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Monday, October 20, 2014

1968 –Wathen and Norris Team Up To Capture First Salem 500


Roy Wathen, shown here at Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville Ky., won the inaugural Salem 500 with the help of Jerry Norris. - John Potts Photo
 
 
Salem, Ind. (October 20, 1968) – Roy Wathen of Louisville, Ky., didn’t have any idea he could do it, but he did.

Wathen, with some help from relief driver Jerry Norris, also of Louisville, won the $2,000 first prize in the initial running of the Salem 500 for the Automobile Racing Club of America late model stock cars.

“I had no intentions of winning when I got here,” said a smiling Wathen after the 250-mile event on the high banks of the half-mile Salem Speedway. “But everything seemed to break right.”

What broke right for the Wathen-Norris team was most of the other cars in the $12,500 race. Only 12 of the 37 starters finished, with one of them, Paul Wensink’s 1968 Ford, completing only 313 laps. He wound up at 187 laps – or 93.5 miles – back.

When Norris got behind the wheel in relief of Wathen’s 1966 Chevrolet, there were about 150 laps to go and he was some 12 laps behind.

“It wasn’t that I was fatigued,” Wathen said. “But I had driven some 350 laps and my neck was sort of stiff and Jerry was there, so I let him take over.”

And through a series of misfortunes to the leaders, Norris wound up winning the race by a whopping seven laps over Clyde Parker of Farmington, Michigan.

First, Benny Parsons, the 1968 ARCA national champion, blew a tire, which ultimately knocked the oil pan off of his 1968 Ford and sent him to the sidelines on lap 419. Parsons was 5 laps ahead at the time.

Then Iggy Katona of Willis, Mich., moved into the lead. But the six-time ARCA champion, who had a 6-lap lead, developed engine woes and had to make an unscheduled pit stop.

And when Katona’s car wouldn’t start, Bill Lemon of Markleville, Ind., in a sportsman-like gesture, gave him a friendly push in his ’68 Ford. By the time Katona got his car fired up, Cleo Ashley of Warren, Mich., driving a ‘67 Mercury, had taken over the top spot on lap 439.

Katona, however, regained the lead on lap 468 and four laps later, Ashley tagged the fence on the north turn with a mighty wallop. “The car simply fell apart, Ashley said afterwards. “The gear shift came off in my hand, the clutch was out and my cotton-pickin crew kept signaling for me to come to the pits. Hell, I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to."

On lap 487, Katona’s engine up and died. Although the gallant Lemon tried twice more – for a total of 8 laps – to get him started, the effort was to no avail as Norris swept into first place and stayed there.

“Boy,” said Norris. “Was I surprised – and glad – when the pit crew told me I was ahead.”

Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., the second fastest qualifier behind Parsons, led the first 180 laps before he and Parsons made scheduled pit stops. Jesse Baird of Louisville, Ky., inherited the lead briefly before pitting his ’66 Dodge and Snow regained the advantage on lap 216 when a blowout sent him back to the pits. The rear suspension failed on his ’67 Plymouth a few laps later and he was finished for the day.

Baird, who was sidelined until lap 323 with clutch problems, actually spun on his first stop into the pits, accidently hitting a bystander and sending the poor fellow flying through the air. Somehow – the man wasn’t hurt – and that was as close to an injury all afternoon long.

Jim Robinson of Albany, Ind., finished third; Katona amazingly got the engine fired up and back on the track to finished fourth; and Ashley, after “falling apart”, got his car pieced back together well enough to scrounge up a top five finish.

The race, which drew an estimated 7,500 fans, was the largest crowd in quite some time.

Results –

  1. Roy Wathen/Jerry Norris, Louisville, Ky.
  2. Clyde Parker, Farmington, Mich.
  3. Jim Robinson – Albany, Ind.
  4. Iggy Katona, Willis, Mich.
  5. Cleo Ashley, Warren, Mich.
  6. Bill Kimmel, Clarksville, Ind.
  7. Don Violet, Urbana, Ohio
  8. Namon Martin, Cleveland, Ohio
  9. Wayne Trinkle, Jeffersonville, Ind.
  10. Bob Thomas, Louisville, Ky.
  11. Benny Parsons, Detroit, Mich.
  12. Doc Kinsey, New Philadelphia, Ohio
  13. Dave Dayton, Indianapolis, Ind.
  14. Tom King, Anderson, Ind.
  15. Andy Hampton, Louisville, Ky.
  16. Bill Lemon, Markleville, Ind.
  17. Curtis Turner, Roanoke, Va.
  18. Ron Kudek, Westland, Mich.
  19. Jesse Baird, Louisville, Ky.
  20. Paul Wensink, Deshler, Ohio

Saturday, October 18, 2014

1964 - Hutcherson wins late model feature at Downs’

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (October 18, 1964) - Dick Hutcherson, current IMCA late model stock car champion, drove his 1964 “fastback” factory Ford to victory in the 35-lap late model feature Sunday afternoon at Hawkeye Downs.
He turned in the fastest time trial (25.69) and started on the pole position. On the first lap, Jerry Reinhart, East Moline, crashed through the fence on the backstretch, but was not injured.
On the restart, Mert Williams, Rochester, Minn., jumped off to an early lead, and by the third lap, was a half-lap in front of Hutcherson. But luck was not with the Rochester driver, as he left the track with a flat rear tire going into the fourth lap.
Hutcherson then took the lead, but Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids, handicapped by a badly sprained right hand, moved alongside and the two drove side-by-side in a dead heat for 10 laps.
Results –
  1. Dick Hutcherson, Keokuk, Iowa
  2. Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids
  3. Jim Gerber, Long Grove
  4. Red Droste, Waterloo
  5. Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo
  6. Del Williams, East Moline, Ill.
  7. Stan Stover, Reinbeck
  8. Jerry Draper, Rock Island, Ill.
  9. Ron Prymek, Iowa City
  10. Al Iben, Monticello

Thursday, October 16, 2014

1950 - Kokomo Pioneered Auto Racing, Too

Kokomo, Ind. (October 16, 1950) - Just as Kokomo was one of the pioneers in the automobile field, this city also was one of the early cities to play host to automobile races.

The first big organized auto race was held here August 18, 1903, at the old Kokomo Driving park, the local all-sports center at the turn of the century.

The feature race, run over the half-mile dirt track that had been installed in 1890 for horse racing, brought together Barney Oldfield and Tom Cooper, even then headliners in the still new sport of auto racing.
The two former stars of the bicycle-racing world were on an exhibition were giving thrilling speed exhibitions in their new-fangled, high-powered racing machines.
The city of Kokomo “closed up shop’ on the day of the big race and went out to the driving park, where it saw part of the show stolen from Oldfield and Cooper.
Drivers gave a number of special events with cars from the Haynes and Apperson factories. Their performances were only a little less spectacular than that offered by the professionals.
That was six years before the now-famous Indianapolis Speedway track was built in 1903 there were no tracks built especially for auto racing. A year after the big race at the Driving Park, Indianapolis got into the racing picture with events at the State Fairgrounds. Three Apperson cars were entered in the events run on June 13, 1904. Elmer Apperson won the handicap race while Nelson McLain took runner-up honors in the touring car division with another Apperson car.
Thanks to the Haynes and Apperson influence, auto racing continued to hold interest here. But many events were road races instead of regular track events. During the years, a number of tracks have been constructed in various parts of the county but few of them gained an established reputation.
The present Kokomo speedway, scene of some of the Midwest's best midget auto racing, is not the first by that name. In the mid-1928, Earl Richardson was manager of the Kokomo Speedway, the name given to a track on a 40-acre plot 2.5 miles north and west of Kokomo.
One of the big events of that era was held July 4, 1925, when Dutch Bauman of Indianapolis set three new records for the Kokomo Speedway track. He made the one-lap qualification run in 32.2 seconds and then set records for 15 miles, averaging 58.79 miles an hour, and for 20 miles, averaging 58.51 miles, an hour.
The current auto-racing period started in 1947, when Albert R. Miller and John Rose formed the Kokomo Speedway Corporation and built the quarter-mile track and stands north of Kokomo on U.S. 35.
The undertaking was a success practically from the start. The second year the present big grandstand was constructed and on June 21, 1948, the attendance record was boosted to 12,856 spectators.
Now well known in the midget auto-racing world, the Kokomo Speedway attracts some of the finest drivers in the country, including many of the “big name” drivers who take part in the famous 500-mile Memorial Day race in Indianapolis.
Among the better known drivers that local fans have had the opportunity to watch are Johnny Parson, winner of the abbreviated ‘500’ this year and 1949 AAA champion, Tony Bettenhausen, the late Rex Mays, Mel Hanson, Troy Ruttman, Jimmy Davies, Johnny McDowell, Duke Dinsmore and Sam Hanks.

Friday, October 10, 2014

1970 - Blundy takes IMCA sprint title

Des Moines, Iowa (October 10, 1970) - Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., a 21-year racing veteran, won the 1970 IMCA National Sprint Car Championship with a total of 2,900 points.

Blundy, 42, driving a Chevy-powered sprinter, won seven of the 25 IMCA features entered.

Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., claimed second place while third went to Jay Woodside of Kansas City, Mo. Fourth place was claimed by another Kansas City driver, Dick Sutcliffe.

Final point standings:

1. Jerry Blundy - 2,900
2. Jerry Richert - 2,275
3. Jay Woodside - 1,795
4. Dick Sutcliffe - 1,745
5. Eddie Leavitt - 1,665
6. Darl Harrison -1,580
7. Jan Opperman -1,330
9. Chuck Lynch -1,080
10. Ron Perkins -1,020