Class of 2010

Gene Barnett


Gene Barnett was born in O’Neill but grew up in Lincoln where he eventually became a flight instructor at the Lincoln Airport.

Known as a dare devil by friends and acquaintances, Barnett began performing motorcycle stunts in the late 1920s and also began racing both cars and motorcycles. He eventually was involved in a serious racing accident, in which he was thrown from his race car and run over by a fellow competitor. He nearly lost a leg because of the accident and walked with a limp for the remainder of his life. As a result of that life-changing accident, Barnett decided to give up his career as a driver and began to look for other avenues to stay involved in automobile racing.

In the early 1950s, he began working at Capitol Beach Speedway in Lincoln, doing maintenance on the race track, flagging the races, and even taking photographs of the race winners. Willing to do anything to help out, he was also known to sell tickets at the front gate and work in the concession stand. Because of his keen sense of humor, Barnett was also called upon to help resolve disagreements between drivers.

In addition to working at Capitol Beach, Barnett also co-promoted Midget and Stock Car races with 1998 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Gene Van Winkle. The pair successfully promoted events at Auburn, Beatrice, David City, Ord, and Seward, Nebraska, as well as Hamburg, Iowa.

After Capitol Beach was sold to land developers and closed, Barnett began working at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln and later at Eagle Raceway where he began to hone his craft as a racing photographer. His exciting action shots taken at numerous area race tracks, as well as his photos of race winners, were published in a variety of local newspapers as well as national publications including National Speed Sport News.

Known as an accomplished photographer, a fair flagman, and an excellent race promoter, Barnett passed away in 1983 after nearly five decades of involvement in auto racing.

Merwyn “Mert” Dunker


Merwyn “Mert” Dunker was born and raised in Fremont and developed an interest in fast cars and customized vehicles at an early age.

In 1957, having a desire to get involved in hot rods and customs, Dunker joined the Roadsters Car Club in Omaha. He helped the club win the Best Club Display at the Omaha Car Show that year which created an interest in show judging. Over the years, he served in numerous show capacities including as a Show Manager, Supervisor of Judges, Judge, and Celebrity Escort at numerous rod and custom shows throughout the country.

Much by fate, Dunker got involved in another life-long passion, being a race starter at drag racing events later in 1957. After traveling with 2006 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Gene Kidder to a two-day event in Grand Island, Dunker was handed the flags when the regular starter failed to show. During a flagging career that followed, Dunker waved flags at both Grand Island and Omaha through 1961, when he joined the Air Force. While in the Air Force, he flagged drag racing events in Amarillo, Texas.

Dunker, who was a true showman at the starting line, flagged at the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Nationals in Oklahoma City 1958 and two years later at the Nationals in Detroit. He flagged at nostalgia drag racing events around the country for many years.

Dunker later served as an Announcer and a Technical Inspector at Omaha Dragway from 1965 through 1970.

Dunker managed automotive shows for Promotions, Inc. from 1970 through 1972 and then went to work for the International Show Car Association (ISCA). After working with the ISCA for three years, he took his talents to the National Street Rod Association (NSCA) and organized and managed the first NSRA Mini Nationals in Detroit. He worked with the NSRA through 1978.

In addition to his full-time work in the rod and custom business, Dunker also found time to drive a drag car, racing in the B Stock, A Modified Production, B Gas, C Altered, and C Dragster classes. In his spare time, he also wrote numerous articles for national hot rod and car show publications including Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, Rod Action, National Motorsports, and Show Stopper magazines.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Dunker later became a Senior Mechanical Engineer for General Motors Corporation in Detroit. He passed away in 2017.

Byron “Speed” Hinkley


Byron “Speed” Hinkley was born and raised on a family farm near Elba, Nebraska. He developed a love of mechanics at a young age working on all types of farm equipment as well as the family cars.

Hinkley began his racing career on county fairgrounds race tracks in Nebraska and Kansas. In the early 1920s, he moved with his family to California where his father opened an automobile repair business in Pasadena. In addition to working in the repair shop, Haskell soon was racing at Southern California dirt tracks including the recently opened Ascot Motor Speedway.

By 1926, Haskell had acquired the nickname “Speed,” and had scored major wins at both Banning and Ascot. He had particular success on the half-mile at Banning, scoring four more wins, two seconds, a third, and a track championship over the next two years.

In October of 1929, Hinkley won at his old “stomping grounds,” Ascot, then known by its more famous name, Legion Ascot. He followed that up with a win two weeks later at San Jose. In 1931, Hinkley had lapped the field at San Jose only to lose a certain victory when a tire punctured. Chet Gardner went on to win the race, but two weeks later, Hinkley defeated Gardner in a 60-lapper at the same track, scoring his last known win.

That same San Jose Speedway, a track where he historically had run so well, proved to be his racing demise however. In an October 1933 event there, while leading the race, a tire blew on Hinkley’s car and the machine flipped, partially throwing him from the vehicle. He suffered head, back, and chest injuries and retired from racing.

Popular and well-liked by both racers and fans, Hinkley’s career came driving cars representative of that era, beginning with Rajo-equipped striped down Model Ts and ending in Millers.

While records of the era are incomplete, Hinkley is known to have won at least 11 races, with eight second place and eight third place finishes to his credit. His record is even more impressive when considering the caliber of his competition; no less than eleven drivers who he raced with and often won against have been inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. He finished fifth in the AAA (American Automobile Association) Pacific Coast Championship standings in 1929.

Hinkley passed away in 1989 at the age of 91.

Al Humphrey


Al Humphrey was raised on a farm near Giltner and, unlike others, didn’t acquire a taste for racing until he was well into his teens. A trip to the races with his football coach in 1970 didn’t do the trick, but a year later, when he was asked by driver Rob Talich if he would help him in the pits, racing “stuck.”

Humphrey’s first experience behind the wheel came in 1972 when he drove and finished second in a “mechanic’s race” in nearby Aurora. Over the winter, Humphrey assembled a 1955 Chevrolet Stock Car and his racing career was underway.

In 1973, during his first year of competition, Humphrey was named Rookie-of-the-Year at The Speed Bowl in Red Cloud and secured the track’s point championship in the process. He won the first of his five track titles at Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan (later known as Mid-Nebraska Speedway) in 1978 and also won the Red Cloud 100 that year.

In 1979, Humphrey formed a partnership with Rick Hunnicut and the pair raced together, as H & H Racing, through 1997. During their 19 years together, the team won three more track titles at Mid-Continent, in 1979, 1987, and 1990. They also built and sold numerous race cars and in 1990, the top five cars in the Sportsman Division point standings at Mid-Continent were all H & H Racing creations.

Humphrey won his fifth and final championship at Doniphan in 1997 and captured the CNCTA (Central Nebraska Circle Track Association) series championship in 2004. During the next four seasons, he raced regionally for both Frank Detamore and Rick Blaha and scored a major win for Blaha in 2005 when he captured a WORLD Dirt Racing League (WDRL) event in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

In 2007, Humphrey won the Late Model track championship at I80 Speedway in Greenwood, while finishing second in the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Midwest Region points standings. In 2008, he captured the SLMR (Super Late Model Racing) series championship.

During the early 2000s, as Humphrey began to slow his personal driving schedule, he hired a number of drivers to wheel his race cars including Travis Dickes, Corey Dumpert, Dylan Smith, Jesse Stovall, and R.C. Whitwell.

In a career that spanned more than five decades, Humphrey won over 100 feature races, seven track championships, and two touring series titles. He last wheeled a Late Model in 2019.

Wayne Lewis


A native of Rulo, Nebraska, Wayne Lewis took an interest in mechanical things as a youngster working on the family farm. After receiving his automotive mechanics education at Southeast Community College in Milford, he went to work for Pickering and Jones Automotive Repair in Lincoln and shortly thereafter began assisting on Pickering’s circle track race car which was driven by 2008 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee, John Wilkinson.

In 1962, Lewis formed a drag race team with the assistance of friends Harvey Nash and Denny Reed. The team’s Pontiac drag car competed at the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Nationals in Indianapolis in 1964.

In 1966, Lewis partnered with drag racer Dick Heier and two years later Heier set a national record of 122.28 miles per hour in the B-Modified Production class at Brainerd Minnesota with a Lewis-built engine.

In 1969, Lewis opened Lewis Automotive in Lincoln and began building engines for drag racers, circle track racers, and other speed enthusiasts.

In 1978, Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Stan White used Lewis power to win the biggest race on the NHRA schedule, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. White also won a World Champion Series (WCS) event in Denver that year, qualifying him for the World Finals in Ontario, California. He used a Lewis engine to win national events at Bowling Green, Kentucky, Denver, Colorado, and Pomona, California.

In 1979, drag racer Eddie Rezac, another Hall of Fame inductee, set six NHRA speed records using Lewis-built engines. He won the Mile High Nationals in Denver in both 1979 and 1980 with Lewis power under the hood.

Lewis also built engines for legendary drag racing star and car owner Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins. In 1983, a Jenkins-owned car set an NHRA Super Stock record at Green Valley Raceway near Smithville, Texas using Lewis horsepower.

Successful circle track drivers Ray Lipsey and Don Droud, Sr. both won track championships using Lewis engines. Lipsey won the Late Model title at Beatrice Speedway in 1978 and Droud won the Late Model crown at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln that same year.

Over the years, Lewis built engines for numerous other successful drivers.

In 1996, Lewis became a technical inspector with NHRA and in 2002 was promoted to the position of Division-5 Assistant Technical Director. He worked for Speedway Motors for 25 years.

Lewis passed away in 2020.

Bob Woodhouse


Bob Woodhouse was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana and began his “love affair” with cars in high school.

Following his graduation from Northern Montana College, Woodhouse began to get serious about exotic car building, first with a drag racing machine powered by a 450 horsepower Chevrolet motor, followed by a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, and then a mid-engine 1972 DeTomaso Pantera with a Ford 351 Cleveland engine.

Despite having a teaching degree, Woodhouse went to work for Ford Motor Company for six and a half years as a Zone Field Representative, an experience which later led him to purchase the Ford dealership in Blair. Woodhouse helped grow the business to six dealerships and over 600 employees.

Shortly after moving to Nebraska, Woodhouse began racing with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Solo II Series in 1974. He raced with the series through the early 1990s winning several Divisional and Regional championships. He qualified for the National Solo II championships nine times and placed in the top five on five occasions.

In the mid 1990s, Woodhouse began racing a Dodge Viper with the nationwide Viper Days Series and captured the Street Class National Championship in 1998. He upgraded to a race-prepared Dodge Viper GTS Coupe in 1999 and continued to race with the series through 2002. He also raced the car with the SCCA and set track records at Road Atlanta, Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas, and Mid-America Motorplex south of Council Bluffs.

In 2003, Woodhouse began racing in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Series. In 2006, at the age of 60, he scored eight top-ten and four top-five finishes, and finished sixth in the World Challenge Series driver standings.

Woodhouse stepped away from his automotive dealerships in 2007 and also put away his driving suit and helmet, but continued on as a car owner. His Woodhouse Performance Viper claimed numerous victories in the World Challenge Series with drivers Tommy Archer and Kuno Wittmer behind the wheel, and ended the 2010 racing season with a runner-up finish in the series standings. Wittmer set a track record at the Long Beach (California) Grand Prix that year.

Woodhouse still carries the passion to drive and in 2019, at the age of 73, set the “closed car” track record at Motorsports Park Hastings, a record which still stands. He has been involved in Sports Car racing for over 30 years.

Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame

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