Army Strong

Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer | geans@messenger-inquirer.com Army Armstrong stands in his shop behind his home in Owensboro on Thursday. He will be inducted into the National Hot Rod Association Hall of Fame on June 14 during a ceremony at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.

Army Armstrong's multifaceted career in motorsports has been lengthy, legendary and renowned, but it would be difficult to fathom a greater honor than the one he will receive this Friday.

Armstrong, 72, will be inducted into the National Hot Rod Hall of Fame surrounded by family, friends and colleagues that Saturday afternoon at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, as part of the Holley National Hot Rod Reunion.

He knows this is a biggie.

"It's kind of a dream come true, and it's extremely meaningful to be selected by my peers," Armstrong said. "This award is particularly special to me because I'm being inducted for the actual racing, as well as for the promotion of the sport, the broadcasting, and all the rest.

"In addition to my racing, I worked on national TV for 15 years (much of it on ESPN) and I always tried to promote the sport whenever and wherever I was working. It was always important for me to give back to something that had given me so much."

Armstrong was a skilled competitor in drag racing from the mid-1970s until 1999, and he recalls those days with fondness.

"Great, great times," he said. "There were a lot of big-time events, especially down at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, and you'd be challenging, racing against drivers from California, New York, all over -- it was highly competitive.

"Now, though, looking back, what I really treasure are those many, many friendships you build with people from all over the country -- people who have the same sort of passion for the sport as you have."

Armstrong raced in Funny Cars (upwards of 200 miles per hour) and Super Gas Cars (150 mph).

"An adrenaline rush is what it is -- serious speed," he said. "It's the closest I've been experienced to being in a helicopter in Vietnam."

In his racing heyday, Armstrong was a regular on a regional circuit that included Hardinsburg on Friday, Windy Hollow (Daviess County) on Saturday, and Beech Bend in Bowling Green on Sunday.

"I enjoyed racing at all three places, but Beech Bend is one of the premier drag strips in this part of the country," Armstrong said. "That raceway has always been ahead of its time, it has one of the most level racing surfaces in the world, and it was always a thrill for me to go down there.

"The (Charles) Garvin family were the original owners, and for a long time now it's been run by Dallas Jones, who does an exceptional job with it.

"I'm tellin' ya, partner, at Beech Bend you can load and go."

His "crew chief" in those days was his 4-year-old daughter, Shane.

"People would see us talking on the return (following a race) and wonder what we were talking about," Armstrong recalled, with a chuckle. "Usually, we were talking about Barbie dolls. I lot of people in the business still remember Shane from those days."

Shane will be in Bowling Green for the Hall of Fame induction, along with Armstrong's wife, Lynne, and daughter, Haley.

Son Mason will be at Bristol (Tenn.) Raceway that weekend, working for ESPN, and another daughter, Camille, a former volleyball player at Owensboro High School and now a senior at the University of Louisville, will be in Austria as part of a class tour.

All, of course, will be there in spirit for a man who is also a member of the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame (2009) and the International Monster Truck Hall of Fame (2013).

"It feels like the capper to a long career," Armstrong said. "It really does."

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