Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thunder & Lightning

In 1971 Gary Bettenhausen (1) and Larry Dickson (2) set out on a quest to win every race on the USAC sprint car tour. There close battles night after night would leave the rest of the field and be a "Race within a Race".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1992 -After apparently losing a furious battle with Kyle Berck of Marquette, Neb., in the 25-lap NASCAR late model feature, Omaha's Joe Kosiski was awarded the victory after Berck was penalized for rough driving at Mid-Continent Raceway in Doniphan, Neb., on April 25.

1987 -Gene Claxton of Kansas City, the 1985 and 1986 track champion at Lakeside Speedway, managed to get the early jump on polesitter Joe Kosiski, maintained a comfortable lead and held off both Joe and Steve Kosiski to win the Winston 50 Spring Spectacular on April 24.

1981 - Dick Schilitz of Waterloo roared past Al Urhammer of Radcliffe at the halfway point to win the 40-lap late model Spring Invitational at Boone Speedway on April 25. Schlitz would lap the entire field except Urhammer to collect the $800 top prize.

1970 - After Tom Reffner of Rudolph, Wis., won his third straight late model feature at Capital Super Speedway in Madison, Wis., on April 25th, promoter Sam Bartus offered a $100 bounty to any driver who could beat the Reffner in next week's race.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Peddlin' at Powercom

Jay Drake (20) slips around pole-sitter Levi Jones (62) for the lead and the win in the USAC sprint car feature at Powercom Park in Beaver Dam, Wis., on April 24, 2004. — Lance Goins Photo

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hail to the King!

The "King of Playland" Paul Zdan was a regular competitor at Playland Speedway in Council Bluffs, Iowa and Sunset Speedway in Omaha, Neb., during the 60's, 70's and 80's.

Friday, April 17, 2009

1948; The Mighty Midgets at Indianola

Cedar Rapids, Iowa's Dick Ritchie in the Mensing Brother's midget


by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In the late 1940’s midget auto racing was king and in Iowa and the surrounding states that meant the Midwest Midget Auto Racing Association. The race manager for the MMARA was the legendary John Gerber. Gerber and his wife Rose started promoting races after World War II.

They ran both stock cars and midgets, running as many as eight races a week. They even bought the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport and used it as a flagship for their races before selling it back to the county. The MMARA ran from 1946 thru 1955. One of the venues that ran with MMARA was the Warren County Fairgrounds in Indianola, Iowa. Below are the highlights of several of the races run in Indianola in 1948.

On June 3, about 20 midgets showed up run the first MMARA race of the year at the Warren County Fairgrounds. Cedar Rapids chauffeur Dick Ritchie driving the Mensing Brothers #56 out of Lowden, Iowa would set quick time at 17.38 seconds followed closely by defending series champion Danny Kladis of Chicago, Illinois in the Eric Lund #39. Ray Hall would win the first heat driving the Paul Kaminsky #4 based out of Erie, Illinois. Johnny Hobel at the helm of the Max Morgan #5 would win the second heat with Dick Hobel taking the third heat in the Cheney #25.Red Hoyle wheeled Art Jacobsen’s Omaha based #33 to the win in the handicap event with Silvis, Illinois’ Joe Gustaf taking the semi-feature in the Smith Car and Trailers #60.Ray Hall would set on the pole for the twenty lap feature and he would not be denied as he took the checkered flag ahead of Red Hoyle and Dick Hobel.

The midgets returned to Indianola on June 24 with Red Hoyle taking his Art Jacobsen prepared #33 to fast time with a lap of 17.72. Hoyle then stormed from his sixth starting position to win the first heat. Walt Raines of Alta, Iowa would win the second heat in his #29 with Lloyd Thurston in the Fitch #45 taking the third heat. Hoyle continued on his hot streak by taking the handicap event and Dick Ritchie picked up the semi-feature. Red Hoyle put an exclamation mark on the evening by making it a clean sweep as he won the 20 lap feature besting Walt Raines and Dick Hobel in the Oskaloosa based Paul Van See #63.

When the mighty midgets returned to the Warren County Fairgrounds on Monday, July 5, defending series champion Danny Kladis, who’s two previous visits to Indianola had left something to be desired, decided it was time to put things in order. He started out by running a qualifying lap of 17.15 which tied Red Hoyle for quick time. Kladis then proceeded to win the first heat, with Ray Hall taking the second heat in the Kaminsky #4 and Art Wheeler in the Davenport based Dick Elliott #1 winning the third heat. Clyde Young behind the wheel of the Van Zee #63 won the handicap event with Bud Koehler taking the semi in George Smith #77 out of Blue Island, Illinois. Kladis then nailed down the 20 lap feature as he held off Red Hoyle and Clyde Young.

A small field returned on Wednesday, July 14 to do battle. Alta, Iowa’s Walt Raines set quick time at 17.20 seconds. Raines followed that up by winning the first heat, with the other two heats won by Dick Ritchie in his familiar #56 and Glen Cromwell in the R. E. Doty #100 based out of Davenport. Raines won the handicap, Ritchie the semi and then Raines won the 20-lap feature over John Spach in the #7 out of Hollywood, Illinois with Ritchie third.

Dick Hobel in the Cheney #25

On July 28, Danny Kladis returned to the Warren County Fairgrounds and put a whipping on them. Kladis set fast time of 17.08 won the first heat, the handicap and the feature. Art Wheeler in #1 and Vic Ellis in the Morris Springer #42 of Davenport won the other heats with Cedar Rapids’ George Miller in his own #77 winning the semi. Art Wheeler would finish second in the feature to Kladis with Dick Ritchie third.

On August 11, it was more Danny Kladis as he once again set quick time at 17.33 won the first heat, and the feature. His only blemish of the evening was a second to Ray Hall in the Kaminsky #11 in the handicap race. Other heats went to Hall and Walt Raines with the semi going to Paul Newkirk in the Max Morgan #5. Following Kladis to the line in the feature were Raines and Tony Russo of Racine, Wisconsin.

The final visit of the season for the MMARA came on Wednesday, September 8. Danny Kladis kicked off the evening by setting fast time once again, this time with a lap of 17.10. Kladis was unsuccessful in winning his heat however, as Art Wheeler won the event with Harold Raines second and Kladis third. Tiny Wainwright in the Lloyd Van Winkle #3 of Lincoln, Nebraska won the second heat with Paul Newkirk in the Morgan #5 taking the third heat. Red Hoyle held off Kladis to take the handicap event. A driver named Skinner won the semi in car #5.

In the final feature of the year at Indianola it was Red Hoyle in the Jacobsen #33 winning the feature followed by Ray Hall in the Kaminsky #11 and Tiny Wainwright in the Van Winkle #3.

Danny Kladis would go on to win the Midwest Midget Auto Racing Association Championship in 1948. It would be his third straight and last MMARA Championship. Starting in 1949 Dick Ritchie would win the championship every year except 1951 through the end of the series in 1955. Red Hoyle would win the championship in 1951.

The mighty midgets were perhaps the most popular class of racing from the 30’s through the early 50’s.

For many years it has appeared that midget racing has lost much of its following, but with 300 some entries at the 2009 Chili Bowl, the future of midget auto racing seems to be on the upswing again.

If you're not cheating, you're not trying

Rick Koob had the most radical looking late model at the annual "Cheater's Day" at Cedar Lake Speedway in 1991. — Neil Eric Miller Photo

The Salix Speedster; Bill Kirk

by Kyle Ealy

Bill Kirk started his career in 1959 when his wife and his parents talked him into going to a local track in Onawa, Iowa. It was there that he caught the racing bug and after a few short weeks, he purchased a race car.

Even before his race career even unfolded, it was said that Bill was quite the terror on the two-lane black tops and gravel roads around his home in Sloan, Iowa. Beginning at a young age, he was fascinated with speed.

A local racer, William (Bill) Bradstreet, took the young lead foot under his wing and taught him a few tricks of the trade. As Kirk would say later, "I would follow him (Bradstreet) through the pack, trying to stay clean so I could finish. I couldn't believe some of the moves he would make on the track, psyching out the other drivers."

Eventually it was Bill Kirk who was leading the pack and psyching out the other drivers. Kirk would go on to be the most dominant drivers in the Siouxland region. He won championships at several different tracks throughout the region including:

Onawa, Iowa (1)
Soo's Speedway in Sioux City (1)
Raceway Park in South Sioux City (4)
Riviera Speedway in Norfolk, NE. (2)
Collins Field in LeMars, Iowa (3)
Interstate Speedway in Jefferson, S.D. (3)

Kirk was the only Siouxland triple crown winner in 1973 when he scored championships at Collins Field, Interstate Speedway and Raceway Park.

He was one of the few from the area who made the annual trek down to Florida for Speedweeks. He loved heading south every winter not only to compete with the very best but to proudly represent the Siouxland racing scene.

Bill was also considered a pioneer of sorts leading the industry through it's steps, from the coupes of the 50's, to the super modifieds of the late 60's and finally to the late models of the 70's.

Throughout his racing career, Kirk felt a responsibility to promote the sport he loved so much. Even after a long, hard night of racing there he was, a smile on his face, greeting race fans, young and old alike.
He was known as the "pro" of professionals. The "Salix Speedster" Bill Kirk passed away in 1988.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Freeport free for all

Brady Smith (2) held off a determined Steve Kosiski (52) to win the World Dirt Racing League 50-lapper at Freeport (Ill.) Raceway Park on April 17, 2004. — Enhance Racing Images

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1997 - Billy Moyer earned $15,000 for his dominating performance in the Hav-A-Tampa-sanctioned Arkansas 100 at Batesville Speedway on Sunday afternoon, April 13. Moyer, who started fourth, moved around Wendell Wallace on lap 25 and was never threatened on his way to the checkers. Dale McDowell, Ray Cook, Marshall Green and Johnny Virden rounded out the top-five finishers.

1990 - C.J Rayburn of Whiteland, Ind., grabbed the lead from Paul Shafer on lap 27 and led the rest of the way in the $3,000 to win UMP-sanctioned Druthers Spring Classic at Brownstown Speedway on April 14. Shafer would settle for second while Frank Cedar, Kevin Claycomb and Kevin Weaver rounded out the top five.

1988 - A great field of cars and a equally good crowd turned out for the 1st Annual Frostbuster at Marshalltown Speedway on April 15. Winners that evening included Jeff Aikey (IMCA late models), Dave Farren (IMCA modifieds) and Terry Angle (IMCA stock cars).

1982 - In a rare appearance behind the wheel of a midget, Doug Wolfgang of Sioux Falls, S.D., won the 40-lap USAC-sanctioned event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, on a chilly Saturday afternoon, April 17. Wolfgang crossed the finish line with nearly a lap lead over Kevin Olson of Rockford, Ill. and Dick Gojmerick of Belleville, Ill., to collect the $1,000 prize.

1973 - Harold Leep of Wichita won his heat, trophy dash and 20 lap feature as he swept the super modified program at the 1/2-mile Fairgrounds Speedway in Oklahoma City on April 13th. Tulsan Emmett Hahn finished second snapping a nine-race winning streak dating back to the previous season.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hector Honore and the legendary Black Deuce

"Pistol" Pete Folse of Tampa, Fla., and car owner Hector Honore. 

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. — As a kid growing up on a farm in Central Nebraska, one of my first exposures to racing was at the Nebraska State Fair. My dad and I (and probably a cousin or two) would head out very early in the morning. (State fairs were huge in those days). We had a routine and that included getting to the ticket window in plenty of time to ensure that we got tickets for the grandstand show, The IMCA Big Cars.

If there is anything that is forever etched in my mind about my early visits to the Nebraska State Fair, it’s the image of Hector Honore’s legendary Black Deuce throwing rooster tails onto the white fence as it went through the turns. First with Bobby Grim behind the wheel, and later with “Pistol” Pete Folse at the control, that Black No. 2 Offenhauser did more than any other single thing to make me fall in love with auto racing. I don’t think I’m alone.

I knew little back then about the unassuming car owner/mechanic of the Bardahl Special; I just knew it was a thing of beauty. Hector Honore was born in 1905 in Pittsburg, Kan. After the death of his father, his mother remarried and they moved to Illinois, eventually settling in Pana.

After the depression, Honore started an auto repair business in Pana, Illinois, known as the “City of Roses.” After a brief stint driving his own cars, he turned the driving over to others. First it was Harold Shaw and in 1942 they won the championship in the Midwest Dirt Track Racing Association (MDTRA). After the war with Cliff Griffith behind the wheel, they won the MDTRA championship in both 1946 and 1947. With Griffith’s departure following the 1947 season, Honore found a new driver in Coal City, Ind., driver Bobby Grim.

It didn’t take the new combination long to find the winner’s circle. From 1948 thru 1950 the pair campaigned in both the Central States Racing Association and the International Motor Contest Association. They finished in the top seven all three years in the CSRA with third place finishes in 48 and 50. In 1948, they finished 10th in the IMCA season championship running against legends such as Emory Collins, Deb Snyder and Frank Luptow. On May 9, 1949 they won their first IMCA race at Danville, Ill., and another later that year at Columbus, Ga. In 1949 they scored seven wins in IMCA and a sixth in points. In 1950 splitting time between the two sanctioning bodies they scored only one win in IMCA.

In 1951 they picked up the Bardahl sponsorship and decided to concentrate on Al Sweeney promoted IMCA races. The result was several wins and a fifth in points. In 1952 it was nine wins and a fourth in points. In 1953 they edged even closer to a championship winning 15 IMCA features and finishing third. In 1954 they crept a little closer, winning 17 features and losing the championship to the great Bob Slater. Things may have turned out quite differently that year, if Grim had not had a frightening crash at the Belleville High Banks. While racing side by side with Slater the two made contact sending Grim and the deuce into the outside wall. The car ended upside down on the track with Grim pinned beneath. He suffered third degree burns from being pinned against the tailpipe as well as a dislocated shoulder. He would miss six races. But they had done their homework, they were ready.

In 1955, the legendary Black Deuce started an amazing run of seven straight IMCA championships. In 1955, the tandem of Honore and Grim reeled off 26 wins and won their first IMCA championship going away. The next year it was 24 wins and a second championship including wins in 11 of the first 17 events of the year. In 1957 it was 25 wins and a third championship. In 1958, Grim would win 21 times in the Black Deuce including one string of six in a row, with the championship easily in hand, Grim left to pursue a career in Indy Cars.

To replace Grim, Honore turned to veteran IMCA campaigner Pete Folse of Tampa, Fla. The Black Deuce didn’t miss a beat. Folse finished the 1958 season by winning the final two races of the IMCA season at Shreveport, La. In 1959, it was another run-away championship with the Honore-Folse team winning 22 features. The 1960 IMCA points race was probably over before it had hardly started with Folse winning six of the first seven races and ending the season with 31 wins. In 1961 with fewer races on the schedule the pair won 19 times and the seventh and last IMCA championship for the black deuce. The competition would get tougher.

In 1962 and 1963 the pair would finish second in points, first to Johnny White and then to Gordon Wooley. Then came the reluctant switch to Chevy power. The Black Deuce would still be a force in IMCA, but would finish third for three straight years with a different driver each year, first Jerry Daniels, then Gordon Wooley and finally Bill Puterbaugh. 1967 would be the last year Honore would campaign the legendary car. He would have an assortment of drivers including Don Daniels, Jim Moughan. At the end of the year the car was sold to Chuck Weyant of Springfield, Ill., and was campaigned through the mid-seventies.

Hector and his wife, Olga “Ma” Honore, claimed they had traveled over 1,100,000 miles over the years campaigning on the big car circuit. Honore’s “City of Roses” No. 2 cars are credited with 434 wins, 704 heat race wins and 216 new track records over his 32-year racing career. Hector Honore passed away on March 3, 1983.

The beautiful, never to be forgotten sounds of the Offenhauser engine have long since disappeared from the American Racing Scene. The thrill of going to the State Fair with crowds of over 100,000 and quickly sold-out grandstand crowds of 15 to 20 thousand have disappeared as well. They have all became just a part of the history. But to those of us who grew up in that era, the sights and sounds of the State Fair, the Big Car races and that beautiful perfectly prepared Black Deuce throwing its rooster tail of dirt onto the white fences and the man who created it will never be forgotten.

Hector Honore was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1991 and into the Highbanks Hall of Fame in Belleville, Kan., in 2001.

Special thanks to Tom Schmeh and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame for letting me use their materials.

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

Mark Martin

2004 - Lonnie Bailey of Quincy, Ill. and Darin Duffy of Independence, Iowa won opening weekend Deery Brother Summer Series events to kick start the 2004 season. Bailey held off a determined Rob Toland of Hillsdale, Ill., to score the win at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson on April 9 and Duffy led from start to finish in winning the very next night at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa.

1993 - Defending ASA champion Mike Eddy took advantage of a late race crash by leader Jay Sauter to capture the Missouri 250 at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., on April 11. Sauter had led 196 of the first 239 laps of the season opener when misfortune struck. Coming out of turn four, Sauter slipped and Eddy tapped him sending him into the wall. Eddy was able to continue on and held off Johnny Benson Jr.

1989 - Veteran Joe Shear, driving a 1989 Camaro, cruised to the ARTGO Spring Classic victory on a bitterly cold afternoon at Rockford Speedway on April 9. Shear took the point from Don Leach on lap 7 and was never headed after that in picking up his 21st ARTGO-sanctioned win.

1977 - Eighteen-year-old Mark Martin of Batesville, Ark., topped a field of 32 late models including Wisconsin ace Tom Reffner, Larry Phillips of Springfield, Rusty Wallace of St. Louis and Kansas veteran Terry Bivins to win in Springfield, Mo., on April 10.

1970 - Del McDowell of Ames battled with Walt Wilkinson for the top spot until Wilkinson's driver seat came loose allowing McDowell to take the win at Stuart Speedway on April 10. Dick Gustin would take second followed by Chuck Rodgers.

Deery Action

Todd Cooney (30) and Mike Karhoff (4K) battle during Deery Brothers Summer Series IMCA late model action at the Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City, Iowa, on April 12, 2002. — Ryan Clark Photo

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A NASCAR Legend packs the house at Shelby County Speedway in Harlan

The front cover and driver page from the Shelby County Speedway Mid-Week Special program

by Lee Ackerman

Harlan, Iowa - In the last few years, Kenny Schrader and more recently other NASCAR stars have made a practice at visiting short tracks around the country and racing with the local drivers. Back in his heyday, Bobby Allison did the same thing. On August 5, 1981, Lyle Kline promoted a midweek special in Harlan, Iowa with Bobby Allison as the main attraction.

The results were overwhelming. An overflow crowd estimated at 5,000 many in the infield, showed up to watch Allison battle the best in the Midwest. The competition included; Joe and Steve Kosiski, Don Hoffman, Bill Rice, Tom Hearst, Darrell Dake, Bill Davis, Kenny Walton, Bill Martin, Johnny Johnson, Dave Chase, Leon Plank, Dave Bjorge and all the way from Arizona, Carl Trimmer. Also in the field was an upstart from Des Moines named Billy Moyer.

Allison sandwiched his visit to Harlan between a 200-mile tire test for Goodyear earlier in the day at Charlotte and his normal NASCAR schedule. Allison did the tire test, boarded his twin-engine Aerostar, flew to Montgomery, Alabama to pick up an old friend, Richard Abercrombie and then headed for Harlan. The 1977 silver and black #12 Camaro that Allison drove at Harlan was brought to Harlan by Bobby Brown of Aberdeen, Mississippi. Allison’s plan touched down at 7:10 pm in Harlan giving him time to only get a couple of hot laps in and he was ready to take on the Iowa gumbo.

“This Iowa gumbo makes a real nice race track, one that looks like a lot of fun to race on,” said Allison. “I go short track racing for fun, just like a lot of people go bowling or fishing,” Allison said. “Last Sunday racing at Talladega, Alabama on the world’s fastest race track was work. This short track racing is fun.”

Allison started the night out by running seventh in the third heat, a 12-car affair won by Dave Chase of Omaha. The other five cars that finished ahead of Allison were in order, Steve Kosiski, Don Hoffman, Billy Moyer, Darrell Dake and Joe Kosiski. That is what you call a pretty tough heat race.

Allison would start 25th and last in the 50-lap feature with $1,200 going to the winner of the event. While he managed to move up 14 positions during the race, this still left Allison in 11th place when the checkered flag dropped. Steve Kosiski of Omaha would take the lead from Bill Rice of Des Moines with 23 laps to go and go on to take the $1,200 first place money. Following Kosiski to the line were Rice, Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, who would become the first NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Champion in 1982, Leon Plank of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Dave Bjorge of Sargeant, Minnesota.

The next day, Allison headed to Mid-Continent Raceway near Doniphan, Nebraska to compete in the Nebraska Late Model Nationals. He would compete in preliminary night action before heading back east for a NASCAR event. Again, he was a big hit and received a great deal of media and fan attention. In Thursday night's qualifying Allison was over a second off the time of fast qualifier Larry Phillips who turned a lap at 21.29. Allison’s best lap was 22.42. Later Allsion would compete in the 2nd qualifying heat race and finish fourth in that 20-lap event, won by Don Hauserman of Wichita, Kansas.

A member of the famous Alabama Gang that included Bobby’s brother Donnie, Neil Bonnett and the legendary short track driver Red Farmer, Bobby Allison would continue to race in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series until a near fatal accident at Pocono in 1988 ended his career. 

During his Winston Cup Career, Allison won 57 poles, 84 races (tied with Darrell Waltrip for third all-time), three Daytona 500s, and in 1983 realized his dream by winning the Winston Cup National Championship. Allison was also a five-time runner-up in Winston Cup. He was also a two-time National Special Modified Champion (1962 and 1963) and the National Modified Champion (1964 and 1965).