When Ross Rockett’s name was tabled as a candidate for this year’s class at the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame, the board didn’t hesitate to vote him in.
The fact Rockett is a founding member of the hall of fame is only part of what he’s brought to the culture of auto racing at Western Speedway. Rockett’s history at the track goes far beyond his 27 years as a collector and organizer for the hall. He first became involved with racing in 1958.
Rockett is one of three members to be inducted in the VARHOF 2011 class with Bert Sweeting and David Smith.
The reception is tomorrow (March 5) in the Station House Pub reception room, 737 Goldstream Ave.
“There isn’t anyone as passionate about (local auto racing) as Rockett. He lives, breathes, and sleeps the damn thing,” said Norm Wilcox, himself an icon of the local race scene and member of the 15-person VARHOF board.
“VARHOF started when Ross and I went out for lunch one day, chatting about how we could put together a hall of fame of all the Western Speedway racers who put us on the map over the years.
“We had some fun with it, said let’s go and do it, and a lot of people were surprised it took off the way it did,” Wilcox said.
Rockett’s foray began on the crew of a 1934 Ford Coupe in the late 1950s. By 1966, Rockett was a regular crew member in the stock car circuit.
He eventually found his niche as a promoter for the racing scene and was twice named Vancouver Island Track Racking Association’s promoter of the year.
Rockett was on the ground floor of the Old Time Racers Association’s 1977 start up (still going today) and, in 2000 he co-founded the WILROC Sprint Car and Super Modified Race series, a staple event for the Speedway’s current race crowd.
Drag racer Bert Sweeting’s beginnings were like many, beginning in his family’s garage in the mid-’60s as a 16-year-old.
An apprentice welding fabricator by trade, Sweeting and Gary Shepherd were one of the first to build a tube frame rail after seeing one on the cover of a national hot rod magazine. Sweeting went on to become a top name in the Northwest’s NHRA tour during the 1970s, soon becoming a leader in the innovation of roll cages.
As a youngster, David Smith could sometimes be a nuisance and was often summoned to do any dirty job required, including cleaning out Harvey Chipper’s tool box.
Eventually Smith helped Chipper build a 1955 Chevy stock car for Roy Haslam, and another that Gary Kershaw drove.
It led to a long association with many great race car drivers. His company Professional Components, based out of Sidney, continues today as a successful manufacturer of specialty auto and marine parts.
Joining this year’s trio in the annals of Victoria auto racing lore are 2011 pioneer award recipients, Debbie Cooper, Skip Crawford and Gus Stanfield. Cooper, a long-time employee of Western Speedway, enters the hall posthumously, having passed away in 2009.
Doors open at 1 p.m. with the formal ceremonies commencing at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $20, including an $18 pass to the Western Speedway this upcoming season.