Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame

Class of 2015

                  MARION COOPER

Race boat drivers from the legendary 725 and 510 cubic inch Classes rose to prominence in the APBA Unlimited category.  One of the most distinguished examples of this breed of competitors was Marion Cooper from Louisville, KY.  Cooper’s first competitive performance behind the wheel was in Cincinatti in 1937 in the 510 Class boat HERMES, a boat in which he had also served as a riding mechanic, riding with his brother George Cooper, back in the days when they were 2-man boat, using  an OX-5 aircraft engine.

Cooper’s next boat, HERMES III, a highly successful 725 Class step-hull hydroplane, campaigning in 1937 & 1938 with a V-8 Hispano-Suiza (Hisso) engine.  With George Davis in the mechanics seat, Cooper won the 725 Class event at the 1937 Gold Cup Regatta in Detroit.

Among other honors, Cooper was the original winner of the Indiana Governers Cup in Madison in 1951 in his own boat, the HORNET, and he was the first pilot of the community owned Miss Madison Unlimited Hydro in 1961 & 1962.  Few drivers have longer career spans in APBA Gold Cup, first in 1939 in Detroit and last in 1962 at Seattle in the Miss Madison.

He was also a 4 time winner of the Calvert Trophy, the premier award at Louisville’s annual Marine Derby, in the HERMES III in 1938, in the HORNET in 1954 & 1955, and 1966 in the LOUISVILLE KID II, which he co-owned with father/son team Collings Downes Sr & Jr, both 2012 inductees in the Kentucky MotorSports Hall of Fame.  Cooper’s firs experience in a sponson type boat was in the MERCURY, and it was the fastest boat in the world in its category, clocking 98mph straightaway speed in the 1940 Presidents Cup Regatta, until Bill Cantrell ran 99mph two hours later. 

Prior to WWII, Cooper won the 1940 Jaycees Regatta in Evansville, IN and the 1942 Biscayne Bay Memorial Trophy Race, gaining him the 725 Class National Championship.  After WWII, the 725 Class and the Gold Cup Class were combined to form the Unlimited Class.  Cooper saw action in the 225, 266, and the 7 litre Classes.  He owned 9 Limited hulls, building 3 of them himself.  In 1946, he won the 225 Class National Championship in the HORNET, and also the 1949 Indiana Governers Cup in Madison, IN, also in the 225 HORNET, and in 1955 he set the World Speed Record in the 7 litre HORNET .

In the mid 50’s, Cooper was involved with several Unlimited teams, back-up driver for SLO-MO-SHUN IV and SLO-MO-SHUN V and drove MISS ROCKET in the 1957 Gold Cup race in Seattle.  Not until 1961 did the unassuming Kentuckian get the call to take the seat of the MISS MADISON.  It was a very low budget operation with the crew chief on down were volunteers and Cooper had to pay his own way to the races.  The race he remembered most was winning the Gold Cup on Lake Washington at the Seattle SeaFair Regatta in 1962.

For most of his adult life, Cooper was General Mgr. of Ford’s Louisville Motors, where he applied his no-nonsense approach to business as he did to racing. Following his retirement from racing, Cooper remained affiliated with the MISS MADISON operation, breaking in new drivers, such as Buddy Byers in 1963 and Jim McCormick in 1966.  For the rest of his life, Cooper remained an ardent fan of racing, never failing to attend the annual Madison Regatta, accompanied by his wife Mildred and old friend from the 725 Class days, George Davis.  Marion Cooper passed away February 21, 1982, while on vacation in Florida.  He was 82.


                           JERRY DECKER

Jerry Decker, born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1939, and and graduate of Valley High School. Owner of Decker Heating & Air, he first got the racing bug in 1962 at Cedar Creek Drag way with a Chevy Pickup.  In 1962, he built a drag boat, a Chris Craft with a 327 Chevy and raced off and on until 1969.  In 1970, he built a Sanger Drag Boat with a 427 Chevy. Jerry won races in 1972 and while having a top speed of 117 mph, was the fastest drag boat in Kentucky that same year.

Jerry then built his first drag car, a 68 Camaro, bought from Ohio Valley and later built a dragster with a chassis borrowed from the Mudd Brothers.  In 1990, he built a Spitzer dragster to run in the Spitzer Super Quick Series, started with a 600" Nitrous engine and then a Blown Small Block.  Jerry ran in the IHRA Pro-Outlaw series, winning 2 IHRA Iron Mans with Mike Decker driving.  On the 1/8 mile, he ran a 3:78 at 214 mph, a race record that held for years.

Continuing with his racing career, Jerry moved to Pro Top Outlaw Races, winning the Pro Top Outlaw World Championship 2 years in a row with Brian Decker driving. In 2010, he switched to Pro Mod and raced 3 years before retiring in 2012.  Jerry is now building Street Rods as a hobby.  He built the Kosair 38 Chevy Giveaway Car.

Jerry would like to thank his wife Barbara Decker and family for helping and supporting him race. Also thanks to co-crew chief Dave Jeffries and Engine Builder, Jim Lyons.

                            PAT FREELS

Pat Freels was born and raised in Muhlenberg County Kentucky.  He now resides in neighboring McLean County in Island.  He is married to his wife of 38 years, Theresa and together they raised two children.  A son, Robbie, also lives in Island and currently races a rear engine dragster and a Nostalgia altered with Pat.  A daughter, Kelly Key, lives in Louisville who most recently gave us an addition to the family with another grandchild. 

He was exposed to motorsports at an early age by a brother who drag raced at a nearby track.  Drag racing would become his first experience into motorsports.   He also raced at a local track in Daviess county racing a ’64 Chevelle which he drove to the track.  While a senior in high school (1972) an older friend had a garden tractor and so he began another form of motorsports – tractor pulling. 

His first tractor was a Bush hog garden tractor (that he still has) and he competed locally and in nearby areas successfully winning a large share of titles.  As the sport grew so did the engine sizes!  He bought a “rail” (and yes we know that they are really dragsters) that he chopped and put a small block chevy engine on for his first mini-rod.  Competing locally and in nearby states winning classes and championships, he was looking at the larger classes of tractors with V-8’s and twin engines.  After a trip to Florida to pick up a tractor frame being replaced by an Uncle, he found his new interest – Modified tractor pulling.  His first outing in modified was a tractor was a single engine names “The Dollar Devil” and aptly so!

Loving the sport so much he continued pulling tractors with the support and help of family and friends.  He added more and more and more and more engines till he was done at 5 supercharged chevys.   

Along the way at about 3 engines a new class came along – 2 WD trucks and of course he also wanted to give this a try so he built a ’54 Willys Jeep truck.  Because he likes to try things different from everyone else he would take 1 engine off the tractor and add it to the back of the Willys to run exhibitions as a 2-engined 2 WD truck.  The Willys was sold to buy 2 more engines and a cross box for a new 5 motor modified tractor that could be run in 5800lb class with 2 engines, 7200lb class with 4 engines and 9000lb class with 5 engines.  To do these engine changes he built a special lift in his trailer so he could add or remove engines alone or with the help from fellow pullers and friend, Tommy Patrick, who ALWAYS was there to help and support him. 

His most memorable win was in 1988 winning the Redman All American Championship in the last pull of the season at Purdue University competing against the BEST pullers in the country.  He won the championship with more combined total points than the Banter Brothers – who he believed were among the best, pulling longer than anyone he’d known- making the win even sweeter. 

While rebuilding his tractor to run 6 engines he received a phone call from Brian Armistead in England.  Brian wanted to buy the tractor with 5 engines and 2 spares.  A deal was made and the tractor was shipped to England with the 7 engines. 

With pulling still in his heart he built a T-bucket 2WD “Cheers” which won more pulling events the tractor had.  But with the demands of his growing family after 22 years of pulling he stopped!  His last pull was in February 1994 at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY which he had competed in for 18 years.  He has not attended another pulling event since saying ---  It would be like taking an alcoholic to a brewery!

He has pulled in 38 states and 2 countries.  From California to New Hampshire, Canada to Florida and many, many stops in between. While winning local, State, Regional, Pro-National, TNT, Busch Promotion Championships he has made life-long friends. 

His most admired puller has always been Eddie Sullivan, who ran a 2WD and 4WD truck from Kentucky, who he says could always do the MOST with the LEAST! (Seems there was connection there).  He is very proud of all the pulling vehicles he has built but takes most pride in that ALL but the first 2 are still pulling and in competition today.

For one year, one VERY long year, the Freels Family did not compete in ANY motorsports.  He returned to drag racing – buying a rear engine dragster and a junior dragster.  With his children growing old enough to also compete they raced at nearby tracks.

In 1998 he began tuning a supercharged dragster for Bo Boles to compete in the JEGS Super Quick Series.  Eventually he tuned simultaneously 4 supercharged dragsters, two of which he owned, for the JEGS Series.  Bo Boles won 2 championships, Tim Brannon won 2 championships (in Pat’s car).  In 2002 the 4 dragsters finished 1,2,3 and 5 with drivers – Tim Branon, Bo Boles, brother, Mike Freels, and son, Robbie Freels. 

From 2003 to 2009 he took a break and did the car cruise scene attending:   3-Power Tour Long Hauls, 2- Cruising the Coast at Biloxi, MS, frequent attendances to Summer Nites in Somerset, KY and numerous other local events.

Now running in the Nostalgia 7.0 class, he drives a ’66 GTO with a supercharged engine.  While owning and crewing other Nostalgia vehicles he has given an opportunity for others to enjoy the motorsports he loves.  His proudest moment in drag racing was at Beech Bend in 2012 when Pat won the 7.50 class and son, Robbie, won the 7.00 class sharing the same winners circle with all his family there!

This past June at the Hot Rod Reunion at Beech Bend he paid tribute to Dallas Jones by building a 1970 Camaro replica car that Dallas raced called “Brief Encounter” that Pat saw when he was 16 years old.   This was done to show his appreciation and admiration for a hard working race track owner and friend to all racers.

Pat says that accepting this honor in his name would be selfish because of all the hard work and support of family, like-family and close friends who have always made this possible at Freels Motorsports. 

                    DALLAS JONES

Dallas Jones was born in October 1940.  His parents were Alex and Sylvia McElwain Jones. He grew up with eight siblings in Cleaton, Kentucky, He graduated from Drakesboro High School in 1958. He married Alfreda Cottrell of Beechmont, Kentucky in December 1959. They made their home in Beechmont and started a family. They had three children Charlotte, Dana and Clay. They also have six grandchildren.

He always had a passion for fast cars. He started racing at the age of 17 when he bought his first car, a 1956 Chevrolet. Over the years, he had several other race cars. One of his first race cars was a black 1963 Plymouth which he titled Brief Encounter. He also had a 1964 Plymouth followed by a 1968 Camaro SS, a 1970 ½ Camaro, a 1974 Camaro and a 1976 Vega and still today owns a 1966 Chevy II.

In 1974 he leased Highway 60 Dragway in Hardinsburg, KY, with the help of a long-time friend by the name of Doug Greenfield. Doug helped him with the decisions of running the track while Dallas and his family operated it. After only one year at Hardinsburg, he leased the Windy Hollow track in Owensboro, Ky.  He later changed the name to Owensboro Raceway Park. He and his family ran It through the 1987 season. Alfreda would work the gate, Charlotte and Dana would work in concessions and Clay who was only three years old at the time would be somewhere on the property and would usually fall asleep before the night was finished. In December 1984, he purchased Beech Bend Raceway which he still operates today.

Beech Bend is the home of several major events including NHRA’s Hot Rod Reunion. This event alone has a major impact on the tourism industry for Bowling Green, Kentucky. Beech Bend also hosts the Sports National Open and a Lucas Oil Drag Racing series points race each year along with the NMRA All Ford Finals, the Buick GS Nationals and the American Motorcycle Racing Association Finals.


Dickie Ogles

James Richard (Dickie) Ogles was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on July 9, 1939 to James Franklin and Lorene Ogles. After graduating from Bowling Green High School, Dickie joined the Military and served active duty for 1 year at Fort Knox, Kentucky with a total of 6 years duty. During his time at Fort Knox, he became friends with Ed Payne (Golden Angel), Herschel Powell (Powell`s Pure Oil Service Center), and Big Foot Harry Majors, all well-known local racers.

After his stint at Fort Knox, Dickie became a Flagman at Beech Bend Speedway for track owner, Charlie Garvin. Dickie was instrumental in purchasing and installing the first Chrondek Christmas Tree Starting System at Beech Bend. He then joined his family moving business and worked there for several years until the business was sold. After working at a local parts house, he was hired as Shop Foreman at Webb Chevrolet in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Dickie moved on to become an automotive mechanics teacher at Bowling Green High School, where he retired in 2000.

Dickie teamed up with Charles D. “Red” Cox in a 1956 Chevrolet 245 horsepower two-door hardtop stocker as their first partnership endeavor, which led them to the famed 1956 Chevrolet 245 horsepower Bel Air 9-passenger station wagon named “Stagecoach”. With Stagecoach, winning became a way of life for Dickie and Red at local and national drag races. The Stagecoach was sold to racer Bruce Wilkinson, and he also won several local and national races with it. Dickie and Red purchased a new 1968 Camaro with a 302 Engine and immediately began racing the new car named, “Silly Bear.” By the time the new Camaro was equipped with a Grumpy Jenkins engine, Jerry Stahl experimental headers (Stahl Headers), and chassis and traction system, the winning ways of Dickie Ogles raged on. Dickie was coached by Herb McCandless (Mr. 4-Speed) on shifting. All of Dickie’s cars were stick shift.

Dickie’s partner, Red, retired from racing to open his own business. After a couple years, the Camaro was replaced by a Super Stock 1969 Camaro (also named Silly Bear) with a 427 engine and was also a winning combination. Dickie’s current race car is a Super Stock 1969 Corvette with a 427 engine.

Racing has always been his passion, and Dickie has drag raced locally and all across America; from Ontario, California, to Gainesville, Orlando and Spruce Creek Dragway in Florida, to Englishtown, New Jersey, and all across the southeastern United States in a winning fashion. Kentucky Race tracks include Owensboro Dragstrip, Windy Hollow Speedway, Tompkinsville Dragstrip, Beech Bend Dragway in Bowling Green, U.S. 60 Dragway in Hardinsburg, Ohio Valley Dragway in Westpoint, Blue Grass Dragway in Lexington, and Mountain Park Dragway in Clay City.

Dickie still lives in Bowling Green and attends First Baptist Church. He stays busy with swap meets, assisting fellow drag racers, and restoring old Chevrolets. Dickie is honored to be chosen as an inductee into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame.



                                          JIM RUTH


   Jimmie Ruth typically accomplished more before noon than most could in an entire day.

   A tireless worker who built a series of successful businesses in his hometown of Morehead, Ruth worked hard and played even harder. Those two lines intersected in the sport of drag racing and few people had a greater, more diverse impact - on virtually every level - in such a short span of time.

   Sanctioning body savior and president, marquee dragway owner, respected Pro Stock driver and car owner - with a string of world records, national event final round appearances and awards. Ruth and his family also remained staunch supporters of racing on the local level - even after Jim's untimely passing at age 50 in December 1990.

   Ruth began drag racing as a hobby at Mountain Park Dragway in Clay City in 1964, first fielding a 409-powered 1964 Chevrolet and later 1969 396 Chevelle. He stopped competing for about a decade to focus on building his businesses - Ken-Mor Stone, Ken-Mor Trucking and partnerships in concrete, paving and guardrail firms - and raise a family.

   When he returned, it was with a vengeance. A nine-second bracket Vega soon gave way to a quicker machine but the holy grail was IHRA mountain motor Pro Stock and it didn't take long Ruth to jump in with both feet.

   On a warm Saturday night in August 1982 - back at Clay City - Ruth completed the purchase of a Pro Stock Chevy Monza from Georgian William Parris and formed an alliance with good friend Darrell Alderman. The car re-appeared a few days later rebranded as "Party Time" and the rest is history.

   The Monza soon gave way to a string of black and silver "Party Time" Pontiacs that progressed from regularly qualifying in the tough 16-car national events, to going rounds, reaching final rounds and establishing world record speeds.

   Ruth won the Outlaw Pro Stock Nationals in St. Louis and later reached the finals of the 1985 IHRA Northern Nationals at Milan, Michigan, before falling to eventual world champion Bruce Allen in the Reher-Morrison Camaro. Ruth raced to the finals of the Popular Hot Rodding Championships at Martin, Michigan where he lost to legendary Roy Hill.

   He was presented the Don Carlton Memorial Award for outstanding sportsmanship by a professional driver in 1985.

   In 1986, Ruth defeated world champion Rickie Smith to reach the finals of the Hurst Pro Stock Shootout and a race with Bob Glidden.

   In six seasons behind the wheel, Ruth earned five top-ten points finishes, finishing a best of fifth in 1987, one spot ahead of Bob Glidden. Throughout that time, the immaculately prepared machines continually racking up awards for best appearing and best engineered car.

   On the southern match race trail, the "Party Time" machine was virtually unbeatable.

   Ruth stepped out of the cockpit in 1989 and longtime co-driver and crew chief Harold Denton slid into the seat full-time, earning fourth- and sixth-place finishes in the season points standings and establishing a Pro Stock world record of 7.258 seconds at 198.34 mph.

   Along the way, Ruth purchased legendary "Thunder Valley" - Tennessee's Bristol International Dragway - the flagship track of the International Hot Rod Association.

During his five years at the helm, Ruth's steady hand steered the landmark facility through its most tumultuous time, as sanctioning body IHRA lost its primary sponsors, was sold and relocated to Texas and very nearly ceased operations completely after the 1988 season.

   It was then that Ruth and longtime racing official Ted Jones stepped up to purchase IHRA's remaining assets, relocate operations back to Bristol and rapidly rebuild its reputation. The growth and acclaim the association earned during the 1989 and 1990 seasons were as much a testament to Ruth's strength and credibility as the product on the race track.

   That product included the creation of Pro Modified as a professional category in 1990 - an accomplishment that Ruth historically has received little credit for, in part because he often preferred someone else stand in the spotlight.

   Ruth's successful legacy continued after his passing, as Denton captured the team's first national event win at the 1991 Bristol Spring Nationals and later became the first Pro Stocker to run in the six-second range.

   Working with promoters Gene and Alberta Barker, Ruth's sons successfully operated Bristol Dragway for many years before selling to Bruton Smith in 1996. And their company continued to support local racing at Kentucky's Mountain Park Dragway - which brought their involvement full circle.  


                                 Pioneer Award 
                     EARL HAYDEN

As the patriarch of the Hayden motorcycle racing family, Earl Hayden has become one of the most recognizable and beloved figures in motorsports. 

Born in Newman, Kentucky, just outside Owensboro, Earl bought his first motorcycle from a neighbor and would ride it back and forth to Owensboro Catholic High School.  With the help of his good friend Junior Boone, who owned a Honda shop in Owensboro, Earl began racing enduros and dirt tracks on the weekend. 

By the time he started Brescia College, where he majored in business and graduated in 1969, Earl was winning trophies and having a blast!  Rose even raced with him in the powder puff races.  Eventually Earl got his pro license and found success racing flat tracks as well.  

Always the businessman, Earl operated a car wash, bred and sold race horses, and opened a car lot to support his 20-year racing “habit.” (He never called it a “career”.)  But by the time he and Rose started having kids, Earl decided to hang up his boots and devote his time to his children; Tommy, Jenny, Nicky, Roger, and Kathleen.

All five Hayden kids raced, at least for a short time.  Earl and Rose built a dirt track on their property so the kids could practice as much as they pleased.  Tommy started racing at Windy Hollow Raceway before he turned 3.  Jenny, Nicky, and Kathleen followed, although Kathleen’s racing stint soon gave way to her love for tennis.  Jenny also stopped racing to focus on tennis, but by then Roger was chasing down his older brothers.  

With Earl’s guidance, first Tommy, then Nicky, then Roger all turned pro at 16.  In 2001, the Hayden brothers made history by sweeping the podium at the Springfield (Illinois) TT, the first and only time three brothers placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. All three eventually became AMA champions; Nicky in 1999 (Supersport) & 2002 (Superbike), Tommy in 2004 & 2005 (Supersport), and Roger in 2007 (Supersport). 

In 2003, Nicky had the opportunity to switch to MotoGP and was crowned MotoGP World Champion in 2006.

Throughout that time, Earl and Rose have become a fixture at the track, and Earl has become a fan favorite because of his charm, humor, and approach-ability at races.  Kathleen has commented that Earl is “just as famous as my brothers.”

In 2010, Earl was diagnosed with throat cancer, which he beat with the help of his family and an amazing team of doctors.  After a lengthy recuperation, Earl was right back at the track!

Earl released a book on August 7th 2014, entitled The First Family of Racing, which chronicles the Hayden tradition of family, faith, and racing. 

Earl and Rose are still happily married and just welcomed their sixth grand baby in July.  

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