Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Pabst Blue Ribbon 100

By Kyle Ealy
East Moline, Ill. – Considered the premier dirt track event in the Quad Cities’ area, the Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 kicked off in 1976 and would be an annual affair until 1987.

Tt would seem only fitting that a driver synonymous with the Quad City racing scene take the checkers in the inaugural Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 on June 13, 1976.

Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, would prove to be a popular winner that Sunday afternoon as the veteran would lead the final 21 laps to score the $1,000 pay check. Including lap money, Weedon brought home over $1,400 in winnings.

Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., would take the initial lead and pace the field for five laps before Jim Gerber of Long Grove, Iowa, took over the top spot.

Gerber would prove to be the dominant car that evening as he would lap the entire field and it appeared he was headed to an easy victory when a flat tire sent him to the pits on lap 67.

With Gerber changing a tire in the pit area, Guss would inherit the lead once more with Weedon glued to his bumper. Weedon would make his move on lap 79, slipping under Guss for the top spot.

Weedon would widen his margin the closing laps and win easily. Guss would run second until he dropped out with mechanical issues with only a few laps to go.

Bob Stogdell of Silvis, Ill., would earn runner-up honors with Dan Bennett of Peoria, Ill., in third. Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa and Jerry Wolland of Peoria, Ill., would round out the top five.

Gerber would set quick time, touring the quarter-mile in a time 17.726 seconds. Heat winners were Duane Steffe of Colona, Ill., Ron Weedon, and Ernie Speth of Davenport, Iowa. USAC star Herb Shannon of Peoria, Ill., won the semi-feature. 

Over 50 late models were on hand at Quad City Raceway on Tuesday night, July 12, 1977 for the second annual Pabst Blue Ribbon 100. The best of the best in late model racing were on hand and when the dust settled, Don Bohlander of Glasford, Ill., would collect the $1,000 first prize.

Bohlander set fast time in qualifying, putting him on the pole position for the 100-lapper. Bohlander would lead from start to finish in winning but it was anything but easy going for the veteran.

Defending PBR 100 champion Ron Weedon dogged Bohlander the entire distance but settled for second place. When Weedon wasn’t making life miserable for the leader, Jim O’Conner of Kankakee, Ill., who finished third, was on Bohlander’s bumper.

Don Hoffman of Des Moines was a late challenger and got into the mix before settling for fourth. Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, finished fifth and you could have literally thrown a blanket over the top five.

John Engelkins of Morrison, Ill., Ron Richard and Dick Taylor of Springfield, Ill., were heat winners. Duane Steffe won the semi-feature. 

It was a fox who showed the hounds a trick or two at the Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 on August 22, 1978, before a packed house at Quad City Raceway. “The Geneva Fox”, 52-year-old Arnie Gardner, showed the youngsters the fast way around the quarter-mile in winning the third annual event.

Gardner started on the outside of the front row, grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag and put on a driving clinic, leading the entire distance. He would lap 10 of the 22 starters. The Geneva, Ill., veteran picked up $2,000 in lap money plus the $1,000 first-place money, making it an impressive payoff.

Al Terrell of Peoria, Ill., nearly the same age as Gardner, was scored in second place. Duane Steffe finished a remarkable third, having had to restart at the rear of the field after being involved in an accident midway through the contest with Don Hoffman. Defending race winner Don Bohlander took fourth and Dick Taylor finished fifth.

Al Terrell, Don Hoffman, and Ron Weedon were heat winners. Jim Gerber won the 20-lap semi-feature. 

For the first 75 laps, Tom Bartholomew set the pace around the quarter-mile clay oval on May 22, 1979. For those same 75 laps, Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa, lingered behind Bartholomew, waiting for the perfect opportunity get by the young hot shoe.

That chance came in the third and fourth turns of the 76th circuit as Bartholomew pushed too hard and Hansen dove underneath him, took the lead and held it for the final 25 laps to win the fourth annual Pabst Blue Ribbon 100.

Ironically, however, it was Bartholomew who took with him the larger of the two paychecks. Although the race carried a $1,000 first-place prize, it also carried $20 in lap money.

Bartholomew pocketed $600 for second place but added $1,500 in lap money bring his one-night total to $2,100. Hansen garnered $1,000 for the victory, $500 in lap money and $150 for winning the semi-feature, carrying home $1,650.

The only car on the same lead lap with Hansen and Bartholomew was Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, and Hansen was threatening to put him a lap down when a red flag halted the field on lap 97. Tony Izzo of Bridgeview, Ill., finished fourth and Don Bohlander place fifth.

The entire field, except for Bartholomew and Hansen, turned time trial laps in the 16 to 17 second bracket. Bartholomew was fastest at 15.920 seconds and Hansen was a flash behind at 15.992.

Although the top four cars in time automatically qualified for the main event, Hansen was eligible to run in the semi-feature because he placed outside of the top four in his heat race. He started near the middle of the field, moved steadily through the pack and won the 20-lap race rather easily over Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun, Iowa.

Tony Izzo, Dan Bennett and Bobby Toland of East Moline were heat winners. 

A near capacity crowd would see Tom Hearst of Muscatine, Iowa, pass race-long leader Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, on lap 96 to win the fifth annual Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 on June 22, 1980.

Ray Guss would start the evening off by qualifying the fastest around the quarter-mile at 16 seconds flat. Rollie Frink would win the first heat while the second heat was won by Jerry Wolland of Peoria, Ill., and Ray Guss Jr. of Coal Valley, Ill., was the third heat winner. Herschel Roberts of East Moline, Ill., was the semi-feature winner.

Hearst’s day didn’t start out all that great. He didn’t qualify well in time trials and had issues in heat race, sending him to the semi-feature for one last chance at racing in the main event. He finished third in the semi, behind Roberts and Jim Sandusky of Coal Valley, Ill., barely making his way into the 22-car field. His luck would change when the green flag dropped in the 100-lap finale.

Duane Steffe would grab the lead at the onset and lead the first four laps before Steve Fraise took over on lap 6.

Fraise would lead the next few laps until he was involved with a slower car that spun out in front of him. Fraise would get collected in the shuffle, snuffing out his lead and his evening.

Ed Sanger would inherit the lead, begin to widen his margin and it looked like it would be an easy payday for “Fast Eddie”.

But whatever issues Hearst had in qualifying and heat races, it appeared those problems were gone. Slowly but surely, Hearst made his way through the field, picking off car after car and steadily making his way to the front. Before everyone knew it, Hearst had moved his way into second place by lap 85 and was now challenging Sanger, who hadn’t had any pressure the whole race.

For the next few laps, Hearst continued to inch his way closer to Sanger’s bumper and by lap 94, he was finally within striking distance. On lap 96, with the crowd on it’s feet, Hearst powered past Sanger for the lead.

Sanger, not one to throw in the towel, didn’t give up and pressure Hearst for the last three circuits, but to would be to no avail as Hearst took the checkered and the $1,000 first-place money.

A disappointed Sanger would settle for second while Don Bohlander would take third. Steve Fraise would be scored in fourth and Rollie Frink would finish fifth.

A name familiar to Quad City race fans and a driver who was one of the most successful ever to compete on the high-banked quarter-mile, Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, would add his name to the list of Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 winners when he won the sixth annual event on Sunday, June 14, 1981.

But, it wasn’t without some controversy….

Peoria’s Jerry Wolland and Mike Chasteen were the fastest qualifiers on the evening, timing in at 15.41 and 15.51 seconds respectively, putting them on the front row of the 100-lap marathon.

Wolland led the first three laps until he spun in turn one and Chasteen took over, leading until lap 10 when an accident occurred causing the red flag to come out and bringing the field to a halt.

During the red flag, Chasteen’s crew came out on the track, removed his hood and started working on his car. Track officials intervened and told Chasteen he would be sent to the rear of the field for the infraction. What followed was a bad scene, hot tempers and Chasteen being told to park his car in the pits for the remainder of the race.

While an irate Chasteen loaded his car up on the trailer, Roger Dolan inherited the top spot and kept the lead through lap 26 when Webb motored past Dolan on the outside to take the top spot.

It wouldn’t be a cakewalk for Webb, however, as Ed Sanger passed Dolan as well and was glued to Webb’s bumper for the remaining circuits. Dolan and defending champion Tom Hearst also stayed with the lead pack, making Webb work every lap en route to a $1,500 victory.

Sanger, who finished second to Hearst the year before, settled for runner-up honors again with Dolan, Hearst and Rollie Frink in the top five. Thirteen of the 22 starters were still battling at the 100-lap mark.

What was even more amazing about Sanger and Hearst finishing in the top five was they were both late arrivals to the track and were unable to qualify during time trials. Sanger managed to qualify through his heat, but Hearst had to make the show through the semi-feature, starting at the rear of that field, but winning handily.

Webb, Chasteen, and Jim Sandusky were heat winners.

Mike Chasteen would have a whole year to think about the way things turned out that evening, so when the seventh annual Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 rolled around on Sunday, June 13, 1982, the Peoria, Ill., hot shoe was bound and determined the $1,500 first-place money and trophy were going home with him.

A record 34 late models descended upon East Moline, Ill., a record for the event. Roger Long would shatter the track record in time trials, lowering it to 14.36 seconds, giving the Fithian, Ill., driver the pole position.

Long, Jim Sandusky, and defending champion Gary Webb were heat winners while Tom Hearst, late again as usual, won the semi-feature.

Long would take the immediate lead in the 100-lapper and things were looking fine for “The Flying Farmer” until lap 40 when Chasteen, who had been picking cars off one by one from his ninth starting spot, took the lead from Long on the backstretch and was off to the races.

Chasteen proved to be no match for the rest of the 22-car field and won going away, collecting the $1,500 in winnings plus another $600 in lap money, making it the biggest win of his career.

Long would take second with Ed Sanger in third, Rollie Frink in fourth and Ray Guss Jr. taking fifth. 

Gary Webb would become the first two-time winner of the Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 when he scored the victory on Tuesday, June 14, 1983 at East Moline Speedway. Webb took over the lead on lap 41 when Rollie Frink suffered a flat tire and went on to post the win before a near-capacity crowd.

Webb’s $2,000 victory was anything but easy as Ron Gustaf of East Moline applied pressure the whole way, but Webb pulled away in the closing laps to seal the deal. Roger Long was third, Frink came back from his flat tire to finish an impressive fourth and Ed Sanger rounded out the top five.

Ray Guss Jr. set fast time while Sanger, Webb and Long were heat winners. Rich Cole of Kewanee, Ill., was the semi-feature winner. 

It seems like every annual racing event always has that one upset, and the eighth annual Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 provided the shocker of the year when Bob Helm of Milan, Ill., defeated some of the Midwest’s very best late model pilots to score the surprising win on June 12, 1984.

Helm could only muster a second-place finish in the trophy dash and a third-place finish in third heat but managed to save the best for last in the 100-lap finale to collect the huge $2,000 payday.

When the feature began, there were five different track champions in the race – Gary Webb, Roger Dolan, Ed Sanger, Dick Taylor of Springfield, Ill., and Lil’ John Provenzano of Aurora, Ill.

After 62 laps, Gary Webb held the lead with Helm a close second. Helm took over the lead on lap 69 and Roger Dolan also moved past Webb to take over the number two slot.

From there, it was bumper to bumper racing between Helm and Dolan, with Dolan trying to muscle inside of Helm lap after lap but Helm shutting the door each and every time.

At the finish line it was the same result – Helm taking the checkered flag and the biggest win of his career, much to the delight of the capacity crowd who turned out on a beautiful Tuesday evening.

Dolan would finish second, only a few feet behind Helm with Gary Webb, Ed Sanger and Rick Wages of Moline, Ill., rounding out the top five.

Ken Schrader of Fenton, Mo., would win the trophy dash while Dolan, Schrader, and Darrell Marmor of River Grove, Ill., grabbed heat wins. Dick Schiltz of Waterloo, Iowa, took semi-feature honors.

The name would change but the race would remain the same for the next few years. The next year, the Pabst Blue Ribbon 100 would become the Coors 100. A 25-year-old Ray Guss Jr. would win the 1985 race and Gary Webb would come back in 1986 to win a record third time.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Basement Archives

From Hawkeye Racing News, April 30, 1987

Jeff Aikey, Dave Farren, Greg DeFrance and Todd Johnson were feature winners as Marshalltown Speedway kicked off its season with a large crowd and great car count on Friday, April 24. The late models, under IMCA sanctioning for the first time, put on an exciting show. Jeff Aikey, from Cedar Falls, Iowa, worked his way through the pack and overtook Steve Borts of Ames, Iowa, on lap 10 en route to the victory. Farren, from Des Moines, easily outdistanced the IMCA modified field for 20 laps while DeFrance made it a clean sweep in the IMCA stock car division. Todd Johnson of Des Moines won his heat and feature in the thunder car class.

The crowning of four champions highlighted Friday’s Winston 50 Spring Spectacular at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City. Gene Claxton of Kansas City got the early jump on polesitter Joe Kosiski of Omaha and maintained a comfortable lead over Steve Kosiski to win the 40-lap NASCAR late model feature. Stillman Young of Independence, Mo., drove to his first career sportsman feature on the half-mile while Duane Walker of Overland Park, Kan., led wire to wire in the 20-lap modified main. Raytown, Mo.’s Mike Hoenshell won the 12-lap charger feature.

Ron Standridge of Springfield, Ill., one of four racing brothers, used a yellow flag to his advantage to win the 25-lap sprint car feature race Friday night at Jacksonville Motor Speedway. After a lap 19 caution bunched the field, Standridge moved around Tony Weyant, also of Springfield, on lap 21 and two laps later got around his brother, Randy Standridge, for the win.

Steve Kinser, driving Karl Kinser’s Coors Light Gambler, drove to a convincing win before a huge crowd at the World of Outlaws’ spring opener at Knoxville Raceway on Saturday, April 25. The win paid the Bloomington, Ind., veteran $8,000 and it was Kinser’s 176th career World of Outlaws victory.

Ray Guss Jr. won one of the most hotly contested Winston Racing Series late model features ever at West Liberty Raceway Saturday night. Guss, of Milan, Ill., was the last of four drivers involved in five lead changes in the 25-lap main event. Bruce Hanford paced the field for the first 12 laps while Rollie Frink was credited with leading laps 13 through 16. Hanford regained the top spot for laps 17 and 18 until Frink regained control for laps 19 and 20. As Hanford and Frink dominated the show, Guss worked his way from his 11th starting position and capped the exciting event by passing the front-runners and controlling the final five laps.

Tom Pauley of Justice, Ill., scored the victory in the 30-lap late model tilt at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on Saturday night. Pauley dueled with Lil’ John Provenzano early in the contest, until Jim O’Conner, sitting in third, took advantage of the battling duet, and moved into the lead on lap 7. O’Conner’s lead would be short-lived as Pauley, with Provenzano following behind, succeeded in regaining the top spot. Although contested strongly by O’Conner to the finish, Pauley would hold on for his first win of the season.

History was made when the powerful USAC sprint cars raced at Eldora Speedway on Saturday night. It was the first “winged” sprint car race ever run by USAC. Rick Ungar of Memphis, Tenn., took charge on lap 27 after Dave Blaney lost his rear end while leading the event. Following Ungar to the checkered was Warren Mockler, Ron Milton, Kelly Kinser and Tray House.

Beloit, Wis., driver Dennis Miller ended a 19-month dry spell at Rockford Speedway Saturday night by winning the NASCAR Grand American late model 30-lap feature race. It was the first feature win for Miller since taking the checkered in the National Short Track Championships “Rockford Rules 100” in September of 1985. Miller and his Chevrolet IROC Camaro got by race leader Al Papini on lap 5 and led the rest of the way.

Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, cleaned house at the Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway season opener on Sunday evening, April 25. Aikey led start to finish in the 25-lap NASCAR late model feature, finishing ahead of Dick Schiltz of Waterloo, Dan Dickey of Packwood, Denny Ansel of Dubuque and Dale Fischlein of Independence.

Ray Guss Jr. may have taken the checkered flag, but Rollie Frink pocketed the cash. Frink finished second in the Freeport Super Raceway’s 50-lap late model season opener on Sunday night, but was awarded the $1,000 payoff after Guss was disqualified later in the pits for an illegal clutch.

Danny Wallace of Des Moines captured the IMCA modified feature race Sunday night as Stuart Speedway opened for the 1987 racing season. Wallace held off 1986 IMCA National Series champion Dude Thompson of Huxley, Iowa, and 1986 IMCA national champion Dave Farren of Des Moines for the victory.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Basement Archives

From Hawkeye Racing News, June 29, 1967

A near-capacity crowd was on its feet to witness a photo finish Wednesday night, June 21, at the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds’ half-mile oval. Bill Hudson of New Sharon, Iowa, grabbed the lead at the start of the 15-lapper and was never headed. Marvin Korns of Brooklyn, Iowa, however, made it interesting and pressured Hudson, racing side-by-side the last few laps of the contest with Hudson winning by the length of a bumper at the finish.

Super modified racing finally got off and running after two weeks of rain outs at the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds on Friday, June 23. Joe Saldana of Lincoln, Neb., took Jack Thompson’s green flag at the beginning of the 15-lap feature and never looked back, lapping everyone but the second and third-place finishers. Lonnie Jensen, also of Lincoln, finished a distant second while Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa, took third.

Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, chauffeured his Ford to his first feature win of the season at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport on Friday night. Weedon ran unchallenged for most of the 25-lap contest, winning handily over Don Bohlander, Johnny Beauchamp and Bill McDonough. Heat winners were Lyle McNull and Lyle Behne while Bruce Sunbeck won the semi-main and Fred Strube was first in the consolation.

The largest crowd of the season at Air-View Speedway in Monticello, Iowa, watched a tremendous see-saw battle Friday night as Dick Nesteby of Dubuque and Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo fought it out for the top. Nesteby finally wrestled the lead from Zwanziger on lap 15 and despite late pressure from Waterloo’s Red Droste, was able to pull away for the win. Droste would settle for second followed by Zwanziger, Tom Hughes of Monticello and Ed Sanger of Waterloo.

John Moss of Iowa City led the last half of the 50-lap feature to win the Mississippi Valley Speed Club mid-season championship at West Liberty Raceway on Saturday, June 24. Moss took over the top spot midway through the contest when race leader Mark Mosier of Washington lost his left front wheel on the backstretch. Moss crossed the finish line less than a car length ahead of Mel Morris of West Liberty. Tom Stewart of Washington, the race’s leader for the first 12 circuits, grabbed third place.

Larry Cannon, the likable lead foot from Oakwood, Ill., dominated the super modified races at American Legion Speedway in Fairbury, Ill., on Saturday night. Cannon quieted the rest of his competitors, setting fast time (15.66), winning the 6-lap dash, his 10-lap heat, and the 25-lap feature to sweep the card. Steve Cannon, Larry’s younger brother, would finish second in the main event, followed by Bubby Jones of Danville, Ill.

Defending 34 Race Ways modified champion Duane Stoneking ended his streak of hard luck as he won the “A” main and the trophy dash on Saturday night. “Stoney” started on the pole by virtue of setting fast time and moved from that spot to lead all 20 laps en route to the checkers. He won by a comfortable margin over Ron Jackson and Mike Niffenegger. Bob Lane, Jackson and Kenny Ellis were heat winners and Fibber McGee was the “B” feature winner.

Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, won the 75-lap stock car feature at Soldier Field in Chicago Saturday night after battling head to head with Sal Tovella of Addison, Ill. Tovella, who recorded fast time in qualifying, received special permission from the United States Auto Club to compete in the event. A crowd of 4,975 hardy fans braved cold, damp weather to see the IMCA-sanctioned feature, in which Stott took the lead on lap 44 after trailing Tovella from the start. Making his first career start at Soldier field, 1966 IMCA national champion Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, finished third.

Don Bohlander, the Glasford, Ill., charger easily pushed his 1963 Plymouth to victory before a very slim and cold crowd at Peoria Speedway on Saturday evening. Bohlander, starting in the last row, worked his way through the field and passed leader Alan May on lap 16. He was never seriously challenged after that and cruised to his second straight feature win. Jim Strube of Peoria would take runner-up honors with John Beauchamp of Atlantic, Iowa, grabbing the final podium spot.

Delayed by rain for a day, the weekly super stock races at Marshalltown Speedway were held Sunday evening, June 25, with Jerry LeCroy of Des Moines walking off with the feature victory. A Central Iowa Fair-sized crowd was on hand to watch LeCroy edge out Bob Bonzer of Liscomb for the top prize. Following LeCroy and Bonzer to the finish line were Curt Hogue of Ames, Iowa, Dave Brannon of Marshalltown and Bob Eurom of Marshalltown.

Darrel Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, driving his 1967 Ford, was the big winner in the late model class at Speedbowl Park in Sterling, Ill., on Sunday. Dake finished almost half a lap ahead of the field at the checkers, well ahead of Verlin Eaker, John Connolly, Alan May and Ed Bohlen. Dake also won his heat race and semi-main, making it a clean sweep on the evening.

Red Droste of Waterloo added to his string of victories as he won the feature Sunday night at Tunis Speedway. It was the fourth consecutive night that the purse exceeded $2,000, with a total purse of $2,600 being paid this night. Roger Kruse of Independence, the first heat winner, lead in the early going before Droste took over and pulled away from the field. Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo, the third heat winner, took second in the main event while Cal Swanson of Reinbeck was third, Mert Williams of Rochester, Minn., grabbed fourth and Ed Sanger of Waterloo rounded out the top five.

Lyle McNall of Aledo, Ill., outdueled fellow townsman Del Williams and won the 25-lap IMCA late model main at Quad City Raceway in East Moline, Ill., on Sunday night. Not only did McNall and Williams finish one-two in the feature but in the first heat as well. The feature victory at Quad City was McNall’s first in over two years. He won his first feature there in his rookie year of 1965. McNall started on the outside of the front row and built a quarter-lap lead at the beginning. Midway through the race, Williams, who started in the third row, had worked his way through traffic and was in hot pursuit of McNall. Williams made up considerable ground but ran out of laps and was unable to catch the leader, who was piloting a 1961 Studebaker powered by a 327 cubic-inch Chevrolet motor.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The El Kahir Shrine Race: Racing So Kids Can Walk

Joe Merryfield of Des Moines, Iowa, poses proudly with his trophy after winning the 1978 El Kahir Shrine Race. 

by Lee Ackerman 
Cedar Rapids, Iowa - In 1978, the El Kahir Shriners teamed with Promoter Al Frieden and Hawkeye Downs to create the El Kahir Shrine Race with proceeds from the event going to the Shriners’ Children’s Hospital. The first race took place on Tuesday, August 1, 1978.

Fifth-eight late models signed in for the event which paid the winner of the 50-lap feature $1,250. Veteran Ed Sanger of Waterloo got things off to a fast start in time trials as he set a new track record of 23.671 seconds. Bill Beckman of Lisbon was not far behind at 23.779 seconds. Former time trial record holder Curt Hansen of Dike’s evening ended early when he broke a steering arm in qualifying and crashed into the retaining wall ending his night.

Ken Walton of Marion took home the 6-lap trophy dash with J.J. Smith of Appleton, Wisconsin finishing second and Bill Rice of Des Moines third. Heat race wins went to Tom Frady of Cedar Rapids, Tom Bartholomew of Waterloo, Johnny Johnson of Iowa City and Tom Hearst of Wilton with Bill Martin of Council Bluffs winning the 20-lap consolation event.

Ed Sanger and Bill Beckman lead the field to the green but it wasn’t long and it became apparent the man on the move was Joe Merryfield. By lap 10, the Des Moines chauffeur was up to fifth. By lap 15, he was fourth. On lap 19, he got together with Denny Osborn of Cedar Falls and ended up in the infield. Starter Engel DeKoch ruled a “no-fault” restart. On the restart, Merryfield took second and moved past leader Bill Rice on the 30th lap.

Merryfield was the class of the field with J.J. Smith getting by Rice on lap 45, but unable to run down Merryfield. Following Merryfield and Smith to the line were Rice, Walton and Ed Sanger.

Verlin Eaker won the 1979 El Kahir Shrine race. 

Going into the second annual El Kahir Shrine race held on July 31, 1979, one driver had dominated the big events at Hawkeye Downs ever since winning the inaugural Yankee Dirt Classic the previous September. That driver was Mechanicsville’s Verlin Eaker.
Since winning the Yankee at Hawkeye Downs he had added the Miller 100 and the Winston 50 to his trophy case. There would be no reason to believe that he would not be the man to beat in the El Kahir race.

Time trials saw the always tough Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wisconsin set fast time at 23.47 seconds. Bill Zwanziger, Red Dralle, Steve Keppler, Mike Niffenegger and Eaker would round out the top six. Fortunately for the field the top six was not be inverted and it was a heads up start.

Kalona’s Mike Niffenegger won the trophy dash with Eaker coming in second. Heat wins went to Tim McDonough of Cedar Rapids, Jack Mitchell of Cedar Rapids, Tom Bartholomew of Waterloo, Tom Hearst of Wilton and Dick Schiltz of Waterloo. Hearst then bested Delhi’s Bob Schulte in the semi-feature.

Zwanziger grabbed the lead from his outside pole position and stayed there for most of the race. By lap 30, Eaker had moved up to challenge and the two put on a side by side battle that brought the fans to their feet. Finally, on lap 43 Eaker edged to the lead and remained there for the rest of the 50-lap event. On the last lap, Curt Hansen slipped by Zwanziger for second. Steve Keppler of Marion would finish fourth and Plank fifth. The capacity crowd had been treated to another great race at Hawkeye Downs.

In 1980 the format for the race was changed. There were no heat races, just time trials, a trophy dash, a B feature followed by a 100-lap feature. One thing that did not change however was the fact that an Iowa driver who had previously won the World 100, once again won the El Kahir race.

A new track record was set during time trials as Dick Schiltz posted a lap of 23.172 seconds. Marion’s Fred Horn posted a 23.344 just missing the old track record. Fifth fast qualifier Ken Walton won the 6-lap trophy dash with Leon Plank finishing second. A 20-lap B feature was then run to fill the remaining spots in the feature not decided by time trials. Bill McArdle of Hazel Green, Wisconsin won the event with Bob Schulte also advancing to the 100-lap A feature.

The A feature turned out to be not only a great race but may have been decided by carbon monoxide. Ken Walton got the jump from his outside pole position and led the first 12 laps before being passed by Curt Hansen. The Hansen pass for the lead was assisted by the fact that Walton rammed a slowing Mel Morris allowing Hansen to get by on the inside. Hansen and Walton then started pulling away from the field but on lap 23 Hansen’s night was over as he went pit side with mechanical gremlins.

Ken Walton score the win in the 1980 El Kahir Shrine race. 

Walton continued to lead the race. The race was interrupted by rain near the half-way point causing it to go under caution for several laps and created vision problems for some of the drivers because of wet visors. The race resumed on lap 55 with Schiltz passing Walton for the lead one lap later. On lap 90, Schiltz suddenly got into the wall hard allowing Walton to pass and go on to take the win. Schlitz held on to second with Wisconsin’s Peter Parker, Tom Hearst and Duane Steffe of Colona, Illinois rounding out the top five.

Things got a bit bizarre after the race. Schiltz went across the scales, then loaded his car but he could not get out of his race car. Schiltz was administered oxygen and taken to Mercy Hospital and later released. It turns out that Schiltz had driven the last 20 laps in a dazed condition because of being overcome by carbon monoxide gas and could hardly remember the last 20 laps.

“Both Curt and Dick were faster than I there at the end,” Walton said after the race. “I ran steady the whole 100 laps and that’s what counted tonight. The rain definitely changed the track. Before the rain, I was running a high groove, but after it ended, I was down on the bottom. It didn’t look like much to the people maybe, but it (the rain) was enough to change the track.”

Ed Sanger won the fourth and final El Kahir Shrine race in 1981. 

In 1981, both the format for the race and the track hosting the race changed. One thing did not change, for the fourth year in a row a former World 100 winner went to victory lane. The race was moved to the Independence Motor Speedway and they ran no time trials. Ed Sanger, Rick Wendling of Hazleton and Greg Kastli of Waterloo won the heats with Dick Schiltz winning the consolation race.

The 50-lap feature was all Ed Sanger. Sanger took the lead at the drop of the green and was simply gone. Sanger was in lapped traffic within a few laps and pulled away from the field to score an easy victory. Greg Kastli came home with a solid second place finish. The real battle was for third with four drivers battling to the end for that spot. Rick Wendling came away with the spot followed by Gary Tigges of Durango, Red Dralle of Evansdale and Schiltz. Those were the only cars on the track not lapped by Sanger.

Schiltz, who missed his heat race because his crew was making changes to the car, then won the consolation event and started 16th in the feature and made it up to sixth.

The 1981 race drew considerably less cars than the previous three years and may have been a factor in it being the last year of the race. Whatever the reason for its demise, the El Kahir Shrine race provided some great racing and more importantly raised money for a great cause.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

1980 – Bettenhausen Claims ‘Dirt’ Championship

Gary Bettenhausen receives his trophy after winning the 100-lapper at 'The Action Track'.

Terre Haute, Ind. (November 2, 1980) — Gary Bettenhausen was named the 1980 United States Auto Club’s National Dirt Car Champion Sunday after winning the 100-lap dirt car race at the Vigo County Fairgrounds' half-mile dirt oval. 

Bettenhausen, 38, Monrovia, Ind., took home $4,500 in prize money from the win.

Bettenhausen led the first 62 laps of the race, then lost the lead to Tom Bigelow, Whitewater, Wis., until he spun out and hit the wall in lap 87. Bigelow was not hurt.

Bettenhausen took the lead again and held it for the victory.

Johnny Parsons, Speedway, Ind., took second place, followed by Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., who started on the pole position, in third. Larry Dickson, Marietta, Ohio, finished fourth. 

Results –

1. Gary Bettenhausen
2. Johnny Parsons
3. Ken Schrader
4. Larry Dickson
5. Pancho Carter
6. Rich Vogler
7. Larry Rice
8. Sheldon Kinser
9. Jim McElreath
10.Tom Bigelow

Friday, November 1, 2019

1981 – Teamwork Key to Race Win for Lindley

Butch Lindley

Nashville, Tenn. (November 1, 1981) – Butch Lindley says he’s had good luck racing at Nashville in the past, but he credits teamwork for his victory in the All-American 400 stock car race.

Lindley, of Greenville, S.C., took home $14,625 Sunday afternoon for crossing the finish line 5.5 seconds ahead of polesitter Mark Martin of North Liberty, Ind., at the Nashville International Speedway.

“We’ve had awful good luck here at Nashville and this isn’t the first time we’ve won here,” Lindley said. “But I believe this is the biggest race we’ve won as far as the most money and the most different types of drivers.”

The 33-year-old Lindley said he enjoyed Sunday afternoon’s 3 hour, 50 minute and 9 second drive on the .596-mile asphalt track. His average speed was 75.33 miles per hour.

“The crew did a heckuva job and that’s what it takes to win. If you don’t put it all together at the same time, most of the time you lose,” Lindley remarked.

“They knew what to do today and I tried to do the best job I possibly could,” added the victor, who is a two-time NASCAR sportsman national champion.

Lindley, driving a GT Racing Flash Dillon Camaro, led 204 of the 400 laps.

Behind Lindley and Martin were Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Joe Shear of Twin Lakes, Wis., and Don Sprouse of Greer, S.C.

Lindley led all but 15 of the last 154 laps, falling behind only when he pitted for a fresh set of tires. Martin did not change tires for the final 270 laps and slowed towards the end of the contest.


1. Butch Lindley
2. Mark Martin
3. Dick Trickle
4. Joe Shear
5. Don Sprouse
6. Alan Kulwicki
7. Dave Watson
8. Bruce VanderLaan
9. Sterling Marlin
10. Buddy Schrock
11. Bobby Tinkham 
12. Harold Fair
13. Butch Miller
14. Rick Wilson
15. Rat Lane
16. Dennis Vogel
17. Rusty Wallace
18. Junior Niedecken
19. Bob Senneker
20. Doug Klein
21. Jackie McGuire
22.Alton Jones
23. Tony Cunningham
24. Freddy Fryar
25. Bob Strait
26. John Knaus
27. Don Gregory
28. Randy Couch
29. Larry Moyer
30. Mike Eddy
31. Steve Grissom
32. David Pearson
33. Kasper Miles
34. Darryl Sage
35. Bob Sensiba
36. Don Biederman
37. Jimmy Finger
38. John Briggs
39. Rodney Combs
40. Robin McCall

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

1977 - Detjens Wins Craig NASCAR

Larry Detjens accepts his trophy and congratulations after winning. 

Las Vegas, Nev. (October 30, 1977) - After coming all the way from frigid northern Wisconsin. Larry Detjens froze out defending champion Larry Phillips over the final few laps to capture the ninth annual NASCAR Championships at Craig Road Speedway Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 5,400.

Detjens, Wausau, Wis., who started from the second row, took over the lead on the 55th lap from pole-sitter Jimmy Insolo and drove a perfect race for the remainder of the 150-lapper over the quarter-mile paved oval.

The 33-year-old body shop owner never had trouble with his 1976 Camaro until the brakes began to fade over the final 20 laps. But he had built up a large enough lead that he could afford to ease up a little and still hold off the hard-charging Phillips who was only about five lengths behind at the finish.

Phillips, Springfield, Mo., had won last year’s finale at Craig Road and started ninth in this race. But he moved quickly through the field and took over second place from the quickly-fading Insolo on the 71st lap. By that time, Detjens had built up a sizable lead.

Detjens, who earned $5,000 plus lap money and contingencies, and Phillips were the only drivers on the same lap when the checkered flag fell.

Ivan Baldwin, Modesto, Calif., who started fifth, drove his usual steady race to finish third, while Jim Robinson, Sylmar, Calif., turned in the most spectacular work of the day, starting in the 24th and final spot on the grid with his 1974 Camaro and finishing fourth.

Robinson, who did not qualify during the time trials Saturday but won a semi-main event to earn a spot in the finale dueled former Craig Road champion Jim Sanderson over the latter half of the race, but Sanderson's badly smoking Camaro slowed considerably over the final 15 laps.

Phil Hayes, this year's Craig Road points champion, was the only other Southern Nevada driver in the field. He started fourth and lost valuable groun early in the race but still finished strong.

“It was a well-run race. I’m certainly happy to win it,” said Detjens. “Everything was going our way. But 20 laps from the finish, the brakes began to fade. I had to get off the pace a little just to save them.”

Detjens said he had only a little bit of brakes remaining when the race finished but he couldn't afford to make any mistakes with Phillips behind him.

"I raced back in the Midwest with him,” the winner said of Phillips. "He’s an excellent driver, one of the top racers up there.”

It was Detjens first trip to the West and he called Sunday’s event the best pay day for any quarter-mile race of 150 laps anywhere in the country. Detjens was particularly happy with the safe driving of his rivals who forced only a few routine yellow flags and one red caused by a four-car mishap 44 laps into the event.

“I’m impressed with the drivers out here. They're excellent.”

Results –

1. Larry Detjens
2. Larry Phillips
3. Ivan Baldwin
4. Jim Robinson
5. Jimmy Insolo
6. Phil Hayes
7. Mike Bonicelli
8. Mark Martin
9. Dick Trickle
10.James Sanderson