Leaders and Legends

SEMA News—December 2016


By Mike Imlay

Leaders and Legends

Highlights From SEMA’s Annual Installation Gathering

  Leaders and Legends
More than 400 industry professionals and guests gathered for the Leaders and Legends banquet in July. The annual gala celebrates the installation of the SEMA Board of Directors as well as the induction of new Hall of Fame members while capping off a day of leadership meetings.

Over the past five decades, SEMA has become world renowned for its annual SEMA Show, but its core mission as a trade association goes much further, extending benefits 365 days a year. To help its members succeed and prosper, SEMA’s year-round work extends to legislative and industry advocacy, the promotion of technology and innovation, market research, education, member services and a host of other important initiatives to encourage marketplace growth. Those goals take leadership, and each year, the SEMA Installation Gala gathers the association together to install newly elected SEMA Board of Directors and council members, say thanks to outgoing officers, and celebrate SEMA’s latest Hall of Fame inductees.

Held July 29 at the Sheraton Fairplex in Pomona, California, this past summer’s celebration was appropriately titled “Leaders and Legends.” It included a series of high-level SEMA Board of Directors and council discussions and charity Pinewood Drags for SEMA Cares throughout the day, leading up to the banquet.

The following pages offer a look at the people who promise to carry the SEMA mission forward in the coming year and beyond.

Recognition and Accolades

Leaders and Legends
The festivities were expertly emceed by automotive media and television personalities Jessi Combs and Dennis Pittsenbarger, who brought a spirit of fun and enthusiasm to the annual gathering.

“The 2016 Leaders and Legends Installation Gala marked another high point for SEMA and was a fitting celebration of the enthusiasm, service and volunteerism that are at the heart of our association,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “We thank both our new and outgoing members of the Board of Directors, along with our council leaders, for their efforts and dedication. We also wish to again express our congratulations and appreciation to our Hall of Fame inductees, whose many accomplishments have contributed so much to our industry.”

More than 400 industry members attended the Leaders and Legends banquet, which was emceed by automotive media and television personalities Dennis Pittsenbarger and Jessi Combs. During the night’s festivities, Kersting also took the stage to personally recognize outgoing SEMA directors Jeff Bates of Bob Cook Sales and Tim Watts of Superlift Suspension. He then introduced newly elected directors Chris Douglas of Comp Performance Group and Les Rudd of Bob Cook Sales. (The entire SEMA Board of Directors is featured on p. 26 of this issue, while council leadership is featured on p. 28).

Hall of Fame Honors

  Leaders and Legends
One of the most active SEMA members in the association’s history, Matt Agosta was among the evening’s three Hall of Fame inductees.

Among the evening’s highlights, Matt Agosta, Chip Foose and Gary Hooker received SEMA’s highest honor with their installation to the prestigious SEMA Hall of Fame. Recognized first with a private lunch and then a formal evening induction at the Leaders & Legends banquet, the trio represents an accomplished group of leaders who have helped to excite and galvanize the automotive specialty-equipment industry. With their induction, they join an elite circle of industry icons and innovators who have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame throughout SEMA’s long-running history.

As a former SEMA Board member, past chairman of a SEMA council and a President’s Club member of the SEMA Political Action Committee, Matt Agosta is among the most active members in SEMA history. The president and CEO of Steele Rubber Products is a pioneer in advocating for legislative issues, forging relationships with OEMs and supporting small businesses to succeed. He is responsible for advancing educational opportunities for the industry and has been on the forefront of utilizing the newest digital strategies for the industry’s growth. Past honors include the Chairman’s Award from the SEMA Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO), the ARMO Person of the Year award and a SEMA Ambassador award.

Leaders and Legends
Chip Foose, whose innovative builds have helped introduce worldwide audiences to the customization and hot-rod cultures, thanked attendees for his Hall of Fame honors.

Chip Foose, known everywhere for his starring role in the hit television show “Overhaulin’,” is among the industry’s most respected builders and arguably is responsible for introducing car customization and hot rodding to a mainstream audience worldwide. Before launching Foose Design, he created and fabricated projects for influential corporations and OEMs. His work can be seen in the National Football League, Major League Baseball and in movies that include Blade Runner, RoboCop and Gone in 60 Seconds. In 1997, Foose was the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame. He’s also received the Good Guys Trendsetter Award and dozens of awards for winning vehicle builds.

  Leaders and Legends
Gary Hooker is among SEMA’s great pioneers who helped lay the foundation for the aftermarket and can now count SEMA Hall of Fame membership among his many accomplishments.

Hooker Headers is one of the most iconic brands in the automotive performance industry. Even before SEMA was formed, Gary Hooker was on the forefront of the industry, producing products used by winning racers that included Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and Bob Glidden. As a Junior Stock drag racer and world-class Ironman competitor in the early ’60s, Hooker launched his business after creating a header for his personal use. The immediate interest and demand for his product led to a business that has grown along with the industry. Hooker’s innovation and passion continued to pave a path for what is now a $36 billion industry.

A Day of Races

Throughout the day, onlookers cheered their favorite racers in the annual SEMA Cares Pinewood Drag Races, which featured carefully crafted pinewood race cars competing in several classes, including Stock, Build-It-For-Me and Unlimited (see Pinewood Results sidebar). The sponsored race vehicles were built and “customized” by children living at Childhelp facilities and campers attending Victory Junction, with proceeds from the races going to these and other SEMA Cares charities.

Pinewood Results

Build It For Me

(Kid-Built for Sponsorship)

1st Place: Retrax (Truck)
2nd Place: Lund (Truck)
3rd Place: SEMA (Car, Mustang)

Stock Class

1st Place: Dave Williams, Go Rhino Products (Car, Mustang)
2nd Place: Honoring Matt Agosta, AAM Total Truck Centers (Truck)
3rd Place: Honoring Gary Hooker, AAM Total Truck Centers (Truck)

Unlimited Class

1st Place: Perfect Circle/Duffus (Time: 2.938 seconds)
2nd Place: Motovicity Radio Flyer Wagon (Time: 3.081 seconds)
3rd Place: Christopher Witherspoon, StarFire Race Plugs (Time: 3.122 seconds)

Builders Challenge
Blake Meaux, Mo’ Muscle Cars (Second year in a row)
Manufacturers’ Shootout
Grand Champion
Blake Meaux, Mo’ Muscle Cars (Second year in a row)
Best Engineered
Tom Farrell, Farrell Creations & Restorations
Best in Show
Alex Benevides, Hot Company Brasil

With the Pinewood track set up centrally for dinner attendees to see and cheer, the races provided a fun segue into the evening reception and banquet. In addition to the heats held at the banquet in July, the Builders Challenge, Manufacturer Shootout and Grand Champion competitions were held in August at the NSRA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky.

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