More than 30 years before Las Vegas Motor Speedway was built in the northeast valley, Ken Black with his Chevy II drag race car and the off-road-racing Herbst family were competing in motor sports events in the southwest valley.
Black was a kingpin at the old Stardust International Raceway while the Herbst family and their friends were running and gunning in off-road events when the western edge of town was Decatur Boulevard during the 1960s.
Both — along with motorcycle motocross extreme rider Carey Hart — were recognized May 30 during the 17th annual Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame ceremonies at the Orleans Arena.
Although the 68-year-old Black spent his racing career following a paved straight line during embryonic years of drag racing, the Herbst family and Hart marched to their stellar records surviving the bumps in the roads, double-flips and the rest.
Black, Hart and the Herbst family have prospered at the same time.
Black, who was introduced by his longtime friend and fellow former drag racer Cliff Findlay of Findlay Automotive Group, has gone from champion drag racer at the old Stardust to a top-notch National Hot Rod Association team owner.
“I won my first race and really didn’t know what I was doing,” Black said of the victory in 1964 before going on to win the NHRA Winternationals in 1969. “It was the greatest day of my life.”
Findlay was also a fierce competitor driving an Oldsmobile 442 entitled “Life in the Fast Lane” and like Black – who also owned Vegas General Construction — Findlay became a highly respected member of the community spearheading Findlay Automotive Group.
Findlay called his longtime friend “one heckuva drag racer” while also saluting Black for fighting back after a life-threatening stroke suffered in 2010.
“It’s a real honor to present Ken Black,” Findlay said. “We all loved to drag race over the years, and Ken was hooked on the sport. His racing career is unparalleled.”
Black pulled himself up from his wheelchair to address the large crowd. He thanked several people including his wife, Judy, who has offered support during her husband’s challenging times.
“It’s been a long road getting here and I really appreciate all of this,” Black said. “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years ago that I was running my ’64 Chevy II at the Stardust.”
In 40 years, the Herbst family has gone on to become the winningest off-road team in Baja history while also gaining huge notoriety with its Terrible Herbst businesses.
Jerry Herbst once told the story of how the name “Terrible” was added to the company name when he said, “Back in Chicago, every time my dad would open a new service station, the competition would say “Here comes that terrible Herbst.”
Tim Herbst recalled the old days of off-road racing while remembering that his family used to bring out the buggies to play in the desert not far from their home in Rancho Circle. He recalled that the sport of off-road racing produced longtime friendships with fellow businessmen such as Mart and Al Collins, who went on to become two of the most recognized homebuilders in Southern Nevada.
Others inducted were UNLV baseball coach Tim Chambers and UNLV golfer Chris Riley.
Monies raised for the nonprofit Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame this year produced scholarships to five local high school student athletes: Michael Spada and Nick Werner, Palo Verde; Katelyn Faulk, Spring Valley; Meredith Hall, Northwest Career and Technical Academy; and Trina Whiteside, Advanced Technologies Academy.
In addition, middle school student athletes will be attending athletic camps sponsored by the hall during the summer months. For more information, visit www.sportshalloffame.net.