- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Tommy Ellis, the late Wayne Patterson and the late Sonny Hutchins were racing icons of the 1980’s and 1990’s, self-made people who raced hard and carved legendary racing careers. Saturday night the trio were honored for their accomplishments by being inducted into the Virginia Motorsports Hall Of Fame. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held as part of the annual South Boston Speedway Awards Banquet.
“This is awesome,” remarked Brenda Patterson, the wife of the late racer who lost his life this past summer in a highway traffic accident.
“Wayne would be so proud. He would be so honored.”
Patterson won more than 100 races while competing in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division and NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division at area tracks including South Boston Speedway, Richmond’s Southside Speedway, Langley Speedway in Hampton and many others.
He won two NASCAR track championships at South Boston Speedway, the first in 1987, with a repeat in 1982. The two-time South Boston Speedway stands fourth on the all-time career win list in the Late Model Stock Car Division at South Boston Speedway with 27 wins.
During his career Patterson also competed in the NASCAR Busch Series on a sporadic basis.
Patterson had remained involved in racing in recent seasons, driving a car owned by Thomas Hall in a small handful of races.
“It was just for the fun of it,” Brenda Patterson said of her late husband’s sporadic racing over the past few seasons.
“He probably would have tried to race until he couldn’t get into the car window because he loved it. Once it’s in your blood, it doesn’t leave.”
Patterson was a key figure in the NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division and played a role in the spurring the growth and popularity of the division at South Boston Speedway and other tracks in the region when it was created in 1982.
He was a fan favorite because of his aggressive driving style and because he never backed off from speaking his peace when he felt the need.
“I don’t think he realized that he did,” His wife said.
“I don’t think he would ever in a million years thought he would be recognized for any of it. Wayne had his little way. He spoke what he thought. He loved his family of racers.
“They (his fellow competitors) might be enemies on the track, but off the track they were his racing family. He loved them.”
Ellis was another driver noted for his aggressive driving style and for speaking his mind when he felt the need.
The Richmond resident scored over 300 career wins and won the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman national championship in 1981. In 1988, Ellis won the NASCAR Busch Series national championship.
In his 14 seasons of competing in the NASCAR Busch Series, the circuit now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Ellis had 22 wins and 28 poles. He finished in the top six in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings five times, three times finishing in the top three.
South Boston Speedway was a track where Ellis saw a great deal of success. He won seven NASCAR Busch Series races at South Boston Speedway, the most of any NASCAR Busch Series competitor.
He won four consecutive NASCAR Busch Series races at South Boston Speedway in 1983, a season in which South Boston Speedway hosted five NASCAR Busch Series races. The 1989 Busch 200 at South Boston Speedway was his last Busch Series win at South Boston Speedway.
In addition to carving a racing niche in the NASCAR Busch Series, Ellis also competed on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit, now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
He filled in for Neil Bonnett in 1989 and subbed for Geoff Bodine at Junior Johnson Motorsports while Bodine sat out a suspension.
Ellis competed in 78 Cup races over a 12-year span and had a best finish of eighth at Dover in 1986. He also competed in The Winston at Lowes Motor Speedway in 1991, replacing Bodine.
Ernest Lloyd “Sonny” Hutchins, one of the famous legendary “Four H Boys” with the late Runt Harris, the late Ray Hendrick and Ted Hairfield, was another tough competitor with a witty tongue.
Hutchins, who was 76 when he died in November of 2005, was another fan favorite here at South Boston Speedway where he competed in both the NASCAR Modified Division and the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division.
Another driver considered as an icon among area racing fans during his 30 years of competing on short tracks in Virginia and other states, Hutchins scored over 300 wins despite a nine-year retirement in the midst of his career. A good number of his wins came here at South Boston Speedway.
Hutchins had a large fan base in Virginia while driving for two noted Richmond-area car owners, Emanuel Zervakis and Junie Donlavey.
The Richmond resident won three track championships at South Boston Speedway, the first of which came in 1965 in the Modified Division. He shared the championship that season with Bob McGinnis, another notable Virginia racer.
In addition, Hutchins won the 1977 and 1980 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division championships here at South Boston Speedway.
Along with that, Hutchins won the NASCAR championships at Richmond’s Southside Speedway in 1968 and 1980.
Hutchins also competed on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit, now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, on an occasional basis. In 38 starts, he finished a career-best second on two occasions.
Neither Ellis, nor a family representative from the Hutchins family, attended the induction ceremony.