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Group plans West Virginia Drag Racer Hall of Fame

By Charles Young

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A newly formed organization is looking to honor residents who contributed to the state's rich history of drag racing.  

A group of car enthusiasts from around the Kanawha Valley who share a love of the sport and a desire to see its legacy preserved formed the West Virginia Drag Racer Hall of Fame earlier this year.

 The group plans to induct its inaugural class of 13 members this October at the 8th annual Charleston Boulevard Rod Run & Doo Wop car show. Inductees will be recognized during a ceremony and presented with a plaque.

The hall of fame doesn't yet have a physical location. But several auto-related businesses around Charleston have offered wall space in their establishments to display a plaque listing the inductees as well as other drag racing memorabilia and artifacts.  

Jim Winter, 59, of Winfield, is one of the organization's co-founders. He said many of the sport's most significant contributors are getting older or have already died.

Winter said the group founded the hall of fame in an effort to make sure the sport's veterans and legends are honored personally - before it's too late.

"Let's recognize the older guys before we lose them," Winter said. "We've already lost three or four this year. Surrounding states have had hall of fames for some time, and it seems like we were just kind of behind the eight ball."

Co-founder Gary Jarvis, 59, of Fraziers Bottom, said many members of the state's drag racing community have been looking for a way to properly acknowledge their forefathers for some time.   

"Everyone said, 'What took you so long? You should have done this 15, 20 years ago,'" he said.  

Jarvis and Winter - who co-founded the organization along with three other local car lovers - have been friends for many years.

They met while working at Union Carbide. Jarvis worked in research and development, and Winter was a chemist.  

Winter said they collaborated on many projects together and discovered their shared enthusiasm for drag racing and collecting pieces of Americana memorabilia.

Both men live in the Winfield area, near where the old Kanawha Valley drag strip once was. The drag strip, which is now home to a lumberyard owned by Mead Paper, was the site where much of the history the hall of fame is looking to preserve took place.

Winfield native Bill Miller opened the drag strip in 1958 on what is now Route 817. The site operated until the late '70s and was a popular attraction with locals of all ages for many years.

Both Winter and Jarvis said their love of the sport was kindled at the Kanawha Valley drag strip over the course of many sunny Sunday afternoons spent watching races from the strip's white-washed bleachers.

Winter said even though the old location is long gone, many of its regular participants and spectators still keep in touch. To help with the selection process for the hall of fame's candidates, its co-founders are calling on members of the car community to submit names for consideration.

"We've sent the word out to various car clubs and car guys. It's really kind of a small, close-knit fraternity," he said. "Car guys pretty much know who car guys are in other areas, and we've asked them to submit nominations and we've received quite a few."

To make sure that older contributors are recognized in time, this year's class of 13 inductees will be larger than in future years. Each year, the hall of fame's co-founders will consider the applications they receive and vote on which six names make the cut.

Winter said candidates would be chosen based on experience, contributions and standing in the community.

The hall of fame's inaugural class will be inducted at noon Oct. 5 during the car show. Winter said parts of this year's show will focus on drag racing. In addition to authentic drag racing cars, there will also be memorabilia, trophies and photographs on display.

The annual car show will also feature a fireworks display, musical performances, a lighted boat parade, raffle drawings and new and used car part vendors.  

Anyone wishing to submit candidates for consideration should send names and photographs to Danny's Service Center, 5401 MacCorkle Ave. S.E., Charleston, WV 25304.

For more information on the car show, visit www.charlestonwvcarshow.com or call 1-888-4-DOOWOP.


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