When you think hall of fame names like Babe Ruth or Vince Lombardi, but for off-roaders, there are different names that come up. The Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF) recently announced the class of 2019 of both past and current drivers.
Inductees for the Class of 2019 are Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr., Lynn Chenowth, Bobby Ferro, Robby Gordon, David Higgins, and Steve Morris. These people span the off-road community from pioneering the industry to competing in the events we watch today. Every one of the inductees has helped progress the sport into what we enjoy nowadays.
Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr.
Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr is one of the most decorated drivers that has ever been involved in the sport of off-road racing. Arciero excelled at the short course and desert racing, on two wheels and four, and he enjoys competing to this day.
Like many off-road racers, Arciero’s love for desert racing began on a motorcycle in the early 1970s. In 1974, he and his brother Al ventured into the four-wheel vehicles, which is where Frank would make his mark.
Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr career highlights include 40-plus trophy finishes on a motorcycle, 40-plus off-road wins, including The Mint 400, SCORE World Championships, Nevada 400, Baja 500, and Baja 1000, gave Toyota their first Unlimited Class win
at the 1985 SCORE Baja 500, 85-plus top-five finishes, 1980 AMSA Class 1 Points Champion, 1981 HDRA Class 1 Points Champion, 1981 HDRA Class 10 Points Champion, and 1984 HDRA Drivers Championship.
In short-course racing, Arciero has 50-plus wins, 125-plus top-five finishes, 1984, 1987, and 1991 Mickey Thompson Drivers Championship, more wins than any other stadium racer upon his retirement from short course racing in 1993, and the only driver to win a main event in three different classes.
Lynn Chenowth is a legendary off-road industry pioneer and chassis builder, whose open-wheel creations were a driving force behind some of the sport’s biggest victories and greatest drivers.
In the 1970s, it was Chenowth who helped usher in the development of true tube frame off-road vehicles. The sport was quickly growing and evolving, and Chenowth Racing Products was ready to meet the need. With a mass-production approach to building affordable chassis and products, Chenowth helped bring the sport of recreational off-roading to the masses.
Factory-backed and private Chenowth cars have taken many of the sport’s greatest drivers to offroad racing’s biggest victories. The list includes ORMHOF inductees Johnny Johnson, Ivan Stewart, Corky and Mark McMillin, Bob and Robby Gordon, Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr, and Rob MacCachren.
Chenowth retired in 2017 and sold his company, Pulltarps Manufacturing, with the goal of returning to the fun of off-road racing. He’s off to a good start, with the foundation of the seaside Chenowth Legacy Lodge and Museum in Baja, Mexico, just south of San Felipe. Chenowth is also working with a team of former factory craftsmen to build a new Chenowth racing chassis.
In 1973 automotive journalist Hal Higdon published his book “Finding the Groove.” This book was based on 27 interviews of the greatest race car drivers of the time and included drivers like Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Don Garlits, Bobby, and Al Unser, and Don Prudhomme. Selected to represent off-road racing was Bobby Ferro. How did he earn this distinction?
During the 1970s Bobby Ferro would become one of the most dominant racers our sport has ever seen, with twenty-five 4-wheel overall wins. There wasn’t a major race that Ferro didn’t win, including two Mexican 1000s, four Baja 500s, two Mint 400s, three California 400s, and the 1974 SCORE Championship.
In 1976 one of Bobby’s sponsors suggested letting a relatively unknown driver share driving duties at the Baja 500. Ferro agreed to give the driver a shot, and the two of them went on to overall the race, helping to launch the driver’s career. That driver’s name? Ivan Stewart (ORMHOF Class of 2006).
Besides winning, Ferro was also a strong safety advocate. His day job as a Hollywood stunt man made him especially interested in safety. After seeing Sprint car drivers killed or seriously injured and losing arms in rollovers, Ferro started racing with leather straps tied to his arms which he later replaced with window nets. Ferro petitioned race organizers to make arm restraints and window nets mandatory. He persisted until the improved safety measures were put into effect.
Robby Gordon is one of the most versatile drivers of the modern era. He has won in just about every type of car racing, including NASCAR, IMSA, Trans-Am and IndyCar. But it’s in off-road racing where he’s really made — and continues to make — his mark. As a driver, Gordon won the Baja 1000 three times (1987, 1989, 2006), the Baja 500 four times (1989, 1990, 2005, 2013) and captured seven SCORE championships (five of them consecutive, from 1986 to 1990, and again in 1996 and 2009) and two Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group stadium racing titles.
In 2007, while still racing NASCAR full-time Gordon became the first American to win a Stage in the Legendary Dakar Rally. Gordon has competed in “the world’s most difficult race” representing the United States 14-times, claiming 10 stages wins and a third-place overall.
In addition to his racing, Gordon is one of the most influential people in the off-road industry. In 2018, he launched a UTV he designed exclusively for Arctic Cat/Textron. The much-anticipated Wildcat XX design was based off the years of Gordon’s experience and knowledge in off-road racing. With positive reviews and results, the Wildcat XX was voted UTV of the Year for 2018.
Robby Gordon career highlights include 19-time Stadium SUPER Trucks Winner, seven-time SCORE International Champion, 1986-90, 1996, 2009, BITD Grand Champion, 2012, three-time Baja 1000 winner, 1987, 1989, 2006, four-time Baja 500 winner, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2013, first American to win Stage in Dakar Rally, 2007, ten Dakar Rally stage victories, third place overall finish in Dakar Rally 2009, won very first off-road race entered Vegas to Reno 500, two-time Mickey Thompson Grand National Sport Truck Series Champion, one Central Europe Rally Special win, 2008 CER Stage 5, X Games Austin Silver Medal Winner in Off-Road Truck 2015, and X Games Austin Bronze Medal Winner in Off-Road Truck 2014.
Other Notable Accomplishments include four consecutive class wins in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, three consecutive class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring, three NASCAR Monster Cup Victories: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, 2001; Sonoma Raceway, 2003; Watkins Glen, 2003, NASCAR Xfinity Series Win: Richmond International Raceway, 2004, first driver to sweep both NASCAR Road Courses in the same year, two CART Victories, Phoenix International Raceway, 1995; and Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, 1995, Indianapolis 500: Three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 10 starts, and attempted the “Double Duty” four times, racing the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 in the same day (one of four drivers).
It took a driver from a small island country in the Irish Sea to help put Rally back on the map in the United States. David Higgins was born in 1972 on the Isle of Man, the country famous for motorsports. David’s grandparents and parents have all been successful rally drivers, and David’s brother Mark is an accomplished rally driver in his own right. His children started kart racing and they have been successful, winning many local races.
Many people are unaware that Rally is a category at ORMHOF, something that Higgins’ induction is sure to change. David Higgins joins John Buffum as a Rally inductee in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Buffum was inducted fifteen years ago, in 2004. While Buffum was dominant throughout the 1970s and 80s, retiring at the end of his undefeated 1987 year in the United States, Higgins has set the 21st Century Rally world on fire matching Buffum’s fete of the perfect undefeated season, winning all eight rounds of the Rally America National Championship in 2015. There is no driver more dominant in U.S. Rally today than Higgins.
David is a well-respected performance driving instructor as well and when he isn’t racing in the states, he often travels the world doing one-on-one rally coaching to drivers of every level.
Steve Morris has been a pioneer and advocate for the Recreational Four Wheeling community since the purchase of his first Jeep in 1954, a Willys CJ2A. His passion for off-road started as family recreation, then moved into business as an employee of the Jeep Corporation in Detroit, and later as a Jeep dealer. Morris continued to follow his passion for off-road, moving into the role of advocate for off-road recreation and public land access for California and Nevada.
Morris saw a need for an agency that would protect and represent the rights and needs of the off-road community. He was instrumental in the development and formation of the California Association of 4WD Clubs (Cal4Wheel) in 1959. He served on the board as the first Cal4Wheel president and helped develop the by-laws that the organization still follows today. The Cal4Wheel Win-A-Jeep promotion is a major fundraiser since the early days of the organization that continues to this day.
Steve Morris participated in many early Jeep events, including the first-ever competition at Pismo Beach. He was a pit crew member at The Mint 400 in Las Vegas and organized and competed in early Hill Climbs and Jeep Pulls in South Lake Tahoe hosted by the Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s, the club he helped get started in 1966.
The Class of 2019 will be inducted in a ceremony on November 3rd, 2019 at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased on the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame’s website.