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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

1979 – Wib’s web at Speedway

Alton, Ill. (April 21, 1979) - Wib Spalding, experienced carpenter and respected area stock-car driver, wants to add another success story to his already crowded lifestyle.

He’s hoping to become Wib Spalding, the profitable owner of the Godfrey Speedway race track. Spalding, a native of Granite City, has purchased the track from Clay Landon, the Speedway owner the past six seasons. Landon, a former school teacher and coach, packed his bags and moved to Arkansas.

Enter Spalding, age 45 and a weekly driver at the Speedway during the 1950's. Wib’s web of intrigue begins tonight when the 1979 season gets under way at the Godfrey track, located off Route 67 near Bethany Road.

Time trials are set to start at 6:30 with the racing show beginning about 7:30.

The Speedway season will run through September.

During the Landon years, the Speedway kept a similar format; late model stock cars, semi-lates and amateurs. Spalding will revise the system a bit.

“We have changed it slightly. Instead of the semis, we are adding the sportsman class. And the amateur class is being changed to a hobby stock class,” he said. The late models will remain the same.”

Why the switches?

“I don't think we had enough semi-late model cars so by dropping that class, it causes the fellas to build more late-model cars,” he said. "’The hobby (or street) stock class is practically the same as the amateur class.”

Spalding said he also intends to keep some of Landon's innovations such as: point standing charts in each classes, awards, mid-season championships and end-of-the-season championships. However, he is phasing out the “street car” special event because of possible insurance problems.

Presently, Spalding and his family are huddling in a camper at the track. The Spalding's, who have been virtually living at the track the past three weeks, make their residence in Granite City. Wib said be is working daily in an attempt to get the track in suitable condition for Saturday's opener.

“We have had some problems caused by the rain in the parking lot. But overall, it's in pretty good shape,” he said.

Admittedly, purchasing any racetrack is a gamble, but Spalding likes the odds. He thinks the speedway can become a successful business and pleasure venture.

“I feel that I know my drivers and this area (Alton-Godfrey) is growing,” he said. “With the mall going in and everything, there is even the possibility that we may make the track bigger.”

The oval speedway track is currently a quarter-mile. “I don’t think we could make it into a half-mile track but it would be comparable with that kind of track,” Spalding speculated.

The Granite City (Tri-City) Speedway track that Spalding drove on for a number of years featured a half-mile set up until 1978, when it was converted to a quarter-mile ring. This season, however, the Tri-City track is once again a one-half mile length oval.

Spalding was somewhat of a local legend during the salad days at Tri-City Speedway. Spalding won several point titles and various major races. He rates his championship in the 100-lap open competition race, the final event of the 1977 season, as his biggest thrill at the track.

But Spalding's days go beyond the recent years at Granite City. “I ran two months one season at the Godfrey Speedway during the 1952 season and I drove there in 1953. In fact, I drove there until the speedway closed,” said Spalding, a carpenter by trade.

Although Landon helped to reopen the speedway during the 1978 season, Spalding preferred to drive at Granite City. “I liked the big track in Granite City,” he added.

Spalding is crossing his fingers that he and his fellow drivers will enjoy the new look Godfrey Speedway just as much.

Familiar names like Lou Janssen, Mike Hammerle, Jake and John Sects, Randy Butler, Kevin Goss. Lou Thery and George Carroll, just to name a few, are expected to continue motoring around the speedway track. Spalding hopes to add a few more drivers, too.

“I have a lot of friends in this area and I know that 86 cars ran the final week of the season last year. I don't think we will lose a car,” he stated confidently.

If that's the case, Spalding shouldn't have too many problems adjusting his repertoire from speedway driver to speedway owner-driver.

Monday, April 13, 2015

1975 - Senneker Sets World Record at Winchester ASA Stock Go


 
 
Winchester, Ind. (April 13, 1975) - After blazing to a new world record for paved half-mile track in qualifying with a second lap (103.681 mph) around high-banked Winchester Speedway, Bob Senneker of Dorr, Mich., totally dominated the 100-lap main event for American Speed Association (ASA) late model stock cars today, leave the second place car by two lengths at the finish.

Senneker’s record smashing performance marked his second straight win on the Winchester track, having won the rich “Dri-Powr 400” on the ASA “Circuit of Champions” Series last September.

He dominated action in the 24-car feature event, racing past really leader Jack Shanklin on lap 4 and steadily increasing the margin on the remainder of the field from that point.

Senneker’s only serious challenger all day long was Larry Moore of Dayton, Ohio, who also broke the old single lap world mark of 17.93 seconds (held jointly by Vernon Schrock and Ed VanderLaan) in qualifying with a 17.907 second lap. Moore kept Senneker in sight until he blew a right front tire on lap 67, necessitating a pit stop.

Mickey Flora, of Muncie, Ind., mounted a daring charge by starting deep in the pack and fighting his way to third position in a blue brand-new Ford Falcon out of Jody Ridley’s shop in Chatsworth, Ga. A broken distributor gear sidelined him at 36 laps.

Behind Senneker and Moore, however, was a scrap for position throughout the race involving Carl Smith, Harold Scott and Moose Myers. Smith finally took charge until the post race inspection revealed he was short of the required weight, resulting in a post-race disqualification.

Smith's misfortune elevated Scott to second in the final standing, with Myers third; Dave Sorg fourth and Don Keevan in fifth.

Senneker’s victory was worth $1,115.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

1972 - Dickson Back in Winner’s Circle

Larry Dickson
 

Winchester, Ind. (April 9, 1972) -Larry Dickson has served notice to his fellow USAC sprint car competitors that the winning combination for his Leffler Chevy sprinter has been found.

Dickson did so Sunday at Winchester Speedway when he scored a seemingly easy and convincing victory in the 40-lap feature event on the high-banked paved half-mile oval.

Starting from the pole position Dickson throttled his beautiful dark blue sprinter past a strong but outclassed field of 20 starters to gain his 35th sprint car feature win.

Following a restart, caused when Roger West and Merle Bettenhausen tangled in the first turn at the drop of the green flag, Dickson literally blasted past the field in record breaking time.

The time for the 40-lap feature was 11 minutes and 27 minutes, 21 seconds better than the track record established by Rollie Beale in 1971.

While being interviewed in victory circle, Dickson revealed that it was Larry Dickson, the wrench man, and not the driver who was the reason far the team's poor start during the first three races of the season.

“I believe we finally have found the fight combination for the car and we're going to be a hard team to beat from here on out,” said the two-time national sprint champ.

“Probably the main reason for our poor start was because I changed the chassis around, experimenting too much. From now on I'll do the driving and leave the work on the car to Paul (Leffler the car owner),” he said.

The large crowd that braved the mud and cold couldn't help but notice the different driving styles of two very familiar faces on the sprint circuit, that of Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon and Johnny Parsons Sr.

Many of the same fans that were viewing the activities on Sunday were also at Winchester last September when Cannon took one of the worst flips ever seen in sprint car competition. The hair-raising style of driving done by Cannon wasn’t to be seen Sunday.

Parsons turned in another fine driving performance in the Parsons-Meskowsi sprinter, capturing the 12-lap semi-feature and finishing seventh in the feature.

Parsons is due to drive in the Hulman Classic. Parsons entered the Winchester race ranking fifth in points after a third place finish at Cincinnati, fourth at Harrisburg, Pa. and ninth at Rossburg, Ohio.

The Parsons-Meskowki team looks like a strong combination for the sprint car championship.