Saturday, February 16, 2019

1969 - Benny Parsons Wins Daytona ARCA 300

Benny Parsons waves from victory lane after winning the ARCA 300-mile race at Daytona.

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 16, 1969) - Benny Parsons, who operates a taxi service in Detroit with his father, said his 1969 Ford ran “just beautifully” in winning the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) 300 stock car race on Sunday.

Parsons led from pole to finish, but four caution flags kept him from breaking Andy Hampton’s 1968 record speed of 148.372 miles an hour. Parsons averaged 147.985 miles per hour.

In second place, but nearly a lap behind, was Iggy Katona of Willis, Mich., driving a 1969 Dodge. Katona grabbed the second spot when Hampton ran out of gas in his 1969 Dodge and coasted to a third-place finish.

During a 35-lap duel with Katona for runner – up honors, Hampton once spun wildly on the grandstand straight, slid nearly 300 yards through the infield and back onto the track on the west bank, to get back in the race against Katona.

Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, finished fourth in a 1967 Plymouth and Sal Tovella of Chicago was fifth in a 1969 Dodge.

Les Snow’s 1969 Plymouth blew its engine with five laps go and Snow, who had been running with, the leaders all day, watched the checkered flag from the pits. The Bloomington, Ill., driver placed sixth.

Others in the order they finished were Chuck McWilliams of Union, Ky., in 1967 Dodge, Bill Kimmel of Clarksville, Ind., in a 1969 Chevelle, George Bauer of Covington, Ky., in a 1967 Dodge, and Paul Wensink of Deshler, Ohio, in a 1968 Ford.

On lap 21, Jack Shanklin of Indianapolis rolled four times when the engine in his 1967 Dodge blew entering the first turn. Shanklin was not seriously injured but was treated for shock. Shanklin’s was the only bad crash of the day, but only 13 of the 35 starters finished the race.


Results –
1. Benny Parsons
2. Iggy Katona
3. Andy Hampton
4. Ramo Stott
5. Sal Tovella
6. Les Snow
7. Chuck McWilliams
8. Bill Kimmel
9. George Bauer
10. Paul Wensink
11. Clifford Hamm
12. Bill Clemons
13. Pete Tingue
14. Dick Trickle
15. Jim Clarke
16. Francis Harden
18. Jim Scott
19. Delmar Clark
20. Red Farmer
21. Todd Gibson
22. Dave Dayton
23. Jack Shanklin
24. Dave Marcis
25. Paul Feldner
26. Ben Arnold
27. Bill Seifert
28. Bobby Watson

Saturday, February 9, 2019

1964 - Nelson Stacy at Home, $5,000 Richer in ARCA

Nelson Stacy

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 9, 1964) - Nelson Stacy of Daytona Beach is right at home in the Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA) - and $5,000 richer as a result of winning its 250-mile championship Sunday.

It is less expensive to compete in ARCA than NASCAR, where Stacy has been since 1960, because the cars must be closer to stock models in engine specifications.

They may not go as fast as NASCAR’s best-proved Saturday when Richard Petty of Randleman, N.C., set a 50-mile NASCAR mark of 171.919 miles an hour in a 1964 Plymouth. But Stacy’s 154.103 miles per hour in the ARCA 250-miler was just short of the track record and came despite seven laps under the caution flag.

The yellow flag was out for a pair of spectacular spins that provided some heart stopping moments but ended without injury to Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa; Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio; Jim Cushman of Columbus, Ohio, and Mike Klapak of Warren, Ohio, who were in the middle of them.

Stacy, a 42-year-old grandfather who drove tanks in World War II and taxicabs just afterward, broke into racing with ARCA, then known as Midwest Auto Racing Club and won its championship three times.

“I ran pretty well the way it was planned,” Stacy said.

His strategy was to keep his 1964 Ford off the pace, within catching distance of the 1964 Plymouths of Stott and Earl Balmer of Floyds Knobs, Ind., who set the early place.

Stott’s engine blew and spun him out on the 27th lap of the 2.5-mile track. Balmer went out with an oil leak on the 67th.

Stacy finished one lap ahead of Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa. Derr earned $3,000 by inches over Iggy Katona of Willis, Mich., who got $2,000 for third. Dick Mitchell of Trenton, Mich., collected $1,100 for fourth and Cushman $800 for fifth.

Derr had a 1963 Dodge Katona a 1964 Ford, Mitchell a 1963 Ford and Cushman a 1964 Plymouth.


Results –

  1. Nelson Stacy
  2. Ernie Derr
  3. Iggy Katona
  4. Dick Mitchell
  5. Jim Cushman
  6. Danny Byrd
  7. H.B. Bailey
  8. Mike Klapak
  9. Jack Bowsher
  10. Virgil Barbe
  11. Eddie Meyer
  12. Jack Shanklin
  13. Paul Parks
  14. Les Snow
  15. Bay Darnell
  16. Jerry Norris
  17. Bob Derrington
  18. Clyde Parker
  19. Earl Balmer
  20. Paul Clark
  21. Homer Newland
  22. Ramo Stott
  23. Henley Gray
  24. Elmer Davis

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Kosiski Brothers dominate Deery Brothers at Audubon

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - The IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series went west for three years back in the early 90's with stops each year at the Audubon (Iowa) Speedway. By going that far west and that close to Omaha, they drew the attention of the Kosiski racing clan and that would lead to three wins in three years for the Omaha racing family.

The first Deery Brothers visit to Audubon came on June 3, 1992 with 36 participants signing in for the action. Heat race wins went to Jeff French of Adel, Darin Burco of Independence, Darrel DeFrance to Marshalltown and Joe Kosiski of Omaha, Nebraska. B feature wins were registered by Terry Ryan of Davenport and Frank Jorgensen of Carroll. The field was then filed out with the Speedway Motors Hard Charger, Tim Cooney of Corning and Grundy Center's Les Verly on a provisional. That set the 24-car field for the feature event.

When the green flew Mike Smith of Jewell grabbed the lead and Smith built up a sizable advantage before being brought back to the field with a caution flag on lap 18. Joe Kosiski had started sixth and by the time the caution waved, had moved into second. When the green was waved again Kosiski powered by Smith to take the lead, a position he would never surrender.

1991 IMCA national champion Jeff French also got by Smith and pressured Kosiski throughout the last third of the race but was unable to make a pass and settled for second. Following Kosiski and French to the checkers were Mark Wyman of Papillion, Nebraska, Ed Kosiski of Omaha and Darrel DeFrance.

Veteran Ed Sanger of Waterloo finished 10th at Audubon and combined with a second-place finish at the Deery Brothers season opener at Marshalltown took the early Deery Brothers points lead. Ron Jackson, who captured the season opener at Marshalltown suffered mechanical problems and failed to qualify for the feature at Audubon.

The Deery Brothers returned to the Audubon Speedway on June 21, 1993 and the results were the same as the year before. This time however, Joe Kosiski did it the hard way. He qualified for the 40-lap feature by winning the second B feature which gave him the 18th starting position.
When the green waved for the feature, Cedar Falls’ Jeff Aikey went to the front but by lap nine it was Marshalltown’s Darrel DeFrance taking the top spot. Soon DeFrance started distancing himself from the field, but Kosiski was on the move. By lap 14, he was in seventh and on lap 23 he took the lead from DeFrance never to surrender it for the duration of the event.

Actually, on lap 19, Jeff French had taken the lead from DeFrance but had a right rear tire go flat which sent him to the pit area. French was moving up again through the field again but was involved in an accident which ended his night. By leading lap 20, he received the Mac Tools Challenge jacket.

After taking the lead Joe Kosiski was about to receive a real challenge from his brother Ed. Ed had picked off cars in the same fashion as his brother Joe had and by lap 36, he was in a position to challenge. The two battled it out side-by-side for four laps with Joe barely nipping Ed at the wire. Joe Kosiski received $1,000 for the win plus $100 product certificates from both Isky Racing Cams and Tilton Engineering.

Greg Kastli of Waterloo put on a run that was equally impressive to the Kosiski Brother’s run. Kastli started in 26th and last position and passed 23 cars to finish third. Kastli earned the $100 Speedway Motors Hard Charger Award for his efforts. Kastli also received a $100 certificate from FRC/Featherlite for finishing third, which was the number drawn in the nightly Deery Brothers draw. Rounding out the top five were DeFrance and Terry Ryan of Davenport.

Heat races went Lynn Richard of Mt. Pleasant, Jeff French of Adel and Ryan. Dwight Wrich of Omaha won the first B feature. Kosiski’s win snapped a 14-race streak of different winners in the Deery Brothers dating back to the 1992 season when he won at Audubon.

The Deery Brothers Summer Series made its third and final stop at Audubon on June 14, 1994 with another Kosiski victory being registered, but this time it was brother Steve going to victory lane. Once again, a number of cars had a shot at the win, but Steve Kosiski was able to hold off all challengers.

Craig Jacobs of Urbandale grabbed the lead as the race started, but Steve Kosiski was glued to his rear bumper and on lap four he took over the point. The pair ran one-two until Rich Wendling brought out the caution on lap nine. After the restart, the man on the move was (you guessed it, brother Joe Kosiski). He moved by Jeff Aikey and headed for the front.

On lap 17, Joe took third from Mark Wyman and brought Darrel DeFrance with him. This was about the time that Summer Series point leader Gary Webb of Davenport was starting to make his charge, which brought him to fifth just behind DeFrance. Then on lap 24 just as he appeared to challenge his brother for the lead, Joe Kosiski went pit side with mechanical issues.

This made it a battle between Steve Kosiski, Jacobs, DeFrance and Webb. The four stayed the same until lap 29 when Webb passed DeFrance and moved into fourth and started to challenge Jacobs. Having gone relatively unnoticed because of the battles upfront, Ed Kosiski was making his move and on lap 34 he took fourth from DeFrance.

About the same time, Webb got by an ailing Jacobs, who dropped from the race. The top three Steve Kosiski, Webb and Ed Kosiski would remain that way to the end with Donnellson’s Kevin Cale grabbing fourth from DeFrance with three laps to go. The top five at the checkers were; Steve Kosiski, Gary Webb, Ed Kosiski, Kevin Cale and Darrel DeFrance.

In addition to a big check, Steve Kosiski received $100 certificates from Tilton Engineering and Isky Racing Cams, along with the Walker Dynomax 20 lap leader jacket. Greg Hunter of Independence was the recipient of both the FRC Chassis luck draw position and the Speedway Motors Hard Charger Award and received $100 certificates from each company.

Bill Baldwin of Bellevue, Nebraska was the lucky driver selected for the REAL Racing Wheels $500 bonus. Baldwin had four REAL Wheels mounted on his car and was in the selected finishing position. Craig Jacobs received the $50 Racemart Tough Luck Award as he was running second in the feature late in the race and had the engine let go. Gary Webb with a second-place finish extended his Deery Brothers points lead to 36 over Kevin Cale.

The IMCA Deery Brothers Series never returned to the Audubon Speedway which has since quit holding circle track races. But for three years, the Deery Brothers drivers and the invaders from Nebraska put on some great racing at the 4/10-mile facility.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

1971 - Blundy Wins Florida Fair Opener

Jerry Blundy

Tampa, Fla. (February 3, 1971) – Before 4,500 race fans, Jerry Blundy, the defending IMCA sprint car national champion from Galesburg, Ill., picked up just where he left off at the Florida State Fair by winning the opening feature of the Winternationals Sprints on Wednesday at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Blundy did it like a champion should, leading the final 19 of the 25 laps, after establishing himself the fastest man at the track in qualifying with the top time of 25.671 seconds on the half-mile dirt.

Behind him, as he caught the checkered flag of starter Johnny Hicks, was Ron Perkins of Wood River, Ill., who passed Chuck Amati of Greenfield, Tenn., on the final lap to garner runner-up honors while Amati settled for the “show” spot.

Amati, a newcomer to Tampa racing, won his heat, a match race and was barely beaten out for second place by Perkins in the feature. The two staged a wheel to wheel duel during the late laps in the race.

Blundy survived a first-lap tangle with Buzz Barton of Tampa and Benny Rapp of Toledo, Ohio to come from his sixth-place starting position and gain the victory. The brush with the Barton car caused him to lose his front bumper and some grill work, but did no serious damage.

Results –
1. Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
2. Ron Perkins, Wood River, Ill.
3. Chuck Amati, Greenfield, Tenn.
4. Benny Rapp, Toledo, Ohio
5. Bob Kinser, Bloomington, Ind.
6. Cliff Cockrum, Mitchell, Ind.
7. Dick Sutcliffe, Kansas City
8. Jan Opperman, Beaver Crossing, Neb.
9. Bill Hudson, Montezuma, Iowa
10. Don Hewitt, Troy, Ohio 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Basement Archives #6

June 13-18, 2006

Jeff Aikey of Waterloo, Iowa, continued his strong run in the Indee Open Series as he notched his third series win of the season with an impressive victory at Mineral City Speedway in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 13. Mike Smith of Jewell, Iowa, took the lead at the drop of the green and pulled away from the field. Aikey settled into second-place on the ninth lap and went to work chasing down the leader. Smith maintained his sizeable lead until he encountered lap traffic just past the midway point. As Smith worked his way thru back markers, Aikey cut into his advantage and pulled even on lap 23. Aikey made the winning move with only five laps to go as he drove to his second straight series win. Smith, Curt Martin of Independence, Iowa, Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, and Steve “Ace” Ihm of Hazel Green, Wis., rounded out the top five.

NASCAR Night at Quincy (Ill.) Raceways was a huge success with Kenny Schrader, Kenny Wallace and Steven Wallace competing with UMP late models, IMCA modifieds and bombers on June 13. All special guest drivers put on a great show with Schrader winning the 35-lap late model main, Wallace finishing third in the modified feature and Wallace also finished third in the bomber main in his first time ever on dirt.
Competing in his 291st Deery Brothers Summer Series event, Darrel DeFrance of Marshalltown, Iowa, held off defending series champion Terry Neal of Ely, Iowa, to win the 35-lap feature for IMCA late models at Buena Vista Raceway in Alta, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 14. DeFrance passed Eric Gustaf of Moline, Ill., for the lead with seven circuits to and then had to fend off Neal, who had ridden the high side of the track from his 13th starting position. The win was DeFrance’s ninth career series win and paid the veteran $2,000. Neal, Rob Toland of Bettendorf, Iowa, Jeff Aikey and Gustaf rounded out the top five.
The third and final night was held at the monster half-mile Southern Iowa Speedway for the third annual Great American Stock Car Challenge with Bobby Greiner Jr. of Ottumwa, Iowa, coming out on top of an impressive 26-car field in the 35-lap finale on June 14. Greiner passed Tom Schmitt of Independence, Iowa, on lap 12 and then held off 25 of best USRA stock cars to collect the $3,000 winner’s share. T.J. Criss of Oskaloosa, Iowa, took second while Mark Elliot of Webster City, Iowa, worked his way from his 22nd starting position to finish an impressive third. Schmitt and Justin Temeyer of Independence, Iowa, rounded out the top five. In other action, Mark Elliot led all 20 laps to score the win in the USRA Modified feature and Nathan Wood of Sigourney, Iowa, took home $1,000 for his win in the USRA hobby stock A-main.
Darren “The Thriller” Miller took advantage of a restart on lap 17 and negotiated traffic flawlessly holding off Earl Pearson Jr to win the 50-lap World Dirt Racing League event at Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie, Wis., on June 14. Pearson and Jimmy Mars raced wheel to wheel for the first 16 circuits of the main event with Miller in tow. On a lap 17 restart, Miller dove past Mars in the first turn and powered past Pearson in turns three and four to take the lead. Miller held off a stubborn Pearson until lap 35 when Pearson was momentarily able to regain the lead but two laps later Miller pulled ahead for good and won going away at the checkers. Pearson, Mars, Dave Eckrich and Terry Anvelink were the top five finishers.
Tim Kaeding scored his sixth series win of the season as the National Sprint Tour made its debut at the half-mile Davenport Speedway on June 14. Kaeding passed race-long leader Brian Paulus on a lap 17 restart and then had to withstand a furious charge by Kerry Madsen to seal the victory. Madsen appeared to have the horses to get by the young Californian for the lead and the win when the Australian ran out of gas with two laps left. Kaeding’s teammate, Steve Kinser, would finish second followed by Jason Solwold, Jason Meyers and Shane Stewart.
It was another night and yet another win for the “Ragin Cajun” Jason Johnson, as the Eunice, La., hot shoe scored his eighth American Sprint Car Series Northern Plains Region win of the season at Park Jefferson (S.D.) Speedway on Thursday, June 15. Johnson earned the pole position and outgunned front row starter Jack Dover at the drop of the green. Dover kept the pressure on Johnson over the first half of the race before the 16-year-old racer from Springfield, Neb., tangled with Sam Hafertepe Jr. while racing for position. After the restart, it was all Johnson with Dusty Zomer a distant second. Micah Schliemann, Chuck Swenson and Jesse Hockett rounded out the top five.  
Justin Fegers roared past early leader Tommy Elston on the 18th circuit and went on to win the non-stop Budweiser 50, a World Dirt Racing League sanctioned event at Superior Speedway in Superior, Wis., on June 15. The victory was Fegers’ second series win in as many years on the 3/8-mile Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds after the Mound, Minn., driver picked up hi first-ever series win during the first of two stops there in 2005. 
Missouri’s Brian Brown foiled Jake Peter’s victory bid by wrestling away the lead for good on lap 21 en route to topping Friday night’s 25-lap American Sprint Car Series Midwest vs. Northern Plains Region feature at Crawford County Speedway in Denison, Iowa, on Friday night, June 16. Peters led from the onset until Brown battled into the lead on lap 19. Peters battle right back into the top spot a lap later, but Brown was not to be denied his second Midwest Region victory of the season as he reclaimed the lead a lap later and streaked to nearly a straightaway victory in the final laps. Peters held on for runner-up honors while Jeff Mitrisin took third. Jon Corbin and Eric Lutz finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Earl Pearson Jr. roared from his fifth starting position and into the lead in just 14 laps to win the 50-lap World Dirt Racing League co-sanctioned feature of the 8th annual Masters on Saturday night, June 17. After grabbing the top pot, the man known in racing circles as “The Hurricane” survived five caution flags and multiple challenges from the likes of Darren Miller, Donnie Moran and Brian Birkhofer to pick up the prestigious event’s top prize of $10,000. 
Whenever you go to Dodge City, Kan., you can usually count on a ‘ol fashion wild west shootout and true fashion, that’s what fans got as the NCRA Late Model Series made a visit to Dodge City Raceway Park on June 17. In the end, Steve Kosiski held off defending series champion Kelly Boen to capture his third series win in four shows. Boen, who had taken over the lead from Kosiski on lap 5, was sent to the rear of the field by NCRA officials for “rough driving”. With Kosiski comfortably in front, Boen was a man on a mission, charging from the rear of the field. By lap 23, Boen was in tenth and on lap 31 he had cracked the top five. A caution with two laps left put Boen right behind Kosiski and Delbert Smith. On the final charge, Boen was able to power past Smith but was able to unseat Kosiski from the top spot and settled for an impressive runner-up finish while Smith grabbed the final podium spot.
Terry McCarl of Altoona, Iowa, made a triumphant return to Huset’s Speedway, scoring a feature win on Sunday night, June 18. McCarl, who suffered a broken leg in a World of Outlaws event in Sharon, Ohio, on May 20, drove to his 78th career victory at Huset’s, in the outlaw sprint car division. McCarl, who started 12th in the event, methodically moved his way to the front and passed Larry Ball Jr. of Knoxville, Iowa, for the lead and eventual win.
Jason Hughes put a stop to Kelly Shryock’s onslaught Sunday night before a packed grandstand at Monett (Mo.) Speedway - albeit by mere inches – to capture his first USMTS Modified feature win of the season on June 18. Shryock, who had won four of the last USMTS events, made a last-corner effort on the final lap to get around Hughes at the finish of the 35-lapper, but was denied his tenth win in 20 starts and had to settle for second place money at the pay window. Hughes pocketed $2,000 for the win. Jesse Stovall earned a hard-fought third-place while Tommy Myer took fourth after leading the first 22 circuits. Late model ace Terry Phillips rounded out the top-five finishers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Bobby Ball Memorial

Bobby Ball
By Kyle Ealy
Phoenix, Ariz. – The Bobby Ball Memorial was a tribute to a young driver who had a promising racing career snuffed out at the age of 25.

Bobby Ball started his racing career in roadsters, competing in the Arizona Roadster Association. The skinny 6-foot-1 inch, 140-pound driver won so much and so often, promoters begged him to back down.

He switched from roadsters to midgets, which in 1949 and 1950, was weeping the nation. Once again, success came naturally, with Ball winning the Arizona State Midget Association championship in 1949 and ’50.

In 1950 he got his first opportunity to get behind the wheel of an American Auto Association (AAA) championship car. Competing in the 100-miler at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, Ball won the pole and led the race until a crankshaft sent him to the sidelines.

That performance got Ball to Indianapolis in 1951. Driving the Blakely Oil Special, he barely qualified for the 33-car field, but made the most of it, charging from his 29th starting position to finish fifth. Great things were predicted for this young driver.

His run on the 1952 championship trail continued to fulfill his potential. He scored a victory at San Jose and had seven more top-five finishes.

The 1953 season was full of expectations but on January 4, at a midget race in Los Angeles, Ball was involved in a multi-car crash. He would survive but suffer massive head injuries. He fought off death for more than a year but finally succumbed on February 27, 1954.

In October of 1954, it was decided that the traditional 100-miler held every November at the Arizona State Fairgrounds’ one-mile dirt oval would be aptly named The Bobby Ball Memorial.

To give a little background on the race itself, the event started on November 11, 1948. Under the sanctioning rules of the American Auto Association (AAA), Rex Mays would win the inaugural event.

Jimmie Davies would take the second annual event on November 12, 1950, while Johnnie Parsons would follow with two wins in two years, November 4, 1951 and November 11, 1952. Tony Bettenhausen would win the fifth annual event on November 11, 1953.

The Bobby Ball Memorial would get the green flag on November 7, 1954 but wave the checkered flag on November 8.

The race would be halted at lap 28 to water the track and then suspended after 35 laps because of excessive dust. Gordon Betz, a AAA supervisor for the western zone, decided the dust was a danger to drivers and decided to put a halt to the race. At the time, Jimmy Bryan, the hometown favorite and defending national AAA champion, had a quarter of a lap lead on Sam Hanks, the 1953 AAA national champion.

On Monday afternoon, the green flag waved again but it was Manuel Ayulo of Burbank, Calif., jumping ahead of Bryan and taking the lead. Ayulo would continue to lead with Bryan in tow until lap 89 when Bryan powered past Ayulo and led the final 11 miles to score the victory.

Bryan’s win paid $2,500 but more important to Bryan was winning the race named after his good friend Bobby Ball. He won the race in 1 hour and 6 minutes.

Ayulo settled for second place while Bob Sweikert of Hayward, Calif., who led the first 3 laps of the race, finished third. Andy Linden of Los Angeles grabbed fourth and Sam Hanks took fifth.

Jimmy Bryan accepts his trophy after winning the 1955 tragedy-marred Bobby Ball Memorial.

Tragedy would come to the second annual Bobby Ball Memorial on November 6, 1955. Jack McGrath of Los Angeles, a 35-year-old driver who held track records at Indianapolis, was killed when his car when into a spectacular flip on the 86th lap of the 100-mile race.

McGrath was running third when his car struck a heavy shoulder in the turn and sprang into the air. Witnesses said his front axle folded. Sadly, the accident happened only 14 laps away from the end of his dirt track career. Before the race McGrath had stated that the Bobby Ball Memorial was his last race and he was entering private business in 1956.

The race stopped, after 97 miles and four cautions was won by Jimmy Bryan, the defending champion, in 1 hour and 9 minutes. Bryan collected $3,100 of the $12,100 purse.

Johnny Thomson of Springfield, Mass., took runner-up honors, George Amick of Los Angeles was third, Andy Linden, now of Indianapolis, fourth and Pat O’Conner of North Vernon, Ind., finished fifth.  

The other news of the day was the American Auto Association’s decision to end its 46-year run of championship racing. The AAA stated that there was too much emphasis on speed, power, and driver endurance and those objectives were not in line with AAA’s safety program.

1956 Bobby Ball Memorial program

Now under United States Auto Club sanctioning, George Amick would stop Jimmy Bryan’s domination of the Bobby Ball Memorial when he scored the win on November 12, 1956. Amick, driving Lindsey Hopkins’ Offenhauser, started on the pole and led all 100 miles.

Bryan started ninth in the 18-car field and gradually worked his way into contention behind Amick but ran out of steam at the end and settled for second. Jimmy Reece of Oklahoma City was third, Andy Linden finished fourth and Johnny Tolan of Norwalk, Calif., rounded out the top five.

Finishing second in the Bobby Ball Memorial not only didn’t sit well with Jimmy Bryan but his hometown fan either. So, both Bryan and his followers walked out of the Arizona State Fairgrounds happy on November 11, 1957, after Bryan won a hard-fought victory on the one-mile dirt oval.

Rodger Ward #8 and Johnny Boyd #6 lead the field to green in the '56 race.

Johnny Boyd of Fresno, Calif., would lead the first 55 laps from his outside front row starting position. Pat O’Conner would slip by Boyd on the next lap and lead defending race winner George Amick and Bryan. Bryan would break a three-way scuffle and take the over the lead on lap 70.

Bryan would continue to lead with O’Conner right on his bumper every lap. It was a tight duel the rest of the way, one the two-time national champion almost lost.

Bryan, attempting to lap Jim Rathmann of Miami, Fla., on lap 98, was forced wide and crashed through several posts, tearing out sections of railing in the process. O’Conner sped by Bryan and took the lead, but Bryan managed to recoup, and with chunks of fence spewing from his racer, chased O’Conner down and win by a car length at the wire.

Bryan’s winning time was 1 hour, and 9 minutes and he collected $3,183 for his efforts. With the victory, Bryan earned his third national championship, his second under the USAC banner. Pat O’Conner would settle for second with Boyd in third. Art Bisch of Phoenix finished fourth and Johnny Tolan took fifth.

1958 Bobby Ball winner Jud Larson (left) congratulates newly-crowned USAC national champion Tony Bettenhausen.

Tony Bettenhausen and Johnny Thomson were racing for a national championship and Jud Larson was just racing to win. Larson would do just that, winning the 100-mile Bobby Ball Memorial on November 11, 1958.  Bettenhausen would finish five seconds behind Larson and clinch his second national championship (1951 – AAA, 1958 – USAC).

A crowd of more than 8,000 were greeted with intermittent showers in the morning which delayed time trials but by race time the event was run in near-perfect weather.

Larson grabbed the lead on the first lap, but first place was juggled back and forth between Larson and Bettenhausen until the Tampa, Fla., hard charger tucked it away for good on lap 31.

But Larson had to hustle to keep ahead of Bettenhausen and Thomson, a 150-pound lightweight from Boyertown, Penn. Thomson started 10th in the field of 18 but was in the lead pack by lap 10. On lap 80, Thomson passed Bettenhausen for second place, and trio battle lap after lap for the lead, often crossing the start/finish line in a dead heat.

On lap 87, engine trouble knocked Thomson out of contention and Larson started opening a wider margin over Bettenhausen and was never in trouble the rest of the way. The victory earned the crew-cut blonde $3,730 of a $12,090 purse.

Larson also broke George Amick’s two-year old race record of 1 hour and 5.20 minutes with a new time of 1 hour and 4.41 minutes.

Bettenhausen’s second-place showing gave him the USAC national title, the first driver ever to win a title without winning a race.

Eddie Sachs of Center Valley, Penn., squeezed his way up from his 13th starting spot to finish third, A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., driving Jimmy Bryan’s old car, took fourth and Rodger Ward of Los Angeles was in fifth.

Tony Bettenhausen would charge from the outside of fourth row to win his second Phoenix 100-miler on October 18, 1959. The victory in 1 hour and 49 minutes was worth $2,250 to the two-time national champion.

Bettenhausen appeared in the top-five after only six circuits ad moved up to fourth by lap 10 when polesitter Lloyd Ruby of Houston, Tex., lost control, tagged the guardrail and flipped four times. Ruby was unhurt, but his car was destroyed.

Bettenhausen would pass Rodger Ward on the lap 15 restart and settle in behind race leader Len Sutton of Portland, Ore., and Don Branson of Champaign, Ill. On lap 43, Sutton was forced to leave with ignition problems, giving Branson the top spot.

Bettenhausen would trail Branson for three laps before pulling past him for the lead. From there, it was all Bettenhausen behind the wheel of the Lindsey Hopkins Special. Branson would keep the pressure on Bettenhausen but by the time the lead duo caught up with the tail-end of the field, Bettenhausen extended his margin. At one time, Bettenhausen would have an 18-second lead and at the finish, he was ahead by more than six seconds.

A.J. Foyt, wheeling the Dean Van Lines Special, moved into fifth when Sutton dropped out, worked his way to the front and finished second. Rodger Ward was third followed by Gene Force of New Madison, Ohio, and Branson.

In the winner’s circle, Bettenhausen spent several minutes washing the dust from his throat and cleaning up before accepting kisses from his wife. “More water,” were his first words, but, he was soon talking freely. “After I got in front, I didn't have much trouble, although I did wear out a tire and have to slow down towards the end,” he said.


1960 Bobby Ball Memorial program

A.J. Foyt would be in the thick of the chase for the USAC national crown in 1960 and when the 25-year-old driver won the annual Bobby Ball Memorial on November 20, it clinched his first national driving championship.


The Houston, Tex., speed demon would take the lead on lap 25 and never relinquish it en route to victory before a crowd of 10,000. Rodger Ward, only 120 points behind Foyt when he entered the contest, was never a factor, finishing 10th in the race and placing second nationally in points.


The race started with Al “Cotton” Farmer of Tucson, Ariz., taking the lead from his outside front row starting berth. He would hold that lead for the first four circuits before Jim Hurtubise, of North Tonawanda, N.Y., who started fifth, took over the lead.


Foyt started on the inside of the fifth row, moved to fifth place by lap 5, and had worked his way to the front to threaten Hurtubise’s lead by lap 22. On lap 25, Foyt powered past Hurtubise for the lead and never looked back, finishing the race in 1 hour,7 minutes, and 21 seconds.


As the finish was posted, a protest was filed on the order of finish. Behind Foyt at the checkered was Don Branson, Jim Hurtubise, and Wayne Weiler of Phoenix. Weiler was running second when misfortune struck on lap 99 when his rear end went out, bringing up the question whether the race was over before he quit running. After discussion among officials, it was determined the order of finish would stand.

Numerous spinouts and accidents left only 9 of 18 starters at the finish. Foyt earned $2,955 of the $11,820 purse.


1961 Bobby Ball Memorial program
Al Keller of Greenacres, Fla., never saw the new set of tires and other prizes for setting fast time at the Bobby Ball Memorial on November 19, 1961. Less than a half hour after hearing the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines”, Keller lay dead under the wreckage of his machine after a violent crash. The only movement was the spinning of the wheel which landed on atop a chain-link fence in the infield.

Keller’s tragedy was “one of those things” race fans sensed was coming. The track surface was lumpy on the south side of the track and slick on the north. Almost as soon as the race started, the surface began to break up, developing ruts and spewing clods under the 100 miles per hour wheels of the 18 competing cars.

On lap 41, Keller skidded out of the north turn and lost control. He went end for end, then his machine went broadside in the air and continued to flip violently, landing on top of the chain link fence.


Astonishingly, official slowed but didn’t stop the race. The flagman gave the field the one lap to start signal and to resume speed. It was explained later that the wreck was in the infield and not blocking traffic.


But when other cars floundered through the north turns on the restart, the race was stopped on lap 49. A capacity crowd of 10,000 then went through an hour and a half delay as the track was repaired.

With attention focused on the wreck, few fans saw Parnelli Jones of Torrance, Calif., pass race leader Rodger Ward on lap 45 for the lead. Along with defending winner A.J. Foyt, the trio had waged a furious feud for 40 laps, lapping the entire field.

When the race finally resumed, Jones almost met disaster, spinning in the first turn and losing almost four seconds to Ward. Jones would get the lead back on lap 65 and maintain the lead until lap 89 when officials halted the race because of darkness and deteriorating conditions.


Jones, piloting J.C. Agajanian’s Willard Battery Special, earned $3,539 of the $13,727 purse.

Jones was followed to the finish line by Ward, Don Branson, Jim McElreath of Arlington, Tex., and Al Farmer. After being in contention early on, Foyt developed engine problems on lap 55 and retired for the day.


Ward was hostile about the track conditions afterwards. “Worst track I’ve ever run on,” remarked the former Indy 500 champ. “And I’ve run on a lot of ‘em.”

Elmer George's car dives over the guardrail and into the crowd of spectators during the '62 Bobby Ball Memorial.
Disaster would strike again at the Bobby Ball Memorial on November 19, 1962. Elmer George of Speedway, Ind., would lose control of his racer in the north turn and flip over the guardrail and into an overflow crowd of spectators, bring abrupt termination to the race after 51 laps.  The accident happened almost directly opposite of where Keller had met his fate the year before.

George was severely cut around the head and shoulders and 22 spectators were taken to area hospitals for minor injuries but fortunately, no one was killed. The accident occurred on lap 49, but the flagman waved the field around for two more laps to make the race official, then stopped all cars.

After George was dragged from his capsized racer, and the injured removed, USAC officials and promoter Mel Martin announced the race could not continue because of the damage caused to the guardrail in front of the grandstand.

Victory and the $4,800 prize went to Bobby Marshman of Pottstown, Penn., hustling his Hopkins Special into the forefront on lap 30 after a tight duel with polesitter and defending winner Parnelli Jones and A.J. Foyt.

The three had made a runaway of the race and had lapped the entire field by lap 21. Foyt was running hot on Marshman’s tailpipe when the accident occurred. Jones got bogged down in traffic chasing Marshman and was some five seconds behind Foyt when the race was concluded.

The win was the first of the season for Marshman who noted in victory lane, “I’m glad it was stopped. My car was worn out and I don’t think I could’ve held A.J. off for 50 more laps.”

Johnny Rutherford #46 and Chuck Hulse #10 lead the field to start the 1963 Bobby Ball Memorial.
Rodger Ward, driving the Robert Wilkie Offenhauser, would win the Bobby Ball Memorial 100-mile race on November 17, 1963. Ward passed race-leader Chuck Hulse of Tucson, Ariz., on lap 30 and won by a five-second margin.


There was one second of excitement as Ward powered past Hulse for the top spot, but the final 70 miles were a foregone conclusion as the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner drove a near-perfect race, earning his fifth win of the season on the USAC championship circuit.

A crowd packed to the rafters, 15,000, watched a race technically perfect, but what the Arizona Republic described as “offering less wheel banging than a Sunday scramble for a choice picnic table.”

Johnny Rutherford of Fort Worth, Tex., set fast time, touring the mile in 36.62 seconds. Hulse was second with 36.95 seconds and Ward was ninth fastest with a time of 37.82 seconds.


Hulse, driving the Dean Vans Lines Special, jumped into the lead with Rutherford following and by lap 6, Ward was already in third and closing fast. Ward moved quickly past Rutherford and chose to follow Hulse until the 30th mile when Hulse drifted high in turn four and Ward cut under to take the lead as they roared down the front stretch.

Ward would slip in and out of traffic, building a seven-second lead over Hulse. Rutherford’s power plant went sick on lap 89, allowing Jim McElreath to move up and finish in third. Parnelli Jones and Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., rounded out the top five.


Unlike the previous two years, the track held together well although turns two an four were badly rutted by the time the race came to an end.

The ‘63 Bobby Ball Memorial would be the last on the one-mile dirt oval of the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The state fairboard was already facing $1,200,000 in damage suits filed by spectators injured in the 1962 race. Mel Martin, the long-time promoter, proposed paving the one-mile dirt oval, but in the end, the commisssion decided it wasn’t worth the time or investment.

The race would move to the new one-mile paved oval Phoenix International Raceway for the 1964 race.

 The following drivers won the Bobby Ball Memorial at PIR…

1964 – Lloyd Ruby
1965 – A.J. Foyt
1966 – Mario Andretti
1967 – Mario Andretti
1968 – Gary Bettenhausen

In 1969, the race was changed to the Bobby Ball 200 with Al Unser winning. In 1970, the race was shortened to 150 miles and renamed the Bobby Ball 150. Swede Savage would win that race.