Saturday, February 17, 2018

West Liberty's Spring Championship (1977 - 1986)



By Kyle Ealy
West Liberty, Iowa – One of the most anticipated races of the young season, the Spring Championships, held at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds during mid to late April, proved to be popular with drivers and fans alike.
An all-time record crowd of 7,500 would see stock car racing at its best on April 16, 1977. The day had ideal weather, an excellent racing surface and 81 cars in the pits. Late Models and Sportsman were vying for a $5,000 purse.
Drivers from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada were on hand for the season opener. But it was an Illinois driver, Duane Steffe from East Moline, who showed everyone the fast way around the track, winning the 25-lap feature.
Steffe started on the outside of the front row and took the lead immediately. Doing superb driving in only his second time out in a new Camaro, Steffe would fend off challenges by Steve Keppler of Marion, Iowa, and polesitter Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, early on in the contest. Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., and Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, would soon join the battle and both would eventually get past Webb and battle Keppler for second. While those three hot shoes battled back and forth, Steffe checked out and sailed to victory. Keppler, Guss, Hearst and Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, rounded out the top five. 
 
 
Jim Burbridge of Delhi, Iowa, Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo, Iowa, Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree, Iowa, Gary Crawford of Independence, Iowa, and Don Hoffman of Des Moines were heat winners and Hemsted also won the 15-lap consolation. 
 
The evening got off to a fast start with three drivers breaking the track record in time trials. Dike, Iowa’s Curt Hansen’s 1975 mark of 24.21 seconds would be broken first by Tom Hearst at 24.11 seconds. Ray Guss would lower it a little more, touring the half-mile in 23.98 seconds. Last but not least - Ken Walton of Viola, Iowa, would become the new track record holder with a time of 23.69 seconds.
Kenny Fenn of Washington, Iowa, and Ron Pallister of Wapello, Iowa, won their heats and then battled it out in the Sportsman main event. Pallister had the pole and led the first half of the race but it was the veteran Fenn getting by Pallister for the lead and the eventual win.
With the huge success of the event, promoter Dale Gegner knew a good thing when he saw it and was already making plans for next year’s season opener.
The second edition of the Spring Championship took place on April 15, 1978, before 6,000 race fans. Seven states represented the 54 Late Models and 26 Sportsman, with drivers competing for a whopping $10,000 purse.
The Late Model feature was made up of the 20 fastest qualifiers, with top six cars inverted. That place Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa and John Simenec of Rock Island, Ill., on the front row for the 30-lapper.
Simenec grabbed the lead at the drop of the green and held off all challengers for the first 17 circuits. On the 18th lap, however, Simenec’s “Tri-City Buggy” Camaro developed engine problems, forcing the disappointed driver to the pit area. Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, who had been running behind Simenec for the last 10 laps, suddenly found himself in the lead.
 
 
Although he was given some tough competition from Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and then Gary Crawford of Independence, Iowa, “The Flying Dutchman” wouldn’t relinquish the top spot and held on to collect the $1,000 first prize. Crawford would hang on for second with Martin taking third. Tom Hearst and Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, would finish fourth and fifth.
 
Bob Kosiski of Omaha would set fast time while Duane Steffe, Jim Burbridge, Martin, Curt Hogue of Ames, Iowa and Bill Breuer of Wapello, Iowa, were heat winners. Rom Hemsted won the semi-main.
In December of 1977, Steve Becker of Atkins, Iowa, had lost his life in an auto accident. Becker had been the ’77 Sportsman champion at West Liberty, so to honor Becker, the Sportsman race was suitably named the “The Steve Becker Memorial Race”.
Mark Keltner of Morning Sun, Iowa, would win the first annual race, leading start to finish in the 20-lap main event. Gail Brenner of Wilton took second followed by Randy Adams of Muscatine, Iowa. 
The air was chilly but the racing action hot on April 14, 1979, as the third annual Spring Championship launched the season’s competition. Despite the cold weather, another hearty crowd of over 6,000 filled the stands in anticipation of the first racing of the season.
Curt Hansen would capture the 35-lap Late Model headliner and take home $1,000 for his efforts. The Dike, Iowa, hot shoe would also set fast time and win his heat. Hansen brought two cars to the party, using his Camaro to qualify and race in the feature, and driving his Olds Cutlass to victory in his heat race.
 
 
With the six fastest qualifers inverted, Hansen had a third row starting spot for the start of the feature, but by lap 5 he had wormed his way to second spot behind early leader Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wis. When Parker's engine soured with only 10 laps scored, Hansen grabbed the top spot. From there on, it was easy sailing for Hansen as he ran unchallenged for the remaining 25 circuits.
The Late Model main was not without its casualties as a melee in front of the judge’s stand at the drop of the green caused serious damage to Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, Mel Morris of West Liberty and Don Hoffman of Des Moines. Who were out of action for the rest of the night.
Mike Niffenegger, last year’s champion, got mixed up with Hansen on lap 4, drifted high into the turn four wall, damaging his car to the point he was forced to retire early.
Roger Dolan, the 1978 point champion at the half-mile, tangled with Joe Merryfield of Des Moines a few laps later, went into a flip, and ended his evening early as well.  
Ed Sanger, John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa, Dave Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa and Steve Keppler would win the war of attrition to round out the top five.
Darrell Sells of Waverly, Iowa, Gary Crawford, Hansen, and Sanger would score heat wins while Jim Burbridge of Delhi, Iowa, won the semi-main.
In Sportsman action, Tony Stewart of Washington, Iowa, won his heat and then cleaned house in the feature, winning the 25-lapper easily. George Liebfried of Rickardsville, Iowa, was second and Bryan Housely of Bettendorf, Iowa, was third.
 
 
With ideal weather, a fast track, a great crowd on hand and 70 stock car drivers hungry for action, the fourth annual Spring Championship took place on April 19, 1980. Once again, a substantial purse of over $10,000 was being offered.
 
A new track record would be established in time trials with Johnny Johnson turning a new time of 23.245 seconds, breaking Ken Walton’s three-year-old mark set in the inaugural race. The six fastest timers were Johnson, Mike Niffenegger, Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa, defending winner Curt Hansen, Gary Webb and Mel Morris, and these top six were inverted to start the feature.
This gave hometowner Mel Morris, driving the car of John Moss, the pole position. Ironically, the two fastest timers, Johnny Johnson and Mike Niffenegger, would have to start the main event in the back row, as they were driving cars other than the ones they qualified with. Both had problems with their own cars in heat action. Johnson went with his back-up car while Niffenegger borrowed a car owned by Butch Cassidy of West Branch, Iowa.
Morris would immediately jump into the lead with Ron Jackson settling in behind him. Morris would continue to set a torrid pace until he drifted high in turns one and two, allowing Jackson to slip by and claim the top spot.
From there, Jackson would never look back, leading the remaining 26 laps - taking the win and the $1,000 paycheck to accompany it. Leon Plank of Eau Claire, Wis., would be the hard charger of the evening, starting 15th and finishing second, but still well behind Jackson as the checkers flew. Curt Hansen, Roger Dolan and Gary Webb would round out the top five.
Late Model heat winners were Johnny Johnson, Bill Beuer, Dolan, Hansen and Verlin Eaker of Mechanicsville, Iowa. Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo, Iowa, would claim top honors in the semi-main.
In Sportsman action, Ron Weedon pf Pleasant Valley, Iowa, driving his faithful “Old Blue”, took the lead from Ron Pallister of Wapello, Iowa, on the second lap, and sailed to victory. Mark Keltner would also get by Pallister on the next to last lap to finish second while Pallister settled for third.
 
 
More than 50 Late Models squeezed into the pit area at West Liberty Raceway on April 18, 1981, as the fifth annual Spring Championship kicked off the Iowa racing season.
Racing veteran Mike Niffenegger would become the first two-time winner of the popular event, winning the 30-lap Late Model feature and carrying home the $1,000 top prize.
Hungry for racing after a long winter, a great crowd was on hand and watched many of the top drivers from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin battle it out.
Johnny Johnson’s track record of 23.245 seconds was broken by all of the six fastest qualifiers and was now owned by Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, the defending track champion. He turned the half-mile in 22.522 seconds.
The top six qualifiers were inverted with Niffenegger inheriting the pole position. As the race got underway, Niffenegger jumped into the lead and was never headed, leading all 30 circuits. He was never comfortable, though, as Curt Hansen, Hearst, Johnson and Gary Webb, who finished second, third, fourth and fifth respectively, made it a battle royal to the end.
Ray Guss Sr. of Milan, Ill., was in the third spot for most of the race, but mechanical problems towards the end of the race dropped him back in the field and he finished 12th.
Heat winners were Hearst, Dave Sidwell of Solon, Iowa, Pete Parker, now driving out of Walcott, Iowa, and Niffenegger. Keith Remley of Blue Grass, Iowa, won the semi-main.
Gail Brenner of Wilton, Iowa, won his heat and then took the win in the Sportsman 20-lapper. The feature ended none too soon for Brenner, as he climbed out of his car and was ready to accept his trophy, the radiator hose burst and steam engulfed his car.
West Liberty Raceway would experience change for the 1982 season. Larry Kemp and Johnny Johnson had taken over the promotional reigns from Dale Gegner but fortunately for drivers and fans, the Spring Championship remained.
 
 
Dick Schiltz of Waterloo, Iowa, would capture the 50-lap NASCAR Grand American Late Model feature in convincing fashion at the sixth annual Spring Championship on April 24, 1982. Schiltz started the race on the outside of the front row and dominated the event. He finished well ahead of runner-up Jim Burbridge, who started on the pole.
 
Roger Dolan would prove to be the stiffest competition for the low-flying Schiltz, but Dolan’s hope for glory ended midway through the contest when he slammed the turn three retaining wall hard.
Dolan started on the third row after posting fast time and the mishap occurred while he and Schiltz were working lapped traffic. Dolan’s slammed into the wall and rode it around perhaps 150 feet before coming to a stop.
That ended the race for first but the battle for second waged among Burbridge, Rollie Frink of Davenport and Steve Keppler, who finished in that order. Kenny Fenn of Washington came in fifth.
Duane Steffe, Frink, and Jim Thruman of Freeport, Ill., were heat winners.
For sheer excitement, it would be tough to beat the two-car race between Scott Sells of Waverly, Iowa, and Greg Hunter of Independence, Iowa, in the 15-lap Sportsman feature. Hunter dominated, but Sells made a move on the inside of turn one on the white flag lap and came out the winner.
Twenty-five IMCA Modifieds began the evening and the feature race went to Arlo Becker of Atkins, Iowa, in his familiar #88 AMC Gremlin. It didn’t come easy for the 1981 Cedar County Raceway champion as Mike Wilson of Rock Island, Ill., pushed Becker the whole way until the final lap when his engine expired.
 
Fifty-Six Late Models lined the pit area with each one of them looking for the $1,000 prize when the seventh annual Spring Championships took place on April 23, 1983. A crowd of 5,000 plus braved chilly temps and windy conditions to witness Eastern Iowa’s first race of the season.
 
Rick Wendling of Hazelton, Iowa, jumped from the pole position to take an early lead in the 30-lap Late Model contest. Dave Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, who started on the outside of the third row, charged past four cars to settle into second place by the time the first lap was scored official.
Wendling would continue to set the pace until he and Birkhofer encountered slower traffic by lap 11. Wendling would have issues getting around a slower car as the pair exited turn four, allowing Birkhofer to slip inside as they entered turn one to take the lead.
While Birkhofer opened up a sizeable margin, a four-car battle for second place ensued between Wendling, Rollie Frink, defending champion Dick Schiltz and Roger Dolan.
A yellow flag on lap 25 bunched up the field, setting the stage for a five-lap sprint to the finish. With the track cleared, Dolan and Schiltz were able to keep Birkhofer in their sights but neither could mount a challenge as they exchanged positions between themselves.
Schiltz finished second followed by Dolan with Rick Wages of Moline, Ill., and Frink rounding out the top five.
Heat winners were Frink, Wendling, Mark Keltner of Morning Sun, Iowa, Denny Osborn of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Birkhofer. Tom Hearst won the C-feature and Ed Sanger was the B-feature winner.
Mike Schulte of Norway, Iowa, won both his heat and the 20-lap feature in the IMCA Modified division. John Brumley of Riverside, Iowa, finished second and Todd Jensen of Waterloo, Iowa, took third.
Steve Watts of Danville, Iowa, driving a brand-new Dodge Challenger was untouchable as he won the Street Stock feature.
 
 
The 1984 Spring Championship would take several weeks to get underway. Originally scheduled for April 14, rainy weather postponed the event until the following Saturday, April 21. However, snow would come into play that Saturday and the race would be re-scheduled for April 28.
The saying, “The third time’s a charm” would prove true as April 28, 1984, would see the eighth annual Spring championships come alive. A tally of 42 Late Models, 24 IMCA Modifieds and 25 Street Stocks signed in at the pit shack.
Ed Sanger would start on the outside of row one in the 35-lap Late Model feature and quickly jumped into the lead ahead of polesitter Hal Russell of Blue Grass, Iowa. The veteran waited out a couple of early cautions before opening up a lead while some of the faster qualifiers were working their way up from the fifth and sixth rows.
While Sanger checked out, the rest of the field raced for second place with fast qualifier Johnny Johnson, Bob LeKander of Burlington, Iowa and last year’s winner Dave Birkhofer doing the majority of the sparring. Each driver held down that spot at least twice before Birkhofer won the battle. LeKander would nail down third place while Johnson held on for the fourth spot. Ken Walton rounded out the top five.
Walton, Birkhofer, Ron Pallister of Wapello, Iowa and Curt Martin of Independence, Iowa, won heat races and Frank Springsteen of Morning Sun, Iowa, was the B-main winner.
Former IMCA Modified national champion Dale Fischlein of Davenport, Iowa, took the lead in the Modified main event but after five laps, his engine went up in a puff of smoke and he limped to the pit area.
Mike Cothron of Moline, Ill., inherited the lead after Fischlein’s exit and fended off Todd Jensen and then Mike Frieden of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to score the victory.
Rod Smith of Monmouth, Ill., set the pace early on in the Street Stock headliner but it was not to be, as Ron Barker of Dubuque, Iowa, slipped past him five laps from the finish to take the win.
 
 
The 1985 season would see yet another change in management at West Liberty as Al Frieden would be calling the shots. Frieden announced that there would be changes at the half-mile. Fortunately, the Spring Championship was not one of them.
More than 90 cars were in the pits and an estimated 3,000 lined the grandstands as the ninth annual Spring Championships took place on Saturday, April 20, 1985.
Tom Hearst would win the Late Model headliner, but he would need to take the lead twice to accomplish the 40-lap victory.
Ken Walton would lead the first five laps before Hearst took over on lap 6. However, on lap 16, Hearst suffered a flat tire and was forced to the sidelines during the caution period. A quick tire change in the pit area brought Hearst back on the track but to the rear of the field.
Walton took the green flag and settle comfortably into the lead while Hearst started his charge through the field. By lap 20, the Wilton, Iowa, veteran was in 15th, by lap 27 he was in 10th, and by lap 34 he was in the top five.
On lap 35, Hearst would pass both Dave Birkhofer and Rollie Frink to take over third place and a lap later, speed by Terry Gallaher of Quincy, Ill., for second. On lap 37, Hearst would power by Walton to regain the top spot. Walton would exit a lap later with a broke spindle. 
Hearst would win by several car lengths over Terry Gallaher with Frink, Birkhofer and Scott Sells rounding out the top five.
Bob Hill of Story City, Iowa, Hearst, Frink and Scott Sells of Waverly, Iowa were heat winners and Curt Martin took the semi-main.
Rick Wages of Moline, Ill., led from start to finish in winning the IMCA Modified feature over Dave Hammond of Camanche, Iowa and Hershel Roberts of East Moline, Ill.
Scott Megonigle of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was dominant in the Street Stock division, winning the heat and feature.
 
 
The tenth and final Spring Championship brought the promise of exciting stock car racing and a $16,000 purse attracted nearly 130 competitors on April 19, 1986. A crowd estimated at 3,500 witnessed 20 events on the half-mile.
An unofficial car count registered 26 Late Models, 56 IMCA Modifieds, 29 Street Stocks and 16 Bombers.
Davenport, Iowa, native Dale Fischlein, driving out of Independence, Iowa, went from a heat race disqualification and dead last starting position in the feature to victory lane in the Late Model 50-lapper.
Fischlein capture the third heat but was disqualified when his car failed to meet the minimum weight by 20 pounds. Because of the disqualification, Fischlein was required to start dead last in the 24-car field.
Steve Johnson of Low Moor, Iowa, led the first three laps before being passed by Jay Johnson of Wapello, Iowa, who led through lap 18. Roger Dolan would take command on lap 19 before Johnson got it back on lap 22. Johnson would lead until lap 25 before Dolan regained the top spot and led through to lap 29. Fischlein had made his way through the field and was in fifth.
Rollie Frink would get involved in the battle up front and pass Dolan on lap 30 and lead to lap 33 when Dolan took charge for the third time. However, Dolan would suffer a flat tire on a lap 34 caution period and restarted at the rear after a tire change. Fischlein had made his way to third.
On the restart, Frink would take charge with Bill Breuer and Fischlein hot on his tail. Fischlein would pass Breuer on the backstretch and on lap 37, make his move around Frink for the lead.
Two laps later, however, Fischlein would lose his spot at the front momentarily as Frink got past him on the backstretch only to see Fischlein regain the point as the pair exited turn four.
Fischlein would spend the remaining 10 circuits holding off Frink’s advances before finally taking the Johnny Oberthien’s checkers to seal the win. Frink, Breuer, Darrell Dake, and Curt Martin rounded out the top five.
The IMCA Modified feature aw a tremendous see-saw battle between Gus Hughes of Monticello, Iowa, and Steve Boley of LeClaire, Iowa. But the match race ended when Boley’s car overheated and headed for the pits. Hughes eventually was overtaken by Butch Cole of Kewaunee, Ill., who went on to win the non-stop 20-lapper.
Larry Richardson of West Liberty survived a crash-filled 15-lap Street Stock feature to post the win and Lyle Pearson of Martelle, Iowa, won the Bomber main.
The West Liberty race would continue but the name on the marquee would no longer be the “Spring Championship”. The next year, Promoter Al Frieden would have a three-day event at the three tracks he promoted, Cedar Rapids, West Liberty and Dubuque and call it the “The Weekend Spectacular”.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Update.....

 
Update to our Midwest Racing Archives readers....Hard-drive recovery has been a success with over 80% of data recovered. A special thanks goes to Evans Computer Consulting of Hiawatha, Iowa, for their tireless efforts in the recovery process. I should have a new story posted this weekend.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Until further notice....

To our loyal readers....For the immediate future, postings on Midwest Racing Archives' website will be on a limited basis until further notice.

Last Sunday, January 28, my external hard-drive crashed and with it, 2500+ photos, years of research, and stories I've written over the past 10 years.

It will take some time to recover my losses, so I ask everyone for patience as I start that process.
Thanks for your understanding.

Kyle Ealy
Editor - Midwest Racing Archives

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The 1968 IMCA Winter National Sprints


Al Sweeney and National Speedways, Inc., welcome fans and drivers during opening ceremonies for the 1968 IMCA Winter Nationals at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.



By Kyle Ealy
Tampa, Fla. (February 7-17, 1968) – The five-event IMCA Winter National Sprints in February of 1968 would prove to be a two-man show as Bobby Adamson of Coraopolis, Penn., and Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., would split a pair of features at the Florida State Fairgrounds’ half-mile with Adamson, in his first trip down south, winning the overall title.

Richert, a three-time IMCA national sprint car champion, would win the series’ opener on Wednesday, February 7, winning the 30-lap feature and collecting $600 on a dusty afternoon at the Fairgrounds.

A gamble on the last restart proved to be the difference for Richert. The gamble was Richert could take the high road and fortunately there was just enough weight to the dirt to give him the acceleration to power his Frank Wagner Chevy past Jerry “Haircut” Lepinski of St. Paul, Minn.

Lepinski, the fastest qualifier at 27.86 seconds on the half-mile, settled for second while Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., took third. Ralph Parkinson Sr. of Wichita Falls, Tex., and Gus Linder of Pittsburgh would round out the top five.

Happy about the win, but not too pleased with track conditions, Richert said after his victory that he would, “I sure would like to see them let us use knobs so we could show the fans the way the races use to be."

Heat winners were Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn., Earl Halaquist of Sidney, N.Y., and Barry Kettering of St. Paul, Minn. Wayne Reutimann of Zephyr Hills, Fla., would win the consolation.
Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., won two IMCA sprint car features during the IMCA Winter Nationals.

Richert would find the track to his liking again three days later, February 10, as he scored his second straight IMCA sprint car win. With a little better racing surface, Richert was winding the half-mile so tightly that he actually turned in times three seconds faster than the quickest laps turned in previous time trials.

At the end of the 30-lap event, Richert had a straightaway advantage over second-place car Gus Linder, the Pittsburgh flash, who had worked his way from his seventh starting position. Pole-sitter Jerry Lepinski took third followed by Bobby Adamson and Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio.

Richert started on the inside of the second row and quickly drifted to top of the track, where he turned loose every horse in his engine. He was in front, going down the backstretch and after that it was just a case of who was going to finish second.

There would be a close call when a caution flag would come out on lap 17, costing Richert his quarter-lap lead. Starter Johnny Hicks, thinking the track was clear, waved the green and the field charged towards the first turn, only to find two tow trucks still parked there. Richert narrowly avoided the trucks and when coming back down the homestretch, shook an accusing finger at Hicks for almost costing him the race.

Richert, Karl Busson of Toledo, Ohio, and Don Nordhorn of Mitchell, Ind., were heat winners Earl Halaquist of Sidney, N.Y., won the consolation.

Bobby Adamson, who brought a great set of credentials with him on his first trip to Tampa, had a little “Lady Luck” to win the 30-lap feature on Sunday afternoon, February 11.

Adamson took the checkered with Jerry Richert charging at his tailpipes, and Ray Tilley right behind him.

Time trials turned everything topsy turvy, putting some of the favorites out of contention early. The fastest single lap was recorded by Richert at 27.22 seconds with Bill Roynon of Tampa second fastest at 27.24 seconds.

Roynon would take the lead at the start of the feature and once hee was settled in, took the middle of a very narrow groove on the track. Richert would attempt to pass Roynon on the straights but was never able to get the nose of his car more than even with the rear tire of Roynon’s. As Roynon was receiving starter Johnny Hick’s cross flags signaling the halfway point of the race, the crankshaft on Roynon’s car broke.

As Roynon’s sprinter swerved, he nicked Richert, who swung to the outside on the backstretch and Adamson shot through on the inside to take over the lead. That was the end as far as the race was concerned. The groove was too narrow for anyone to pass on and Adamson cruised to victory.

“It looked to me that Jerry bumped him,” Adamson said, describing the incident afterwards. “Jerry swerved to the outside to avoid hitting Bill and I got past him on the inside. If Jerry had gotten in front right then, I would have never been able to get by him. The groove was just too narrow.”

It was a relatively quiet race day, lacking the flurry of spinouts like the first two days of racing.  The quick development of the narrow groove provided little passing. Once the green flag waved and the cars cleared the first turn, they settled in and the race took the shape of a parade.

Dale Reed of Wichita, Kan., Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., and Al Murie of Kansas City were heat winners while Bill Roynon took the consolation prize.

The only race that Adamson or Richert wouldn’t win would be the fourth event on Wednesday afternoon, February 14. Benny Rapp of Toledo, Ohio, normally right at home on pavement, showed ‘em he could win on dirt as well in winning the 30-lapper and a $600 paycheck.

It would be another dusty and rough afternoon for the drivers as the dry, rough surface would eliminate some of IMCA’s top sprint car stars. 1967 IMCA national champion Karl Busson, Buzz Barton, Wayne Reutimann and Bill Roynon weren’t even fast enough to qualify for the main event.

The 40-year-old Rapp would start on the pole but it was two-time winner Jerry Richert jumping out to the lead from his outside starting front row position and leading the race for the first 15 laps. A broken drive line would send Richert to the pit area, giving Rapp, who had been choking on Richert’s dust, the top spot. Rapp stayed there without much challenge the rest of the way.

Gus Linder, who had passed more cars in the four meets to date, would finish second followed by Ralph Parkinson Sr, Bobby Black of Middletown, Ohio and Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn.

The tricky half-mile proved many a guesser wrong as it started out fast but ended up slow.

A filthy, dirty Rapp complained that he couldn’t see through the clouds of dust in the turns. In fact, the dust throughout the whole program became so bad that the consolation had to be red-flagged after one lap and the water wagons would be sent out to re-water the track. The moisture wouldn’t last long and the race had to be cut from 10 laps to 8.

Bobby Adamson, Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio, and Jay Woodside of Kansas City scored heat wins while Gus Linder won the shortened consolation.
Bobby Adamson scored two victories at the 1968 IMCA Winter Nationals, including the 50-lap finale.


Bobby Adamson would win his second Winter National Sprints feature, the 50-lap finale that saw two drivers go to the local hospital with injuries.

The injured drivers were Ralph Parkinson Sr. and Hank Smith of Mt. Ayr, Iowa, both flipping on the second lap of the main event.  

The wipeout of the first two cars in the feature put Jerry Richert in front of the field at the start where he would lead the first four circuits. Gus Linder would pass Richert on lap 5 and lead the next four laps before Adamson, who started in 11th, powered past him for the lead, and was ahead to stay for the remaining 40 laps.

It had been a slow start to the day for Adamson, who turned in poor times in qualifying, so he had to start a little farther back in the field. But his wheels were shod right before the feature and he was able to blow by cars in what was his own private groove on the topside of a near-perfect track.

Adamson, Richert and Karl Busson grabbed heat wins and Don Nordhorn nabbed the consolation.

Al Sweeney, president of National Speedways, Inc., credited track superintendent Joe Aiken with finding the solution on the last day of racing. Water was applied all night and then three tons of calcium chloride was spread to keep it wet and dust free. Probably something today’s promoter wouldn’t be able to get away with.

Sweeney said total attendance for the five-day meet was 38,592, 105 below 1967’s all-time record attendance, but Sweeney mentioned that it was 10 degrees cooler than the previous year.

Results –

February 7

1.    Jerry Richert, Forest Lake, Minn.
2.    Jerry Lepinski, St. Paul, Minn.
3.    Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo.
4.    Ralph Parkinson, Wichita Falls, Tex.
5.    Gus Linder, Pittsburgh, Penn.
6.    Bob Adamson, Coraopolis, Penn.
7.    Karl Busson, Toledo, Ohio
8.    Ray Tilley, Clearfield, Ohio
9.    Chuck Lynch, Springfield, Ill.
10.   Earl Halaquist, Sidney, N.Y.


February 10

1.    Jerry Richert
2.    Gus Linder
3.    Jerry Lepinski
4.    Bob Adamson
5.    Darl Harrison, Tiffin, Ohio
6.    Karl Busson
7.    Bill Roynon, Tampa, Fla.
8.    Buzz Barton, Tampa, Fla.
9.    Don Nordhorn, Mitchell, Ind.
10.  Ray Tilley

February 11

1.    Bobby Adamson
2.    Jerry Richert
3.    Ray Tilley
4.    Ray Lee Goodwin, Raytown, Mo.
5.    Harold Leep, Wichita, Kan.
6.    Don Nordhorn
7.    Karl Busson
8.    Chuck Lynch
9.    Bob Black, Middletown, Ohio
10.    Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
February 14

1.    Benny Rapp, Toledo, Ohio
2.    Gus Linder
3.    Ralph Parkinson
4.    Bobby Black
5.    Ray Tilley
6.    Lee Kunzman, Guttenberg, Iowa
7.    Charley Masters, Waddy, Ky.
8.    Gordon Woolley, Waco, Tex.
9.    Whitey Harmon, Blue Springs, Mo.
     10.   J.D. Leas, Quaker City, Ohio



February 17

1.    Bobby Adamson
2.    Ray Tilley
3.    Jerry Richert
4.    Don Nordhorn
5.    Earl Halaquist
6.    Jerry Weld, Kansas City
7.    Jerry Blundy
8.    Jon Backlund, Kansas City
9.    Al Murie, Kansas City
10.   Darl Harrison

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Tiny Lund Memorial: Honoring the Big Man

 

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - On August 17, 1975, racing lost one of its down-home heroes when Tiny Lund was killed as a result of an accident at the Talladega Super Speedway. The gentle giant from Harlan, Iowa was a crowd favorite. He became a legend in 1963 pulling Marvin Panch from a burning sports car at Daytona, then taking Panch’s place driving the Woods Brothers #21 and winning the Daytona 500.

In 1975, four days before his fatal accident at Talladega, Lund won a race at the Summerville Speedway in South Carolina called the Patriot 200. To honor Lund’s memory the race became known as the “Tiny Lund Memorial.” In 1976, Ray Allison won the race renamed the “Tiny Lund Memorial.” Dirt Late Model legend Buck Simmons won in 1977, Al Bailey in 1978 and another Dirt Late Model legend Freddy Smith in 1979.
The Fifth Annual Tiny Lund Memorial saw the first repeat winner as Baldwin, Georgia’s Buck Simmons got by Larry Moore with just eleven laps remaining and drove to a three second victory in the 100-lap affair. Moore finished second with Rodney Combs, Jack Pennington and Sammy Sommers rounding out the top five.
Moore, who started on the pole was the dominate car in the event, leading the most laps before brake problems in the final stages of the races allowed Simmons to make his move. Another strong challenger was Freddy Smith who was battling the leaders when he was pinched high by Mike Head and was eliminated from competition. Qualifying race winners were; Sommers, Billy Manor, Leon Archer and Haskell Willingham.
Larry Moore
 
The 1981 Tiny Lund Memorial could be called “turnaround is fair play” as Larry Moore returned to the Summerville Speedway and this time would not be denied. Moore put his Tri-City Camaro out front at the start and stayed there the whole 100 laps in picking up a nine second win over his teammate and ironically the driver who defeated him the previous year, Buck Simmons. Moore pocketed $3,300 for the victory.
Tire wear played a major part in the outcome of the race as several drivers’ tires went away in the late stages.  In the early stages of the race Moore managed to stay just ahead of a tight scramble behind him which included Leon Archer, Jack Pennington, Buck Simmons, Mike Duvall and Charley Powell III.

As the race wore on, Moore was able to charge to the finish line and win by a comfortable margin while several earlier challengers faded. Simmons held on for second, Pennington finished third with Leon Archer fourth and Powell III getting around Duvall for fifth on the last lap. Archer and Duvall admitted after the race that they had their tires mixed up and had the wrong compound on.
One driver who was unable to make a run at a repeat win was Kings Mountain, North Carolina’s Freddie Smith. The 1979 race winner destroyed his B & D Boilers Camaro in practice, the result of a stuck throttle which sent him slamming into the third turn retaining wall. Smith’s car was a total loss.
Freddie Smith

 
It seems that to win the Tiny Lund Memorial you first must have bad luck the year before. Larry Moore proved that concept in 1981 and Freddy Smith proved it in 1982.
Smith started things off by out qualifying the field as he posted a lap of 17.217 seconds around the 4/10ths mile oval. Starting on the pole, the driver who became known as “The Southern Gentleman” then led the 100-lap main event from start to finish.
 
Smith’s win was not a cakewalk however, as he was constantly pressured by Larry Moore and Jack Pennington as the trio weaved through slower traffic. At the end Smith’s margin of victory was just 1.7 second over Moore with Jack Pennington finishing third and Fulmer Lance fourth.

The race turned out to be one of little attrition as 19 of the 26 starters were running at the finish, the most of any of the seven Tiny Lund’s held up to that time. One contender you did not last long was two-time race winner Buck Simmons. The 1977 & 1980 race winner lasted just 19 laps before the engine in his Firebird expired.
Misfortune would once again decide the outcome of the Tiny Lund Memorial in 1983. Buck Simmons looked like the races’ first three-time winner, as after out qualifying the field with a lap of 17.491 seconds Simmons was leading the race on lap 71 when his Barry Wright #41 misfired going down the backstretch and coasted to a stop in turn three.
Buck Simmons
 
The magneto in Simmons’ engine had broken leaving him without power. Second running Jack Pennington of North Charleston, South Carolina, always in the mix for a win at the Tiny Lund assumed the lead and drove his B & D Boilers Firebird to the win and a check for $5,000.
 
Finishing right on Pennington’s bumper was another car sponsored by Beadie Lynch’s B & D Boilers in the person of two-time race winner Freddy Smith. Larry Moore finished third, Leon Sells fourth and Mike Head fifth. Head had earlier won the consolation race which earned him a starting spot near the end of the 23-car starting field.
While Simmons had dominated the race, at the start outside pole sitter Fulmer Lance had gotten the jump on him only to surrender the lead to Simmons in turn four. Lance then started to fade as Pennington passed him two laps later. Lance had tire issues throughout the race and finished ninth. At the halfway mark it was Simmons, Pennington, Moore and Smith. After Simmons left the race, Smith got by Moore on lap 83, taking second with Sells getting by Head in lapped traffic late in the race for fourth.
Fate or luck one again played a part in the outcome of the 1984 edition of the Tiny Lund. Larry Moore, then racing out of Seneca, South Carolina avoided a major accident on lap 30 and then held off the late race charge of Rome, Georgia’s Buddy Morris to become the races third two-time winner.

Jack Pennington was leading the race on lap 30 and working his way through lapped traffic when a multi-car accident was triggered that eliminated race leader Pennington with major front-end damage. The accident also took out second running Lee McCallister and damaged the car of fourth running Freddy Smith. Moore, running third at the time just barely slipped through the mud on the low side and assumed the lead.
When the race resumed, Moore was able to open a good-sized lead over second place Ricky Brant. Meanwhile, Smith had returned to the race after making repairs, but was caught up in a battle with Hal McGraw. On lap 74, Morris moved around Brant for second and started to chase down Moore. A lap 84 caution tightened the field up and although Morris was all over Moore he could not get around as Moore picked up his second Tiny Lund Memorial. Morris was second, Brant third, Al Bailey fourth and Charley Powell III fifth.
The 1985 version of the race was sanctioned by the NASCAR Busch All Star Tour Super Series and Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Ronnie Johnson making his first visit to Summerville out charged pole sitter Gene Chupp into the lead at the drop of the green and lead the entire 100 laps to pick up the win. “I’ve always wanted to come to this race, now I wish I had been coming before, exclaimed Johnson after the race.
Chupp ran second until about the halfway point of the race when local favorite Charlie Powell III powered by as Chupp went high. Powell III was able to keep pace with Johnson until the end of the race when Johnson was able to put more distance between the two. Powell was happy with his second-place finish and noted after the race “We did pretty good for having a 350 motor against his 402, but the car was pushing so bad I couldn’t turn it from lap 40 on.”
Mike Head finished third and Chupp fourth. Two drivers who made valiant efforts but came up short were Mike Duvall who charged from 11th to fifth only to have a flat tire and Buddy Morris, who after spinning out went to the tail and charged back to sixth.“We ran well at Summerville,” Freddy Smith recently recalled. “Because we done so well there, it led to us getting Beadie Lynch as a sponsor.”
Following the 1986 racing season, the Summerville Speedway was paved and remained a NASCAR weekly racing series track for years to come. But by 2004 it was struggling to draw fans and the track was closed and sold to the Landcraft Development Company ending a four-decade run as the place to be on Saturday nights.