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Reprinted from the Madison Courier, August 8, 2014.
Ole Bardahl, one of the most successful owners in Unlimited hydroplane history, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Detroit on Wednesday.
Bardahl, who died in 1989 at the age of 87, joined six others in being inducted into the prestigious institution, headlined by NASCAR great Rusty Wallace.
Bardahl immigrated from Norway in 1922 and moved to Seattle where he found work as a building contractor. In 1939 he purchased a small chemical company which eventually became Bardahl Manufacturing, one of the top producers of oil additives in the world.
After hydroplane racing boomed in the Seattle area in the early 1950s, Bardahl jumped on board and founded his own team which became the predominate power in the sport. Between 1958 and 1968, the Miss Bardahl won 27 races, six National High Points Championships and five APBA Gold Cups. Some of the sport’s best drivers, including Ron Musson, Mira Slovak and Billy Schumacher, drove for Bardahl.
Musson’s death at Washington, D.C. in 1966 shook Bardahl. After initially saying he was done, Bardahl returned to the sport and won national championships in 1967 and 1968 before calling it quits for good. His 27 wins were the most sport’s history at the time and still stands fourth behind Bernie Little (134), Bill Muncey (29) and Erick Ellstrom (28).
Bardahl is the 11th Unlimited hydroplane driver or owner to be honored by the Motorsports Hall of Fame. The other 10 are: Bill Cantrell (1992), Dean Chenoweth (1991), Tom D’Eath (2000), Danny Foster (2005), Chip Hanauer (1995), Ted Jones (2003), Bernie Little (1994), Bill Muncey (1989), Ron Musson (1993) and Mira Slovak (2001).
Legendary hydroplane radio personality Jim Hendrick introduced Bardahl at the ceremony.