Class of 2003

John Davisson


John Davisson was born in Lawrence, Nebraska and following his graduation from high school in Franklin, attended machinist school in California. After serving for a time in the Army, Davisson returned to Franklin where he opened a service station and began hanging around the local race track.

Late in the 1950s, Davisson, along with Harry Griffin and Bill Pike built a race car. The first night out, with Chuck Sears at the wheel, their car number-9 won its heat race, the Trophy Dash and the A-Feature at Oxford.

When Griffin and Pike retired from racing, Davisson built his first “Mighty Mouse” race car, a 1932 Ford Coupe, and hired Cliff Sealock as the driver. That year, Sealock won the point championship at Franklin Raceway and “Mighty Mouse” won the championship at Franklin every year until the track closed in 1962.

After the 1962 season, Sealock moved to Lincoln, which was quickly becoming a “hot bed” of open-wheeled racing, so Davisson called on long-time friend and engine builder Homer Macklin to drive “The Mouse.” After running several races however, Macklin decided he was no longer interested in driving so Davisson hired a skinny kid with a big smile named Willie Hecke. And the rest, as they say, is history.

With Hecke in the cockpit, Macklin building the engines, and Davisson fine-tuning the suspensions, the “Mighty Mouse” won the point championship five consecutive years, from 1967 to 1971, at both Hastings Raceway and Kearney Raceway. They also won track titles at Skylark Raceway in Columbus in 1968, 1970, and 1971. The final two years of that dominant run were in a powerful CAE Sprint Car co-owned by Kearney automobile dealer Bob Strong.

The longevity of the “Mighty Mouse” crew is something rarely seen in automobile racing. Macklin raced with Davisson for 25 years and Hecke drove for him for 20 years.

During Davisson’s career as a car owner, his machines raced and won not only throughout the state of Nebraska, but also in Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, and South Dakota. His cars racked up hundreds of feature race wins, captured over 20 track championships, and won numerous special events.

Davisson, who was known as the consummate professional and a strict perfectionist, retired from racing following the 1971 season and passed away in 2002 at the age of 82.

Leonard Janke


Leonard Janke was born and raised on a farm south of Winside, Nebraska. He got his first taste of automobile racing when his parents took the family to the Nebraska State Fair in the late 1930s. It was there where the roar of the engines instilled a passion in him to become a part of the sport.

As a high schooler, Janke faithfully read magazine articles about the biggest races of the day including the 24 Hours of LeMans. Later, while in the Air Force in New Mexico, he regularly attended Stock Car races.

While stationed in Europe, Janke attended LeMans. A few years later, he purchased a 1952 Morris Minor and began competing in rallies, speed trials, and road races. He eventually won England’s major rally at the time, the London Motor Club Rally and was awarded the prestigious American Challenge Cup.

Following his discharge from the Air Force in 1955, Janke met Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Loyal Katskee and began racing his Austin Healey with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). He ran the car at SCCA events for over ten years and finished in the top ten in the national standings on numerous occasions.

In 1968, he purchased a McLaren Mark III and started competing at regional and national SCCA events. In his first professional start, he finished ninth at Riverside, California. His next two starts yielded an eleventh place finish at Laguna Seca followed by a fourth place run at Bridgehampton, New York.

Janke ran nine of the 11 Can-Am races in 1969 and finished 16th in both points and money earned. In 1973, he won the Can-Am regional championship.

On September 28, 1975, Janke competed in his only international event, a Can-Am race in Guadalajara, Mexico. He won the event in a McLaren.

Janke continued to race through the late 1980s in both SCCA Can-Am and Trans-Am events. Memorable finishes during his four decade career included ninth place finishes at both Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Texas World Speedway in 1968, and seventh and ninth place finishes, respectively, at Edmonton, Canada in 1969 and 1970. He also had top ten finishes at Road Atlanta in 1976, Mosport International Raceway in Canada in 1977 and at Watkins Glen, New York in 1978.

During his career, Janke was on the track with many of the best sports car drivers in the world.

Pete Leikam


Pete Leikam was born and raised in Lincoln. His involvement in racing began in the early 1930s when he worked as a pit man on the fair circuit in Wyoming while working there during the summer months.

In the mid 1940s, when Modified Stock Cars became popular, Leikam became a car owner for the first time. Although a number of drivers piloted Leikam’s machines, 1999 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Beckman achieved the most success in a Leikam owned car. He and Beckman raced regularly at Hastings, David City, Beatrice and Columbus. During one stretch at Hastings, Beckman wheeled Leikam’s machine to 19 consecutive wins. Their biggest win together was at Playland Speedway in Council Bluffs in 1955 when they captured the annual 50-lap Good Fellows Race.

During the early 1960s, Leikam sold his race car and became an official at Lincoln Speedway at Capital Beach. When Midwest Speedway opened in 1963, he was named Race Director by owners Jerry Biskup and Jerry Gerdes. When the owners decided to sell the speed plant, in the late 1960s, Leikam and his wife Leona purchased the facility.

In 1969, Leikam brought Late Model racing to Midwest Speedway and immediately, the track became one of the premier Late Model venues in the Midwest. Car counts in the 60s quickly became the norm, and on August 10, 1969, an astonishing 78 Late Models came through the pit gate at Midwest.

Another crowning achievement during Leikam’s tenure at Midwest Speedway was the development of the Limited Sprint Car class in the early 1980s. Sprint Car racing had nearly died out in Lincoln when he was approached by a group of racers wanting to start a Limited 360 class. Although skeptical, Leikam agreed to give the idea a try. Ten cars showed up for the initial event on May 24, 1981 and from there the class grew steadily, eventually achieving national prominence.

During Leikam’s nearly 20 year tenure as owner of Midwest Speedway some of the top drivers in the Midwest competed there. Midwest hosted a number of successful special events including the Cornhusker-Hawkeye Challenge, the Tri-Cities Late Model Challenge, a pair of USAC Midget shows and a number of outlaw 410 Sprint Car events.

Leikam ran the popular venue until its closing at the end of the 1987 season as commercial development began to surround the facility. He passed away in 1994.

Don Maxwell


Don Maxwell was born in Appleton, Wisconsin. After his family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, he got his first glimpse of dirt track racing when he purchased a ticket to watch the Sprint Cars at Speedway Park.

Over the next few years, Maxwell began to hang around the shops of various racers and, in 1965, he began his racing career at Speedway Park where he won Rookie-of-the-Year Honors.

Maxwell also began building parts and even race cars for other racers and by the early 1970s had become one of the top drivers and car builders in the Southwest. Becoming aware that LaVern Nance had a desire to get into the Sprint Car building business, he made a trip to Wichita, Kansas. Nance hired Maxwell , but a short time later, Bill Smith of Speedway Motors came calling and in February of 1972, he moved to Lincoln.

In late 1972, Maxwell met legendary Sprint Car star Jan Opperman. Opp was looking for someone who would build cars the way he liked them and Maxwell was receptive. The two decided to join forces with Maxwell building the cars and Opperman winning the races and selling the cars. It wasn’t long before Maxwell’s reputation began to grow and in short order names like Doug Wolfgang, Shane Carson, Eddie Leavitt, Ray Lee Goodwin, Jimmy Sills, Roger Rager, Ron Schuman, Al Unser, Jr. and others were wheeling Maxwell Sprinters.

With Maxwell’s engineering excellence and top notch talent behind the wheel, Maxwell’s creations won some of the biggest races in the sport including the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa; the Hulman Classic in Terre Haute, Indiana; and the Tampa, Florida Winternationals, not to mention countless track and series championships.

Maxwell brought many innovations to Sprint Car racing including his signature hood, which had a more aerodynamic profile than the hoods at that time. He also designed and built the first inboard braking system for Sprint Cars as well as the first plastic fuel tank. As a skilled driver, he won the championship at Eagle Raceway in 1975.

After retiring from racing, Maxwell owned a fabrication business in Lincoln where he designed and fabricated a variety of items including portable stage assemblies for musicians and singers. He held 15 patents on other mechanical devices engineered for clients.

Maxwell was inducted into the Big Car Racing Association (BCRA) Hall of Fame in 2014. He passed away in 2006.

Charles "Chuck" Sears


Charles “Chuck” Sears was born in Campbell, Nebraska and spent much of his adolescence in Edgar where he became acquainted with 1999 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Gordie Shuck.

During his high school years in Hastings, Sears spent time looking through the fence at the old half-mile Adams County Fairgrounds Speedway, watching the races and developing his love for automobile racing.

After his discharge from the service in 1946, Sears spent some time in California before returning to Hastings where he was able to secure his first ride, driving for local car owner Harold Gardner. A short time later, Sears was hired to drive for 2001 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Jim Gessford. Using the alias, Bill Tague, Sears set a number of track records driving Gessford’s “Deuce” and also won numerous feature races.

Sears was a founding member of the Nebraska Hot Rod Racing Association (NHRRA) which was formed in 1948 to make racing more safe and equal for the participants. Sears very quickly became one of the Association’s top drivers winning numerous feature events.

His final ride was in 1958 when he wheeled the first car owned and built by 2003 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee John Davisson. At the end of the 1958 season, Sears retired as a driver.

During his 12 year driving career, Sears competed in more than 500 events in eight different states, racing against the likes of Andy Anderson, Lloyd Beckman, Frank Brennfoerder, Bob and Bud Burdick, Willie Hecke, Cliff Sealock and Gordie Shuck. He even spent time on the track competing against national stars Tiny Lund, Rex Mays, Roger McCluskey, and Lee Petty. Those who raced against him referred to him as a fierce competitor and one of the best drivers to come out of Central Nebraska.

After hanging up his racing helmet, Sears became a well-respected race official, flagging races in Franklin, Kearney, and Hastings. He was one of the last flagmen to flag races from the race track before flag stands became the norm. As a flag man, Sears was known as a “showman,” but also as fair, stern, and very much in charge of the action. He served as a flagman in Central Nebraska for nearly 15 years.

Henry "Howdy" Williams IV


Henry “Howdy” Williams was born and raised in Omaha. His interest in cars began at an early age and continued to grow through his teenage years.

On his 16th birthday, Williams received a 1953 Ford Hardtop as his present and to the dismay of his parents, after picking up the car at the dealership, he promptly disassembled the engine and rebuilt it to better suit his liking. The stage was set for his successful drag racing career!

After attending the Land Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the mid 1950s, Williams began his involvement in racing, initially, as was the norm at that time, on local, isolated streets in and around Omaha. A short time later, he began his formal racing career driving a B Dragster at local drag strips, before switching to a powerful AA Fuel Dragster a few years later.

Williams won numerous top eliminator and match race honors throughout the Midwest, notching wins at Omaha Dragway, Lincoln Dragway, Kearney Dragway, Des Moines Dragway, Neita Dragway in Waterloo, Iowa and Fort Dodge Dragway in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

He was a many-time record holder at numerous drag facilities including Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Des Moines, and Sioux City. His career top runs included a 227 mile per hour run at Kearney and a 223 mile per hour trip down the quarter-mile at Sioux City.

The highlight of Williams’ career came in 1964 when he won the Class C event for Fuel Dragsters at the Drag Racing Winter Championships in Phoenix with a run of 181.80 miles per hour. A year later, Williams defeated defending American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) Winternationals champion and future drag racing legend Tom Hoover in a best-of-three match race held at Omaha Dragway.

During his drag racing days, Williams worked at Chase Automotive and later co-owned a transmission repair business with Dave Sweney.

Williams lived life on the edge and enjoyed sky diving, motorcycle riding, ice hockey, and water skiing. In 1979, he was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident that claimed his life at the young age of just 42 years old.

Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame

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