Nick Arias Jr., Bill France Sr., Mark Heffington and Bob Larivee Sr. will be inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame, an honor that recognizes an elite group of individuals for raising the stature or growth or the automotive specialty-equipment industry.
Hundreds of industry professionals will gather and pay tribute to the new Hall of Fame members during the SEMA Installation Banquet & Gala Fundraiser, Friday, July 27, at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Convention Center in Pomona, California. Those interested in learning more about the celebration or how to attend may visit www.sema.org/galatix or contact Michelle Harris at email@example.com, 909/978-6684.
Nick Arias Jr., Nick Arias Racing Components: Arias has been finding ways to make engines work better since he first started tinkering in his garage more than 70 years ago. He became serious about hot rodding at the end of WWII and remembers being involved in his first organized drag race in California in 1949. At the time, Arias was working at Wayne Manufacturing, where he learned a lot about engines, pistons, cylinder heads and more. In the '50s, Arias was involved with the Rusetta Timing Association dry lake meets and The Screwdrivers Car Club, where he experimented with different engines and configurations while setting records and testing the limits of his share of vehicles and parts.
He started Arias Pistons in 1969 to manufacture forged pistons and components and kept refining engine configurations. In 1972, Arias introduced what was then considered a state-of-the-art Hemi-head conversion for Big Block Chevys known as the "Hemi-Chevy." His creations did not end there and included the 10L block and Hemi-head that dominated tractor pulls and drag boat races, an 8.3L power plant for Top Fuel and Alcohol drag racing, the Arias 4-cylinder for USAC Midget circuits, the Arias V6 Hemi, A/R Boss 429, Howard 12-Port GMC and more.
Arias was recognized as a Lifetime Achievement honoree in 2000 by the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion. He was also inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2005.
Bill France Sr., NASCAR: France founded NASCAR—the most successful stock-car racing series in the world. Initial races were held on short dirt tracks and a combined beach and highway oval course in Daytona. Through his early career as a racer and fledgling promoter, France experienced the challenges of race promotion, from recruiting drivers and spreading the word to creating the tracks, hiring ticket-takers and generating a profit.
France was convinced that a single, firmly governed sanctioning body was necessary for stock-car racing to succeed. He gathered a group of race promoters, drivers and mechanics for the first National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing in 1947. The organization, which named France (aka Big Bill France) the president, became incorporated in 1948, and more than 14,000 fans attended the first event on the Daytona Beach road/beach course in February of that year.
France eventually gained the support of automobile industry executives to build the world's first and fastest super speedway in Daytona. In the 1959 Daytona 500, the concept of drafting was discovered and ushered in the aerodynamic era. Big Bill pioneered developments in safety, organization, infrastructure, scoring and purses. All of these developments enabled racing to reach new levels of professionalism and respect within the sporting industry.
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