Class of 2002

Kenny Gritz


Kenny Gritz grew up in Beatrice but moved to Lincoln shortly after his graduation from high school. In 1964, he began helping Larry Williams with his Supermodified race car and after hopping into the cockpit late in the season, knew he wanted to be a driver.

Gritz purchased the car from Williams in 1965 and began racing with the Nebraska Modified Racing Association (NMRA) at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln and Eagle Raceway near Eagle.

In 1967, Gritz constructed a new race car and picked up his first-ever feature race win at Midwest Speedway while falling just short of winning the NMRA championship, finishing a close second.

In 1968, Gritz raced at home at Eagle and on the road at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa, where he finished ninth in the final point standings. The highlight of the 1968 season was a B Feature win at the Knoxville Nationals in early August.

Gritz unveiled a brand new Don Edmunds Sprint Car for the 1969 season, made possible by his long-time sponsor Larry Snyder (Snyder Fiberglass of Lincoln). In February, the team traveled west to race in California at Ascot Park, El Centro and Imperial. Upon returning home, Gritz won three feature races in a row at Eagle, and captured his first feature race win at Knoxville Raceway while finishing fifth in points.

Gritz’s crowning racing achievement came that August at the Knoxville Nationals when he went from an over-looked competitor to champion of the most prestigious event in all of Sprint Car racing. Gritz qualified seventh and spent part of the morning of championship night in a local hospital after a welding tank exploded while he was working on the car of his teammate and brother-in-law, Jerry Sanford. The young driver surprised the field by overtaking legendary Jan Opperman with three laps remaining to become the Knoxville Nationals champion. The win is widely considered the biggest upset in Knoxville Nationals history.

Sadly however, Gritz would have only 16 days to enjoy one of the biggest racing victories ever by a native Nebraskan. On September 1, 1969, while running seventh midway through the feature race on the final day of IMCA racing at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln, Gritz’s race car caught a rut and catapulted over the guard rail, killing him instantly. He was only 25 years old.

Don Ostendorf


Don Ostendorf spent his early years in the communities of Gothenburg and North Platte, Nebraska.

After returning from the Navy in 1946, Ostendorf gained his first exposure to auto racing a few years later racing on a make-shift race track in pasture land northwest of North Platte. A short time later, a half-mile race track was built on the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in North Platte. The track, along with nearby tracks in Holdrege, Lexington, Hastings and Broken Bow, became sanctioned by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) through the efforts of 1999 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame Inductee Ed O’Boyle.

After a runner-up finish in 1952, Ostendorf drove his number-88 Stock Car to the NASCAR Nebraska State Championship in 1953 and 1954. He drove in the only NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) race ever contested in Nebraska, held in North Platte in July of 1953, running as high as fourth place before a failed head gasket ended his day. The event was won by Dick Rathman with other big-name participants including Lee Petty, Buck Baker and Tim Flock.

The following year, he was invited to participate in the annual NASCAR Sportsman Century race in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. While running third, he blew a tire on lap 16, but raced back to a 12th place finish.

Ostendorf ventured out in 1955, winning the track championship in Rapid City, South Dakota before driving for a variety of owners, including Merle Miller, Don Arbuck and John Griffith, at tracks in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado through 1964.

He participated in Ed O’Boyle’s 200-mile road-course race at Continental Divide Raceway in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1963, finishing sixth against cars better equipped for that style of racing. It was his only race on a road-course track.

One of Ostendorf’s most memorable races was at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds when promoter Ed O’Boyle staged a 100 yard dash between Ostendorf’s number-88 race car and a quarter horse. Overcoming an early deficit, Ostendorf nipped the quarter horse at the finish line much to the delight of his many fans.

During his 14 year racing career, Ostendorf won over 200 events at race tracks in Nebraska and throughout the Midwest. He also won numerous track championships along the way.

After hanging up his helmet and racing gear for the final time, Ostendorf worked as a track official, flagging races at McCook, Benkleman, and Sargent.

King Rhiley


King Rhiley was born and raised in Minden, Nebraska and spent a few years in Omaha as a blacksmith before moving to Oshkosh in 1909. A couple of years later, he attended his first race at the Box Butte County Fair in Hemingford.

Rhiley built the first of his 12 race cars shortly thereafter and hired Jack Rouston, who became his long-time mechanic. The pair immediately began winning races all over western Nebraska.

Initially, Rhiley raced at North Platte, Lexington, Franklin and Holdrege, but also competed at any county fair that included races as part of their annual mid-summer celebration.

In 1919, Rhiley won five of six races at North Platte and late in the season set a one-mile record on the half-mile oval. He won the North Platte Chamber of Commerce Sweepstakes Trophy three times in a row and subsequently was billed in the press as “the fastest dirt track driver in Nebraska” in his Hudson Super-Six.

Rhiley made three trips to Colorado Springs to run the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. His first trip was in 1921 and was the high point of his career when he surprised all of the factory teams and won the 12.5 mile “Race to the Clouds.” Rhiley’s car was the third up to the mountain on race day and recoded a time of 19 minutes, 16 seconds to beat defending race champion Ot Loesche by a mere 31 seconds.

Rhiley’s second trip to Pikes Peak, in 1922, resulted in a runner-up finish behind fellow Nebraskan and 2000 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Noel Bullock. Rhiley was unable to run the event on his third trip to Pikes Peak a year later, as the American Automobile Association (AAA) essentially outlawed both he and Bullock’s racers because they had beaten the well-funded factory cars in consecutive years.

In 1925, deciding that racing was not compatible with raising a family, Rhiley retired from the sport. During his very successful career, he competed and won all over the Midwest against some of the best in the sport including Bullock, Ray Pingrey of Chicago, Bert Ficken of Denver, Texan Rex Edmonds, and Gus Schrader of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Following his retirement from racing, Rhiley opened an automobile dealership in Oshkosh, Nebraska where he later became mayor. He passed away in 1966.

Eddie Rickenbacker


Eddie Rickenbacker was born in Columbus, Ohio and in 1906, as a 16 year old, gained his first experience in automobile racing, serving as a “riding mechanic” for Lee Frayer in the Vanderbilt Cup race.

A year later, he moved to Omaha and shortly thereafter, entered his first race in Red Oak, Iowa. Although he crashed in that event, he went on to win nine out of ten races at the Aksarben Festival race track in Omaha and the next season lost a close battle with Billy Pierce for the championship at Aksarben.

In 1912, Rickenbacker entered the Indianapolis 500 driving his own Red Wing Special and while running in fourth place, lost his engine. He was hired by Fred Duesenberg for the 1913 season and although he was unable to run at Indianapolis due an American Automobile Association (AAA) suspension, the team won numerous dirt track events.

Back in good graces with the AAA, Rickenbacker drove Duesenberg’s car to a tenth place finish at Indianapolis in 1914. He captured his first national win in the 300-mile race at Sioux City that year and finished fifth in the AAA National Championship standings. The next season, Rickenbacker moved to the Maxwell team and again won at Sioux City and two days later, in front over 30,000 spectators, won the inaugural board track race in Omaha. He also won in Providence, Rhode Island and again finished fifth in the Championship standings.

In 1916, “Fast Eddie,” as he had become known, won again at Sioux City and was also victorious at Sheepshead Bay, New York, Tacoma, Washington, and at Ascot Park in California, finishing third in the AAA championship standings.

Rickenbacker’s driving career came to a halt in 1917, when he joined the armed services as a World War I fighter pilot, shooting down 26 German aircraft and making him a national hero when he returned from the war.

In 1919, Rickenbacker developed the Rickenbacker Automobile, and in 1927, took on a new challenge as the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After selling the speedway to Tony Hulman in 1945, Rickenbacker became President of Eastern Airlines. He retired from Eastern in 1963 and moved to Switzerland where he passed away in 1973.

Rickenbacker was inducted into numerous motorsports Halls of Fame, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1954 and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1992.

Cliff Sealock


Cliff Sealock began his love affair with auto racing in 1949 while in the military service in Virginia. When he returned home to Hastings following his discharge, he began building a Model T Roadster to race with the Nebraska Hot Rod Racing Association (NHRRA).

After limited success during the early years, Sealock hooked up with Harry Griffin in 1954 racing in nearby Franklin. Sealock wheeled Griffin’s powerful Coupe to the track championship at Franklin Speedway that year.

In 1955, Sealock was tabbed to drive for John Davisson in a car that was seen as one of the top rides in the state. Sealock didn’t disappoint, as he drove Davisson’s “Mighty Mouse” to the track championship at Franklin.

In 1958, Sealock and Davisson ventured to Hutchinson, Kansas to race in the National Jalopy Championship races. After encountering problems in his heat race, Sealock won the semi-main and came from the rear of the field to an impressive third place finish behind the winner, Frankie Lies of Wichita. The next season, Sealock surprised the field by winning the annual Good Fellows Race at Playland Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was Sealock’s first trip to Playland’s quarter-mile asphalt oval.

In 1960, Sealock was selected to drive a potent Modified owned by Jim Gessford of Hastings. That season he won track championships at David City, Beatrice and Lincoln Speedway at Capitol Beach.

In 1962, Sealock teamed up with Charlie Williams and Gary Swenson. After winning numerous feature races that year, Sealock returned to capture the championship at Beatrice Speedway in 1963.

Sealock and his family relocated to California in 1965. He stayed out of racing until 1968 when he was hired to drive at the California State Fairgrounds in Sacramento. Over the next four seasons, Sealock raced Sprint Cars at Northern Auto Racing Club (NARC) and California Racing Association (CRA) events throughout the state picking up major wins at Vallejo and Clovis and setting a one-lap record at Calistoga in 1970. His last NARC win came at Calistoga in 1972 driving the Vern Nachreiner Chevrolet.

Sealock drove the famous Speedway Motors 4X Sprint Car on several occasions when traveling back to Nebraska and continued racing in California through 1979 before hanging up his helmet. During his 30 year career he won numerous track championships and countless feature races.

He passed away in California in 2017.

Doug Wolfgang


Doug Wolfgang grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and developed an interest in racing through Supermodified driver Daryl Dawley.

He built his first Supermodified in 1972 and, after achieving early success, knew if he was going to take his program to the next level, he needed to be in a Sprint Car “hot spot.” In 1975, the hottest spot in Sprint Car racing was Lincoln, Nebraska, so Wolfgang moved there and immediately began hanging around “Speedy” Bill Smith and Don Maxwell.

After driving in numerous cars in 1975, legendary Sprint Car builder Bob Trostle came calling prior to the 1976 season and Wolfgang went on to win the championship at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa that summer. The following season, Wolfgang and Trostle set the Sprint Car world on its ear by winning 45 feature events, including the prestigious Knoxville Nationals.

In 1978, Wolfgang teamed up with Bill Smith, driving the Speedway Motors 4X. That year he won his second consecutive Knoxville Nationals title and also won the Dirt Cup at Skagit, Washington.

After driving for a variety of owners over the next couple of years, Wolfgang hooked up with Doug Howell in 1980 and the following year, won 20 World of Outlaws (WoO) feature races and finished second in the final series point standings.

Midway through the 1984 season, Wolfgang was hired by Pennsylvania car owner Bob Weigert and promptly scored his third Knoxville Nationals crown that August. In their 42 months together, the pair won 130 feature races including a phenomenal 53 in 1985. During one stretch that year, Wolfgang scored 17 consecutive wins, including his fourth Knoxville Nationals title.

In 1989, driving for Danny Peace, Wolfgang had another sensational season, winning 43 main events and his fifth Knoxville Nationals title.

Wolfgang’s career essentially came to an end with a devastating crash and fire at Lakeside Speedway in 1992. Although he returned to racing and continued to win, another serious injury in 1997 brought his career to a conclusion.

During his career, Wolfgang scored 481 Sprint Car wins for 17 different owners at 105 tracks in 25 states. He has won at every major Sprint Car venue in the country from Knoxville, to Syracuse, New York, to East Bay, Florida, to Skagit, Washington. His 107 World of Outlaws wins ranks fourth on the all-time list.

Wolfgang was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2003.

Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame

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