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.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Basement Archives #5

September 17-19, 2004

Rob Toland was a double winner on Saturday night, September 18 at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. After taking the front spot back from Terry Schlipman of Mendon, Ill., on lap 62, Toland stayed in charge to the checkers in the Pepsi USA Late Model Nationals/Susan Pallister Memorial. The $10,000 victory was also more than enough to give the Hillsdale, Ill., driver the Deery Brothers Summer Series’ championship, 42 points ahead of Lonnie Bailey of Quincy, Ill. Schlipman held on for second followed by Brent Slocum of Burlington, Boone McLaughlin of Mediapolis, Iowa, and Jay Johnson of West Burlington, Iowa.

Three drivers earned their first-ever WISSOTA 100 titles Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway in Richmond, Wis. The final night of the 19th annual event kicked off under sunny skies and comfortable temperatures with eight races on tap, including the three main events for late models, modifieds and super stocks. Don Drew became the fourth and final leader of a destructive WISSOTA super stock finale that saw multiple caution flags and only 10 of 25 drivers still on the track when the checkered waved. Dave Cain would grab the lead midway through the modified contest and then remain untouchable as he roared to his first career WISSOTA 100 championship. John Kaanta would grab the lead at the beginning of the late model main event and keep the field in his rear-view mirror to score his first WISSOTA 100 championship. A total of 443 cars competed over the four-day weekend.

Denny Eckrich of Tiffin, Iowa, won his second career Yankee Dirt Track Classic on Saturday night at Farley (Iowa) Speedway. Eckrich scored his first “Yankee” victory in 2001. Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., led the 28-car grid to the green but was involved in an early-race accident that gave the lead to Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. Francis led until 22nd-starting Dan Schlieper of Pewaukee, Wis., grabbed the top spot. He would lead until lap 64 when Eckrich was able to put his “Flyin’ 50” into the top spot for good. Eckrich would hold off Schlieper’s late race charge to collect the $15,000 top prize. Eckrich and Schlieper were followed to the finish line by Curt Martin of Independence, Iowa, Ron Barker of West Liberty, Iowa, and Brian Harris of Davenport, Iowa.

Cool temperatures produced a heavy racing surface as the IRA Outlaw Sprint Series visited the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, Wis., for the final time of the 2004 season. Thirty-five cars went after Travis Whitney’s long-standing track record which fell soon after qualifying started when Scott Young shaved over a tenth of a second off the old record. However, Young’s record would be short-lived as Travis Whitney would drop another tenth of a second off to reclaim the record at 16.239 seconds (110.8 mph). In the 25-lap A-main, Mike Reinke would score his fourth IRA win of the season, holding off a hard-charging Whitney at the checkers.

Donny Schatz swept the One-Third Mile Short Track Nationals Saturday night at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway. The Fargo, N.D., driver took the lead on lap 16, and then hold off a trio of drivers to win the 40-lap A-main. Jason Sides and Steve Kinser would fight for the top spot when Sides slightly jumped the cushion, getting his car sideways. Kinser tapped Sides’ machine, allowing Schatz to slide underneath the two drivers for the lead. Schatz would then fight off Kinser, Brian Paulus and Sides to the very end to seal the victory.

By virtue of a tie-breaker, Bill Kirk of Salix, Iowa, was named late model champion at Park Jefferson (S.D.) Speedway on Saturday night. Kirk blew a tire on lap 12 of the championship feature bringing out a yellow. On the green flag restart, Kirk charged from the rear of the pack, giving chase to Greg Golden of Sioux City, Iowa, in search of the point’s title. Cass Burkhart of Salix would win the feature race, but the championship was determined in fourth and fifth place, where Golden and Kirk finished. Their finish created a tie atop the points heap but Kirk, because of his four feature wins compared to Golden’s three feature wins broke the tie-breaker and gave him the championship.

Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., scored his third Xtreme Dirt Car Series main event of the season Saturday pocketing the $10,000 win in the 22nd annual Pepsi Nationals at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. Starting ninth, the “Real Deal” grabbed the lead from Earl Pearson Jr. while working heavy lapped traffic on lap 18 and never looked back, puling out a 25-car length lead at the finish. Matt Miller , who led laps 11 and 12, finished in the runner-up spot while 14th starting Jimmy Mars finished third.

Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa, held the 13th annual Tiny Lund Memorial on Saturday night and 195 cars reported for five divisions. Barry Sorenson of Harlan would take the lead early on in the IMCA late model feature and lap more than half of the field on his way to an easy victory. Jay Noteboom of Orange City, Iowa, out-dueled Brian Foote of Essex, Iowa, in the final few laps to win the IMCA modified title. Hometown driver Mike Nichols passed David Smith of Lake City, Iowa, with just a few laps remaining to win the IMCA stock car main event. Dustin Smith of Lake City, Iowa, won the IMCA hobby stock contest while Galen Grabill of Harlan score the victory in the pro-am feature.

Damon Murty of Chelsea, Iowa, won the 2nd annual Stocksville Nationals at the Knoxville Raceway on Saturday night. A field of 53 IMCA stock cars were on hand to contest the event. Clayton Deppe jumped from his front-row starting position to take the lead but would spin before exiting turn two, giving the lead to Mike McClure down the backstretch. That would be the only lap McClure would lead as Murty would charge by McClure exiting turn four on the second lap to take the lead - a spot he wouldn’t relinquish for the remaining 23 circuits. Despite a half-dozen cautions, Murty would hold on for the $1,250 pay day. Rick Brown, Jay Schmidt, Cliff Gray and Jarod Weepie rounded out the top five finishers.

Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, captured the $12,000 to win 13th annual Illinois Fall Nationals on the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, September 19. The event was co-sanctioned by Xtreme DirtCar Series and United Midwestern Promoters. Stating fourth, Birkhofer roared into second place as the field exited turn two on the first circuit of the 35-lap event. Birkhofer then shot past polesitter Ray Cook on the backstretch of lap 5 and never looked back in winning handily. Darren Miller of Chadwick, Ill., who set a new track record in qualifying (130.203 mph), finished second followed by Steve Shaver, Justin Allgaier and Earl Pearson Jr.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Midwest Racing Archives!
Kyle Ealy - Lee Ackerman







Wednesday, December 12, 2018

1982: Two Big Late Model Races at Knoxville

By Lee Ackerman
Knoxville, Iowa - In 1982 the legendary Knoxville Raceway known for sprint car racing hosted two big dirt late model races, one in the spring and one at the end of the year.

The first of these events was held on April 24 & 25, with the running of the Casey’s General Store sponsored event that was labeled “Super Race I”. The purse of over $50,000 paid $12,500 to win the late model feature and $5,000 to win the limited late model show.
Freddy Smith of Kings Mountain, North Carolina got things started on the first night by setting a new track record in qualifying of 20.051 seconds. Limited late model heats went to Larry Moore of Dayton, Ohio, Ron Schreiner of Eleva, Wisconsin and Jerry Holtkamp of Williams, Iowa.

The preliminary feature in the limited late models saw Moore take home the win with Don Hoffman of Des Moines, Iowa second followed by Schreiner, Holtkamp and Mike Smith of Ellsworth, Iowa.
Bill Rice of Des Moines, Tom Nesbitt of Thunder Bay, Ontario and Kevin Gundaker of St. Louis picked up late model heat wins. Tom Nesbitt came home the winner in the preliminary late model feature with Dhon Hauserman of Wichita, Kansas, Larry Moore, Rodney Combs of Lost Creek, West Virginia and Freddy Smith rounding out the top five. Boggs would finish seventh.

On Sunday night, Mike Smith beat Don Hoffman in the 5-lap limited late model trophy dash. In the 40-lap, $5,000 to win limited late model feature it was once again Larry Moore taking the win followed by Hoffman, Bob Shryock of Estherville, Iowa, Holtkamp and Gundaker.

Black Jack Boggs of Grayson, Kentucky held off Rodney Combs to win the late model trophy dash and then came back and once again bested Combs in the 50-lap feature to take home a $12,500 paycheck. Following Boggs and Combs were Kenny Walton of Viola, Iowa, Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, Ray Guss Sr. of Coal Valley, Illinois and Freddy Smith.

On Saturday, September 4, the late models returned to Knoxville for the Autumn Spectacular. Also, racing were limited late models and street stocks. Billy Moyer, Jr. of Des Moines blistered the famous half-mile as he set a new late model qualifying time of 19.718 second just two seconds off the track record for 410 sprint cars.

Rich Beebe of Overland Park, Kansas won the first heat over Moyer and Tom Bartholomew of Waterloo. Fred Strube of Peoria, Illinois won the second heat followed by Roger Chambers of Yates City, Kansas and Joe Kosiski of Omaha.

Sunday’s program was washed out and these races were rescheduled for Sunday, September 12.

A field of 27 late models, 21 limited late models and 21 street stocks returned to Knoxville for the rescheduled final night of racing. For most of the 50-lap feature it looked like a run away for Moyer as he built up a quarter lap lead over second place Steve Kosiski of Omaha, but with three laps to go Des Moines’ Don Hoffman ran out of gas bringing out the yellow and allowing Kosiski to close to the back bumper of Moyer.

Kosiski made the most of his new-found fortune and passed Moyer on the last lap to win the event and take home the $4,000 first prize. Following Kosiski and Moyer to the line were Kosiski’s brother Joe Kosiski in third and Rick Beebe finished fourth.

Red Dralle of Evansdale was the apparent winner in the limited late model feature but was found to be 70 pounds light and the win was awarded to Dave Farren of Des Moines with Denny Rosenberg of Grimes getting second and Martin Bennett of Des Moines third. The Street Stock feature found the first three finishers disqualified for having to wide of tires and the win went to fourth place finisher Ted Swartslander of Des Moines.

A crowd of approximately 1,500 fans attended the Sunday event.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Basement Archives #4

August 24-29, 1976

Veteran Roger Regeth of Kimberly, Wis., guided his 1973 Camaro to his sixth late model feature win of the season Tuesday night, August 24, at Leo’s Speedway in Oshkosh, Wis. Regeth, taking hiss charge from his fourth row starting spot, forged ahead of leader Willie Goeden on lap 12 and extended his lead a few feet every lap to finish with a five-car-length lead at the checkers. Goeden, Jerry Smith, Dave Conger and Roger VanRoy rounded out the top five.

A light rain fell throughout most of the ‘Furious 50’ late model special Wednesday night, August 25 at Cedarburg (Wis.) Speedway and that was just fine with Al Schill who went faster as the track got wetter, as he scored his first feature win of the season on the 1/3-mile clay oval. With the rain becoming more intense as the laps clicked off, Schill’s Camaro got the bite that it needed and the Franklin, Wis., hot shoe passed race leader Aaron Solsrud of Pewaukee, Wis., on lap 30 to grab the top spot. Once ahead, Schill built up an eight-car-length lead en route to the win. Solsrud fought off Bill Goeden of Kewaskum, Wis., in the waning laps to hod on for second. Despite the threatening weather, the crowd of 3,025 was the largest of the season.

Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., ended the 1976 racing season at State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wis., on Thursday night, August 26, the way he started it, by winning the 50-lap late model feature race. Trickle passed Tom Reffner, winner of 13 main events and the late model crown this season, on lap 23 and then using lap traffic to his advantage, skillfully maneuvered through the pack to increase his lead by half a lap at the finish. Reffner, from Rudolph, Wis., settled for second place followed by Mike Miller of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Marv Marzofka of Nekoosa, Wis., finished fourth and Jim Back of Vesper, Wis., took fifth.

Roger Regeth of Kimberly, Wis., displaying the hard-charging style that has made him a winner on both dirt and asphalt tracks, outdueled Rich Somers of Stevens Point, Wis., in the 20-lap late model feature at Wisconsin International Raceway on Thursday night. A crowd of 2,412 viewed the final Fox River Racing Program of 1976. Regeth passed Tony Strupp of Slinger, Wis., on lap 9 and then fended off Somers for the remaining 11 circuits to seal the victory, winning by three-car-lengths. Somers, Strupp, Bill Goeden of Kewaskum, Wis., and Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wis., rounded out the top five.

Larry Schuler’s feature win streak came to abrupt halt Friday night, August 27, at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., as mechanical misfortune struck at his ‘Junkyard’ Camaro, putting Ray Young of Dolton, Ill., in the winner’s circle at the conclusion of the 25-lap late model feature. Earlier, Schuler’s car would drop a piston in a heat race, sidelining for the rest of the evening. Young drove a masterful race, passing Tom Musgrave of Mundelein, Ill., on the outside groove on lap 19 en route to his 202nd career feature win and his third victory of the season at the 1/3-mile paved oval. Musgrave would hang on for second place while Tom Jones of Northbrook, Ill., would finish third.

Veteran home state driver Bay Darnell passed Terry Ryan of Davenport, Iowa, on lap 79 and cruised to his first USAC stock car victory of the campaign in a 100-mile dirt track race at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 28. The win was Darnell’s second of his career, with his other triumph coming at a 100-mile dirt race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds two years ago. Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, was second followed by Paul Feldner of Colgate, Wis., Butch Hartman of South Zanesville, Ohio and Ken Rowley of El Paso, Ill.

Tom Steiner, the handsome 26-year-old bachelor from Orland Park, Ill., wheeled the Bob Steffes Chevy II to victory in the accident-shortened National Alliance of Midget Auto Racing (NAMAR) championship at the Sun Valley Speedway in Anderson, Ind., on Saturday night. Scheduled for 50 laps, the race was halted after 42 laps when Steve Ball of Fort Wayne, Ind., went over the main stretch guard rail and tore down more than 50 feet of the track’s safety fence.

Ed Hoffman of Niles, Ill., drove his Camaro to victory in Saturday night’s 25-lap late model feature race at Illiana Motor Speedway. It was only feature win number two at Illiana this season for Hoffman, who captured track titles here in 1971 and 1973. Hoffman passed Dave Weltmeyer on lap 16 and then wasted no time in putting some ground between himself and the rest of the field en route to the easy win. Defending track champion and current point leader Larry Schuler, who had won 14 of 15 main events at Illiana this season, was sidelined from competition by a blown engine Friday night at Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill.

Young Stan Fox made a triumphant return to the half-mile Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, Wis., on Saturday night, scoring a clean sweep in the Badger Midget program on Saturday night. Fox started by breaking the two-year-old track record in qualifying with a blistering time of 25.668 seconds breaking the old mark of 26.097 seconds. In the feature, the Janesville, Wis., charger steadily moved through the field and despite three cautions, won handily over Lars Lein of Cambridge, Wis. And Ken Biertzer of West Bend, Wis.

In one of the most hotly-contested late model features ever seen at Rice Lake (Wis.) Speedway, Bob Lawrence put down the challenges of the area’s best drivers to walk off with the $650 first prize money in the special 30-lap invitational on Saturday night. It was the Minnesota drivers fourth feature win of the season. Lawrence and Red Steffen of Eau Claire, Wis., ran one-two for most of the feature with neither driver giving an inch. Steffen patiently waited for Lawrence to make a mistake but the St. Croix Beach, Minn., pilot drove flawlessly beating Steffen by mere feet at the finish line. Tom Steuding of Altoona, Wis., finished a bumper behind Steffen for third while Brent Laursen of Cameron, Wis., grabbed fourth and Skip Splittstoesser of Stillwater, Minn., rounded out the top five finishers.
Wayne Lensing of Rockford, Ill., wrapped up late model title with a victory in the 30-lap feature at Rockford Speedway on Saturday night. Lensing had to come from the 20th starting position for the victory. By lap 22 he was in front and charged to the win ahead of second-place finisher Bill Venturini of Chicago and Larry O’Brien of Harvard, Ill.

Don Mack, known as the “Flying Farmer” from East Grand Forks, Minn., picked up his biggest racing paycheck in 17 years of competition as he won the 200-lap Minnesota State Fair open competition sprint car championship Sunday afternoon, August 29. He collected $4,500 in a race which was viewed by 6,256 fans. Mack emerged victorious although Casey Jones of South Bend, Ind., and Marvin Carmen of Union City, Mich., dominated the event on the half-mile paved oval. It was not until after the race was finished and the lap charts had been tallied that Mack had been declared the winner.

Starting only his second USAC Championship Dirt race, Bubby Jones of Danville, Ill., scored a narrow victory over Larry Dickson of Marietta, Ohio and Jim McElreath of Arlington, Tex., in Sunday afternoon’s 100-mile race at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. Jones inherited the top spot on lap 58 when race leader Joe Saldana dropped out with mechanical issues. Jones then clung to a precarious advantage over Dickson and McElreath for the remainder of the race until he was finally able to pull to a five-car length margin in the closing four miles. Dickson edged McElreath for runner-up money with Larry Rice taking fourth and Johnny Parsons in fifth.
Bob Geldner took an early lead and went on to victory in the 20-lap Midwest Sprint Association finale at North Starr Speedway in Blaine, Minn., on Sunday night. Only 14 cars were on hand due to the show at the Minnesota State Fair that afternoon. Jerry Richert was runner-up in the feature and Don Mack, winner at the State Fair earlier in the day, was third.