Former Bakersfield resident and four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears is among 12 finalists for induction into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s 2019 class.
Also nominated is four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon. Mears and Gordon are two of six first-time nominees. The others are Gary Bechtel, Bob Bruncati, Mike Bliss and Tom Sneva.
The other finalists are George Follmer, Tom Gloy, Tommy Kendall, Doug McCoun, Eric Norris and Jim Pettit II.
Voting by the Hall’s Board of Directors to select five inductees from the group winds up on Jan. 31. The inductees will be announced during the March 15-17 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
Some of the greatest names in American racing history appear on the final ballot, making this year’s induction ceremonies one of the best in the history of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame,” said Ken Clapp, the organization’s chairman. “Each of the 20 nominees on the first-round ballot received votes. A three-nominee tie for 10th has resulted in 12 names being forwarded for the Board’s final vote.”
Mears, 67, raced a stock car at Bakersfield Speedway in his early days of competition, before moving to off-road competition and then Indy Cars. He won the Indy 500 in 1979, 1983, 1989 and 1991 and holds the record for poles (six) and front-row starts (11).
Mears also won three Indy Car championships (1979, 1981, 1982). He also competed in four International Race of Champions (IROC) events. He retired in 1991 and remains a consultant for Penske Racing.
Gordon, 47, was born in Vallejo but left California for Pittsboro, Ind. as a teenager with his family so he could compete in Sprint Cars. Gordon won a Sprint Car race at Mesa Marin Raceway in 1990 before heading to a career in NASCAR.
McCoun competed numerous times at the old Mesa Marin Raceway in Southwest Tour events, Pettit raced on the dirt at Bakersfield Speedway as well and the pavement at Mesa Marin. Bliss competed in several NASCAR Truck Series races at Mesa Marin, starting in 1995.