Monday, September 26, 2022

1993 – Salem’s Fall Classic to Strait

Bob Strait won his second straight Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway. - Bobby Jones Photo

Salem, Ind. (September 26, 1993) -Bob Keselowski had Sunday’s ARCA Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway in his hip pocket with two laps to go.

Wait a second…

Frank Kimmel passed Keselowski with a searing move on the front straightaway as the green flag dropped following a late caution. He had his first ARCA victory in 38 tries in the bag.

Wait a second…

Bob Strait put the same move on Kimmel at the same spot one lap later, vaulting past Kimmel to win the Fall Classic for the second straight year.

It was an incomprehensible finish.

Strait was in the process of being passed by Keselowski on lap 195. Just as Keselowski was about to put him a lap down, Bob Schact’s car spun, and brought out a caution, saving Strait.

“When I was about two inches away from getting him, I’ll bet he never dreamed this would happen,” Keselowski said.

“Unbelievable,” Strait said.

Was it an unbelievable disappointment for Kimmel, a 31-year-old who calls this his home track as much as any?

He was winless in two years of ARCA racing despite being consistently competitive and being in the top-six of points.

Sunday, he gunned into the lead on lap 106. He was passed by ARCA point leader Tim Steele on lap 126, then got it back on 137 when Steele had rear end trouble.

Kimmel then straight-armed some of ARCA’s hottest drivers – Strait, Keselowski and Bobby Bowsher among them – until lap 167. Keselowski took a half-lap lead. Then came the last yellow, cars bunched up, and Kimmel made the move that surely would make him a winner.

“It was a dream come true at that point,” Kimmel said. “I just didn’t quite do it.”

Strait set a track record in qualifying, and two others beat Bowsher’s year-old mark. Then one driver after another found Salem, with hits high-banked turns, a fender-bending place to be. Of the first 117 laps, 41 were under yellow.

“Terrible,” Strait remarked. “Nobody wanted to give anybody room, and there’s no room forgiveness out there.”

Schact’s spin destroyed Keselowski’s runaway lead and put Keselowski, Kimmel and Strait - the only three on the lead lap – nose to tail for the final dash.

It was Strait’s third straight victory at Salem, earning him $4,000 out of the $64,000 purse. He just shook his head in wonder. “Just amazing,” he said. “Salem’s been good to me.”

Results –

1. Bob Strait
2. Frank Kimmel
3. Bob Keselowski
4. Jeep Pflum
5. Jerry Churchill
6. Curt Dickie
7. Bob Brevak
8. Jerry Huffman
9. Bob Schact
10.Robert Ham
11.Dave Weltmeyer
12.Eric Smith
13.Bob Dotter
14.Glenn Brewer
15.Mark Thompson
16.Troy Green
17.Roger Blackstock
18.Perry Tripp
19.Jeff Johnson
20.Tim Steele
21.Bobby Bowsher
22.L.W. Miller
23.Kenny Allen
24.Dave Jensen
25.Tom Bigelow
26.Jeremy Mayfield
27.Don LaDuke
28.John Wilkinson
29.Billy Rowse
30.Scotty Sands
31.Dennis English
32.Randy Churchill
33.Todd Coon
34.Mark Gibson

Sunday, September 25, 2022

1959 – Shepherd Captures State Fair Feature

Tennessee State Fair president Beverly Briley presents winner A.J. Shepherd with his trophy after winning the 25-lap feature. National Speedways’ Al Sweeney looks on approvingly.

Nashville, Tenn. (September 25, 1959) – A.J. Shepherd of Gardena, Calif., pushed his mighty Offenhauser to an exciting victory over Pete Folse in the 25-lap International Motor Contest Association big car feature at the State Fair on Friday afternoon.

Pete Folse, the IMCA national champion, driving the black #2 Bardahl Honore Special, which brought fame to its former driver, Bobby Grim, finished second. He was never in serious contention after being passed by Shepherd on lap 7.

Shepherd, who also defeated Folse in the match race, gave all the credit to his car, owned by Diz Wilson. “She was running beautifully, you really got to be going to pass Folse,” he echoed after the race.

For Shepherd, the 33-year-old racing veteran, it was his first appearance with the big cars on asphalt and needless to say, he enjoyed it.

Shepherd drove the same car that Folse piloted last year, and almost didn’t make to the finish. “I was practically out of brakes for the last six laps, and I didn’t think I’d make it,” he said.

Johnny White of Warren, Mich., set a new record for the IMCA cars when circled the half-mile, high-banked oval in 21.13 seconds for an average speed of 85.8 miles per hour. White, however, wrecked his car in his heat race and was unable to compete in the feature.

Results –

Heat #1 – Pete Folse, Tampa, Fla.
Heat #2 – Mickey McCormick, Mitchell, Ind.
Heat #3 – Bill Holland, Reading, Penn.
Match race – A.J. Shepherd, Gardena, Calif.
Australian Pursuit – Marvin Faw, Minneapolis, Minn.
Feature –
1. A.J. Shepherd, Gardena, Calif.
2. Pete Folse
3. Jack Rounds, Huntington Park, Calif.
4. Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
5. Duke Hindahl, Pekin, Ill.
6. Bill Holland
7. Ken Gottschalk, St. Louis, M

Saturday, September 24, 2022

1978 – Izzo Cops National Clay Track Crown

Tony Izzo

Willow Springs, Ill. (September 24, 1978) – Tony Izzo set a track qualifying record and then romped to a convincing victory in Sunday afternoon’s National Clay Track Championship 200-lap feature for late models at Santa Fe Speedway.

The win was the second major triumph in eight days for Izzo, who had won the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 at Illiana (Schererville, Ind) Motor Speedway’s paved oval last Sunday.

After clinching the pole starting position for Sunday’s main event by winning the second 25-lap Silver Twins feature on Saturday night, Izzo displayed his winning form for the first time on Sunday by breaking his own year-old track qualifying standard of 19.16 seconds with a 19.10 clocking on the speedway’s longer oval in time trials.

With his 1978 Camaro performing flawlessly, Izzo then turned the 200-lap main event into a rout, lapping each of his 32 opponents en route to a wire-to-wire victory. It was the 17th feature win of the season for the Bridgeview, Ill., driver at Santa Fe and his fourth on the facilities’ longer circuit.

Art “Fireball” Fehrman of Worth, Ill., came in second, his best finish ever at the track. Jerry Smith of Appleton, Wis., completed the last spot on the podium with a third-place finish.

Jim O’Conner, driving in relief of Ken Pohlman, crossed the finish line in fourth just inches ahead of Ramo Stott, the 1975 USAC stock car champion.

A victory in the first Silver Twins headliner on Saturday night enabled O’Conner to start alongside Izzo on the front row. However, O’Conner proved to be no match for Izzo and then his victory hopes were jolted on lap 20 when he spun in turn one.

O’Conner retired his mount shortly afterward but returned to the contest by taking over Pohlman’s car during the mandatory 10-minute mid-race pit stop for the field. Pohlman’s vehicle was the same car O’Conner had driven to the 1976 Santa Fe championship.

Results –

1. Tony Izzo
2. Art Fehrman
3. Jerry Smith
4. Ken Pohlman (relieved by Jim O’Conner)
5. Ramo Stott
6. Denny Falkos
7. John Connolly
8. Gary Webb
9. Al Justice
10.Bobby Shell
11.Bill Davis
12.Leroy Schneiderman
13.Dennis Marcelle
14.Ray Nelson
15.Ken Widdes
16.Frank Shickel
17.Brian Leslie
18.Larry Jackson
19.Bob Pohlman
20.Whitey Harris
21.Arnie Gardner
22.Rick Smithberg
23.Terry Huizel
24.Gary Fedewa
25.Red Dralle
26.Billy Kuhn
27.Larry Robb
28.John Provenzano
29.Dick Potts
30.Jim O’Conner
31.Don Marmor
32.Ralph Baker

1960 – Indiana Driver Wins Before 10,000 at Allentown

Jim Packard enjoys his first career USAC victory with car owner Barney Flynn. 

Allentown, Penn. (September 24, 1960) – Jim Packard of Speedway, Ind., driving an Offenhauser, led from start to finish to win the United States Auto Club big car feature in which Boyertown’s Johnny Thomson was fatally injured at the Allentown Fair.

A crowd of 12,000 jammed the grandstand and paddock, with standing room only tickets being sold an hour before the program started.

Earlier, as the cars were approaching the starter’s flag for the feature event, A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., spun out in front of the grandstand and a restart was ordered. Foyt was not injured and continued in the race.

After the accident in which Thomson figured but had no other drivers involved, the race was started for the third time, an on this occasion Packard shot out in front on the first turn and was never headed.

Jim Hurtubise furnished most of the early competition for Packard, but Jiggs Peters and Parnelli Jones were right up there with him for the first 10 laps. Jones lost some time on the 16th circuit when he went high into the first turn, but after 18 laps it was still Packard, Hurtubise and Jones in that order, with the rest of the field spread out.

Tommy Hinnershitz, the Olney, Penn., veteran who holds four or five track records, moved into third place with five laps to go, but couldn’t threaten the leaders.

At the finish it was Packard, Hurtubise, Foyt, Peters and Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., rounding out the top five.

The accident which put Thomson out of the race was a jolt to the big crowd, for the Scotsman gave the spectators some of the biggest thrills of the afternoon as he won the 8-lap semi-feature, coming from his sixth starting position to win on the last lap.

Editor's note: A week later, October 1, 1960, Jim Packard would be killed in a midget race in Fairfield, Illinois

Results –

1. Jim Packard
2. Jim Hurtubise
3. A.J. Foyt
4. Jiggs Peters
5. Roger McCluskey
6. Wayne Weiler
7. Bob Cleburg
8. Tommy Hinnershitz
9. Eddie Sachs
10.Don Branson

Friday, September 23, 2022

1972 - It's Kunzman all the way at Williams Grove

Lee Kunzman 

Williams Grove, Penn. (September 23, 1972) – Leading all the way, Lee Kunzman powered his Clamato Chevrolet to victory in the 40-lap Ted Horn - Bill Schindler Memorial USAC sprint car feature Saturday night on the half-mile Williams Grove Speedway.

The win was the fourth of the year for the Guttenberg, Iowa, veteran and moved him from fourth to second in the national points race behind leader Rollie Beale.

Kunzman held the lead from the start, when he came off the pole position. Bruce Walkup, starting on the outside of the front row, stayed right behind for the race’s duration, but was unable to get around the Iowa pilot and finished two seconds behind.

Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon was third, passing Sam Sessions, who placed fourth. Don Nordhorn rounded out the top-five finishers. The time for the race was 16 minutes and 11.41 seconds.

Mitch Smith finished sixth and then announced afterwards his retirement from racing.

A record was set in qualifications as Dick Tobias lapped the track in 23.83 seconds, breaking Smith’s time of 24.02 seconds, set on June 19, 1971.

Bill Cassella won the first of three 10-lap heats with Walkup and Kunzman the other heat winners. Sessions won the 12-lap semi-man.

Results –

1. Lee Kunzman
2. Bruce Walkup
3. Larry Cannon
4. Sam Sessions
5. Don Nordhorn
6. Mitch Smith
7. Rollie Beale
8. Bill Cassella
9. Joe Saldana
10.Dick Tobias

1961 – White Wins Second Straight

Johnny White visited the winner’s circle two days in a row at Fairgrounds Speedway. Greeting him are representatives of the Tennessee State Fair - Queen Pat Smith and Judge Beverly Briley. – Gerald Holly Photo

Nashville, Tennessee (September 23, 1961) - Johnny White averaged 81.5 miles per hour in winning the 25-lap International Motor Contest Association big car feature race at Fairgrounds Speedway on Saturday.

A crowd estimated at 9,500 saw White fall to second place on the first lap, the only time during the two days of racing that he hadn’t been in the lead. Ray Duckworth of Anderson, Ind., zipped past White on the first turn and remained in front until the 13th lap.

After the race, White said, “I was wondering there for a while, but I figured I’d get him before the day ran out.”

Diz Wilson, owner of the car White piloted, pointed out that the car has never been beaten at the track. A.J. Shepherd, who has since joined USAC, piloted the car to victories here for three straight years.

Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., was third as the cars circled the half-mile banked asphalt oval for the first time. He got by Duckworth on lap 17 for second place and finished in that position. Duckworth settled for third while Tampa’s Buzz Barton was fourth and Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., rounded out the top-five.

One of the best races witnessed was the Australian Pursuit, which was won by Gordon Woolley of Waco, Tex. Woolley started last and kept lopping off cars one by one until he came upon Jerry Bundy. They went around for five laps, side by side, until Woolley was able to take command. The crowd loved it and seemed that everyone in the stands were on their feet, cheering.

Pete Folse, the perennial IMCA point champion, had another rough day, finishing seventh. Hector Honore, car builder and owner of the car driven by Folse said, “It’s not Pete’s fault.”

Honore elaborated, stating that all of IMCA’s races, except for Nashville, are run on dirt tracks and he refused to change one screw on Folse’s car, just for two races on asphalt. Prior to Nashville, Folse had won five straight IMCA-sanctioned features.

Results –

Heat #1 – Johnny White, Warren, Mich.
Heat #2 – Jerry Shumaker, Wichita, Kan.
Heat #3 – Mac Terry, Plainfield, N.J.
Match race – Johnny White
Australian Pursuit – Gordon Woolley, Waco, Tex.
Feature –
1. Johnny White
2. Jerry Richert, Forest Lake, Minn.
3. Ray Duckworth, Anderson, Ind.
4. Buzz Barton, Tampa, Fla.
5. Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
6. Red Renner, Woodburn, Ind.
7. Pete Folse, Tampa, Fla.
8. Jerry Shumaker, Wichita, Kan.
9. Jim Murphy, South Haven, Mich.
10.Harv Konkel, West Allis, Wis.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

1979 - Hearst Wins Eldon Classic

Tom Hearst carries the checkers after winning the Eldon Classic. 

by Jeanne Niner

Eldon, Iowa (September 22, 1979) – With 57 cars competing for a $7,000 purse, the first annual Eldon Classic was a huge success.

Tom Hearst, Wilton, fresh from a third-place finish in the Yankee Dirt Track Classic, and being recently crowned the season champion at Davenport, won the 50-lap championship feature. In addition to the $1,200 payday, Hearst also led every lap on the super half-mile to collect an additional $500.

Joe Merryfield, Des Moines, Ron Jackson, Burlington, and Dan Dickey, Packwood, all tried their best to move Hearst from his self-appointed lead but were never able to push into the lead.

Heat winners were Hearst, Bill Davis, Des Moines, Merryfield, and Dickey. The consolation race was won by Ron Weedon, Pleasant Valley.

Fred Horn, Marion, the recently crowned Yankee Dirt Track Champion, and pre-race favorite, blew an engine while leading the first heat and retired for the evening.

Results –

1. Tom Hearst, Wilton
2. Joe Merryfield, Des Moines
3. Ron Jackson, Burlington
4. Dan Dickey, Packwood
5. Steve Keppler, Marion
6. Denny Osborn, Cedar Falls
7. Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo
8. Bill Davis, Des Moines
9. Johnny Johnson, Morning Sun
10.Ken Davidson, Des Moines