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Thanks For A Great Season

Thanks For A Great Season

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Bullring of Honor

BULLRING OF HONOR CLASS OF 2020

Number 33 Ed Probst of Paden City, WV (Class of 2020): Ed Probst can rightfully claim the first race win in the track's history. After the 1/4 mile track was completed, but before all the construction needed to hold an official race was in place, the fair board held a 'teaser event' to boost anticipation and excitement for the track's eventual opening. Probst was the winner of an impromptu race that followed the advertised demo-derby, thus becoming the first race winner at 'the Bullring'. Probst along with his brothers would begin fielding some of the cleanest and fastest cars in the region soon afterwards. Feature wins and strong runs soon followed. Jumping right into the Late Model division at possibly the most competitive time in that division's nationwide history, the Probst # 33 cars could always be considered a contender wherever they chose to race. Ed took a short hiatus from racing, came back as strong as ever with many more feature wins for the likeable Paden City racer. Ed's son Brian eventually took over the driving duties, and proved to have his father's deft touch behind the wheel. Now a 3rd generation of Probst is set to begin his racing experience, as Ed will coach grandson 'Little Ed' on the intricacies of handling a stock car. With the lineage and counsel availed, the latest generation of racing Probst's will soon be a force to reckon with. Ed Probst not only has been an avid supporter of the Tyler County Speedway thru his participation but most recently could be found helping erect the Bleacher Project at the Speedway with many hours of welding and volunteering with the massive project. For his racing achievements, his long and successful stint as driver and car owner, and his long time behind the scenes support, Ed Probst is considered a most worthy inductee.

The #7 Robbie ‘Taz’ Thomas of Alma, WV (Class of 2020): Legends are often created by the local racer who consistently find a way to compete at a high-level season after season. Add to that a dose of genuine joy to compete and you have a snapshot of Alma's Robbie Thomas. Always wearing a smile and a greeting to those who speak, Thomas is a ferocious competitor who raced in nearly every class at the Bullring during his driving years. Feature wins, point championships and likely thousands of laps logged were earned along the way, the result of his unquenchable desire to race. Likewise, Thomas has been a valuable asset to others. Many local young racers went to Thomas for advice, mechanical help and more over his years of involvement. From four-cylinders to the Late Models, Thomas made seldom missed a race and could be counted on to get every ounce that the car would provide. His pure enjoyment to compete was passed onto son Danny, who has found great success in the Stock Car, Hot Mod and Crate LM classes in his own right. The family teams familiar yellow or orange #7 cars continue to be widely known as always being well prepared and a force to reckon with. The Thomas team welcome grandson Cruz into racing, as the youngster carries on a family tradition of nearly a half century by winning a feature of his own in 2020. Robbie has settled into the role of car owner, coach and mentor for many locals, one he seemingly carries with the competitive fires and joy to compete that has always been there. For these reasons and more, Robbie Thomas is welcomed into the Bullring of Honor.

1x1 Ron Conley of New Martinsville, WV (Class of 2020): The late Ron Conley was also a great part of the legacy of Tyler County Speedway. Ron's driving career included successful stints driving for other car owners, but is best remembered for the iconic '1x1' car. The story behind the number supposedly originated when after a particularly rough night at a neighboring track. When it looked like Conley's small crew might be in for an unwelcomed pit reception party by a hostile and much larger group. When asked what they were going to do should that happen, Ron simply said "We'll take 'em one by one". That sage advice turned into a number that is recognized by racers and fans all over the region. Like many fathers, Ron decided after a long and notably successful driving stint to hand the reins over to his son, known by race fans as Sonny Conley. The Porters Falls based '1x1' became even more well known as the family team spread their racing wings as far as Florida, and along the way, becoming one of the cars to beat. The '1x1' seemed to rise to the occasion whenever the bigger money shows were headlined, as some of the Conley families biggest and most dramatic wins involved the 'title' races. Always popular with the fans, the hard charging '1x1' will remain an iconic number no matter the driver. Sadly, Ron Conley earned his angel wings, departing this life August 8th, 2019. His legacy as a driver, car owner and lifetime supporter of the Tyler County Speedway has earned Ron Conley a place in the track's history and Bullring of Honor.

Number 10 Keith Rush of Pine Grove, WV (Class of 2020): Proving that looks can be deceiving, some of the earliest entries fielded by Pine Grove's Keith Rush may have looked somewhat spartan, but the performance always made up for any shortcomings in the appearance. Fielding the #10, Rush almost immediately became one of the leading contenders in the extremely competitive semi-late division. Seldom sporting much more than his 'Rush Construction' in addition to the number on his car, it truly was 'a wolf in sheep's clothing', as Rush was a regular front runner in the upper Ohio Valley circuits, generally racing and winning his share 2 and 3 nights a weekend. Racing at this time involved much more homebuilt, self-engineered equipment and the Rush team excelled. As the equipment became more professional chassis builder dependent, Rush's team adapted and continued success followed. Before hanging up his helmet the final time, the Rush #10 cars had become some of the sharpest looking in the pits, completing the cycle of change. Keith footsteps now are followed by son Brian, who has fielded some of the best appearing cars, also carrying the family #10, as life's time demands have allowed. A well-known and fiercely competitive driver that was recognized as such by fans and racers alike, Keith Rush joins the 2020 Bullring of Honor class.

Number 43 Deak Parsons of Wheeling, WV (Class of 2020): Ask older upper MOV race fans if they remember Late Model standout driver Don Hores and you'll quickly separate the casual fan from the racing historian or close friend. Asking the same fans if they remember Deak Parsons will likely provide an affirmative response. You can tell them that the 2 names are the same man. Racing was a rough and tumble sport in the 60's and Hores knew that the required and notarized parental approval that tracks required for underaged perspective racers wasn't even a consideration. Hores adopted the alias of Deak Parsons, and the start of what became a well-known and accomplished racer were born. Parsons active years primarily coincided with the years of home-built cars, and the late model division was packed with plentiful numbers and great competition. Eventually traveling where money was best and competition the toughest, Parsons' team carved out a reputation as being a force to reckon with. The gold painted Fords carrying the #69 won their share of feature races, and when Tyler County first opened, Parsons and crew were front runners. Eventually falling only 2 markers short of Earl Hill for the first late model season championship, Parsons, along with fellow Bullring of Honor inductee Pat Herrick, carried the banner for the TCS Ford fans. When the Late Models eventually became too pricey for a family man, Parsons was recruited to wheel the powerful Masciarelli Demolition #43 'Cuda street stock. Parsons immediately became one of the drivers to beat in a similarly

BULLRING OF HONOR CLASS OF 2019

03 BILL CHILDERS of ST. MARY’S, WV (Class of 19’): Bill Childers racing experience began with the advent of what was then called the ‘Fender Bender’ division, a full bodied and restricted rules class of stock cars whose ranks soon swelled. Childers quickly became one of the leading winners in a class whose popularity ensured full fields wherever the class raced. Learning a deft touch behind the wheel in a class where others preferred contact, Childers became the man to beat. Deciding to advance up the racing ladder, Bill made the transition to the Semi-Late division nearly seamlessly before moving into the tough Late Model class. Success followed Childers, as his smooth and precise driving style instantly made he and his familiar #03 a top regional racer. A lifelong timber man by trade as well as a fan favorite everywhere, Childers was also well respected by his pit area peers. It was Childers who was called upon to confirm a pass for the feature race lead by both Sonny Conley and track officials that ultimately relegated him to runner-up status. Sadly, Bill Childers passed away from a heart attack in the Bullring pit area while still in the prime of his driving career.

25 PAT HERRICK of NEW MARTINSVILLE, WV (Class of 19’): The winner of the first Late Model feature race ever held at the Tyler County Speedway, Pat Herrick was one of the most well known racers in the mid-Ohio Valley by the time the track opened in the early 1970’s. The tall, WVU educated engineer from New Martinsville sported his trademark crew cut and a heavy right foot in a racing career that lasted for 4 decades. Herrick had cut his teeth in the open wheeled ‘supermodifieds’ in the 60’s, making a name for himself with a self-designed and built offset chassis that was decades ahead of its time. As the stock car invasion surpassed the open-wheelers in popularity, Pat seamlessly transitioned to the full bodied cars. When the Herrick-Shomo combination teamed up, carrying the ‘Running for Your Local Ford Dealer’ on the sides of their #25 blue oval entries, Herrick had some of his best years racing, winning regularly in the very tough regional circuit. Pat has since passed away but his passion for racing was inherited by grandson Brandon Fluharty, who became a Tyler County Speedway champion himself.

E1 MIKE BALZANO of PARKERSBURG, WV (Class of 19’): Arguably the most accomplished and well-known of Tyler County Speedway’s track champions is 2019 Bullring of Honor inductee, Mike Balzano. Widely known as ‘the Floodwall Flyer’, a moniker given due to the family business location adjacent to the massive floodwall at Parkersburg, WV, Balzano was around racing since his early youth. Father Lou Balzano provided wrecker service to local tracks with young Mike often riding shotgun. After older brother Mark began his racing career, Mike inherited the family owned Semi-Late when Mark graduated to the faster and more powerful Late Model division. After a brief apprenticeship in less than stellar equipment, both boys success vaulted into the top echelons regionally when a pair of new Forrest Huff built cars graced the Balzano shop. It was at that time that the cars were renumbered, and from that time forward the E1, Eddie’s Auto Parts entries became a force in local racing. In the early 80’s, the brothers were Bullring track champions in their individual classes in the same season, a remarkable accomplishment. Tragically, elder brother Mark died in an accident on the way home from the track banquet that season. Afterwards, Mike relentlessly pushed himself towards excellence, becoming a familiar face in the winner’s circle. Despite the lack of a big time sponsor, Balzano went on the road to test his mettle with the professional dirt Late Model racers. In doing so, Balzano became a household name to dirt track fans everywhere as he became a multi-time national champion with the All-Star Circuit of Champions and STARS Late Model series among others with feature wins at literally dozens of well-known tracks and headline named races. While still at the top of his game, Mike Balzano surprisingly stepped away from racing to dedicate time to family and business obligations. Mike Balzano was the epitome of ‘the heart of a lion’ in competition.

20 MIKE ‘BIRD’ WILSON of SISTERSVILLE, WV (Class of 19’): Called “the best pure driver” he had ever seen by cousin, fellow racer and former track promoter Frankie Wilson, Mike Wilson was likely the most successful open wheeled modified racer to ever grace the Tyler County high banks. A hard charger from the start, Wilson admittedly replaced the tail section of his car twice in the first month of his racing career. Soon afterwards, he was making life miserable for competitors who often chased him to the pay window. Wilson was generally a one-man gang, preparing and racing his #20 modified with success wherever he chose to travel. Mike even found success running the satellite tracks during the Daytona 500 Speedweek circuit, a very tough accomplishment. A multi-time AMRA National champion, Mike was also a many time track point champion at the Bullring. Always exciting to watch, Wilson’s ‘stand on the gas and go where they ain’t’ style served the chemical plant technician well, as he was also inducted into the Eastern Modified Hall of Fame inaugural class of drivers. A second generation racer, Mike Wilson truly earned the nickname ‘Mr. Modified’.

JIM & DOLLY NEWKIRK (Class of 19’) : The first Bullring of Fame members that hail from the Keystone state never wore a helmet or owned a car but for many years were just as important a part of the Tyler County Speedway as any who did. Jim and Dolly Newkirk, the husband and wife racing photography team from Waynesburg, Pa. made the trek to the Bullring weekly for better than 2 decades. In addition to providing photos for the fans and racers, the Newkirks labored through what once was a time consuming and painstaking process to provide photos to the racing trade papers and periodicals. In short, they made heroes and created legends through their efforts, keeping the Bullring at the forefront of many interested readers who were able to see names and faces of those who succeeded at ‘America’s Baddest Bullring’. Jim was a staple in the infield and on the front stretch with camera at the ready while Dolly’s smiling face greeted those looking for a picture of their favorite driver. Jim passed away a few years ago and is survived by Dolly, the love of his life. Often seen walking hand in hand, the Newkirk’s legacy will continue, as Jim’s pictures have been shared with racing historians who in turn share the sport’s photographic history for future generations of fans to enjoy.

INAUGURAL BULLRING OF HONOR CLASS OF 2018

FRANK WILSON (Class of 18’): One of racing's earliest superstitions was a car carrying the number 13. When Frank Wilson's familiar number 13 rolled into the pit area, it was the competition that was unlucky, as Wilson dominated the early years in Tyler County Speedway's semi-late division. Wilson's racing success seemingly coincided with the track's opening. The Pennsboro, WV racer was undoubtedly the man to beat in the early years, earning multiple track championships and racking up scores of wins. The 1980's saw Wilson take his talent to the Late Model division and continue to be a track winner and favorite in a long racing career.

EARL HILL (Class of 18’): Few racers anywhere could match the success or fan adoration that Earl Hill enjoyed in his racing career. Making Tyler County Speedway his home track, Hill was the high banked quarter mile's first track champion, an accomplishment oft-repeated. Despite being practically unbeatable some seasons, Hill was a crowd favorite. A favorite of the kids in attendance, Hill's humility and surgical skill behind the steering wheel made the Greenwood, WV racer famous throughout the region. His handlebar mustache and red polka dotted welder's cap are reminders of a gentlemen racer gone too soon.

BUTCH MCGILL (Class of 18’): "The Doddridge County Terror" raced in relative obscurity for several years, running well but never garnering the attention that others enjoyed. His abilities were noticed by car owner Bobby Allen, who plucked Butch McGill from the local scene and installing him as the driver of his potent machine. McGill's success on the national scene helped hone his driving skills to a razor sharp edge and when the West Union, WV driver tired of life on the road to return home, he was a highly sought commodity. McGill strung together several seasons of double digit wins with accompanying track championships at Tyler County Speedway, becoming the track's dominant Late Model driver during the run of success.

BUD & MARSHALL DOLL (Class of 18’): If the history of West Virginia motorsports is ever committed to writing, the Doll Brothers should have a prominent place in the pages. Superb craftsmen, fabricators, and 'shade tree engineers', the Doll's home base overlooks Greenwood, WV, and like the cars the Doll's fielded, appears to be 'the king of the hill'. Totally self sufficient in an era that slowly evolved into buying instead of building your own speed, the Doll Brothers got maximum results through prudent spending, careful preparation and expert mechanical skills. The opportunity to drive for the Doll's has always been a coveted, and a select few of the region's best have had that honor. From the opening of Tyler County Speedway until the present time, no other car owners have had the success, win totals or peer respect that Bud and Marshall Doll have earned.

BUD WEIGLE (Class of 18’): No one person has been so influential in the history of the Tyler County Speedway as 'Bud' Weigle. The long time local business owner and community leader served Tyler County and the region in a multitude of ways, but none so dear to area race fans as his coordination during the building and long time managing of the fairgrounds race track. Enlisting the aid of many skilled local craftsman and laborers, Weigle and other's dirt track 'Field of Dreams' became a reality in 1974. Weigle greeted all that raced during his managerial time with a handshake, pat on the back and sincere "Thanks for coming" that endeared him to fans and racers alike. As long as the Tyler County Speedway continues to entertain race fans, the legacy of Bud Weigle will always remain with us.

JUSTUS ‘SONNY’ SPENCER (Class of 18’): A familiar face at the Tyler County Speedway for over four decades, Sonny Spencer has been instrumental in the longevity of the ‘Bullring’. From the early days of planning, coordinating and construction of the speedway to Promoter, Car Owner and race fan extraordinaire, doubtful any one person has seen more laps ran at Tyler County Speedway than ‘Sonny’ Spencer. An excellent Promoter in his day, his experience and knowledge of racing and especially Tyler County Speedway have lent a very helpful hand to many a Promoter down the line and through the years

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