Class of 2021

Don Barker

Mechanic / Car Owner

Don Barker was raised in Lincoln and developed an interest in high-powered open wheeled race cars at a young age.

In 1968, Barker joined the Sprint Car team of Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductees, Jim Riggins and Mike Barnett and a year later, joined the Larry Swanson Sprint Car team. With Barker turning the wrenches, Lonnie Jensen wheeled the Swanson-owned Sprinter to three track championships in 1972. The team also won the Big Car Racing Association (BCRA) championship, as well as the Nebraska Modified Racing Association (NMRA) title.

After moving to Arizona in 1974, Barker managed the Sprint Car Division for Lincoln Thrift Racing. The team capped off a successful 1975 season with driver Ronnie “The Flying Shoe” Shuman winning the Western World Championship at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix.

Following the Sprint Car team’s victory at the Western World, Barker spent time with The Lincoln Federal Champ Car team and, with Lloyd Ruby at the controls, helped the team to a 10th place finish at the Indy Car Phoenix 150.

In 1976, Barker joined the Gary Stanton Racing Team. With Ronnie Shuman again turning the wheel, the team finished second at the Western World and won the Pacific Coast Open Wheel Championship. When Shuman departed at the conclusion of the 1976 season, Stanton hired Lealand McSpadden to drive the number-75 Sprinter. McSpadden picked up where the team had left off racking up 25 feature race victories while racing in Arizona, California, Kansas and Iowa.

After serving as Team Manager for the Sprint Car operation of Bobby Unser, Jr., for one season, Barker teamed up with Gary Lancaster and John Landry to form Barker/Lancaster/Landry Racing in 1979. Over the next dozen years, the team traveled throughout the country, winning races at some of the nation’s most prestigious racing venues.

The 99A Sprint Car was the first car to break the one-lap 20-second mark at Manzanita Speedway with Daryl Swinehart at the wheel. In 1981, with Lealand McSpadden in the cockpit, the car established a 25-lap track record at Manzanita of 8 minutes 30.5 seconds, a record that still stood when the track closed in 2009.

Throughout the years, the car produced wins with a number of championship drivers on board. With McSpadden behind the wheel, the team scored major victories at the Rocky Mountain Nationals in Erie, Colorado in 1980 and the Jimmy Caruthers Memorial at Manzanita in 1981.

The team sold its equipment and ceased operations in 1988.

Mel Earnest

Car Owner

Mel Earnest was born in North Loup and grew up in a racing family. As a youngster, he observed as his father, Guy “Pop” Earnest, worked on numerous race cars including Hector Horne’s “Bardahl Deuce.”

After moving to Wood River, Earnest fielded his first race car in 1967 and placed a young Dean Ward behind the wheel. Ward scored feature race wins the first two nights out in the car, and over the next three seasons, racked up numerous feature race wins and won a pair of track championships.

In March of 1971, Earnest was approached by Don Wilson, the American Motors dealer in Grand Island, about teaming up and building an AMC-powered Modified Sprint Car. The pair purchased a 304 cubic inch American Motors engine, called on LaVerne Nance to design a wider chassis for the power plant, and the popular #33 Sprint Car became reality.

With Ward turning the wheel, the car won the points championship at Hastings Raceway in 1971 and finished a close second at Kearney, winning an amazing 22 feature races along the way. The team followed that dominating year with a championship at the newly opened Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan in 1972.

With the departure of Wilson from the team, Earnest switched to a Chevrolet engine in 1974 and the wins continued to pile up, highlighted by a win at the prestigious Nebraska Triple Crown at Sunset Speedway in Omaha.

In 1975, Earnest hired Kenny McCarty to wheel his Sprinter and the North Platte hot shoe drove the machine to 12 feature race wins while securing a second track championship for Earnest at Mid-Continent Raceway.

Following the 1977 racing season, Earnest sold his racing operation and went on the road with some of the most successful race teams in the country. Earnest was on the Nance Racing Team crew in 1977 when Oklahoma City’s Shane Carson scored his first feature race win in Phoenix City, Alabama.

In the 1980s, Earnest traveled with numerous Sprint Car teams, most notably with Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductees Fred Garbers and Kenny McCarty. In his three decade racing career, Earnest fielded race cars or crewed on race cars at events in ten states including Florida and Alabama and contributed to the success of some of the most successful drivers in the sport.

Earnest passed away in 2018.

Jim Eilts


Jim Eilts developed an interest in auto racing as a youngster, growing up in the small southeast Nebraska community of Endicott in the early 1950s. Attending the Big Car races with his parents at the Jefferson County Fair in nearby Fairbury, Eilts became intrigued by the immense talent of racers like Bobby Grimm and Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Gordie Shuck.

After graduating from high school, Eilts got involved in drag racing, but as “fate” would have it, Eilts eventually married and moved to Grand Island where a couple of neighbors got him involved in circle track racing in the late 1960s.

In 1968, Eilts began working as a crew member on the number-29 Ford Coupe driven by Billy Meyers at Hastings Raceway and Kearney Raceway. A couple of years later, Eilts and Meyers teamed up and built a 1934 Ford Sedan with a powerful 300 cubic inch six-cylinder engine and over the next couple of years, the duo won a track championship in Lexington and raced to top five points finishes at both Hastings and Doniphan.

Following the 1972 season, Eilts and his business partner, Don Schmidt built a Chevrolet Nova Late Model and retained Meyers as the chauffeur. The car was built to International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) specifications, and the race team embarked on an ambitious traveling schedule, participating in IMCA touring events in Nebraska Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The team finished fourth in the final IMCA point standings in both 1974 and 1975.

After running locally for the next few seasons, Eilts, Schmidt and Meyers parted ways and Eilts sojourned on with Galen Keas taking over the driving chores. The pair set out on a traveling schedule in 1979, with the highlight of the season being a top-ten finish at the Western World 100 at Manzanita Speedway in Arizona. Later that year, the team participated in the NODAK Late Model Tour, a series of events in the Dakotas and Southern Canada.

In the late 1980s, Eilts opened Starlight Chassis Development and built numerous successful IMCA Modifieds, Broncos, Hobby Stocks and Sportsmen race cars. He was widely known as an expert in chassis development and design and also as an accomplished engine builder.

Eilts moved to Arizona in 2014 where he is semi-retired while working part-time for an off-road speed shop

Ed Jochim


Ed Jochim was born in Omaha and developed an interest in drag racing as a teenager racing on the local streets in and around Omaha. His first organized drag racing experience came in 1959, at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue.

During his early racing days, Jochim drove a 1955 Ford convertible and achieved great success racing at quarter-mile drag strips in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Sioux City.

Jochim’s program roared into high gear in 1961 when he purchased a brand new Ford Starliner which he made a number of performance modifications to and drove to an eye-popping 22 wins in 26 starts. Over Labor Day weekend, he raced the car, dubbed the “Fastest Drag Car in Nebraska,” at the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and although he eventually lost to a car from the Mickey Thompson garage, his performance caught the attention of Ford Motor Company and his car was featured in Hot Rod magazine’s Ford High Performance Handbook. Some 42 years later, in 2003, he and his Starliner earned a spot at Ford Motor Company’s 100th Anniversary Celebration.

After reaching the D/Stock semi-finals at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California in February of 1963 with a supercharged 1957 Ford, Jochim returned home to Omaha and purchased a specially-built 1963 ½ Ford Galaxie equipped with a powerful 427 cubic inch engine. During the summer, he captured 28 Stock and Stock Eliminator trophies at area drag strips and set numerous track records including a blazing 113.35 miles per hour run at Omaha Dragway in August of 1963. In September, at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Jochim raced the lightweight Galaxie deep into the bracket before he was eventually eliminated.

In 1966, his final year in racing, Jochim purchased a 426 Hemi-powered Plymouth Belvedere and successfully raced it at Flightland Drag Strip in Omaha.

During his career, Jochim was a top competitor at numerous drag racing venues in eastern Nebraska, as well as both Grand Island Dragway and Kearney Dragway in central Nebraska and at the airport drag strip in Sioux City, Iowa. He competed in numerous NHRA regional and national events including the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, on numerous occasions, and at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. He held numerous long-time records at Omaha Dragway and Flightland Dragway in Omaha, and Grand Island Dragway in Grand Island.

Kevin Larkins


Kevin Larkins was born in Beatrice and developed a love for dirt track racing as a youngster while attending races at Beatrice Speedway with his parents.

He began his driving career as an 18-year old in 1982 and after wheeling a Sportsman race car for three seasons, turned his attention to International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modifieds in 1985.

In 1994, Larkins had one of his most successful seasons behind the wheel of an IMCA Modified, scoring 24 victories and grabbing 52 top-five finishes in 60 starts. That year, he captured the IMCA North Central Region championship while finishing a close second in the IMCA national point standings.

Over the years, Larkins finished in the top-five in the final IMCA Modified national standings on numerous occasions and was invited to participate in the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the IMCA Modified in Vinton, Iowa in 1999, as one of the ten winningest drivers in IMCA modified history.

In 2000, Larkins traveled with the American Speed Association (ASA) asphalt Late Model Tour but returned to the dirt in 2001, teaming up with Johnny Saathoff to form what was described as the “Dream Team.” The pair raced together at big money special events throughout the Midwest, and on many occasions finished first and second against some of the top Modified drivers in the nation.

During his driving career, Larkins raced at over 100 race tracks in 20 states, winning 19 track championships. He qualified for the IMCA Super Nationals main six times, and won special events all over the region. Larkins has sat in the cockpit of a variety of types of race cars including Sportsmen, both dirt and asphalt Late Models, Modifieds, and Sprint Cars.

As successful of a driver as Larkins was, he is equally seen as a successful car builder. He began working for Sardeson Racing in Greenwood as an 18 year old teenager in 1982 and later, with his brother Kurt, opened his own car building business, Larkins Racing, in the early 1990s. Larkins Racing designed and built around 40 IMCA-type Modifieds a year for numerous championship drivers.

In 1995, Larkins turned the reigns of Larkins Racing over to his brother and went to work for “Speedy” Bill Smith at Speedway Motors in Lincoln. Today, he manages four divisions for Speedway including the Shock Rebuild and Service Department, the Quality Control Department, and a new Custom Engine shop.

Wayne “Bromo” Selser


Wayne “Bromo” Selser was born in Stanton Iowa and, like many, developed an interest in automobiles at an early age.

Following his discharge from the Army in 1946, Selser began his racing career in California, racing at Lazy J Speedway in Sacramento. Over the next three years, he raced with the Northern California Roadster Racing Association (NCRRA) and the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) and won races at tracks in Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton, and Lodi

Following three years of driving Track Roadsters and Midgets on the West Coast, Selser moved to Omaha in 1949. That year, he piloted a Midget owned by Gary Blackman, and in 1950, found himself behind the wheel an Offenshauser-powered Midget owned by Otto Rahmer. The pair won the opening night Kansas City Midget Auto Racing Association (KCMARA) event at Topeka, Kansas and ended the season fifth in KCMARA points

Selser also competed in a number of national events in 1950, including the final Midget race held at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles. In November, Selser and famous driver and car builder Vito Calia built a car in ten days for Selser to race at Uline Arena in Washington, D.C., where he finished fourth.

In 1951, Selser drove for Kansas City car owner George Casey and won a number of events including two major event victories at Kansas City’s fabled Olympic Stadium.

Selser tried his hand at the Indianapolis 500 in 1953, turning practice laps in California master mechanic W.M. “Barney” Christianson’s “Christy Special.” Selser, however, never made a qualifying attempt in what would be his only trip to “The Brickyard.”

In 1953 and 1954, Selser chauffeured Sprint Cars for Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Les Vaughn, scoring major wins at Belleville, Kansas and Riverside, California. He continued to race Sprint Cars and Midgets through 1958, when he moved back to California where he drove a few races at Madera prior to hanging up his helmet for the final time.

A hard-nosed and aggressive driver, Selser was arguably one of the finest and most respected Midget drivers of his era. He helped a number of young drivers get their start in the sport, including Omaha’s Bobby Parker. Parker, who won over 300 races in his Hall of Fame career, received his first Midget ride in 1949 much through Selser’s influence.

Selser passed away in California in 1994.

Rallen "Rallie" Zeitner


Rallen “Rallie” Zeitner was born in Armour, South Dakota and got his first taste of racing as a teenager when he climbed into a tree to watch the races at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds. His first driving experience came in the late 1950s when he was called upon to sit behind the wheel of a Stock Car owned by relatives. After driving full-bodied race cars for five years, he turned his attention to Super Modifieds in 1965.

During a 12 year career behind the wheel of a Super Modified, Zeitner raced his hand-crafted machines at a number of local venues, successfully competing against some of the region’s top open-wheel drivers including Doug Wolfgang, Bill Mellenberndt, Roger Larson, Gary Bott, and Jimmy Mathews. He scored over 50 feature race wins and won track championships at Brookings Speedway and Casino Speedway in Watertown before hanging up his helmet at the conclusion of the 1976 season.

Zeitner moved his small but growing transportation business to Omaha in 1980 and for portions of the next three decades, provided the financial backing as his four sons, Al, Mel, Dale and Leon, successfully raced Late Models throughout the Midwest. Zeitner-owned cars scored over 250 feature race wins during that period, with Leon capturing track championships at Eagle Raceway in Nebraska, Park Jefferson Speedway in South Dakota, and Crawford County Speedway and Adams County Speedway in Iowa, and Mel racking up track titles at Harlan, Iowa and Jefferson, South Dakota. In addition to running locally, the Zeitners also competed with the NASCAR All-Star Series and the WORLD Dirt Racing League.

In recent years, Zeitner has been instrumental in the development and growth of the racing programs of four of his grand children, Kevin, Corey, Justin, and Zach. Both Kevin and Corey have already captured local track championships in their young racing careers.

In 1995, Zeitner was recognized by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) as the recipient of the organization’s True Value Gold Wrench Mechanic Award. For many years, he was a strong supporter of NASCAR’s “Champions Against Drugs” program at Sunset Speedway in Omaha.

After growing his trucking business, Zeitner and Sons Transportation, into one of the largest and most respected refrigerated truckload carriers in the Midwest, Zeitner is now semi-retired and living in Bellevue.

Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame

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