Thursday, December 17, 2009

Despite rain in the Soup, the 2009 Alphabet race was a classic

John Anderson (2) and Chad Simpson (25) do battle during the main event of the Alphabet Soup Race at I-80 Speedway. - Lloyd Collins Photo

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - One of the biggest dirt late model races of the year in the heartland is the annual Alphabet Soup Race at I-80 Speedway near Greenwood, Neb., on Memorial Day Sunday. This year (2009) it was postponed for over 2 hours because of rain showers, but the rain did nothing other than make for one heck of a race. Promoter Ed Kosiski’s crew took over after the showers that hit just after the first session of hot laps and gave the drivers and fans a great, tacky track.

The race gets its name from acronyms of the different regional racing series that participate in the annual event. This year the soup was made up of the World Dirt Racing League (WDRL), the Midwest Late Model Racing Association (MLRA) and the National Championship Racing Association (NCRA). Sixty three late models were on hand for this year’s version of the Soup race. This meant seven heat races. Despite a somewhat wet track at the restart of activities, as the night wore on the racing surface would get better and better. Heat one would be a run-a-way as John Anderson took off from the pole position and and simply left the rest of the field behind. Aaron Seabaugh and Joe Kosiski would finish second and third. Heat two would go to multiple-time MLRA champion Alan Vaughn of Belton, Missouri. Vaughn would won out over another multi-time champion of both the MLRA and NCRA in “the Shark” Al Purkey. Jerry Warner would pick up the win in heat 3 with the best run coming from “the Joker” Mike Collins of Council Bluffs who charged up from his seventh starting position to grab second. Ronnie Wallace used the outside front row starting position to his advantage and went on to take heat 4. “The Marquette Missile” Kyle Berck charged from his ninth starting position to take second. Defending WDRL champion Chad Simpson came from outside row 2 to take the fifth heat over Missouri’s David Turner who started eighth. Jeremy Grady would pick up heat six over Jason O’Brien. I-80 regular Craig Preble would win the final heat with Aurora’s Mike Wiarda starting 7th and finishing second.

Since cars transferring from the heats to the feature was determined by passing points and not necessarily how they finished in the heats the following 8 cars, who had earned the most total points in the heats would transfer to the pole dash which was ran later in the evening. Those cars were Mike Collins, Chad Simpson, David Turner, Kyle Berck, Mike Wiarda, Alan Vaughn, Ronnie Wallace and Jeremy Grady. Ten other cars transferred to the feature from the heats for a total of 18. With 63 late models in the pits it would require 3 consolations races to finish filling the field. Only the top 2 from each consolation race would transfer to the feature. Because only two cars from each consolation race transferred to the A this provided the fans with some great racing and it would not be unusual in these races to see three and fours cars fighting for the last transfer position as the track had become very race.

Consolation 1 went to Josh Most driving a Bryant Goldsmith back up car with Travis Dickes also transferring. Wisconsin’s John Kaanta, (who had been edged out by Chad Simpson for the 2008 WDRL title) would take consy number two with Shawn Hawker in tow. The final consolation would go to Omaha racing legend Joe Kosiski with Bryant Goldsmith nailing down the 24th and last qualified position. The Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation Pole Dash to determine the first four rows of the feature so Mike Collins take the lead from the pole and hold on to grab the pole position for the upcoming 50-lap feature. Kyle Berck would finish second, David Turner third and Mike Wiarda fourth. To fill out the field to a starting field of 30 cars for the 50 lap main event, each of the three sanctioning bodies added two provisional.

The stage was set and a near capacity was about to witness what many would say was the best race they had ever watched at I-80. Sanctioning body officials would also agree it was one of the best races they had ever sanctioned. As they came down for the green it was Mike Collins on the pole flanked by Kyle Berck, Collins jumped into the lead and would maintain that position for 16 laps looking like he may be the man to beat. Chad Simpson was able to get by Collins in lapped traffic but a caution flag put Collins back in front. On the restart Simpson grabbed the lead and was soon by himself out front. Meanwhile behind Simpson a war was been waged between Anderson, Berck and Collins. The three swapped positions over and over again before Collins fell out and would retire from the race.

“We led for 16 laps and I was running fourth battling with Kyle (Berck), when my crank trigger went out,” said Collins. “The front four had pulled away so I think I could have probably finished fourth.” continues Collins.

Then it became a battle for the lead with Simpson, Anderson and Berck in a three way battle with the lead changing but Simpson always holding on to the lead at the line. Then with just six laps to go with Simpson being pressured hard by Anderson and Berck, he jumped the cushion in turn three and four and destroyed his right rear tire and came to a stop in turn four. Simpson would head to the pits and replace the right rear and rejoin the field. On the restart Anderson would be at the point followed by Berck and Al Purkey who had came from his 12th starting position. At the drop of the green, a six-lap shootout commenced, but with four to go Simpson and Eckrich got together coming out of four and Simpson went spinning down the front stretch. John Kaanta had no place to go and ended up hitting the spinning Simpson head on ending Kaanta’s evening. On the restart, Anderson was able to hold off a hard charging Berck and pick up the win bringing to an end one of the best 50 laps of racing seen in the heartland in sometime. Al Purkey would finish third, Alan Vaughn would finish fourth and Denny Eckrich, who had started 25th would finish 5th.

Family and friends help Alphabet Soup Race winner John Anderson celebrate in victory lane. - Lloyd Collins Photo

“That was a phenomenal race the way it played out. We had to battle through lapped traffic on a fine line.” Recalls John Anderson. “I was following Berck and he was fighting it out with Simpson. Just being in that battled was awesome.” Despite a long night, the near capacity crowd was treated to some outstanding and unforgettable racing on a track that allowed for drivers to swap positions all night long. Many fans would state it was one of the best races they had ever witnessed. It truly was a race to remember.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did you know?

Due to being the 1963 and 1964 IMCA new model stock car national champion, Keokuk, Iowa driver Dick Hutcherson was not eligible for the 1965 NASCAR Grand National Series Rookie of the Year even though he won nine times and finished second in the final point standings. The award was given to Sam McQuagg.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

1972 - Goodwin, Janey crowned IMCA champs

Des Moines, Iowa - Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City, Mo. and Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa were crowned IMCA national champions in Des Moines during the annual banquet.

Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City, Mo., claimed his first IMCA national championship in the sprint division in 1972. 

Goodwin piled up a total of 1,830 points and nosed out Chuck Amati of Greenfield, Tenn., with 1,665 to win the 1972 IMCA sprint car national championship. This was Goodwin's first title. He put together 615 points behind the wheel of Hank Smith's Chevy and the remainder in the Chuck Swenson Chevy.

       Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was the 1972 IMCA new model stock car national champion.

Irv Janey won a total of 11 features to win the 1972 IMCA new model stock car national title with a total of 2,224 points. Janey did the winning in the J&M Engineering 1971 Plymouth. Gerry Harrison of Topeka, Kan., placed second for the season with 1,596 points. Janey received $3,500 for winning his title and Goodwin was presented $2,525 for the sprint car championship. 

Tom Stewart of Washington, Iowa was named rookie-of-the-year in the stock car division and Tom Nordstrom of White Bear Lake, Minn., claimed the sprint car rookie laurels. Most improved driver awards went to Jim Still of Topeka, Kan., in the stock car class and Thad Dosher of Topeka in the sprint car category. Best dressed pit crew awards went to Thurman Lovejoy of Kansas City, Mo., in stocks and Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa and Hank Smith of Mt. Ayr, Iowa in the sprints.

Official IMCA New Model Stock Car Point Standings 1. Irv Janey, Cedar Rapids, Iowa - 2,224 2. Gerry Harrison, Topeka, Kan. - 1,596 3. Jim Hager, Liberty, Mo. - 1,570 4. Gordon Blankenship, Keokuk, Iowa - 1,535 5. Thurman Lovejoy, Kansas City, Mo. - 1,188 6. Jerre Wichman, Kansas City, Mo. - 1,025 7. Vern Mondry, Lake Elmo, Minn. - 872 8. Jim Still, Topeka, Kan. - 706 9. Carl Vander Wal, Ames, Iowa - 658 10. Blackie Wangerin, Bloomington, Minn. - 540 

Official IMCA Sprint Car Point Standings 1. Ray Lee Goodwin, Kansas City, Mo. - 1,830 2. Chuck Amati, Greenfield, Tenn. - 1,665 3. Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo. - 1,640 4. Earl Wagner, Pleasantville, Iowa - 1,365 5. Thad Dosher, Topeka, Kan. - 1,185 6. Steve Schultz, Chillicothe, Mo. - 1,075 7. Ron Perkins, Des Moines, Iowa - 1,030 8. Ralph Parkinson Jr., Kansas City, Mo. - 915 9. Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill. - 905 10. Dave Ross, Jetmore, Kan. - 835

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Remembering the Nebraska Triple Crown at Sunset

By Lee Ackerman 
Omaha, Neb. - In 1973 Lyle Kline and Gaylen Brotherson, co-owners of Sunset Speedway, came up with an idea for a State Championship race. The race was called the Nebraska Triple Crown Championships and featured championships in 3 separate divisions, Late Models, Modifieds and Sprint Cars. Drivers from tracks all over the state of Nebraska were eligible for the event which would pay a total purse of $5,000.

The inaugural event was on Sept. 14, 1973 with wins going to Bill Wrich of Kennard, Neb., in the Late Models, Wilbert Hecke of Kearney in the Modifieds and Dick Sutcliffe of Kansas City, Mo., in the Sprint Cars. Seventy-five drivers signed in for the event, representing Cornhusker State tracks in Lexington, Red Cloud, Grand Island, Hastings, Lincoln, Eagle, York Norfolk, South Sioux City and Nebraska City as well as Sunset.

Kline and Brotherson were excited about the outcome of the first event, “We were very pleased with the entire program,” said Kline. Brotherson added, “It came off beautifully due to the drivers, who were experienced drivers and who knew how to react to a foreign track.” The top five in Late Models were Wrich, Bob Kosiski, Randy Sterner, Glenn Robey and Keith Leithoff. Following Hecke home in the Modified feature were Don Weyhrich, Ken McCarty, Gene Brudigan and Jim Goettsche. Don Maxwell, Wayne Holz, Gary Dunkle and Vince Kelley rounded out the top 5 behind Sutcliffe in the Sprint Car main.

Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., was a two-time Nebraska Triple Crown winner ('73 & '74) in the sprint car division.

On September 15, 1974, at the second running of the event, veteran Sprint Car driver Dick Sutcliffe showed that he hadn’t forgotten the way around Sunset Speedway as he successfully defended his Sprint Car championship. Lloyd Beckman, Ed Bowes, Wayne Holz and Jim Golden followed. Dick Sutcliffe was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2001. 

New champions were crowned in the other two divisions. Dean Ward of Grand Island passed defending Modified champion Willie Hecke with three laps to go to claim the top prize in the Modified feature. Ron Williams, Lynn Grabill and Gene Brudigan rounded out the top 5. 

If you were looking for a dark horse to win one of the championships, the fans got it in the 50-lap Late Model feature. Aurora, Nebraska’s Kent Tucker grabbed the lead and looked like a sure winner until he and another competitor took each other out with five laps to go. Perennial Sunset Speedway point champion Bob Kosiski was a contender until the halfway mark when his engine let go. Twenty-four year-old rookie driver Jerry Wancewicz took the lead with five to go and held on to beat Ron Tilley for the win and his biggest win to date. Wayne Propp, Keith Leithoff and Bill Martin rounded out the top 5.

Jan Opperman, piloting the Speedway Motors 4x, dominated a stellar field of sprint cars in the 1975 Nebraska Triple Crown Championships.

The 1975 edition of the race featured a driver who became a racing legend. Jan Opperman had been at Sunset in 1974 at the USAC Midget race but his ride hadn’t made it so he had not raced at Sunset prior to the ‘76 Triple Crown. It really didn’t matter much as Opperman, at the wheel of the Speedway Motors 4x, started deep in the field and had the lead by the first lap. Opperman went on to Sprint Car portion of the event followed by a pair of South Dakota hot shoes in Roger Larson and Darrell Dawley. Rounding out the top five were Dick Morris and Eldon Rhoten. Jan Opperman raced twice at the Indianapolis 500 before being badly injured in the 1976 Hoosier Hundred. He was a member of the inaugural classes inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

In Late Model action, Aurora’s Kent Tucker picked up his first win at Sunset in taking the 50-lap late model feature. Ed Morris, Jerry Wancewicz, Mike Houston and Glen Robey rounded out the top 5. In the Modified portion of the show it was Grand Island’s Jim Goettsche winning over the Buck 98 of Don Weyrich of Norfolk followed by Ken McCarty.

Tom Bartholomew of Waterloo, Iowa took home top honors in the 50-lap late model feature of the 1976 Nebraska Triple Crown.

On September 12, 1976, a crowd 1,810 was on hand for the fourth running of the Triple Crown. 

In Sprint Car action, Des Moines Lenard McCarl appeared to be the car to beat but experienced mechanical problems. Lincoln’s Lonnie Jensen picked up his first Triple Crown win. Minnesota’s Jerry Windom, Norfolk’s Kim Lingenfelter, North Platte’s Ron Williams and Lincoln’s Gary Dunkle would follow. 

Tom Bartholomew of Waterloo, Iowa picked up the 50-lap Late Model feature as he defeated Bob Kosiski, Randy Sterner, Don Styskal and Ron Tilley. Heats went to Bob Kosiski, Jerry Wancewicz, Bill Chrisman and Al Druesdow. Larry Molzen of Le Mars, Iowa wheeled his #00 Modified to the win with eight starting Bob Layne of Kansas City finishing second and Kim Lingenfelter third.
1977 was the final year of the Triple Crown and there certainly were some fireworks in the Late Model feature as Ron Tilley and Dave Chase seemed to disagree over some real estate. At the end of the 35-lap late model feature it was the old veteran Bill Wrich of Kennard, who came from near the back of the pack to catch Kent Tucker with two laps to go and take home the win. Jerry Wancewicz, Bill Chrisman and young Joe Kosiski rounded out the top five. 

In the Modified feature, 1975 race winner Jim Goettsche had to hold off the hard-charging Bobby Layne to preserve the win. Mike Shafer, Randy Droescher and Ray Haase followed. In the Sprint car portion, it was Don Weyhrich moving up the Sprint Car ranks from the Modifieds who put his famed $1.98 in the winner’s circle. Defending race champion Lonnie Jensen was second with Bill Mellenberndt, Rich Brahmer and Jim Goettsche doing double duty rounding out the top five.
During the race’s five-year history, it provided eastern Nebraska race fans with some fast, exciting year end racing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bismarck Capital Raceway was a 1/4-mile dirt track that operated from 1951 to 1989. This was an advertisement for the 1976 racing season.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who can remember these tracks from the past? Part II

When I posted this back in July, never did I think this would conjure up so many memories for our readers. So, back by popular demand...

Champaign Motor Speedway, Champaign, Ill. - 1/4 & 1/2 mile oval that opened September 23, 1973 and ran until April 4, 1979. Torn down in the spring of 1980.

Sioux Falls Fairgrounds, Sioux Falls, S.D. - 1/2 mile dirt oval. Built in 1954 by Fred Buckmiller. Grandstands burnt to the ground in 1959 when struck by lightning. Danny Lasoski won the last race on September 26, 1999. Track was converted to a paved parking lot soon after.

Newton Speedway, Newton, Iowa - 1/5 mile dirt oval. Opened 1947, closed 1973. Site is now a little league ball park.

Hiawatha Speedway, Red Wing, Minn. - 1/4 mile dirt oval. Opened in 1955, closed in 1974. A vintage car program was run on September 26, 1999 and track was torn down soon after. The site is now a medical campus.

Chariton Speed Bowl, Chariton, Iowa - 1/2 mile dirt oval, opened in 1948 and closed in 1963.

K & L Raceway, Mt. Vernon, Ill. -1/8 & 1/5 mile dirt oval on southeast side of town. Opened in 1988 and closed in 1991 when promoter bought Mt. Vernon Raceway.

Lee County Raceway Park, Keokuk, Iowa - 1/4 mile dirt oval. Opened 1966, closed 1977.

Franklin Speedway, Franklin, Neb. - 1/4 mile dirt oval. Opened in 1953, closed in 1977.

Muncie Motor Speedway, Muncie, Ind. - 1/4 mile paved oval, opened in 1964 and closed by the EPA in 1990. It turns out the track was built on a toxic dump site.

Dawson Creek Speedway, Scotland, S.D. - 1/4 mile dirt oval. Track was in operation from 1969 until it closed in 1976. The track is still there today. Doug Wolfgang started his racing career here.

Bob McKim won the first-ever IMCA stock car race at the Topeka Fairgrounds on May 30, 1949. - Photo courtesy of Bob Lawrence

Topeka Fairgrounds, Topeka, Kan. - 1/2 mile dirt oval, opened in 1902 and closed in 1981. Track completely torn out in 1983. The first ever IMCA stock car race was held here on May 30, 1949.

O' Hare Stadium, Chicago, Ill. - 1/4 mile paved oval. Opened in 1956 and torn down in 1968. NASCAR star Fred Lorenzen was track champion in 1958. The site is now an industrial park located south of O'Hare Int'l Airport.

Minnesota State Fair Speedway, St. Paul, Minn. - Was a one mile dirt oval in the beginning (1904 - 1939) Reconfigured to a 1/2 mile dirt oval in 1940 and remained that way until 1963 when it became paved. Track was closed in 2002.

Ord Fairgrounds, Ord, Neb. - 1/4 mile dirt oval. Was originally built as a 1/2 mile flat oval horse track. Closed in 1964, the site is now warehouses and 4-H fairgrounds.

Waukon Speedway, Waukon, Iowa - 1/4 mile dirt oval, located at the Allamakee County Fairgrounds. Opened 1964, closed 1978.

Jayhawk Speedway, Newton, Kan. - 1/3 mile dirt oval. First race on September 26, 1948 and closed on August 17, 1956. It is now the site of a retirement home.

White Squirrel Speedway, Olney, Ill. - 1/4 mile dirt oval that opened in 1956 and closed in 1977. Now the site of a cement plant. Town is known for it's white squirrels, hence the name.

A full grandstands was the norm at Jungle Park Speedway in it's heydays. Here, fans enjoy a Sunday afternoon race.

Jungle Park Speedway, Rockville, Ind. - 1/2 mile dirt/paved oval (Corners were dirt, straights were paved). Built by Earl Pagett in 1920, the first race was on July 5, 1926 and closed in 1960. Sprint car star Bobby Grim got his start here.

1967 - Householder is tops at Kossuth Speedway

Butch Householder of Algona, Iowa was the 1967 points champion at Kossuth Speedway in Algona, Iowa.

As comprised by Gloria Lewerke of Britt, Iowa
Final Points Standings - Top 10

1. Butch Householder - Algona, Iowa (1,450)
2. Del Stokke - Ames, Iowa (1,392)
3. Gene Schattschneider - Algona, Iowa (1,240)
4. Carl VanderWal - Ames, Iowa (845)
5. Les Frieden - West Bend, Iowa (840)
6. Jim Edgington - Algona, Iowa (802)
7. Roy Peltz - Humboldt, Iowa (701)
8. Loren Purvis - Ames, Iowa (662)
9. Danny Ruth - Ames, Iowa (657)
10. Don "Shiney" Hilbert - Algona, Iowa (640)

1963 - Veteran driver crowned MVCC sprint champ

Galesburg, Ill. - Rocky Williams of Peoria, Ill., a 50-year-old 30-year racing veteran, won his sixth Mississippi Valley Championship Circuit sprint crown driving the Ed Arter Pontiac from Tampa, Fla.

Williams, a truck driver and farmer, didn't win a single feature all season but had seven top-five's, including two runner-up's to accumulate enough points to clinch the title.

Williams took the point's lead away from Steve Orme of Sherman, Ill., during the August 17th event at Decorah, Iowa with only one race left to run. Even with Orme's victory in the series finale at Bethany, Mo. on August 31st, Williams took a third place finish to win by four points (146 - 142).

Tom Custer of Rock Island, Ill., did a bang-up job in his first year in sprints after piloting stock cars for the last two years. Custer, driving the Kirby Brothers Chevrolet, finished third in points and earned rookie-of-the-year honors.

The following is the 1963 MVCC resume:

May 30, Granite City, Ill. - Winner: Jim Moughan, Springfield, Ill.
June 2, Bethany, Mo. - Winner: Ed Frese, Quincy, Ill.
June 22, Burlington, Iowa - Winner: Steve Orme, Sherman, Ill.
July 7, Granite City, Ill - Winner: Dave Hollis, Granite City, Ill.
July 26, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa - Winner: Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
August 4, Rochester, Minn. - Winner: Steve Orme, Sherman, Ill.
August 17, Decorah, Iowa - Winner: Hal Schroeder, Bettendorf, Iowa
August 31, Bethany, Mo. - Winner: Steve Orme, Sherman, Ill.

Final point's standings
1. Rocky Williams, Peoria, Ill. (146)
2. Steve Orme, Sherman, Ill. (142)
3. Tom Custer, Rock Island, Ill. (126)
4. Jim Murphy, South Haven, Mich. (99)
5. Vern Bailey, Taylorville, Ill. (99)
6. Duane Stoneking, Oquakwa, Ill. (87)
7. Gene Cunningham, Des Moines, Iowa (79)
8. Bob Flene, Arlington Heights, Ill. (75)
9. Bill Quigley, Aurora, Ill. (74)
10. Pee Wee Umbenstock, Peoria, Ill. (69)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Frank Winkley’s Marathon on Dirt; The Great Gopher 500 and Hawkeye 500

 Johnnie Beauchamp of Harlan, Iowa, driving Dale Swanson's Chevrolet, set numerous IMCA records while competing in both the Great Gopher 500 and Hawkeye 500. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In 1956 Frank Winkley’s Auto Racing, Inc., one of the two promotion groups for the International Motor Contest Association announced a blockbuster event to be held on the half-mile dirt track at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for Sunday, September 30, 1956. The event would be called the “Great Gopher 500” and would feature 500 laps of competition split into two 250-lap events. Time trials would be held on the 29th for a shot at the 33-car starting lineup. Both foreign and American cars were allowed to compete.

A group of St. Paul businessmen called Midwest Sports Promotions joined with Winkley and his ARI group to lease the track and provided for the first racing at the facility held outside of state fair races in nine years. The purse was set at $10,000 for the event, with the maximum amount to be earned by any one driver set at $2,000. Reserved seating was priced at $3 with boxes being $4.

A crowd of 28,312 fans (The Daytona Beach race in 1956 drew an estimated crowd of 29,000) actually saw three separate winners on race day. Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, the defending I.M.C.A. champion, was the overall winner of the 500-lap affair by posting fifth and third place finishes in the two 250-lap races. Minneapolis driver Charles Magnuson was runner-up overall with a pair of four place finishes.

Johnnie Beauchamp of Harlan, Iowa, who would dominate the 1956 I.M.C.A season, set five new I.M.C.A records in winning the first segment in an average speed of 61 miles per hour. Marvin Panch of Gardena, California passed Beauchamp on lap 62 of the second segment and went on to win that event. Beauchamp looked like a certain overall winner as he remained in second place until he was forced to retire with a blown piston.

Forty-two entrants made bids for the 33 starting positions which drew cars literally from coast to coast. I.M.C.A. regulars in attendance in addition to Beauchamp, White, and Magnuson included Sonny Morgan, Ernie Derr, Lenny Funk, Chub Liebe, Tubby Harrison, Doc Narber, Darrell Dake, Dick Johnson and Sonny Eberts. Outsiders for the event included the above-mentioned Marvin Panch, who would have great success in NASCAR, Frank Schneider of Vineland, N. J., Don Schiscler of Detroit, and Bill Amick of Portland, Oregon another NASCAR star.

Beauchamp, who won set new I.M.C.A. marks at 50, 100, 150, 200 and 250 laps in the first event, won that event in a time of 2 hours 3 minutes 13.12 seconds. Panch would take 2 hours 10 minutes 13.99 seconds in winning the second 250 lap event. Chevrolet and Ford shared the honors as Beauchamp was in his familiar #55 Swanson Chevy and Panch was driving a Ford. If there was a tiebreaker it would go to Chevrolet, as Don White who had started the year in a Dodge was also driving a Chevrolet.

The overall top five were White, Magnuson, Beauchamp, Panch with Morgan and Don Haeg tying for fifth.

Frank Winkley liked the success that he had with the Gopher 500 so well, that one year later on Sunday, September 29, 1957, he decided to have another 500-lap marathon. This time it was to be one race of 500 laps to be called the Hawkeye 500 and was held at Hawkeye Downs on the All-Iowa Fairgrounds in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Once again qualifications were held on the Saturday preceding the race and Johnny Beauchamp put his #55 Dale Swanson wrenched Chevrolet on the pole. A field of 33 cars would once again contest the event but this time in one segment. As had happened the previous year, several outsiders showed up for the event including Lou Fegers of Glenview, Illinois, Red Duvall of Hammond, Indiana, Dave Hirschfield, Bill Brown, Pete Peterson and Fred Hoff, all of Chicago, Don Oldenberg of Highland, Indiana and Bill Lutz of Louisville, Kentucky.

After 13 lead changes which saw Beauchamp, Don White, Bill Brown, and Dave Hirschfield all take turns at the front, and 4 hours 26 minutes 55.37 seconds, it was Beauchamp taking the checkered flag. Bill Brown set a new 150-mile record while Beauchamp set 200- and 250-mile marks. Ten yellow flags slowed the race which included three serious pileups. The last of these pileups included the then second running Brown when on lap 371 he drove over the west retaining wall. Fortunately, he suffered only a bruised shoulder.

Several favorites left the race with problems, starting with Omaha’s Bob Burdick after only 19 laps with motor problems in his new motor. I.M.C.A contender Lenny Funk blew an engine while in third place on lap 26. Dave Hirschfield also had engine problems on lap 41 shortly after relinquishing the lead to Beauchamp.

Despite stiff competition from drivers outside I.M.C.A., regulars would take the first eight positions, with the first five drivers all being from the Hawkeye State. The top five were Beauchamp, Don White, Chub Liebe, Frank Richards and Ernie Derr. Beauchamp received $2000 for his win and $200 for being the fastest qualifier. A crowd of nearly 10,000 was on hand at Hawkeye Downs for the event.

While the I.M.C.A would hold 200 lap and longer events for the coming years, this would be the only two events of 500 laps that they would contest on the dirt.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (1988 - The year in history)

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - I got to looking through some old racing archives from 1988 and decided to share with you some of the highlights of that season. I hope you enjoy reminiscing... 

Davenport, Iowa native Dale Fischlein got a late start to the season and still won the NASCAR Winston Racing Series Central Region title with 26 feature wins. 

Bob Hill of Story City, Iowa won the IMCA late model national title in the final race of the season. Dave Farren of Des Moines, Iowa captured the IMCA modified national crown, becoming the first two-time winner of that division. Merv Chandler of Cedar Rapids, Iowa would win the IMCA Modified Nationals Series. A young Steve Jackson of Des Moines, Iowa, would claim the first-ever IMCA stock car national championship. Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa would win his second straight Red Baron Summer Series for IMCA late models. 

Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., won his second straight Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs Speedway and Steve Kosiski would win the Yankee Dirt Track Classic. Kosiski would also lay claim to the Busch/All Star Tour point title as well. 

Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., would win an unprecedented sixth Knoxville Nationals title, also take the Eagle Raceway "Third-Mile Nationals" and follow that victory up a week later by winning the prestigious Jackson Nationals. Kinser would also win the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, an event that left Brad Doty badly injured. 

Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., and Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., split a pair of feature wins during the annual USAC "Firecracker Jamboree" in Iowa. Dick Taylor of Springfield, Ill., scored the victory in the Herald & Review 100 at Macon (Ill.) Speedway. 

Billy Moyer Jr. would dominate the first-ever World of Outlaws Late Model Tour and Scott Bloomquist, a California native now living in Tennessee, won the annual World 100. Lil' John Provenzano of Hinckley, Ill., took home the winner's share at the National Clay Track 200 at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., and Steve Kosiski snaring another win in the NAPA Gopher 50 at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, Minn. 

A standing room only crowd watched late model driver Bob Hill, modified pilot Mark Noble and stock car hot shoe Steve Jackson win IMCA Super Nationals crowns. 

Three tracks in the Midwest announced that they would be replacing dirt with asphalt. Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Missouri, Highway 13 Speedway in Bolivar, Mo., and an all-asphalt layout replacing Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City. 

Racing lost its share of great drivers in 1988 as well. Bill Kirk of Salix, Iowa passed away early in the year. Promising young late model driver Mitch Fretheim of Decorah, Iowa was killed in an automobile accident. 

Two retired drivers from the past, USAC great Norm Nelson of Racine, Wis., and three-time IMCA midget champion Dick Ritchie of Cedar Rapids, Iowa both passed away.

Monday, November 9, 2009

1984 - Five drivers claim first-ever All-Iowa points championship

Mt. Pleasant, Iowa - Five drivers claimed their first-ever All-Iowa points championships in their respective divisions. The points, compiled by Jeff Broeg, compares drivers in the five general classes that compete in the state of Iowa and surrounding states.

Ken Walton of Viola, Iowa, who was nearly retired, came on strong to win the late model championship. Walton's consistency would earn him the NASCAR Central Region point's title. Walton's 13 feature wins came at Dubuque, Farley and Quincy, Ill. The most important victory for Walton was his dominating performance in the Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in June.

Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa set a new record (686 points) in winning the All-Iowa sportsman title. Aikey's 20 victories included stops at Dubuque, Farley, Independence and West Union.

Rocky Hodges of Des Moines, Iowa, driving for Leonard McCarl, won the track championship at Knoxville Raceway on his way to clinching the All-Iowa sprint championship. Outside of Iowa, Hodges set a new world's qualifying record on the one mile dirt in Syracuse, N.Y.

Merv Chandler of Cedar Rapids, Iowa scored 19 feature wins en route to winning the All-Iowa modified point's title. Chandler traveled all over the state and in one instance competed in a IMCA national event in Peoria, Ill., on a Sunday afternoon and then flew to Jefferson, Iowa to win the mid-season championship event that evening.

Taking 19 feature wins, Ron Barker of Dubuque, Iowa, cruised to All-Iowa street stock honors. Barker capped off a great season by winning the Hawkeyeland Street Stock Championship at West Liberty Raceway.

Monday, November 2, 2009

1983 - The American Outlaw Stock Car Organization

Bob Shryock of Estherville, Iowa was the 1983 American Outlaw Stock Car Organization champion.

by Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - For the 1983 racing season, some tracks in the Midwest in an attempt to limit the cost of racing did away with the regular late models and instead elected to run a Sportsman type class as its feature class. In response to this the American Outlaw Stock Car Organization (AOSCO) was founded to give the regular late models a place to race.

Dirt Track Promotions, Inc., of Des Moines was exclusively contracted with by the AOSCO to promote 30 stock car races in 1983. The events were to be held at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City, Iowa, the Shelby County Fairgrounds in Harlan, the Buena Vista County Fairgrounds in Alta and the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Unfortunately 1983 was a wet year and the weather raised havoc on the schedule. The following is a recap of the results of the races known to have been ran.

The opener was set for April 16 in Webster City but was rained out. On June 12 the season got underway at Harlan with the preliminary events with heats going to Steve Kosiski, Bob Hill and Billy Moyer and position races going to Joe and Steve Kosiski. Unfortunately the June 13 races were rained out.

On Sunday, May 15 action finally got underway at Webster City. Steve Kosiski and Bob Shryock won the heats. In the feature, Joe Kosiski inherited the lead when leaders Bob Shryock retired with mechanical problems and Steve Kosiski dropped from the event with tire problems. Joe held on to win the race followed by Gary Hopp, Mike Smith, Willy Kraft and Dwaine Hanson both of Lakefield, Minnesota.

On May 28 after yet another rainout, Webster City completed its second show and Al Urhammer of Radcliffe was the feature winner. Heats went to Urhammer and Mike Smith and Smith was really the only car who could stay with Urhammer in the feature. Following Urhammer and Smith was Gary Pederson, Bill Christman and Bill Martin.

Finally the next weekend the weatherman cooperated and the series held three events. On Friday night at Harlan the May 13 show was made up. The B feature was completed but not before half the field fell by the wayside. Bill Kirk picked up the win over Terry Holliman. In the feature, Steve and Joe Kosiski were at the head of the pack at the start but were both passed by Bob Shryock and Billy Moyer. Shryock and Moyer then waged a war for the top spot until Moyer went pitside with a flat tire. Shryock then held off Joe Kosiski for the win and a $1,500 payday. Willy Kraft, Steve Kosiski and Gary Hopp rounded out the top 5.

The next night it was back to Webster City where heats went to Al Urhammer, Steve Kosiski and Gary Hopp. In the feature it was pretty much all Steve Kosiski. Several contenders were eliminated in accidents including Gary Hopp and Don Hoffman. Shryock would finish second, Willy Kraft third followed by Urhammer and Dwaine Hanson.

The weekend came to a conclusion with the first stop of the year at Buena Vista County Speedway in Alta where Craig Jacobs of Des Moines and Bob Shryock picked up heat wins. In the feature it looked like all Shryock but on lap 17 Shryock retired with rear end problems and Jacobs inherited the lead and went on to win his first AOSCO feature of the year. Following Jacobs was Joe Kosiski, Steve Kosiski, Wisconsin’s Les Duellman and Omaha’s Keith Leithoff.

After a couple more weeks of rainouts, action resumed again at Webster City. Heats went to Mike Smith, Don Hoffman and Steve Kosiski. At the drop of the green it was all Don Hoffman of Des Moines and he led wire to wire in the feature. Following Hoffman were Mike Smith, Craig Jacobs, Steve Kosiski and Willy Kraft.

On the July 4th weekend another three day swing from Harlan to Webster City to Alta was planned but unfortunately mother nature raised her head again and only the Harlan show was ran as scheduled. 33 late models showed up to kick off the weekend with heats going to Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Joe Kosiski, Don Hoffman and Bill Martin of Council Bluffs. Craig Jacobs won the B. Joe Kosiski debuting a new car not only led every lap in his heat but every lap in the feature. Behind him Hoffman and Moyer waged a battle for second with Hoffman winning out and Shryock making a late race pass of Parker for fourth.

Webster City finally got another race in the following Saturday with Craig Jacobs and Willy Kraft winning heats. Kraft then grabbed the lead at the outset of the feature and was never headed winning his first AOSCO feature of the season. Jacobs, Shryock, Hoffman and Randy Rosenboom followed.

Bob Shryock competes at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., during the NDRA Super Nationals. - Chad Meyer Collection

The following week with several of the top drivers at the NDRA Super Nationals at I-70 Speedway, Frank Jorgensen of Carroll and Bill Davis of Des Moines won heats at Webster City. In the feature Mike Smith picked up his first AOSCO feature win of the year by passing Bill Davis for the lead. Davis held on for second with Jorgensen third, Gary Hopp fourth and Wayne Larson fifth.

The Hamilton County Fair Board announced about this time that the Racing Committee of the Fair Board would take over promoting the races with Butch Weber as the track manager. Steve White of Des Moines who had promoted at Webster City since the beginning of the 1982 season stepped down as the promoter.

July 22nd saw the series return to Harlan for the Shelby County Fair races and it looked like veteran Omaha driver Keith Leithoff would upset the field, but with five laps to go Leithoff’s engine expired and Billy Moyer took over the point and went on to win the event. Dave Chase, Jerry Wancewicz, Willy Kraft and the ageless Glen Robey rounded out the top five. Heats went to Wancewicz, Leithoff and Moyer.

The next night at Minnesotan Dick Sorensen showed up at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City and won by his heat and the feature. Bill Davis won the other heat. Bill Davis, Jerry Wancewicz, Dave Chase and Terry Buresh followed Sorensen home in the feature.

July 30 produced a new winner at Webster City. Tom Hearst of Wilton made his first tow to the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in several years a profitable one. Hearst won both his heat and the feature. Bob Shryock the other heat winner stayed close to Hearst but could not catch him. Shryock did however pick up the AOSCO points lead from Joe Kosiski who was not in attendance. Wancewicz, Davis and Jacobs rounded out the top 5.

The next week featured two nights of racing at Webster City. First on Wednesday, August 3, young Bobby Jackson upset the veterans and won his first AOSCO feature. Jackson had to start in the third row after finishing third to Bob Shryock and Bill Davis in the first heat. The veteran Shryock led the first 16 laps working the low groove. Jackson, meantime found something up high and took the lead on lap 17. Shryock fought back and they were side by side at the white flag but Jackson held on for the win. Willy Kraft finished third, Jerry Wancewicz fourth and Jerry Holtkamp fifth. Les Duellman won the second heat.

The next night it was the Buena Vista County Fair races at Alta. Heats went to Willy Kraft and Jerry Wancewicz. Joe Kosiski and Craig Jacobs won the cash dashes. In the feature Joe Kosiski simply left the field lapping all but three cars in winning the event. Only Jacobs in second and Shryock in third remained on the lead lap. Will Kraft finished fourth and Bob McCoy fifth.

On Saturday night it was back to Webster City where the big winner was Don Hoffman.
Hoffman and Jerry Holtkamp won the heats. Hoffman jumped into the lead at the drop of the green and led wire to wire. Mr. Consistency Bob Shryock finished second with Wancewicz, Holtkamp and Gary Hopp rounding out the top 5.

On August 13, Mike Smith returned to the winner’s circle charging from the third row and taking the lead midway through the feature from early leader Don Hoffman. Hoffman held on for second with Shryock, Kraft and Bruce Busho completing the top 5. Heats went to Dick Sorensen and Bill Davis.

A big field of late models showed up on Tuesday, August 16 at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. The feature was a dandy and the trophy and the $1,200 winner’s check would stay in Des Moines as Don Hoffman got by Tom Hearst on lap 11 and then got by Billy Moyer on the final turn to take the victory. Following those two were Joe Kosiski, Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun and Jerry Wancewicz. Heats went to Rick Wages of East Moline, Illinois, Jim Jorgensen of Omaha, Bill Davis and Tom Hearst.

Don Hoffman picked up another feature at Webster City on Fan Appreciation Night, August 27 as he led the feature wire to wire. The event was marred by numerous cautions. Craig Jacobs, Bruce Busho, Willy Kraft and Jim Jorgensen followed. Heats went to Al Urhammer, Hoffman and Jacobs

The series season came to an end on Labor Day weekend with a big two day show at Webster City. On Saturday night heats went to Bill Davis, Jerry Wancewicz and Joe Kosiski. Sunday night saw Steve Kosiski winning the first position race over Brother Joe. Willy Kraft grabbed the second position race over Jerry Wancewica. Mike Smith took the Cash Dash.

The feature which had been delayed for more than once for rain showers saw Willy Kraft take the lead as Steve Kosiski faded and was replaced in second by brother Joe. Joe took the lead about a third of the way and led through numerous restarts. On lap 35 the yellow came out for another car. On the restart not knowing Joe Kosiski restarted with a flat tire and caused a big pile up. After much controversy and arguing, Joe was put to the back and Willy Kraft was given the led which he held for the remainder of the race. Mike Smith guided his damaged car to second with Joe Kosiski coming all the way up to third. Keith Leithoff and Jerry Wancewicz rounded out the top 5.

At seasons end, Bob Shryock of Estherville, Iowa set atop the point standing. He was followed by Mike Smith, Joe Kosiski, Willy Kraft and Craig Jacobs. Fifty nine different drivers competed in the series throughout the year. The series had proved late model drivers a place to race and given the fans a chance to cheer for their favorite late model drivers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

1967 - Droste tops in points for Greater Iowa Racing

Lu Vern "Red" Droste of Waterloo, Iowa was the top point getter in 1967 for the three-track Greater Iowa Racing Association. The three tracks consisted of Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway, Tunis Speedway in Waterloo, Iowa and Air-View Speedway in Monticello, Iowa.

The overall top-1o were

Red Droste...9727
Chub Liebe...5657
Bob Hilmer...4670
Cal Swanson...4117
Tom Hughes...3484
Bill Zwanziger...3423
Dick Nesteby...3197
Ed Sanger...3045
Glen Martin...2295
Rich Krafka...2175

A total of 104 drivers drove on the circuit during the '67 season with only 14 not placing in the money one time. At the individual tracks, 14 had perfect attendance at Monticello. 19 at Independence and 18 at Waterloo.

The top 10 at Air-View were:

Red Droste...2755
Tom Hughes...1780
Dick Nesteby...1430
Bob Hilmer...1150
Cal Swanson...1055
Ed Sanger....905
Bill Zanziger...740
Roger Dolan...735
Curt Hanson...525
Stan Stover....400

Dick Nesteby was the season champion at Monticello and Red Droste was mid-season champ. Droste also won the championship race at the Jones County Fair.
The top-10 at Independence:

Chub Liebe...3685
Red Droste...3040
Bill Zwanziger...1291
Bob Hilmer...1252
Dick Nesteby...1197
Ed Sanger...1131
Paul Fitzpatrick...1055
Rich Krafka...1020
John Webb...981
Ty Burger...780

Chub Liebe was both mid-season and season champ at Independence. Droste also won the Monza Spectacular race at Independence with Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids second.

The top-10 at Waterloo:

Red Droste...3932
Cal Swanson...2637
Bob Hilmer...2267
Chub Liebe...1972
Bill Zwanziger...1392
Mert Williams...1385
Glen Martin...1165
Dave Jensen....1040
Rich Krafka...1020
Ed Sanger...1009

The season champion at Waterloo was Droste with Cal Swanson of Reinbeck the mid-season champion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2010 National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

The 2010 Class of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame was announced this past Sunday October 18th prior to the running of Carl Short’s annual Dirt Track World Championship, this year presented at the Lawrenceburg (Indiana) Speedway.

Ernie Derr

Headlining the Driver’s category is 12-time IMCA Late Model Champion Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa. Derr’s career took him from 1950 through 1977 in late models claiming over 450 feature victories, a huge number of championship events and is a past inductee of the Iowa’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Another Iowa great Ronnie Weeden was named to the upcoming class known for his 56 years of dirt racing competition and over 500 career feature victories and countless track titles. Weeden who passed away in 2005 was legendary in western Iowa and eastern Illinois but had accumulated wins from his region all the way to Florida.

Steve Kosiski

Steve Kosiski from Omaha, Nebraska joins his brother Joe who was previously inducted into the Hall in 2008. Steve had amassed over 300 career feature victories and was prominent on the NASCAR Busch All-Star Series collecting 7 championship series titles and is the all-time winningest driver with the group with over 50 series victories.

Mike Head from Ellenboro, Georgia joins the Hall with over 600 career wins, numerous invitational victories and was champion of the Southern All-Stars Series in 1991 and the Rick’s Furniture Super Late Model Series in 1997.

Roger Long

Another Midwestern great Roger Long from Fithian, Illinois joins the group on his 350 career wins and 15 track titles. Long was a part-time racer who farmed for a living and was one of UMP’s all-time winningest weekly drivers.

Billy Scott from Union, South Carolina finishes out the driver’s category racing 37 years with over 400 feature wins, including a number of invitational triumphs and multiple track titles across the Southeast.

In this year’s Contributory category former Danville, Kentucky car owner and sponsor Bobby Paul was selected. Paul’s legendary “Pauls’Pipeline” race cars were successfully fielded by fellow Hall of Famers such as David Speer, Larry Moore, Ronnie Johnson, Rodney Combs and Billy Teegarden.

Also selected as Contributors is the Thomas Family of Phoenix City, Alabama. Father and patriarch Jimmy Thomas along with his wife Shirley and children Billy, Bobby, Ben and Bevy were instrumental in the business areas of car and chassis building, car owning and sponsoring, driving and promoting the very successful East Alabama Speedway in Phoenix City.

The Hall’s “Circle Track Racing Magazine’s” Sportsman Award will be presented to long time competitor Freddy Smith for his dedication and ambassadorship to the sport.

This is the NDLMHoF’s 10th Class, with its first induction ceremony held back in 2001. The 2010 Class will be inducted at the Florence, Kentucky Speedway next August prior to the running of the annual North-South 100.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Board with racing; Des Moines, Iowa was the site of unique track

by Kyle Ealy

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – With super speedways such as Indianapolis Motor Speedway still in its infancy, a new craze in racing was sweeping the nation. It was called a board track and for a short period, Des Moines, Iowa was the site of one of these unique spectacles.

In the early days of oval tracks, horses and cars shared the same tracks. It was obvious right away cars stirred up the dust and dirt and more than any thoroughbred could. The dust was so thick that crowds complained that it was hard to see the action and the driver’s were sometimes blinded. In the days where fans literally lined up next to the track, it was a dangerous situation for all involved. Not to mention that the huge potholes and ruts left by the cars could severely injure horses.

Road builders tried to pave tracks but the liquid asphalt available at the time was so poor that it would disintegrate quickly after a few races. Asphalt was so bad, in fact, that when Carl Fisher was building Indy, he decided to cover his 2.5 mile track with 3 million 10-pound bricks to save on future repair costs. It was a very time consuming and an expensive process. To this day, Indy is the only track ever to be constructed that way. Twin City Motor Speedway in Minneapolis paved their two-mile track with concrete but that too was very expensive.

An engineer by the name of Fred Moscovics had seen a bicycle board track in California that gave him an idea. Why not build an oversized board track for automobiles? A wooden track would be dust free, produce high speeds and it would be quick to build with a lot less cost than other conventional methods.

Moscovics and race track designer Jack Prince built the first board track at Los Angeles in 1909 and it was a smashing success. The banking on the first track was 20 degrees and as one writer described it, “looked like a giant cereal bowl”. The circular shape allowed the drivers to produce high speeds and because of its shape, didn’t require much turning of the steering wheel. Better yet, race fans didn’t go home after the races covered in dust and dirt. The total expense to build the track was $75,000.

To give you an idea of the speeds produced, many years later in 1927, Frank Lockhart was clocked at over 147 mph on the Atlantic City, N.J., pine. He would later win the pole at the Indianapolis 500 that same year with an average speed of 120 mph.

The one drawback to the tracks was the races weren’t very exciting and cars would get spread out rather quickly (much like what NASCAR is today). Prince went back to the drawing board (literally) to think on how he could improve his idea. A couple of years later Prince decided that the tracks needed longer straight-aways and with that, he built a huge two-mile track in Chicago in 1915. The track was an instant success with drivers and fans alike. To show you how popular it was the 1915 Indianapolis 500 drew 60,000 spectators. Three weeks later, the Chicago race drew an estimated 85,000 race fans.

Chicago Speedway’s success prompted Prince to build two more tracks, one in Omaha and the other in Des Moines. The track in Des Moines required 96 railroad boxcars of wood and an estimated 50 tons of nails. As many as 250 workers were involved in the construction of the one-mile oval at the bargain basement price of $100,000.

The legendary Barney Oldfield was one of the first drivers to test out the new track. On July 25, 1915, Oldfield averaged 103 mph at Valley Junction Board Speedway. What made the average speed so remarkable was the fact that the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t show those speeds until four years later in 1919.

After Oldfield came off the track that afternoon, he was arrested and fined $7.85 for violating the Sunday closing laws. Other race car drivers who were there that day were ticketed for not having mufflers on their cars until it was decided by local police that race cars weren’t suppose to have mufflers in the first place.

The first big race was a scheduled 300-mile event that took place a couple of weeks later on August 7th. Approximately 10,000 race fans showed up that afternoon to watch Ralph Mulford, piloting a Dusenberg, win the race in the time of three hours, 27 minutes. Ralph DePalma, who had won the Indianapolis 500 several months earlier, grabbed second driving a Stutz.

Unfortunately the race was marred by two deaths, one a driver (Joe Cooper) and the other a mechanic (Morris Keeler). A loose plank on the northeast portion of the track caused Cooper’s tire to blow and sent him and the car hurdling into the infield grandstand area, killing him instantly.

Only one more race would be held at the track, a 150 miler on June 23, 1916. Ralph DePalma, this time piloting a Mercedes, would win the event in one hour, 37 minutes. The third-place finisher that afternoon was a young up and coming driver by the name of Eddie Rickenbacker. He would not only excel as a race car driver but also as a World War I flying ace.

One of the perils of board tracks was the lack of technology to preserve them. The track floors would become brittle and literally start breaking into pieces during races. During those races, large holes would develop in the track floor. Many drivers must have been scared out of their wits trying to dodge holes while driving at break-neck speeds.

It was said that workers would lay underneath the track with flags sticking out of the holes to warn drivers as they tried to patch holes as the race took place. Imagine trying to fix a hole while cars are going full bore right over the top of you!

The whole board track experiment lasted until around 1928. Experts say the reason for their ultimate failure in was that it took absolutely little or no skill to drive cars on them, just a huge amount of guts. Tracks could hold a car on the same line at full speed without any steering required by the driver.

A few shorter distant racing events took place on the Des Moines oval but fan interest in the track slowed, most of the name drivers were overseas doing their part for the war effort and Valley Junction Board Speedway closed for good in 1917. Because of all of the Midwestern elements we experience every year, the rain, snow and extreme heat, the track rapidly deteriorated, was eventually dismantled and the lumber sold off.

It is said that many of the barns and other wooden buildings constructed in and around the Des Moines area from 1917 to 1918 still stand with timber from the old board raceway.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Did you know?

Lee Ackerman came up with this little tidbit while doing some research;

In 1948 IMCA ran 138 races and had 9 more on the schedule that for some reason (like rain) didn't happen. They started on February 3rd and finished on November 28th both in Tampa. Some days they ran two events on the same day. On May 30th they ran 4 races on the same day at 4 different race tracks in 3 different states.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

1968 - USAC drivers take to the hardwood

Indianpolis, Ind. - It was a sight that will remain in the memories of all who were present, for many years to come.

The USAC 500 All-Stars basketball team challenged the PERT team (Press, Entertainment, Radio and TV) to an exhibition game at the Indianapolis Coliseum on Thursday night October 3, 1968 with the proceeds going to the USAC Benevolent Fund, to be used toward the rehabilitation of injured driver Bob Hurt, who watched from the sidelines. Almost 8,000 people were on hand for the game, which raised over $13,000.00 from ticket sales and other contributions.

The game consisted of four 5 minute quarters which were highlighted by some of the most unconventional basketball ever witnessed.

Mario Andretti climbed on Roger McCluskey's shoulders for a better chance at reaching the basket; Referees Dave Overpeck and Pat Vidan gave the All-Stars a ten yard penalty for kicking a field goal and there was some confusion when a ball with no air in it was introduced into the game.

There were a number of wrestling matches during the evening. At one point A.J. Foyt was attacked by three members of the press team and almost disappeared from view. There was a short struggle before A.J. emerged with the ball still tucked under his arm. Indianapolis Motor Speedway announcer Sid Collins pointed out to the crowd that choking of opponents would not be allowed beyond two minutes.

The game was about to end with the All-Stars leading 7-4, when every player on the sidelines came onto the floor bringing a few "spare" balls with them to help boost the score, and the proceedings ended with a custard pie fight involving the entire company.

Indy winner Bobby Unser suffered some of his recent racing luck and was out in "warm ups" with a sprained ankle.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

RIP; John Moss

John Moss of Iowa City, Iowa passed away on Friday, October 9 at the age of 74. No matter what track he showed up at in the Midwest, Moss was always a top contender in the late model ranks and when he wheeled his all too familiar #1 out on to the track, the rest of the competition knew that would have to deal with "Big" John.

John Moss, Iowa City, Iowa, gets ready to do battle in the late model feature at Southern Iowa Fairgrounds in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Thursday night, August 3, 1972. Moss would earn a decisive victory.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

Brady Smith (2) and Steve Kosiski (52K) duel during the WDRL PolyDome Super Series finale at Lakeside Speedway on Saturday evening, October 9, 2004. Kosiski would win the 50-lap feature while Smith's fourth place finish would net him the series title. 

2004 - Steve Kosiski of Papillion, Neb., roared past Springfield's Terry Phillips four laps from the checkers to win the 50-lap WDRL series finale at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., on Saturday night, October 9. Brady Smith's fourth place finish clinched the 2004 PolyDome Super Series title for the 26-year-old Solon Springs, Wis., pilot. 

1999 - For the second year in a row, Eddie Hoffman of Westchester, Ill., won the Oktoberfest 200 edging out local favorite Steve Carlson of West Allis, Wis., by .436 seconds at the checkers on Sunday afternoon, October 10 at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway. Hoffman passed Carlson on lap 128 and fought off several challenges throughout the contest. Madison's Brian Hoppe's third place finish secured the 1999 RE/MAX Challenge Series title and Jimmy Mars and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top five. 

1994 - Victory was sweet the third time around for Joe Shear of Clinton, Wis., as he won the Oktoberfest ARTGO 100 feature at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway on Sunday, October 9. Shear, who had also won in 1972 and 1989, started 21st but gradually made his way to the front passing Neil Knoblock on lap 47 for the lead and then holding off an aggressive Matt Kenseth for the remainder of the race.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Remembering a Champion; Bob Burdick

by Lee Ackerman 
Omaha, Neb. - Nebraska lost one of its racing legends with the passing of Bob Burdick. Burdick was the only Nebraskan to ever win a race in NASCAR’s premier division when on March 26, 1961, he drove his dad Roy’s Pontiac to victory lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Despite being unfunded, racing on used tires, with a borrowed rear end and a rag-tag rookie pit crew, Burdick took the lead of the Atlanta 500 on lap 292 and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR Cup history. 

Robert “Bob” Burdick was born in Omaha, Neb., on October 26, 1936. Racing was a natural for Bob as his dad Roy owned stock cars starting in 1949 with Bob’s uncle Bud doing the driving. Bob however, started his racing career in motorcycles. Among his championships on two wheels was the Nebraska State Motorcycle Scramble in which he rode his underpowered BSA Gold Star Clubman to victory despite an early race accident. 

After three years racing on two wheels, Bob and his dad built a 1955 Ford to compete in IMCA. He made his IMCA and four-wheel debut at Hutchinson, Kan. and came away with a very impressive fourth place finish. This led Bob and his dad to start campaigning full time on the IMCA circuit and in 1956 they won four races on the circuit and finished fourth in the championship.

Bob Burdick readies for action prior to an IMCA stock car race in 1956. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

Bob continued to improve as a driver and started to understand that a good handling car was the key to success. Combining this knowledge and experience with his dad’s well-prepared cars featuring stout Burdick engines and the 1957 IMCA championship would come down to Ford versus Chevrolet.

In 1957 Burdick in his Ford and Harlan, Iowa’s Johnny Beauchamp in his Chevrolet waged a war for the IMCA championship with the point's lead switching back and forth. Late in the season, Burdick experienced a rash of bad luck and finished second in the championship chase with 22 wins. Among his wins that year were the prestigious Iowa International 300 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, two wins during the Minnesota State Fair, a win at the Iowa State Fair, and a win at his home state fair, the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln. On July 26 at the Red River Fairgrounds in Fargo, North Dakota, Bob barely escaped serious injuries when he hit the front stretch wall and had two planks come through his windshield and barely miss his head. He escaped with a broken bone in his hand and a bruised shoulder. His car received serious damage.

In 1958 Bob scored 13 wins on the circuit and finished 3rd in the points. During his short three year IMCA career, Bob Burdick scored 40 victories and had 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the point championship. He also set many track records during that time. During this same time, Burdick raced at the Pioneer Speedway in Des Moines for promoter Marion Robinson, who would later become famous for starting the Knoxville Nationals. Because IMCA frowned upon their drivers running the local bullrings, Burdick competed under the alias Don Quinn and drove one of his old IMCA cars to many victories at Pioneer Speedway.

In 1959, Bob was drafted into the Army but used his leave to continue to race. Having worked closely with Holman & Moody during his IMCA days, the Burdicks’ continued to use Fords in their next endeavor, NASCAR. In the 1959 Southern 500 at Darlington, Bob still a rookie in NASCAR’s top division, sat on the provisional pole, started fifth, and finished second in the race. He was the Darlington Rookie of the Year and was inducted into the Pure Oil Record Club. In six starts in his NASCAR rookie season, Bob scored two poles, at Trenton, New Jersey and Columbia, S.C., and had four top 10's.

Bob Burdick poses with his father Roy prior to a NASCAR event in 1961. Burdick is still the only Nebraskan to win a race in NASCAR's premier series. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

Driving Fords in 1959 and 1960 and a Pontiac in 1961, Bob Burdick made the most of his limited NASCAR career capping it off with the above-mentioned win at Atlanta. In 15 races, he scored one win (1961 in Atlanta), one second and one fourth, nine top ten finishes and two poles. He ran up front in most of his NASCAR races in cars that were engineered and built in Omaha, Nebraska. In fact, some of the cars that the Burdick’s campaigned with in NASCAR carried the following logo, “Built by Farmers in Nebraska.”

Distance and money cut the Burdick’s NASCAR career short. In the early 1960’s Bob ran super modifieds with much success in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas driving for the likes of Ernie Motz of Omaha and Kettleson’s Automotive in Lincoln.

On Labor Day 1963 at the newly opened Midwest Speedway in Lincoln, Neb., Burdick and fellow Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Beckman put on one of the best shows ever waged at Midwest. In the 50-lap feature, the two battled each other lap after lap, putting the rest of the field a lap down before a lapped car took Burdick (the leader at the time) out on the white flag lap and Beckman was awarded the win.

Bob would be the first to say that you can’t do it all by yourself over the years he had some great pit crew members. Bill “Bad Body” Morris, Ed Sacks, John Czaja, John Narduzzol, Roy Ehlers, Jim MacElroy, Ralph Koch, Rich Peers, and the real Don Quinn were there to help Bob at various times during his IMCA or NASCAR days. Later Ray Killion helped out during the super modified days. And of course, it didn’t hurt to have an automotive genius like Roy Burdick as a father.

Bob, his dad Roy and his uncle Bud have all been inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame. It didn’t matter whether it had two wheels or four, Bob Burdick could drive it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

2004 - John Hampel of Nodaway, Iowa took the lead from Tiffin, Iowa's Denny Eckrich on lap 9 then survived a caution four laps from the finish to win the annual Cornhusker Classic, a World Dirt Racing League-sanctioned event at Nebraska Raceway Park on Saturday night, October 2. The win was Hampel's third series victory of the season and second consecutive triumph at NRP having won the spring event over Memorial Day Weekend. Mark Teske of Spring Valley, Minn., nudged Eckrich at the line for second, Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., was fourth and John Anderson of Omaha rounded out the top five.

Steve Carlson flashes that winning smile after scoring the victory in the ARTGO Challenge Series-sanctioned "World Cup 300" at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., on October 1, 1995. — Robert Pilsudski Photo 

1995 - Steve Carlson of West Salem, Wis., passed Jeff Klem of Kansas City, Kan., on lap 213 and then held off a furious charge from Kevin Cywinski of Menominee, Mich., to win the 12th annual World Cup 300 in the ARTGO Challenge Series event on Sunday afternoon, October 1. After Carlson nosed his Chevrolet Monte Carlo underneath Klem going into turn three to grab the lead, he then took advantage of three caution periods to hold off Cywinski. Jim Weber, Matt Kenseth and J.R. Roahrig were the top five finishers. 

1989 - Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wis., led over three-quarters of the monumental Miller High Life 200 National Clay Track Championships on the half-mile clay oval of Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., to net the $13,000 first place check on Sunday evening, October 1. Parker passed Oak Lawn's Bob Pohlman on lap 47 and never relinquished it. From there, Parker had a secure lead with no challenges. Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., John Provenzano of Hinckley, Ill., Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa and Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., rounded out the top five.

1976 - Don Hoffman of Des Moines, Iowa led from start to finish in winning the National Dirt Track Championships at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday night, October 1. Hoffman's only challenge came from Des Moines' Joe Merryfield who was moving in on Hoffman when he spun his late model with one lap to go and was unable to recover in time for the checkered flag. Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa took third ahead of Lisbon, Iowa's Roger Dolan and Tom Steuding of Altoona, Wis., finished fifth.

Friday, September 25, 2009

RIP - Earl Wagner

Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa passed away on September 24th. Earl won 43 career races at Knoxville Raceway, which still puts him in the top-five on the all-time win's list and was a three-time Knoxville Raceway champion ('58, '59, and '61). 

He was inducted into the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame in 1979 and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2008. In addition to his many achievements at Knoxville, Wagner also was a very accomplished driver on the IMCA circuit. 

Below is a photo of Wagner after he scored one of his IMCA-sanctioned sprint car victories.

Earl Wagner, Pleasantville, Iowa, won the 25-lap IMCA sprint car feature at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln, Neb., on Monday afternoon, September 4, 1972. Joining Wagner in victory lane is flagman Woody Brinkman (left), presenting the trophy is Connie Pfiffer, daughter of National Speedways Inc. vice-president Gene Van Winkle and National Speedways Inc. president Al Sweeney (right). — Morris "Beetle" Bailey Photo

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Prairie Dirt Classic: The Early Years

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - According to Allan Brown’s wonderful book “The History of American Speedways: Past and Present”, they have racing at the fairgrounds in Fairbury, Illinois since 1926. In 1939 they changed the configuration of the track from the typical half-mile county fairgrounds to a quarter-mile track. After a hiatus because of World War II the track came back to life in May of 1946 and has been active ever since. On Labor Day weekend 1990, they started running an event which has become the signature event for what is now called The Fairbury American Legion Speedway, that race is the Prairie Dirt Classic.

Snooky Dehm of Chatsworth, Ill., was the winner of the inaugural "Prairie Dirt Classic" at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in 1990.

That first Prairie Dirt Classic took place on September 1, 1990. Kevin Roderick led until lap 5 when Snooky Dehm of Chatsworth, Illinois grabbed the lead and held on until lap 52 when Tom Pauley wrestled the lead away from Dehm by taking the high side. Unfortunately for Pauley his lead lasted exactly one lap when his motor let go on the next lap. Dehm took over the lead again and led the final 7 laps to win the first Classic and take home a $3,500 paycheck. 1990 track champion Mike Mulvain was up to second by lap 14 but couldn’t get past Dehm. Mulvain, however did finish second picking up $1,700 for his efforts and that combined with the $2,000 he won in the Dash for Cash made him the nights big money winner at $3,700. Tom Rients would finish third from his fifth row starting position with Eddy Shickel fourth and Kevin Roderick fifth. 

In 1991 it was Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Illinois who dominated the second annual Prairie Dirt Classic. (Weaver would win the 1992 UMP National Championship). The driver who would become known as “the Flatland Flash” took the lead on lap 3 from pole sitter Ed Bauman when he went to his favorite spot, the high side and never relinquished the lead as he went on to pick up the $5,000 first place money. Baumann would hang on to grab the runner-up spot with Mike Mullvain finishing third after battling Jim Rarrick and Steve Tyne throughout the event. Tyne would finish in the fourth position with Roger Long “the Flying Farmer” finishing fifth. Four caution flags flew during the 60-lap event. 

By 1992 and the third running of the Classic, the event had started to draw the attention of drivers from afar. 40 drivers from 7 states showed up for the event that paid $6,000 to win. Bryan Dunaway set fast time and then came back to win the trophy dash and grab the pole position for the 60-lap main event. Heats were won by Mike Mullvain, Billy Moyer, Kevin Weaver and Don Hobbs. The two semi’s went to Tod Garrels and Roger Long. Bryan Dunaway took the lead but that lasted for only two laps when Billy Moyer charged from his outside second row starting. The race went green until lap 27 when Tom Rients spun. On the restart it was Moyer, Kevin Weaver and Dunaway. By lap 32 it had turned into a three-way battle for the top spot between Moyer, Weaver and Long. Long looked like he make overtake Moyer but then the caution flag came out at lap 38, and, he had to settle back into second and would end up following Moyer to the checkers. Moyer would pick up the first of his four Prairie Dirt Classic titles. Long would finish second, Mullvain third, Dunaway fourth and Weaver fifth. 

In 1993 Billy Moyer became the first two-time winner of the race. First, he would set fast time at 13.876 seconds. Next, he would win the dash and grab the pole position. At the start of the race, Moyer took off and was never headed as he picked up $7,000 for his winning his second Classic. The race was run with only one caution flag, that coming on lap 39. Bob Pierce who started in tenth would work his way up to second and was mounting a challenge to Moyer when the lone caution waved. Pierce would settle for second. Tom Rients, Roger Long and Bryan Dunaway would follow. Once again 40 cars from 7 states participated in the event. Heats were won by John Gill, Pete Parker, Jim O’Connor and Pierce.

Bob Pierce of Danville, Ill., would start a run of five Prairie Dirt Classics victories in 1994. - Dennis Piefer Photo

In 1994 the driver who would be called “the Tall Cool One” won the first of his five Prairie Dirt Classic titles. Bob Pierce of Danville, Illinois guided his Larry Shaw Race Car to the front of the race from his front row starting position. By lap 16 two time and defending race winner Billy Moyer was right on Pierce’s bumper. Finally, after numerous attempts Moyer got by Pierce on lap 47. Three laps later Pierce switched lanes and dove low and retook the lead. On the next lap Moyer made the same move on Pierce and retook the point. On lap 53 Pierce regained the lead by muscling under Moyer and lead the last seven laps. In victory lane Pierce commented that “the track was smooth and fast and there was definitely more than one groove. Moyer and I were pretty even and it just worked out for me tonight.” Following Pierce and Moyer home were Kevin Weaver, Billy Drake and Eddy Shickel. Heats went to Larry Davis, Roger Long, Corey Turner and Shickel. Weaver won the dash and Gary May set quick time at 13.475. 

In 1995 Bob Pierce won the Classic for the second time and he would later win again in 1999, 2000 and 2001 making him a three-peat winner and as of now the only five-time winner of the Prairie Dirt Classic. Billy Moyer is the 2008 and defending race champion and the only 4-time winner. Since those early Prairie Dirt Classics John Gill, Billy Drake, Shannon Babb (twice), Don O’Neal, Dennis Erb, Jr., Jimmy Mars and Brian Birkhofer have added their names to the list of winners of the race. One thing is for certain the Prairie Dirt Classis has become a stable to Illinois Dirt Late Model Racing and every year on the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend you can count on seeing some of the country's best dirt late model drivers competing in the Prairie Dirt Classic.