By Brian Liskai
FREMONT, Ohio – The fourth class to be inducted into the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame has a distinct “All Star” feel. Of the 16 to be enshrined at “The Track That Action Built,” several have ties to the All Star Circuit of Champions.
Fremont Speedway has hosted over 100 events sanctioned by the All Stars over its 61 year history, though if you go back to the original All Stars back in the early 1970s, the total would be more. Fans can remember those early All Star Wednesday night specials that drew the stars of the Pennsylvania area like Bobby Allen, Lynn Paxton, Kramer Williamson, Steve Smith and Jan Opperman.
When Fremont Speedway hosts its Hall of Fame induction ceremony prior to the racing on Vision Quest Night, Saturday, June 9, among those being inducted include two-time All Star champion Fred Linder; former All Star champion Jack Hewitt and Bert and Brigitte Emick, who resurrected the All Stars in 1980 and ran the organization until 2002 until they turned the reins over to the current series’ management.
“Only Eldora Speedway has hosted more All Star shows than Fremont…and we’re catching them. This class of inductees once again speaks to the history of racing not only at Fremont, but throughout the country. We are proud and honored to pay them recognition,” said Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame Trustee Brian Liskai. “On behalf of Rich Farmer (promoter at Fremont Speedway) and myself, we would like to thank fellow hall of fame trustee Randy Mapus and his wife, Jane. They work tirelessly on this hall of fame and throughout the year, but particularly when it comes to the induction ceremony.”
Fremont Speedway’s 2012 Hall of Fame class includes: car owners Grover Ritter and Ron Boos; driver and car owner Ken Clark; car owner and builder Tom Schemmer; driver and car owner John Cook; car owner Don Linton; Hewitt; Linder; driver Tim Sabo; the Emicks; driver Rick Ferkel; driver Jim Keegan; team and track sponsor John Forsythe; former track promoter Joe Stelter, engine builder Earl Griffith; and engine builder Ed Smith.
Grover Ritter, of Sandusky, Ohio, and Ron Boos, of Milan, Ohio, were the car owners for hall of famer Herbie Robinson. Robinson drove the Ritter and Boos six cylinder sportsman to track championships in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963 and racked up 54 career victories to sit fifth on the track’s all-time win list. It’s safe to say Ritter and Boos were the most dominating car owners in history of Fremont Speedway.
Earl Griffith, of Sandusky, Ohio, was on the Robinson pit crew and also worked on Harold McGilton’s team that won 24 features in one season. He eventually opened his own engine building shop which is operated in Sandusky to this day by Gary Griffith. The list of drivers who have utilized Griff’s Engines and have won races include Robinson, McGilton, George Fosco, Dean Mast, Gug Keegan, Bob Knoll, Harry Kresser, Dave Hoover, Doc Dawson, Armond Holly, Bob Davis, Gill Sams Jr., Danny Boyd, Dick Raifsnider, Rick Unger, Rollie Beale, Al Beale, Darl Harrison, Jim Fleming, Jim Keegan, Dale Hasselbach, Rollie Alvers, Jim Sexton, Jim Ward, Ken Clark and many more.
Ed Smith of Fremont, built many championship engines throughout his career including those of Fred Linder’s All Star titles and John Ivy’s 5i machines. Smith built some of the first 305 sprint engines and was a long-time Fremont Speedway sponsor.
John Forsythe of Fremont, has been a part of the Fremont Auto Parts/NAPA that has supported Fremont Speedway and racers for decades. He painted many sprint cars over the years and supported Fremont Speedway on trophy night for many years.
Tom Schemmer, of Fremont, built his first race car in 1952, a 1938 Ford sedan that raced at Fort Miami with Paul Bertok as the driver. He continued to build cars and campaign them throughout the area with Bertok until 1954 when he built a car for hall of famer Rollie Beale. In 1955, Schemmer installed a Cadillac engine in hall of famer John Auxter’s 37 Chevy couple and they placed 8th in the Daytona 500 on the beach course. In 1960 Schemmer joined back up with Auxter as his engine man with Darl Harrison as the driver at Fremont Speedway and they continued through 1965. In 1966 Schemmer was the chief mechanic and partial owner of the WHS Special #91 driven by Harrison at Fremont. A year later the team won the Little 500 with Harrison and Cy Fairchild sharing the driving duties. From 1968-70, Schemmer was the chief mechanic on the Century Die #44 sprint car driven by Harrison on the IMCA circuit to a national championship and another Little 500 win (1970). Schemmer was named the Mechanic of the Year in 1969 for the IMCA. >From 1972-73 Schemmer worked on the Century Die car with Harrison on the USAC circuit. Schemmer, a part of the Fremont Auto Parts/NAPA business, built engines for Donny Eckhart’s #4 car from 1976-78 with driver All Franks winning many races and championships. From 1984-86, Schemmer’s business sponsored Fred Linder; and from 1989-96 backed John Wisbon. Schemmer retired in 1997 from active participation at Fremont Speedway…after 44 years. Schemmer still rebuilds Offenhauser Engines and classic antique engines.
Jim Keegan of Vickery, Ohio, scored Fremont Speedway championships in the six-cylinder sportsman division in 1986 and 1988. His career started as a car owner with Rollie Alvers driving, but Jim soon wanted to drive. He has eight career wins at Fremont Speedway. Jim continued to race off and on throughout the 1990s and 2000s and competed in the dirt truck division at Fremont Speedway as late as 2011.
John Cook of Fremont was an auto racing pioneer at Fremont Speedway. Cook, who is known as Flower by many associated with racing, has two career feature wins at Fremont; He was the car owner of the famous X15 super modified driven by Jim Linder to the track championship in 1965. He was the owner of the #6 mini sprint driven by Jerry Inbody to the track’s 1992 championship. Cook also owned late models that competed at the track throughout the years.
Don Linton was co-owner of the X15 super modified driven by Linder to the track’s 1965 championship. He also co-owned the mini-sprint with Cook that took the 1992 track title.
Cook and Linton spent over 35 years together owning and maintaining cars, with Cook driving for Linton in the beginning. Linton had his first race car when he turned 15. Over the years Linton worked on Al Frank’s crew while Cook worked on Willie Keegan’s team. Cook and Linton owned many cars together over the years.
Joe Stelter and his wife Dorothy (already inducted in the hall of fame) and Harry Maynor of Toledo founded Fremont Speedway in 1951. Joe and Dot were part of the Fremont Speedway ownership until Joe’s sudden death in 1962. Dot continued running the track through 1976 and after selling her share, continued to work at the track for many years. Joe Stelter built and set up timing systems and announced at tracks like Flat Rock, Monroe, Adrian, Fort Miami, Raceway Park and Motor City Speedway in Detroit in the late 1940s prior to creating Fremont Speedway.
Ken Clark of Fremont was Fremont’s 1983 late model champion and has 2 career wins. He was on Harold McGilton’s pit crew for many years and through his business, the Fremont Fence Company, has been a long time supporter and sponsor at Fremont Speedway for over 44 years. Ken has fielded cars recently for his sons Kenny and Bobby and grandson Zack Kramer and currently fields a 305 sprint for John Ivy.
Fred Linder, formerly of Burgoon and now of Atlanta, Georgia, began his racing career at Fremont and joins his brother, Jim, in the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame. Fred, who was recently inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, has 11 career wins at Fremont. The 1984 and 1986 All Star champion and has 3 All Star wins at Fremont, all coming in 1981. Fred continues to visit Fremont, mainly when he’s turning the wrenches on his son Matt’s 410 sprint car.
Rick Ferkel of Tiffin became popular throughout the United States and was known as “The Ohio Traveler.” Ferkel, who has over 300 career sprint car wins, got his very first at Fremont Speedway and ended his career with 22 victories at The Track That Action Built, to sit in the track’s top 25 all-time. Ferkel won 4 All Star events at Fremont Speedway and remains active, fielding a 410 sprint team with driver Lee Jacobs.
Jack Hewitt, formerly of Troy, Ohio, seemed to be untouchable at Fremont Speedway in the 1980s with the All Stars. Hewitt, who won an All Star title in 1985, leads all drivers with series wins at the speedway with 10. Hewitt has 17 career victories at Fremont Speedway.
Bert and Brigitte Emick remain to this day some of the most beloved racing promoters in the history of short track racing. In 1979, Bert and his wife, racing enthusiasts from Columbus, Ohio, put together a new group called Midwest Outlaw Super Series (MOSS) for outlaw sprints and late models, running five races. The series expanded in 1980 to 22 sprint and 14 late models races and at the end of their second year, the Emicks resurrected the name All Star Circuit of Champions which they continued to operate until 2002. >From 1980 until they retired, the Emicks made Fremont Speedway “the home of the All Stars” as the track hosted more sanctioned races than any other track other than Eldora.