Honoree Art Malone was referred to by McClelland as "a renaissance man," and it was easy to see why. He raced for "Big Daddy" Don Garlits in 1959 at Carlisle, Ark., - the first drag race announced by McClelland - and also drove for Lee Petty (Richard's dad) and Andy Granatelli, among others. He partnered with Garlits beginning at the 1984 U.S. Nationals. Malone's support allowed Garlits to turn a 5.52 in the finals gaving him the Indy win and arguably re-created the Top Fuel category. He was one of the few drag racers who also drove in the Indy 500. Malone's best finish at the Brickyard was 11th in the 1964 race, driving the famous Novi-powered Kurtis Kraft. Malone operated the Sunshine Dragstrip and DeSoto Memorial Dragway. In 1962, he drove the "Osecki-Malone Special," powered by a nitro-fueled, supercharged Dodge hemi to World's Closed Course Speed Record at Daytona International Speedway.
"Fifty-one years of racing...and it seems like yesterday," Malone said. "I'm very appreciative of the award. Thanks for the memories."
"No, thank you for the memories," McClelland immediately told the crowd.
Bill Smith joked with McClelland when he got on stage, telling him that he should have amended his statement that the National Hot Rod Reunion was his favorite event. "Dave should have added '...with his clothes on."' Smith is famous for Speedway Motors, the self-proclaimed Oldest Speed Shop in America. It's the largest supplier of auto racing and street rod parts, and provides products for enthusiasts around the world. Smith opened his shop in Lincoln, Neb., in 1952. It now houses one of the great automotive museums around. He built his own cars and helped others as well. His cars have won in sprint car racing, NASCAR, modifieds, super modifieds, drag racing, in Land Speed Record runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats and rallying at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
Last up, and certainly not least was the crowd favorite, Linda Vaughn. Referred to as "the first lady of motorsports," Vaughn won the title of "Miss Atlanta International Raceway" in 1961 at age 18. She earned a ride in the pace car for the Daytona 500 the following year, as "Miss Pontiac." In 1963, she was named "Miss Firebird" and was featured in Esquire magazine.
She's best known as "Miss Hurst Golden Shifter," which she got after winning a national contest coordinated by Hot Rod Magazine. Vaughn has represented Hurst ever since. Hurst promoted Linda to Vice President, Public Relations in 1983 and she was honored with a special citation during a SEMA Salute to the American Automotive Performance and Motorsports Industry.
During a very emotional speech, Vaughn thanked many folks for helping her, including Garlits, Buster Couch and Dick Wells. "I grew up with all of you. I've had so much fun, I just want to thank y'all."
The evening ended with all the honorees being swamped with autograph requests and a big party in the parking lot.