Class of 2006

Clyde Baker


Clyde Baker was born and raised in Ord. Although he had no previous racing background, he eventually became the Race Superintendent for the Valley County Fair. He presided over the storied venue from 1929 through 1951.

During his tenure as Race Superintendent, the track played host to Hot Rods, Modified Stock Cars, Midgets, Big Cars, and Motorcycles. Baker was instrumental in bringing AAA (American Automobile Association) events to Ord, and later introduced area race fans to IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) events and drivers.

Some of the greats who raced Big Cars at the Valley County Fair under Baker’s supervision included Lloyd Axel, John Bagley, Jerry Blundy, Joie Chitwood, Emory Collins, Pat Cunningham, Johnny Gerber, Bobby Grim, ”Speed” Haskell, Sam Hoffman, Leonard Kerbs, Ben Musick, and Gus Schrader. The Midgets, which first appeared in Ord in 1938, featured an equally impressive list of drivers including Carl Forberg, Eddie Kracek, Jud Larsen, Harry McQuinn, Cal Niday, Danny Oakes, Bobby Parker, Lloyd Ruby, and Bob Slater.

When the Hot Rods and Modified Stock Cars appeared on the scene in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Johnny Beauchamp, Lloyd Beckman, Bud Burdick, Don Ostendorf, Gordie Shuck, and Chuck Sears tried their hand at the Valley County Fairgrounds.

Baker was a tireless worker on behalf of the Valley County Fair. He and his wife, Alma, frequently traveled to other race tracks to promote upcoming races at the venue. After moving to Omaha, he helped organize and promote races held in Ord in 1955 and 1956 during the Valley County Fair. He was known as a friend to the racers and a promoter who was caring and honest to both participants and fans.

Although the track and grandstands are now gone, there is little doubt that during Baker’s tenure, the Valley County Fair was known as one of the finest and most well-run racing venues anywhere in the country, attracting the best drivers the sport had to offer. Crowds of well over 10,000 fans attended many of the events held on the half-mile track, which featured the Big Cars and Hot Rods, and the shorter quarter-mile track, which was built inside the larger track to facilitate the Midgets.

In addition to AMA and IMCA sanctioned events, Baker also hosted Colorado Automobile Racing Club events and Nebraska Hot Rod Racing Association (NHRRA) shows, as well as numerous non-sanctioned race events.

Baker passed away in 1993.

Jack Beck


Jack Beck was born in Loup City, Nebraska and grew up near Litchfield. While in high school, he became hooked on cars reading Car and Driver magazines at the school library. In 1966, he purchased a Triumph Spitfire and began competing in autocross races with the Central Nebraska Sports Car Club.

In 1969, Jack attended Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) driver’s schools in Salina, Kansas and Castle Rock, Colorado. Just two years later, in 1971, he competed in his first SCCA national race at Mid-American Raceway in Missouri and went on to qualify for the SCCA National Championship Race at Road Atlanta. Beck ran very well at the event, but his Mini Cooper was involved in an incident with a lapped car which resulted in his disqualification.

In 1975, Beck purchased an Alfa Romeo GTA Junior and over Fourth of July weekend, won his first SCCA National event in Ponca City, Oklahoma. After racing the car for three seasons, he built an Alfa Romeo Spider Junior in 1978. He won the June Sprints at Road America in both 1979 and 1982 and also finished on the podium at the SCCA Nationals with third place finishes in 1981 and 1983. In 1984, he won four SCCA GT5 national races in the car.

In 1985, with the help of Alex MacLean, Beck built a new Alfa Romeo for the newly created GT5 class and for the next 21 seasons campaigned the car successfully at SCCA events throughout the country. In 1989, he won the June Sprints at Road America. Through the car’s retirement in 2005, Beck secured podium finishes at the SCCA National Runoffs three times, won numerous National Midwest GT5 events, and won the Production and GT race at Mid-America Motorplex near Pacific Junction, Iowa.

Upon moving to Omaha in 1986, Beck incorporated Orion Engineering, providing engines, gearboxes and suspension components for racing Sports Cars. Through the years, Orion provided the car preparation, transport and trackside services for multiple clients, in both SCCA racing and vintage racing. His clients won multiple Midwest Division National Championships and secured numerous podium finishes at SCCA national events.

During his racing career, Beck won 20 Midwest Division national points championships, finished on the podium five times at the SCCA National Runoffs, won the June Sprints three times, and was selected six times as the Nebraska Region National Competition Driver of the Year.

Gene Kidder


Gene Kidder was born and raised in a rural farm community near Omaha. Shortly after graduating from high school, he learned about teenagers drag racing on the streets in California, and immediately knew it was something he wanted to do.

Kidder began “illegal” street racing in the 1950s, but shortly thereafter, realizing its inherent dangers, began working to get young people away from racing on the streets and roads and onto the air strips that were gradually beginning to be used for “legal” drag racing in Nebraska.

After joining the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), Kidder made his first quarter-mile runs at Scribner Dragway in 1954 and quickly established himself as a formidable race opponent. With his brother and right-hand man, Floyd, at his side, Kidder and his car eventually became nearly unbeatable.

A full-time banker during the week, Kidder was eventually appointed Track Manager at Flatland Drag Strip in Omaha and in 1958 was appointed as an NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Regional Advisor.

Having a desire to race professionally with the UDRA (United Drag Racers Association) Funny Car circuit, Kidder resigned his position as Vice President of Omaha National Bank in 1968 and moved to Palm Beach, Florida. After his Funny Car rolled seven times at Miami Dragway in 1970, Kidder gave up his driving career and returned to banking where he quickly rose to the position of President at Central Bank of Palm Beach County.

In 1979, Kidder returned to the automotive world and became President of a chain of automotive stores in Florida. Five years later, he became Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Moroso Performance and Racing and later held management positions with Nutek/Firepower Ignition and Holley Performance Products. In 2002, at the age of 69, Kidder took a position with Beach Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

During his racing career, Kidder won over 200 trophies, set track records with six different cars, and set a national speed record at Denver, Colorado. He made runs in 17 different states and raced at 50 tracks, while competing in five of NHRA’s seven divisions. Over the years, his cars were featured in national publications including The Saturday Evening Post. Hot Rod Magazine, Hot Rodding Magazine, National Dragster, and The Omaha World Herald. He may be best remembered for a 1966 Dodge Dart Funny Car he purchased from the legendary Dick Landy.

Charlie Martin


Charlie Martin was born in Seneca, Kansas and moved to Lincoln after graduating from high school. In 1950, he began attending races at Grandview Speedway in Omaha and later at Capitol Beach in Lincoln.

After wrenching on a race car owned by Louie Quattrocchi, Martin teamed up with Joe Saldana in 1965 on a Super Modified which was raced at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln and Eagle Raceway. A couple of years later, Don Brown built a sleek, state-of-the-art roadster, known as “The Mechanical Rabbit” for Saldana, and with Martin serving as crew chief, “Lil Joe” went on a tear, winning races all across the Midwest. Saldana, who was immediately thrust into the national spotlight, finished second in the point standings at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa in 1967, and on opening night of the prestigious Knoxville Nationals, broke the track record at the famed speedway. He was on his way to winning the Nationals championship that year, when the left rear wheel broke late in the race. Saldana scrambled back for an impressive 7th place finish.

After an early-season crash in 1968, which nearly destroyed the race car, Martin rebuilt “The Rabbit” and Saldana stormed back for his second consecutive runner-up finish in the final point standings at Knoxville Raceway. The car also finished fourth at the Nationals.

A year later, with Martin continuing to turn the wrenches, Saldana won races at Knoxville and Eagle, as well as a Big Car Racing Association (BCRA) event at the Belleville High Banks in Kansas. For the third consecutive year, Saldana finished second in points at Knoxville.

In 1971, Martin carried his tool box to the Speedway Motors stable to work for “Speedy” Bill Smith on the famous 4X Sprinter. The move resulted in 19 feature race victories for driver Lloyd Beckman, as well as a track championship at Midwest Speedway and the Nebraska Modified Racing Association (NMRA) title.

The following year, Martin teamed up with R.P. “Biz” Bisping of Norfolk, serving as crew chief for Gerald “Boog” Bruggeman. He finished out his career by turning wrenches for successful open wheel drivers Don Maxwell and Russ and Rich Brahmer.

Martin’s passion was building, preparing, and maintaining race cars. An unassuming individual, he had a reputation for helping all racers, whether they were a championship contender or an inexperienced rookie.

Martin, who was involved in racing for portions of three decades, passed away in 2014.

Abe Slusky


Abe Slusky was born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri. In the 1930s, his family moved to Omaha where they operated Krug Park, which at the time was a major amusement park.

After the closing of Krug Park in the late 1930s, Slusky and his two brothers moved to Houston, Texas where they built another amusement park, which also included a race track. The facility was named Playland Park.

In 1947, Slusky and his family returned to Omaha and purchased property in Council Bluffs where an abandoned dog race track sat idle. Slusky converted the track to a dirt auto racing track, and initially named it Playland Bowl. A short time later, Slusky renamed the facility Playland Park Stadium, and the venue began hosting some of the finest Midget racing in the country, featuring the likes of “Red” Iverson, Bobby Parker, Charlie Taggert, and Larry Wheeler. In 1948, Slusky added a three-quarter mile roller coaster and a number of other rides, creating Playland Park.

In the early 1950s, with Midget racing losing some of its popularity, Slusky began promoting Hot Rod and Modified Stock Car races at Playland. The track was paved in 1954 and eventually Late Model Stock Cars became the featured attraction.

Slusky’s venue attracted not only the best racers from the Omaha area, but also from surrounding states including Iowans Tiny Lund and Johnny Beauchamp, both whom achieved stardom with the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Omaha area racing stars Bud and Bob Burdick raced there, as did Bob Kosiski.

In 1956, under Slusky’s direction, Playland Speedway hosted the NASCAR Short Track Championship which attracted a “who’s who” of regional and national racing talent. Racers from Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, North California, Georgia, Alabama, New York, and California participated in the event including popular NASCAR drivers Tiny Lund, Lee Petty, Marvin Paunch, Herb Thomas, and Rex White. The race was won by Bill Amick of Glendale, California.

Playland Park was temporarily closed in 1964 when a portion of the property was used for the construction of the Interstate 480 highway project. The facility was reopened in 1967 by Slusky’s son Jerry, but closed for good in 1977. The final race at Playland was run on October 14, 1977.

Slusky devoted 22 years of his life to developing and promoting auto racing on the local, regional, and national scene. He passed away in 1970.

Kent Tucker


Kent Tucker was born and raised in Aurora and began his racing career in 1970 when, as a first year driver, he won the championship race at his tome track at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds.

During the 1970s, Tucker was arguably the most popular and successful Late Model driver to come out of central Nebraska. After winning the championship race at Aurora in 1970, he won back-to-back point championships there in 1971 and 1972. In 1973, Tucker won the Late Model title at Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan, outdistancing his nearest competitor by over 800 points. At one point during the dominating season, he scored 12 consecutive feature race victories.

By the mid 1970s, Tucker had become well-known throughout much of the Midwest, successfully competing at regional marquee events in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. His list of special event triumphs includes Red Cloud 100 victories at The Speed Bowl in Red Cloud in 1973 and 1978, back-to-back wins in the Nebraska Late Model Nationals at Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan in 1974 and 1975, a victory in the Nebraska Triple Crown at Sunset Speedway in Omaha in 1975, a victory at the Midwest Invitational at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln in 1975, an Alta Race Days win at Buena Vista County Raceway in Alta, Iowa in 1976, and a Nebraska Cup victory at Eagle Raceway in 1990. He was the runner-up in the National Short Track Championship in Topeka, Kansas in 1974 and finished fourth in one of the biggest Late Model races in the Midwest at the time, the Fall Jamboree in Knoxville, Iowa in 1975. In 1977, Tucker became the only Nebraska driver to win the IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) Late Model Stock Car national touring championship in the series’ long and storied history.

In spite of competing there only two full seasons, Tucker was the winningest Late Model driver in the history of Midwest Speedway, racing to 18 feature wins, including a phenomenal ten wins in 18 nights in 1975, the year he won the Championship there.

During a career that spanned portions of four decades, Tucker racked up more than 250 Feature Race wins and won 20 track titles at eight Nebraska race tracks; Hamilton County Speedway in Aurora, Beatrice Speedway, Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan, Eagle Raceway, Hastings Raceway, Platte Valley Speedway in Lexington, Midwest Speedway in Lincoln, and The Speed Bowl in Red Cloud.

Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame

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