LAS VEGAS — Motorsports legends Bobby Rahal, Skip Barber, Carroll Shelby, Bill Noble and Andy Porterfield were inducted into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Las Vegas at a ceremony presented by Mazda.
The five inductees joined eight previous classes to cap the 2013 SCCA Convention presented by SafeRacer at the South Point Hotel and Casino.
Rahal, Barber, and family members of the late Shelby, Noble and Porterfield addressed the nearly 400 event attendees.
Rahal used his 1975 SCCA National Championship as a springboard to a long professional racing career that included a win in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 1982 CART Rookie of the Year award, a 1986 Indianapolis 500 win, and series championships in 1986, 1987, and 1992. Even with those highlights, Saturday night’s honor was special.
“I’ve been inducted to other halls of fame, and that’s great,” Rahal said. “But being inducted into the SCCA Hall means more, because there’s an emotional attachment. I remember growing up, I lived SCCA. My summer times as a kid were made up of Little League baseball and going racing with my dad. What made SCCA so valuable is that it was a family sport. For the most part, it was just regular guys exercising their passion and their interest in racing.
“SCCA was my roots. That’s why coming here tonight was so special, because it’s coming home. I thank you all for this tremendous honor.”
Like Rahal, Barber used SCCA National Championships to launch a career. Barber’s 1969 and 1970 Formula Ford National Championships followed a few years of sports car racing, and preceded the formation of the internationally known Skip Barber Racing School. The school has served as the foundation for thousands of champion racers.
“I had three different careers in our sport,” Barber said in his address. “The first one started with a Bugeye Sprite and ended with a McLaren. It lasted about eight years.
“That’s when Formula Ford started. That was the first time I ever had really good efforts.”
Those efforts landed the national titles for Barber, who discussed his perpetual shyness and the lack of funding early in his driving career.
“The third was the school in Lime Rock, and that one worked,” Barber continued. “It was weird, I never thought I could earn a living that way. I thought I was still racing – but I was the only one that did! Off we went, and it quickly spread through the country.”
Shelby’s name goes hand and hand with the American muscle car industry, but as a driver he won the 1956 SCCA National Championship in Formula Libre. Shelby was an SCCA member from 1952 through his death in 2012.
“My grandfather always thought highly of this organization, and thought it was the epitome of what racing was about,” Shawn Shelby said.” It’s people like those of you in this room that drove him to leave a mark for so many years. For my family, I’d like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing that passion with him.”
In accepting the honor on behalf of his famous grandfather, Shelby dropped a bombshell in a room full of sports car enthusiasts that was nearly the equivalent of telling a kindergarten class that there wasn’t a Santa Claus.
“He was never really that sentimental about cars – he was always looking for the newest thing,” Shelby said. “These cars that people now pay millions of dollars for, he would tear down in a second to build something better.”
Noble’s wife and current Chairman of the SCCA Board of Directors, Lisa, and his daughter Jaime Gassmann accepted the honor on behalf of the five-time National Champion whose name has become nearly synonymous with the Formula Vee class.
“This is a wonderful evening for the Noble family,” Noble said. “Bill raced in SCCA and built engines for 40 years. He had a long standing promise to his customers that, anytime they felt they had a better motor, he would trade his personal motor for theirs on the spot. What he really enjoyed was helping others better themselves, giving away insider’s tricks to anyone who wanted to ask.
“I love you all, and I want to thank you all for letting us honor Bill tonight. My family and I thank you very much.”
His daughter summed up her father even more succinctly.
“He didn’t just want to win,” Gassmann said. “He wanted to expand the class, the competition, the drivers. And then he wanted to kick their ass.”
The 1978 and 1979 National Champion in B Production, Porterfield also made an impact behind the scenes of the SCCA as a Region Executive, race organizer, brake manufacturer, and Chairman of the Board of SCCA Enterprises.
“A great many of you knew Andy, so you know that receiving this award would have really humbled him, and embarrassed him as well,” his wife, Judy Porterfield, said. “I sure do miss him, and I’m so grateful to you for appreciating his accomplishments.”