap classic on his way to winning the season track Championship over the likes of newcomer Ted Moore and multi-time Raceway Champion Bud Koehler. 1978 was again a Championship year for Middleton at Raceway when he teamed up with car owner Joe D’Ambrose and the combination proved to be a winning one, Larry captured 17 feature races in a “78 Camaro.

Larry shifted to the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, IL and Illiana Motor Speedway in Schereville, IN. He was the 3rd ranking late model driver at Grundy in 1979, winning 2 feature races in Larry Hryn’s Camaro #8. Racing a partial season at Illiana in 1981 he was 19th in points. In 1982 he joined forces with Bill & Bev Skarupinski driving their “windup key” Bill’s Auto Repair #3 late model. Larry scored feature wins at Grundy & Illiana including a 40 lap Spring Championship in 1984. They won the late model title at Illiana in 1985 beating Dave Weltmeyer and Frank Gawlinski in the final points tally. To put icing on the cake, Larry captured the ARTGO Challenge Series Chicagoland Showdown 100 lapper at Illiana on June 29, 1985 finishing ahead of Al Schill and Rich Bickle Jr.

Driving for Marv Hixon in 1986 he was 4th in points at Illiana and in 1987 he was 7th. Larry helped his son Larry Jr with his stock car racing career as well as his grandkids who competed in go-carts as well as his grandson Tyler who raced stock cars at Illiana.

     Pat Finley: At the tender age of 10 Pat Finley started his career by pinstriping everything he could get his brush on. As a teenager, he was drafted and ended up in Viet Nam. Once again, he pinstriped everything he could find. He was so talented that whenever a sign was needed in the jungle camp, the Base Commander would send for him.

When his tour of duty was over he was discharged in Florida and he headed to Daytona for Speed Weeks. He hung around the pit area fence with his sign kit in hand. Most sign painters start their career at the smallest short track and work up to the top. Pat, however, started at the top. One day in 1969 Richard Petty brushed the wall at Daytona driving his Ford and needed the quarter panel paint repaired. He saw Pat standing by the fence and asked him if he was a sign painter of course Pat said yes and Petty proceeded to walk him past the guard because Pat had no NASCAR credentials. But the day got even better, as he was finishing up Petty’s car Junior Johnson tapped Pat on the shoulder and stated “I need you to paint Torino Cobra on my car.” Thinking nothing could ever top this, LeRoy Yarbrough drove that Torino Cobra #26 to win the Daytona 500. Yarborough was pictured numerous times in Victory Lane showing off Pat’s artwork.

After returning to Illinois Pat started helping longtime childhood friends Bill Hollis and Ray Greenberg around the dirt tracks. He was on the pit crew and lettered whatever needed to be done. In the 1980’s Hollis switched to asphalt racing. Now they were traveling and many doors opened for Pat. Next thing you know, he was lettering all of Ray Dillion’s in house ASA cars which included a very young Mark Martin. Some of Pat’s favorite lettering jobs were on cars of Bill Hollis, Bob Kelley, Jerry Peterson, Ray Greenberg, Mark Martin, Dave Watson, Bobby Allison, Arnie Gardner and Jim Gates.

Pat Finley is a member of the exclusive Chicago Brushmasters Organization and volunteers yearly to support Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital Ronald McDonald House. Items are hand painted on site highlighting artforms from the past and re-introducing hand lettering and pinstriping, then the items are donated for auction. They raise approximately $40,000 each year. In 2008, Pat was the Team Leader who recreated in chalk the awesome artwork on the Purple Knight #99 driven by the famous Dick Trickle live at the World of Wheels Show. That Car is now on display at Alex’ Beam’s Memory Lane Museum located in Mooresville, NC.

In 2012 Pat was presented the Frank H Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also actively involved in creating a Documentary Film about sign painters and pinstripers.

     Roger “Smokey” Smith: Smokey started racing Midgets & Stock Cars in the late 1940’s & 1950’s. In mid season of 1951 he became the Assistant Starter under Flagman Tom Plauzeh. Upon Tom’s retirement Smokey became the official starter at Raceway Park. Raceway ran four nights a week Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Through the years, Smokey managed to also work at Soldier Field & Mazon Speed Bowl.

Smokey was the founder of the Midwest Motor Mites Quarter Midget Club for ages 5 to 16. These quarter midgets ran from the 1950’s into the 1960’s. Smokey was involved in racing for over 50 years. In 1972 he retired and moved to Florida. In 1980 he moved back to Illinois and became the Official Starter at Illiana until he retired from the Flag Stand in 1996. He loved racing and continued on at the Speedway working at the beer stand enjoying Bench racing stories and his friends and fans until the late 1990’s.

     Wayne Webb: Wayne built Macon Speedway in 1946. He didn’t just hire a crew, Wayne was part of the crew assembling forms for pouring concrete. He was part of the building of each grandstand for his new speedway.

Wayne became co-promoter with 2016 Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Shaheen at Lil Springfield. Wayne promoted every kind of Motor Vehicle that has ever raced. During the late 1940’s through the mid 1950’s he ran races as much as 7 days a week drawing thousands of spectators setting records for the time period. His events were known as Webb Enterprises organizing premiere events at Macon, Laplace, Brownstone, Sandoval, Champaign, Freeport, Springfield Mile, Marshfield WI, London, Ontario, King City, Walsh Charleston Mo and 3 different locations in Danville IL.

Wayne’s events during the 1960’s & 70’s attracted top Late Model drivers from all over the USA. He succeeded in convincing the Herald Review Newspaper to sponsor his annual 100 lap Championship Race. Today the 1/5 mile Macon Speedway is the oldest continuously operating Dirt Speedway in Illinois. Macon has a Wayne Webb Memorial Grandstand to honor their pioneer of Stock Car Racing.

So It is my pleasure on this 24th day of March 2018 to induct Wayne Webb into the Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame.

Copyright 2014 Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame