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by Dino Oberto
Bruce Ellis Inducted Into National Sprint Car Hall of Fame
By Dino Oberto … “Keeping Track”
In any sport, when you reach a time in your career that you can look back and take note of so many great accomplishments and contributions that you poured your heart and soul into and are so dedicated too, it often leads to Hall of Fame status.
Every major sport has its own Hall of Fame which are designed to recognize and pay homage to those select individuals who truly earned the just recognition.
Motor racing lists several around the country with each specifically geared towards a particular discipline of the sport and when it comes to Sprint Car racing the one that matters most is the National Sprint Car & Museum Hall of Fame located adjacent to Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, IO.
Preserving the history of Sprint Car racing and its achievers is what the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame is all about and when the 2015 class was recently inducted, one of the honorees was none other than Hazleton, PA native Bruce Ellis.
At the 26th annual induction ceremony held on May 30, Ellis was installed as a member of the media for his work as columnist and feature writer for Sprint Car & Midget Magazine as well as his years of work as public address announcer at Williams Grove Speedway and others across the country.
“It is, without a doubt, the highest honor there is in Sprint Car racing. It was a great feeling to receive that phone call. It was just the ultimate as far as any kind of honor you can have in Sprint Car racing,” said Ellis, who is a retired English teacher with the Hazleton Area School District.
“To be recognized by your peers like that, it really is the ultimate compliment. It’s kind of validation for all the hard work you did over the years, all the traveling, all the miles. But despite all the other awards there are in Sprint Car racing, this one’s forever.”
In the high-powered world of Sprint Car racing, Ellis is as popular and well-known as perennial champion Steve Kinser.
He is among the most respected and formidable racing announcers in the business. He has been calling the weekly action for years at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg and has often traveled around the country to lend his talents including at Knoxville for the Knoxville Nationals, Sprint Car racing’s version of the Indy 500.
Considered the mecca for Sprint Car racing, it was for that reason the Hall of Fame would find its home base. Ellis actually emceed the very first Hall of Fame banquet 26 years ago and he’s been going to Knoxville every year since for the Nationals.
“Knoxville is centrally located in the United States and the Nationals always draws the best drivers from the east coast and the west coast and of course there is the mid-west. They call themselves the Sprint Car Capital of the World and I feel they are. The Nationals is Sprint car racing’s Indianapolis 500,” said Ellis.
“The Hall of Fame is a beautiful building. It overlooks the second turn of Knoxville Raceway. The first floor holds the National Sprint Car Museum and gift shop. The second floor is where the Hall of Fame itself is located. There is also a film library, offices and auditorium. The top two floors are suites have unrestricted view areas of the race track.”
For years Ellis was one of the main columnists for Open Wheel Magazine. That publication eventually became Sprint Car & Midget Magazine where he continues to pen a monthly article. Everyone who follows Sprint Car racing reads Ellis. Tony Stewart once admitted to him that he has been reading his stories since he was 10-years old.
“Open Wheel was really the magazine that gave Sprint Car racing a big lift back in the early eighties. That magazine was around for over 20 years and I was part of that since the second issue until the final issue,” said Ellis.
“So Open Wheel kind of started it off and Sprint Car & Midget picked up where that left off.”
His work at Williams Grove Speedway speaks for itself. As the public address announcer Ellis has become the voice that fans and racers have come to anticipate and rely on for his amazing knowledge of the sport of Sprint Car racing.
“Williams Grove is such a special place because it’s certainly the most historic dirt track in America. Even more so than Knoxville or Eldora because it’s been around since 1939. Everybody who’s anybody has been there over the years as far as open wheel racing is concerned. From Tommy Hinnershitz to Tony Stewart, they’ve all won races at Williams Grove,” said Ellis.
“It’s got a great weekly program and when the World of Outlaws come to town it’s still a great rivalry between the Pennsylvania Posse and them. Every time I turn into the parking lot it’s still a special feeling.”
Becoming a Hall of Famer has its benefits too as Ellis has become quite popular since his return to Pennsylvania.
“It’s amazing what this Hall of Fame has done. I’ve been around this sport for a long, long time and working at Williams Grove for a long time but things began to change when the word got out that I was going to be inducted. People started asking me for my autograph and to pose for pictures with them,” explained Ellis.
“The week I got back from the induction and got to Williams Grove, when I got out of my car a man was standing there and asked me to sign his program (book). I’m only too happy to that but in all the years I’ve been doing this it’s happened in the past but it usually happens at other places when I was on the road. Not so much Williams Grove because they’re used to seeing me every week. So the Hall of Fame really means something because it seems I’m being treated with a better reception that I got prior to that.”
Drivers Gene “Tiger” Brown, Donnie Kreitz Jr., and Danny Smith along with owners-mechanics-builders-manufacturers-car sponsors recipients Roger Beck and Gil Sonner plus pre-1945 entry Charlie Wiggins are part of the class of 2015 with Ellis.
To be there with Kreitz was special for Ellis. Kreitz races each week at Williams Grove and the two share a sold bond.
“That was just super because I really followed his career. In fact we often joke about how we both started at Reading (Fairgrounds) with the Modifieds. Donny started his career when he was 16 years old at the Reading Fairgrounds and I was covering the races there two nights a week for Gater Racing News back in 1976,” recalled Ellis.
“When Reading closed we both found our way to Williams Grove. He’s a four-time champion at the track and he showed that he still has something left because when we came back from the Hall of Fame induction he won that Friday night in convincing fashion.”
Motor sports has been a great and rewarding journey for Ellis and he now takes his rightful place among the greats of Sprint Car racing.
“I’m certainly not looking for any kind of advancement at this point in my career. I almost consider myself semi-retired. I use to do 100 races a year and now it’s less than 50. My writing has cut back and I only do a monthly column. I enjoy being at Williams Grove,” he said.
“They’ll have another Writer of the Year next year but the Hall of Fame is forever and it’s pretty cool.”
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