Eight inductees have been announced for the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
The mix of drivers, car owners and officials will officially be honored during a ceremony held on the Tulsa (Oklahoma) State Fairgrounds January 17.
This year’s inductees are Wayne Adams, Emil Andres, George Benson, Dan Boorse, Dominic Distarce, Les Kimbrell, Cletus “Cowboy” O’Rourke and Jigger Sirois.
A legendary figure in Chicago-area Midget media, Adams enjoyed more than four decades of announcing, officiating, photographing and writing the sport. Among his many duties was serving as the chief announcer for the highly popular races at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Andres, a regular member of the “Chicago Gang” in 1930s and 1940s Midget racing, graduated to prominence in stock car and championship racing. Among his victories were the 100-mile Springfield, Illinois, championship race and a 100-miler in 1948 at the Milwaukee Mile. He was honored by the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers with their 1997 Louis Meyer Award.
Benson capped a stellar Midget racing career with his 1969 victory in the prestigious “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Ascot Park in Gardena, California. A pioneer builder as well, his 35-year career included a pair of CRA sprint car victories and other regional midget titles.
Boorse earned seven championships in the tough Badger Midget Racing Association. His 50-year career included prestigious wins in the 1999 and 2003 Chili Bowl Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the 1984 and 1999 Pepsi Midget Nationals at Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Distarce, who served the American Automobile Ass’n as an official, actually served as the race organizer for the first professional Midget race ever held, in 1933 at Loyola High School Stadium in Los Angeles, California. As a chief starter he was in the stand on the fateful day of Rex Mays’ demise at Del Mar, California, in 1949 and he was also features as a starter in the racing epic To Please A Lady, starring Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck.
Kimbrell was instrumental in the area of scoring for many years, officiating as hundreds of Midget races and at the annual Indianapolis 500. Kimbrell was the official scorer on the stand January 8, 1956, when the first USAC race was conducted at the Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He later served in various offices as a board member for the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
O’Rourke recorded a number of midget wins during the 1930s and 1940s, including a spectacular upside-down victory over Duke Nalon at the Chicago Field Artillery Armory in 1937. In 1951 he was named the champion at the Chicago International Amphitheater.
Sirois drove a variety of race cars and in 1961 he captured the UARA Midget title, which included four track championships. A 100-mile race on the Milwaukee Mile and an open-competition Midget Series title at Daytona Beach, Florida were also part of his repertoire, but in 1969 his aborted qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 earned notoriety as he would have been on the pole for the race had he completed the run.