Five Greater Victorians will soon be inducted into the 2019 Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Robert and Melvin Pallister, Barrie Goodwin, Bill Okell and Mike Grute are five of the six local auto racing luminaries being inducted. Don Carmichael is also being honoured for the ceremony.
“I’m pretty excited, just wish my dad were still alive. He’s the main reason I started racing, but it’s a good thing,” Grute said.
The Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame 2019 induction ceremony will take place Saturday, April 6, under the grandstands at Western Speedway. Doors will open at noon, with the induction ceremony beginning at 2 p.m.
At the age of seven, Grute’s father Morris began taking him to the Western Speedway. Grute saw his dad weld the roll cage of a Dodge Coupe used by racer Fred Best, and a seed was planted in Grute’s mind. In 1971, Grute’s racing career began when they bought an old figure eight car and welded its roll cage onto a ‘56 Ford. He ended his first season that year consistently in the top 15. They would win best looking car the following year and finish ninth in points.
In 1982, Grute gained an interest in the mini stock class. With his friends Roy and Mike, they built a Volkswagen Beetle and began competing with it in ‘83. The car wasn’t the fastest in the race, but its rear-mounted engine gave it an edge in handling. Grute took it six or seven car lengths deeper into the corners than the others. They broke the track record and ended up winning the Billy Foster Memorial Trophy for two straight years.
Crew member, race driver, track official, but mainly a photographer, Barrie Goodwin has lived in the same home he was born in, built by his grandfather on Barrie Road in Gordon Head. Goodwin frequented Langford Speedway and the Willows Fairgrounds as a boy in the ‘40s. He started his 60-year legacy at the Western Speedway as a fan taking photos. Goodwin retired as a driver in 1960 after a few rollovers in his ‘37 Ford stock car. He crewed the following year and decided to concentrate more on photography. He took over track photography duties at Western in 1967 and continued in that official role until 1989. In 1974, he was enlisted as an official for a NASCAR Winston West Series in California’s Ascot Park, a personal highlight. He returned to the legendary track in Southern California once a year for many years. Goodwin was a regular fixture at Western until 2017; he never missed a Wednesday night hornet race. Many of Goodwin’s photos make up the hundreds of square feet of displays in the Victoria Racing Hall of Fame.
Robert and Melvin Pallister
The Pallister brothers have been crew members, car builders, owners and sponsors. Their journey started when their family bought 26 acres adjacent to the Western Speedway in 1957. Their father, Earl, installed the end grandstands for the Speedway and would regularly fetch water to dampen the dusty roadway that led into it. In the early ‘70s, they worked on cars for Superstock and Open Competition racing throughout the Northwest and Alberta, setting several track records in multiple events. As crew members sponsored by Vanderbyl Racing for Nova Superstocks, they went on to win the Superstock Championship, with Melvin as crew chief and Robert managing the tire program. They later partnered with Monte Carlo Superstock, Prism and RPM Racing Team, which ended in the mid-’90s and resulted in Robert taking a hiatus. In 2000, the brothers teamed up again, with Melvin serving as crew chief for his son Anthony’s IMCA Modified. The brothers are still crewing to this day, running both the WILROC Sprint Car and Local Late Model Series.
In the ‘70s, Okell competed in the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs, racing throughout the Pacific Northwest and finishing third three times in 1978, 1980 and 1981 in the E-Production championship. He placed in the top three in national races in the U.S. Regional and National SCCA programs in the ‘80s in the Northern Pacific Division. He had twosecondplace finishes in the SCCA Oregon region in 1984 and 1988. With race success in hand, he gained four invitations to the SCCA Pacific Coast Road Racing Championships, held at Sonoma Raceway. Okell raced in the False Creek downtown site in 1995, 1996 and 2000 through 2005, with his best finish being second place in the P3 class in 2003. Okell would set and hold the Nasport Lite track record at Sacramento’s Thunderhill Raceway Park, Monterey’s Laguna Seca Raceway and San Francisco’s Sonoma Raceway. His racing in 2018 includes one SCCA US Majors win at Bakersfield’s Buttonwillow Raceway Park with a track record.