Saturday, May 25, 2024

1975 – Bobby Unser Wins Rain-Cut ‘500’

Bobby Unser sloshes through the pit area en route to victory lane after being declared the winner of the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500.

Indianapolis, Ind. (May 25, 1975) – The rain was sweet and so was revenge for Bobby Unser when he beat Johnny Rutherford Sunday to win his second Indianapolis 500, a weather-shortened 174-lap race that squared the family record with brother Al at two wins apiece.

Bobby Unser was leading the 1974 race when he made a costly pit stop and Rutherford went on to win. Rutherford’s crew miscalculated the weather conditions on Sunday and decided to top off Johnny’s fuel tank on lap 165 while he was leading the race.

It would be a stroke of misfortune as Bobby Unser took command and five laps later when a caution came out when Gary Bettenhausen tapped the wall and lost a wheel.

Still riding under the caution signal, the field when another three laps when rain began to fall. A deluge developed on lap 174 and starter Pat Vidan waved the checkered flag a lap later and accompanied it with the red flag to halt the race.

Unser only led for 11 of the 174 laps completed but being in front for the last 10 circuits earned him a winner’s purse estimated at $250,000.

A.J. Foyt, the polesitter and pre-race favorite finished third as the scheduled 200-lap contest came to a premature end. He immediately left for Methodist Hospital to have his right leg examined. The neurosurgeon was called in to have his right leg examined.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” a Foyt crewman said. “He just came out of the car limping.”

Unser said correcting tire problems and the ability to avoid heavy debris from an accident counted heavily toward his winning the race.

“We made an unscheduled pit stop on lap 159 to top off the fuel tank and decided to turn up the booster on the turbo charger to give us additional speed,” said Unser of his fortuitous decision by his pit crew.

Unser’s most anxious moment occurred while trying to avoid the wreck of Tom Sneva’s car.

“I took the low side of the track and looked for daylight. It turned out to be the right decision and I made it, but it was a very close call.”

Rutherford said he drove “just as hard as the car would go. When we made our last pit stop, we thought Bobby would have to make one more before the 200 laps were completed. But I’m still not sure if I could have caught him. Well, I guess second place is better than third.”

The most disheartened driver had to be Wally Dallenbach, who had been leading from the 97th lap but dropped out on lap 163 when dirt clogged a piston in his engine.

There were only 18 cars of the original 33 starters still on the track when the rain descended upon the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was the second time in three years that rain forced a premature finish to the richest auto race in the world. Gordon Johncock won the 1973 running when the race was stopped after 133 laps.

Results –

1. Bobby Unser
2. Johnny Rutherford
3. A.J. Foyt
4. Duane Carter Jr.
5. Roger McCluskey
6. Bill Puterbaugh
7. George Snider
8. Billy Vukovich
9. Wally Dallenbach
10.Bob Harkey
11.Steve Krisiloff
12.Sheldon Kinser
13.Jerry Karl
14.Jimmy Caruthers
15.Gary Bettenhausen
16.Al Unser
17.Sam Sessions
18.Tom Bigelow
19.Johnny Parsons Jr.
20.Jerry Grant
21.Dick Simon
22.Tom Sneva
23.Bentley Warren
24.Elton Rasmussen
25.Bobby Allison
26.Mike Mosley
27.John Martin
28.Mario Andretti
29.Mike Hiss
30.Larry McCoy
31.Gordon Johncock
32.Lloyd Ruby
33.Salt Walther

Pat Vidan


Indianapolis, Ind. - Pat Vidan was one of auto racing’s most iconic figures of the 1960s and 1970s and one of the sport’s finest ambassadors. He was Chief Starter for the Indianapolis 500 races from 1962 through 1979 (after being Bill Vandewater’s assistant from 1958-61), as well as for numerous other major United States Auto Club races.

The nattily dressed, white-dinner-jacketed Vidan flagged races with considerable flair, grace, and showmanship. Until safety issues dictated otherwise, he worked from the actual track surface, dropping to one knee at the conclusion of an elaborate flag-twirling routine every time a competitor roared past his green or checkered flag.

The muscular, multi-talented Portland, Oregon, native resided for many years in the town of Speedway, Indiana, where he operated a health studio frequented by numerous Indianapolis 500 drivers, some of whom owned helmets painted by Vidan.

A one-time trapeze artist and motorcycle stuntman, he was much in demand as a speaker. His repertoire included a racing-related “lightning cartoon” act that delighted both children and adults.

Friday, May 24, 2024

1980 - Hoffman, Trickle Win ARTGO 50's at Illiana

Ed Hoffman receives congratulations from promoter John McKarns after scoring his first career ARTGO feature victory at Illiana Motor Speedway. - Stan Kalwasinski Photo

By Stan Kalwasinski

Schererville, Ind. (May 24, 1980) – Perennial Chicago-area late model champion Ed Hoffman and ARTGO Racing point leader Dick Trickle captured 50-lap features, splitting victory honors in the “Chicagoland Showdown” Saturday night at Illiana Motor Speedway.

The event, which marked ARTGO’s debut in Indiana, was threatened by several uncontrollable conditions, including rainy weather, dusty track conditions, and a thick fog which rolled in just prior to the start of the first 50-lapper.

For Hoffman, a five-time Illiana track champion, it was his first career ARTGO win; but for Trickle, it was ARTGO career win #19.

With a blanket of thick fog giving drivers and race officials questionable conditions, 20 cars and drivers blistered the Illiana pavement at the drop of the green for the first 50-lapper.

Michigan speedster Bob Senneker pushed his Camaro into the lead from his pole position. Senneker led through lap 6, as two-time Illiana track champion Larry Schuler moved his mount up front on lap 7.

Schuler and his Camaro stayed in front until lap 20, as both Mark Martin and Billy Kuhn, who were both running up front, slowed considerably. Senneker moved past Schuler to regain the top spot on lap 21.

Senneker was still in command when the yellow flag flew as the hood from Frank Gawlinski’s Camaro flew off, landing on the front stretch. Only one lap of green flag racing was complete when John Knaus, Steve Burgess and Pat Schauer got tangled up in turn four.

Hoffman moved past Senneker on lap 33, as the duo entered turn three.

Things seemed to be getting back to normal as lap 36 was completed, but in a wild seven-car melee in turn one brought out yet another caution. Hoffman maintained control of the situation when the green flag reappeared, with Senneker staying within striking distance.

When starter Bill Gronley’s checkered flag fell, it was Hoffman, Senneker, Schuler and new track record holder Jim Sauter.

A field of 21 competitors answered the call for the second 50, as the fog lifted, and officials had a better view of the racing action.

Dave Watson jumped out front from his pole position, opening up a commanding lead quickly between himself and his nearest competition, Joe Shear.

Watson held the number one spot with a lowly-closing Shear a distant second when the caution light flashed on lap 14. John Knaus spun and was hit hard by Jerry Kemperman. Both cars were out of action, as Watson saw his enormous lead dwindle to nothing.

Watson still looked like the man to beat, when the yellow came out again, as Senneker, Burgess, and Schauer got tangled up in turn two on lap 26.

With Watson leading, Trickle worked his way past the second place Shear and moved quickly to challenge the leader.

On lap 37, Trickle guided his Pontiac Firebird past Watson as the pair charged into turn three. Hoffman, who started the second main event in the eleventh position, also got by Watson, moving into second place and a possible shot for a clean sweep.

Trickle, who complained of handling issues in the first feature, had everything ironed out as he kept the lead to himself in a comfortable position ahead of Hoffman.

At the end of 50 laps, it was Trickle, Hoffman, Shear, Sauter and Mike Miller

Results –

Feature #1 –

1. Ed Hoffman. Bensenville, Ill.
2. Bob Senneker, Dorr, Mich.
3. Larry Schuler, New Lenox, Ill.
4. Jim Sauter, Necedah, Wis.
5. Joe Shear, South Beloit, Ill.
6. Mike Miller, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
7. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
8. Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark.
9. Ray Young, Dolton, Ill.
10.Larry Detjens, Wausau, Wis.

Feature #2 –

1. Dick Trickle
2. Ed Hoffman
3. Joe Shear
4. Jim Sauter
5. Bob Senneker
6. Mike Miller
7. Ray Young
8. Dave Watson, Milton, Wis.
9. Frank Gawlinski, Lynwood, Ill.
10.Pat Schauer, Watertown, Wis.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

1992 - Maier Wows 'em at Knoxville Limited Nationals

Garry Lee Maier waves from victory lane after capturing the Knoxville Limited Nationals A-main at the Marion County Fairgrounds. – Gordon O’Field Photo

Knoxville, Iowa (May 23, 1992) – He’s the hottest 360 sprint car driver in the central states' region if not the nation and Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway Garry Lee Maier lived up to his reputation.

He drove to a remarkable victory at the second annual Knoxville Limited Nationals.

Maier, who started on the outside tail of the event, was only able to make the championship lineup after winning the B feature, likewise from a tail end start. The Dodge City, Kan., resident lost a magneto during Friday’s qualifications and the resultant poor time trial run placed him far down the line in this first year of a point system.

The 25-lap feature saw a two-car battle develop as the defending race winner Dave Hesmer and Danny Young engaged in a torrid fight for the top spot for the first dozen laps of the event. Young captured the initial lap of the race but soon trailed Hesmer until lap 12 when he overtook the frontrunner on the back chute. A red flag for a single accident negated the position change.

During the Young-Hesmer duel, Maier had surged through traffic to pot a third-place showing at the lap 12 red banner. Maier had posted a runner-up finish at last year’s event after starting 22nd.

The restart saw another battle for the top spot develop as Maier passed Young on the 14th circuit and for five laps, he and Hesmer put on a driving clinic not soon to be forgotten at the half-mile oval. Maier took the lead for good on lap 20 when Hesmer became hindered in lap traffic.

With Hesmer exiting turn four, Maier took the checkers $3,000 richer for his amazing efforts. Hesmer, who had started on the pole with a perfect 120 score, maintained second place but was pressed at the flag by Young.

Results –

1. Garry Lee Maier, Dodge City, Kan.
2. Dave Hesmer, Marshalltown, Iowa
3. Danny Young, Des Moines
4. Billy Bell, Colfax, Iowa
5. Randy Nygaard, Hartford, S.D.
6. Dwight Snodgrass, Indianola, Iowa
7. Mike Twedt, Huxley, Iowa
8. Bill Dusenberry, Burlington, Iowa
9. Mike Chadd, Lincoln, Neb.
10.Todd Wessels, Ellsworth, Minn.
11.Chris Walraven, Knoxville, Iowa
12.Mark Wilson, Des Moines
13.Larry Neighbors, Oklahoma City
14.Duane Van Heukelom, Des Moines
15.John Hunt, Tulsa, Okla.
16.John Gerloff, Lincoln, Neb.
17.Rick Salem, Denver, Colo.
18.Tom Lenz, Strawberry Point, Iowa
19.Chad Mellenberndt, Sioux Falls, S.D.
20.Terry Alexander, Knoxville, Iowa

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

1982 – Eddy Staves Off Trickle’s Rush, Captures Volunteer 300

Mike Eddy has plenty of company in victory lane after winning the ASA-All Pro co-sanctioned Volunteer 300 at Bristol International Raceway. – Don Thies Photo

Bristol, Tenn. (May 22, 1982) – Defending American Speed Association champion Mike Eddy made his first win of the season a big one, Saturday night, holding off a resolute late-race Dick Trickle charge to take the combined ASA-All Pro Volunteer 300 at Bristol International Raceway by a car-length.

Although seven different drivers exchanged the lead 10 times during the 300-lapper, Eddy took over for good on lap 165 and braced himself for the inevitable Trickle assault.

“With 15 laps to go, my crew chief radioed me and told me Trickle was coming,” Eddy said. “So, I gathered everything up and ran as fast as I could.”

Fast took on a new meaning at the intimidating, 36-degree banked, .533-mile Bristol layout, as the ASA and All Pro cars made a mockery of all previous track records.

Rusty Wallace cranked out a 15.912-second (120.588 mph) lap in time trials to take the pole position for the race as the 36-car field averaged nearly 117 miles per hour in qualifying.

After Wallace led the first seven circuits, he was overwhelmed by Darrell Waltrip and Jody Ridley. The crowd of 8,200 hardly had time to sit down as the Waltrip-Ridley battle boiled and Neil Bonnett made a frenzied run from the back of the field after ignition problems kept him from participating in time trials.

Bonnett capped his terrific drive by putting his Mustang in front on lap 108 when Waltrip and Ridley pitted for fuel and tires.

A caution on lap 147 caused a shuffle and Trickle took the top spot away from Bonnett. Wallace would scoot by Trickle a lap later and stay in front until lap 164 when the yellow flew again.

“That mid-race caution probably won the race for me,” Eddy explained afterwards. “My right front tire was going down and I could hardly steer the car.”

Once his mount was corrected, Eddy was awesome, streaking into the lead on lap 165 but followed closely by Ridley and Bob Strait.

A devastating crash occurred on lap 209 when it appeared that Ridley darted around a slower car and as tail-ended by Strait on the frontstretch. Ridley’s new car, completed just hours before the race, climbed the wall, nearly getting out of the track while Strait left-handed inside wall hard. Neither driver was injured but incurred heavy damage.

Trickle didn’t seem to find his best set of “staggered” tires until late in the race, as evidenced by his making up nearly two-thirds of a lap deficit in the last 40 circuits. But he could not pass Eddy.

“It took us a while to get it right,” Trickle said in a post-race interview. “So, I guess I’ll be happy with second.”

Trickle has finished second in three ASA events thus far this season.

Bob Senneker was third, the last car on the lead lap.

Alan Kulwicki wound up fourth with 296 laps completed and Wallace took fifth, even though a green flag pit stop dropped him back five laps off the pace.

In the first “North-south” confrontation since last year’s ASA-All Pro co-sanctioned All American 400 at Nashville, the Northerners defintely had the edge Saturday night, takin eight of the top-10 positions.

Results –

1. Mike Eddy
2. Dick Trickle
3. Bob Senneker
4. Alan Kulwicki
5. Rusty Wallace
6. Ray Young
7. Tom Harrington
8. Kent Stauffer
9. Harry Deaton
10.Junior Niedecken
11.Randy Couch
12.Bobby Dotter
13.Dave Jensen
14.Gary Adams
15.Buddy Schrock
16.Darryl Sage
17.Butch Miller
18.Dennis Vogel
19.Jody Ridley
20.Bob Strait

ASA starter John Potts strikes a triumphant pose at the disposing of the All Pro Bull during the Volunteer 300 at Bristol International Raceway. – Don Thies Photo

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

1967 - Gerber Wins Raceway Opener

Jim Gerber is shown carrying the checkered flag after winning the late model modified feature at the season opener at Quad City Raceway. – Larry Hergert Photo

East Moline, Ill. (May 21, 1967) – Jim Gerber, the veteran driver from Mt. Joy, Iowa, led wire to wire to take the 25-lap feature race in the first IMCA late model racing program of the season at Quad City Raceway.

In the opening night draw for position, Gerber drew the pole and jumped ahead of fellow front row starter Don Bitner of Peoria at the drop of the green flag. He would continue to expand his lead the rest of the way In his 1966 Dodge Charger.

Dean Montgomery of Milan, driving a 1967 Chevrolet, started well back in the 15-car field, and moved up briskly, settling into second place on lap 16. By then, Gerber enjoyed a half-laap lead and all Montgomery could do was chip away at that huge lead.

Gerber also won a heat race, as did Montgomery and Jack Henson of Stronghurst.

Ray Cox of Davenport continued his mastery of the novice division in the area, winning yet another feature.

Results –

Heat #1 – Jim Gerber, Mt. Joy, Iowa
Heat #2 – Dean Montgomery, Milan
Heat #3 - Jack Henson, Stronghurst
Feature –
1. Jim Gerber
2. Dean Montgomery
3. Benny Hofer, Rock Island
4. Don Bitner, Peoria
5. Del Williams, Aledo
6. Jack Henson
7. Shorty Bennett, Moline

Sunday, May 19, 2024

1984 – Caution Helps Martin Nab Slinger ASA Win

Mark Martin scored his first ASA win of the season in the Coca-Cola 300 at Slinger Super Speedway. Promoter Wayne Erickson (left), Miss Slinger Super Speedway, Wendy Burnett (second from left), and Bobby Batson, Silver Creek public relations (right), join Martin in victory lane. – Al Fortner Photo

Slinger, Wis. (May 19, 1984) – Mark Martin re-established himself as a force to be reckoned with in ASA competition at the slinger super Speedway, Saturday night, as the circuit’s former three-time titlist came back from the brink of disaster to win the Coca-Cola Badger 300.

Martin let it be known in time trials on Friday night that he was out to win this one as he came within a whisker of eclipsing Dick Trickle’s world record for a stock car on a paved, quarter-mile track. Martin’s time of 11.704 seconds was just shy of the 11.658-second mark that Trickle set back in 1981.

A total of 22 car lined up for the grueling 300-lap event and when the field took the green flag from starter Johnny Potts, Trickle dove underneath Martin going into turn one to gain the lead on the opening lap. Trickle then paced the next 15 circuits, until he slid up the banking on lap 16, allowing both Martin and Jim Sauter to slip by. On the next lap, Trickle lost third to Mike Eddy.

At the 100-lap mark it was Martin still maintaining his advantage over Sauter and the rest of the pack. Positions remained unchanged until Alan Kulwicki overtook Trickle for fourth on lap 137. Two rounds later, Mike Miller dropped Trickle down to sixth.

All the leaders, except Martin, chose to pit following a caution on lap 145. Those who pitted had to make two stops under all the caution in order to change all four tires and not lose a lap.

At the conclusion of the stops, Martin was still the leader with Sauter, Kulwicki, Eddy, Miller, and Trickle in that order. It remained that way for several circuits with Martin pulling away, even on older tires. However, by lap 171, it became evident that the tires weren’t going to last much longer and Sauter began to apply pressure for the first time.

However, Martin was able to hold off Sauter’s advances as they went in and out of slower traffic.

At that point, Martin was looking for a caution and he got one on lap 209 but not the way he would have preferred. Tony Strupp was beginning to experience some handling issues and he came up out of the low groove while Martin was passing him. Martin slowed to avoid hitting Strupp but in the process, Sauter nudged Martin, sending the leader into the infield, killing the car’s engine in the process.

But Martin was able to get his car re-fired and pulled in line in the pits without losing a lap to Sauter. After two stops to change all four tires, Martin was back out, but in sixth place, well behind the five ahead of him, who stopped 60 laps before.

Undaunted, Martin began the charge to the front. On lap 228 he caught Eddy for fifth. On lap 242 he passed Trickle for fourth. Eight circuits later, Martin overtook Miller for third. But Sauter and Kulwicki were still far ahead. Martin need another break and he got it when Strupp and Jeff Schwister collided on the backstretch, forcing another caution, and bunching the field.

Two laps later, after the caution had expired, Martin moved around both Kulwicki, and then Sauter. Martin then avoided a piece of scrap metal that flew off of Strupp’s car on lap 288 and held on to the wire for the victory, followed closely by Sauter, Kulwicki, Miller, and Trickle.

The win for Martin was his first in ASA competition since 1981.

“Without the caution on lap 268, I couldn’t have won the race,” Martin said. “That caution gave me the edge because my tires were 100 laps fresher than anyone else’s.”

Results –

1. Mark Martin
2. Jim Sauter
3. Alan Kulwicki
4. Mike Miller
5. Dick Trickle
6. Mike Eddy
7. Bob Senneker
8. Mel Walen
9. Scott Hansen
10.Harold Fair
11.Jay Sauter
12.Dave Simko
13.Tony Strupp
14.Joe Shear
15.Tom Jones
16.Bobby Dotter
17.Jeff Schwister
18.Ken Lund
19.Don Collins
20.Mike Melius
21.Tim Fontana
22.Don Walter