The racers help in numerous ways as well.
“I’d be remiss not to mention a bunch of the drivers, just like Kenny Jacobs, that stop by and say, ‘Well, I had this in the garage and I wasn’t using it and I thought you could use it at an auction. Or maybe you could use it around the museum somewhere or maybe you just want to keep it for posterity,’” Baker explained. “Terry McCarl’s one of the drivers that does that kind of stuff. He races here at Knoxville almost every week and he sends his sponsors, he sends family, he sends friends, people who come by in the pits.
“He’ll be in the pits early and I’ve heard him do this; he’ll say, ‘You see that tall guy? He runs that building there. You should go over before the races and go look around that museum over there, it’s really a cool place.’ And, you can’t buy that word-of-mouth advertising that our inductees do for us.”
Baker never tires of talking about the Hall of Famers.
“Ray Lee Goodwin’s a great ambassador for the sport. He’s getting up in age and he’s having a hard time getting around, but he still has his friends drive him here to the induction banquet,” Baker said. “He’s still one of the all-time great ambassadors for our sport because he’s so gregarious and outgoing. He’s so welcoming and so good with people.”
“Jimmy Oskie’s another one. He’s a funny guy and he always talks very positive about the Hall of Fame and if he’s in someone’s garage he always tells them, ‘You really don’t need all this junk you’ve got here. You should box it up and send it in someone’s trailer back to Knoxville so they have it at the Hall of Fame so people can remember you when you’re not around anymore.’”
Five-time Knoxville Nationals winner Doug Wolfgang has donated all of his Nationals trophies to the museum. “This is where they belong,” Wolfgang told Baker.
Word of mouth is important to the Hall of Fame’s success.
“Bruce Ellis is our Pennsylvania connection,” Baker noted, “not just with Sprint Car & Midget but with his PA work at Williams Grove and all the people he knows in Pennsylvania, he’s a constant ambassador in that area for our museum.
“Allan Brown, who used to do the National Speedway Directory, still travels to races and talks to people about us.
“Ron Shaver not only has donated I don’t know how many raffle car engines to us, but he knows all those manufacturers for every part on the race car and if he sees something in their shop he’ll tell them, ‘You know, this really doesn’t belong here, it belongs in Knoxville, Iowa,’ and they’ll call and say, ‘Ron Shaver kind of shamed me into calling you — what’s the best way for me to get this to you?’”
Family members of inductees have also become terrific supporters of the NSCHoF. Among the numerous contributions of two-time Nationals winner Eddie Leavitt’s family was a large donation in his name to help create the Wall of Champions that sits on the property honoring the Knoxville Nationals winners.
Emmett Malloy was inducted in 2018 and his son Tom Malloy operates the Malloy Race Car Museum. When Baker put together the Salute To A.J. Foyt exhibit, two of Foyt’s former cars came courtesy of the Malloy museum.
“I feel like I’m missing so many people, because there’s so many of them that do so much to help us,” Baker said. “Shane and Lynn Paxton come to the forefront because so often they’re at the races out in front of everybody and they’re telling people, ‘You should go there.’
“And Shane does a deal nobody knows about in Tulsa, Okla., once a month,” Baker added. “He gets all the old-timer Oklahoma racers together at the Hard Rock Café for a lunch deal. And they have a meeting and tell stories and he’s always calling saying, ‘I need another box of induction programs; I passed them all out already.’
“So that’s pretty cool when you’ve got people who are inductees that believe in the mission and everything,” Baker explained. “And they’re out there helping you. Like Dave Argabright says at the end of all of our banquets, ‘You know, you guys are not just inductees now, you’re ambassadors for the sport. This is your Hall of Fame and you need to let your family and friends know that this is your place and that you’ll be here forever.’ The guys do that automatically.”
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