Ron Watson, founder and president of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA), died Sunday evening at the age of 72, leaving a legacy of remarkable accomplishments in creating the MSHFA, then molding it into a respected organization that honors all forms of motorsports, including NHRA.
More than 30 NHRA drag racers has been inducted into the MSHF including Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein, Don Garlits, John Force, Bob Glidden, Bill Jenkins, Tom McEwen, Shirley Muldowney, and Don Prudhomme. NHRA founder Wally Parks also was an inductee.
The MSHFA is the only hall of fame that encompasses the full spectrum of American motorsports: cars, motorcycles, off-road, powerboats, and airplanes. The overriding mission of the MSHFA is to celebrate and instill the American core values of leadership, creativity, originality, teamwork and spirit of competition embodied in motorsports.
Watson, a native of Bloomington, Ind., was a resident of Ormond Beach, Fla., along with his wife, Donna. They moved to Florida in 2016 when the MSHFA relocated from its longtime home in Detroit to Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The MSHFA is housed in the speedway's Ticket and Tours Building where it greets more than 100,000 guests annually. Watson made the move happen, working with Daytona International Speedway and then-speedway President Joie Chitwood III. The relocation invigorated the MSHFA, which immediately became an integral part of the speedway's immensely popular fan tours.
Watson, who founded the MSHFA in 1989, was scheduled to retire from his position as MSHFA President in April 2020 and be replaced by longtime MSHFA Board of Directors member George Levy.
In addition to Donna, Watson is survived by daughter Stephanie, son Brendan, and their grandchildren.