Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1998 - Jeff Anderson of Atlantic, Iowa won 3rd Annual American IMCA Stock Car Shootout at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on July 2. Brad Pinkerton of New Sharon, Iowa led 20 of 25 laps in the contest but Anderson, using the high side, passed Pinkerton on lap 23 to grab the lead and the win.

1988 - In a classic battle between two veterans with 11 combined track championships, Jim O'Conner and Tony Izzo swapped the lead four times in the last half of the race before O' Conner went on to win the 50-lap Prairie State Classic at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on July 2.

Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa won the USAC-sanctioned Bulldog 150 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on July 3, 1975.

1975 - Keokuk, Iowa's Ernie Derr took the lead from Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on lap 111 and went on to win the USAC-sanctioned Bulldog 150 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa on July 3. Dake was on his way to victory before a shredded tire caused him to make an unscheduled pit stop allowing Derr and his Dodge to speed by for the win.

1969 -Lynn Idler of Ionia, Iowa had a great weekend, sweeping the programs at Fayette County Fairgrounds in West Union, Iowa, on Friday, July 4th and Big Four Speedway in Nashua, Iowa, on Saturday, July 5.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A year-by-year history of the Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs Speedway

by Kyle Ealy 

Note: With the 37th Annual Miller 100 set to go this Friday night, I thought it would be nice to go back in time and see how the Miller 100 has evolved over the years. A lot of great names have raced in this prestigious event and this year's will be no different. I hope you enjoy looking back...

1973 — Butch Hartman of Zanesville, Ohio, won the very first “Falstaff 100” at Hawkeye Downs Speedway on September 29, when it was a USAC-sanctioned event, leading all 100 laps. Two Keokuk, Iowa veterans, Ernie Derr and Ramo Stott, finished second and third. Only 13 cars started the feature that day with the average speed of the race 67.979 mph. The race took 44:19:00 to complete.

1974 — Stock Car veteran Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo, Iowa, won the “Falstaff 100” on Tuesday, July 16. Darrell Dake finished second and Omaha’s Bob Kosiski took third.
1975 — It was a battle of Sangers as Ed beat brother Karl for the win in the “Falstaff 50” on July 15. Roger Dolan started on the pole and led until lap 33 when Ed Sanger took over and then held off his brother Karl for the win. Don White of Keokuk, Iowa finished third.
1976 — It was called the “Falstaff Classic” and it was to be run on the “New Track”, a ½-mile dirt oval. A record purse at that time, $7,600, was paid out that night with the winner to receive $1,300. The race was set for July 20, but a rainout pushed it forward to July 26. The delay didn’t stop Curt Hanson of Dike, Iowa from winning the 50-lap race. Bill Beckman of Lisbon, Iowa, set a new one-lap track record that night, qualifying his car on the pole with a time of 24.06.

Fred Horn of Marion, Iowa scored a popular win in the 5th Annual Falstaff 100 in 1977.

1977 — Marion, Iowa’s Fred Horn came from the fourth row to take the lead on lap 46 and went on to win the 5th Annual “Falstaff Classic” 100-lapper on June 14.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa's Keith Fleck of Fleck Sales poses next to the "Falstaff 100" pace car at Hawkeye Downs Speedway on June 6, 1978.

1978 — Curt Hanson of Dike, Iowa, took the lead at the drop of the green and went on to win the “Falstaff 100” on June 6. It was Hanson’s second “Falstaff” win and it came before a record crowd of over 7,000 fans. The win paid Hanson $3,200 in total prize money.
1979 — Verlin Eaker took the lead away from Mike Niffenegger on lap 46 and went on to win the prestigious “Miller 100” on June 5. It marked the second straight 100-lap win for Eaker dating back to his victory in the “Yankee Dirt Track Classic” last September.

Rodney Combs of Lost Creek, W.Va., is congratulated by race promoter Keith Fleck after dominating the 8th Annual Miller 100.

1980 — The 8th Annual “Miller 100” was won by 30-year-old Rodney Combs of Lost Creek, W.Va., before 6,000 race fans. Defending champion Verlin Eaker of Mechanicsville, Iowa, was involved in an accident on the very first lap squashing any chance of defending his title.

1981 — Leon Plank of Eau Claire, Wis., won the “Miller 100” on June 9. A rough track took its toll on cars as only eight of the 28 starters were around when the checker waved. Plank took command on lap 80 and held off a late charge from Viola, Iowa’s Ken Walton to take the $2,000 to prize.

1982 — Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa, won the “Miller 100” on June 9. The race had been delayed one day because of rain. Jackson took the lead on lap 29 and was never headed. Darrell Dake got close several times in the late stages but settled for second, a full seven seconds behind Jackson.

Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa won his first of two Miller 100's in 1983.

1983 — NASCAR Star Bobby Allison made an appearance to Hawkeye Downs Speedway but it was long-time veteran Roger Dolan who made it to victory lane at the 11th Annual “Miller 100” on June 7. Dolan played the waiting game during the race, finally passing leader Kenny Walton on lap 93 to take the well-deserved victory.

1984 — After coming so close in a couple of the previous races, Ken Walton made it clear that the “Miller 100” was his this year, leading all 100 laps to take the win on June 5. Both Bobby Allison and his 23-year-old son Davey crashed taking each other out in the process on lap five of the contest.

1985 — Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, took command of the rain-interrupted “Miller 100” on the 52nd lap and then held off Batesville, Ark., driver Billy Moyer Jr., to win the $2,100 prize.

1986 — After two straight nights of postponements, the NASCAR-sanctioned “Miller American 100” took place Thursday, June 12. It was the second event on event on the 14-race Busch All-Star Tour and paid a $15,000 purse. Roger Dolan, Tom Hearst, Dale Fischlein and Billy Moyer all led the prestigious race at one time before Dolan took command for good on lap 68 and went on to his second career victory.

1987 — After previous top-five finishes, Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., won his first “Miller 100” on June 9. Moyer passed Roger Dolan on lap 72 and coasted from there. Dave Birkhofer of Muscatine finished second and Steve Kosiski took third.

1988 — Billy Moyer came from the back of the pack twice, once in the first 50 laps and then again in the next 50, to win the 16th Annual “Miller 100” on June 7. He became the first driver to win back-to-back “Miller 100” events.

1989 — History was made this year when the “Miller 100” was run on the new asphalt at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. Steve Holzhausen of Bangor, Wis., won the annual event that features the “Cars and Stars” of the ARTGO Series, their first-ever appearance at the speedway.

1990 — Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., making his first ARTGO start in 12 years, upset the ARTGO Challenge Series field in winning the rain-delayed 18th Annual “Miller 100” on June 6. Phillips held off Bryan Reffner of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., by half a car length at the finish.

1991 — Joe Shear inherited the lead with six laps to go when Steve Carlson’s car suffered a broken ball joint to win the 19th Annual ARTGO “Miller Genuine Draft 100” on June 8.

1992 — Much to the delight of the hometown fans, Johnny Spaw won the “Miller 100” on Saturday night, June 2. Spaw battled fellow Cedar Rapidian, Dudley Fleck, for most of the race until Fleck was involved in a spectacular accident.

1993 — Mel Walen of Shakopee, Minn., thwarted Johnny Spaw’s attempt to win two in a row by slipping pass Spaw on the 59th circuit to win the “Miller Genuine Draft 100” collecting $5,050.

1994 — Tom Carlson, La Crosse, Wis., captured the NASCAR Northern Series “Miller Genuine Draft 100” on June 9 in an exciting shootout with Kevin Nuttleman that saw both drivers side-by-side for the final five laps of the race.

1995 — Over the winter, Joe Shear of Clinton, Wis., beat cancer and on Tuesday, June 6, beat a stellar field of Late Models to win the ARTGO Challenge Series “Miller Genuine Draft 100”. Shear passed Jim Weber on lap 54 to take his second career “Miller”.

1996 — After numerous attempts Steve Carlson of West Salem, Wis., finally captured his first “Miller 100” on June 4. An estimated 6,000 race fans were in attendance to watch Carlson begin his run from his 11th starting position to grab the lead on lap 25 from Johnny Spaw and stay there for good.

Dudley Fleck (14) battles with Jon Lemke (17) as Jim Weber (28) looks for room during the ARTGO-sanctioned "Miller 100" at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 14, 1997. — Vince Brecht Photo

1997 — Steve Carlson became the second driver to win back-to-back “Miller 100” events winning the 25th annual event on Saturday night, June 14. Long-time flagman Engel DeKock came out of retirement to start the race. Ramo Stott, Verlin Eakers, Roger Dolan, Irv Janey and Fred Horn were among drivers who competed in a “Legends of Miller 100” race and long-time race organizer Keith Fleck was honored for his efforts in raising over $200,000 for charities in the 25-year history of the prestigious race.

1998 — Ron Breese Jr., of DeKalb, Ill., grabbed the lead on lap 63 and went on to win the NASCAR/ARTGO Touring Series “Miller 125” on June 16. Eddie Hoffman of Westchester, Ill., finished second and J.R Roahring of South Bend, Ind., took third.

1999 — Kevin Nuttleman of Bangor, Wis., won the McLeod USA Gold Star Series “Miller Lite 150” on June 15. The significance of 150 laps was in celebration of Cedar Rapid’s 150th birthday. Nuttleman passed two-time winner Steve Carlson on lap 18 and never relinquished the lead after that.

2000 — Josh Walker of Ankeny, Iowa, took home the win in the 28th Annual “Miller 100” on June 7. Walker bolted from his front-row starting spot to lead green to checkered.

2001 — Steve Carlson became the first three-time winner of the “Miller 100” when he scored the victory in the 29th annual running. Carlson started in the eighth row and methodically made his way to the front passing Doug Hite on lap 70 to go on to the win.

2002 — Justin Diercks of Davenport, Iowa, held off a determined Johnny Spaw to win the 30th Annual “Miller 100” before a standing room only crowd during the Hawkeye Downs Fair.

2003 — Justin Diercks gave a repeat performance winning the “Miller 100” on June 11. A couple of late race cautions put Dudley Fleck and Johnny Spaw in striking distance, but Diercks powered his Late Model around the ½-mile to take the win.

2004 — Charlie Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., made his way to the front from his 14th starting position to win the MARS Late Model “Miller 100” on June 25. Menard used a nifty high-side move to pass Dean Cornelius on lap 22 and take the lead for good.

2005 — The 33rd Annual “Miller 200” kicked off the Hawkeye Downs Fair on June 8th with Stephen Leicht winning. The American Stockcar League (ASL), a new series formed after the disbanded American Speed Association ran a 150-lap feature along with a 50-lap feature for Late Models.

2006 — Trent Snyder of Ironton, Minn., won a 10-lap battle with hometown favorite Landon Cassill to score the upset in the ASA Late Model Northern Division “Miller 100” on September 1.

Steve Carlson of West Salem, Wis., is a five-time Miller 100 winner

2007 — Steve Carlson of West Salem, Wis., became the first four-time winner of the “Keith Fleck Miller 100” in the ASA Midwest Tour-sanctioned event. Carlson passed Nathan Haseleu on lap 86 and held on from there to win on June 1.

2008 - The 36th annual event was originally scheduled for June 13th. However, because of the severe flooding in Iowa at the time, the race was re-scheduled for July 18th. Steve Carlson’s domination in the marquee event continued as he picked up his fifth career Miller 100. Carlson started seventh and was out in front by lap 40.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1975 - Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, made it a clean sweep by winning the late model trophy dash, third heat and the feature at Denison (Iowa) Speedway on June 28. Sanger passed Randy Sterner of Blair, Neb., for the lead on lap 13 of the 20-lap feature and then held off Council Bluff's Ron Tilley for the win.

Wendell Kuehn of Rochester, Minn., waves the checkers after winning the first to two late model features during the Ole Brua Memorial in Cresco, Iowa on June 29, 1974.

1974 - Wendell Kuehn of Rochester, Minn., emerged as the overall winner of the Ole Brua Memorial at the Howard County Fairgrounds in Cresco, Iowa on June 29. Kuehn fended off Ed Sanger to win the first 20-lap feature and then came from the rear to place third in the second 20-lap feature to take home $380 in cash and a diamond ring worth $1,100. The race was held in honor of IMCA driver Ole Brua who died one year earlier in a car-train crash in Rochester, Minn. 

1969 - Gale Card of Waterloo, Iowa dealt the rest of the late model stock car field an ace as he won the 25-lap feature before 8,000 fans at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 28. Card out-dueled Lisbon, Iowa's Roger Dolan the last 21 laps in his 1968 Road Runner. Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Walt Carney of West Branch and Waterloo's Red Droste rounded out the top-five finishers.

1968 - Ron Brokaw of Corning, Iowa, drove an amazing race to win the super stock feature at Greenfield (Iowa) Speedway on June 29. Brokaw started 10th but was able to secure the lead on the third lap and place almost a half a lap lead between him and his nearest challenger. Varel Schmidt of Massena, Iowa took second followed by Corning's Sam Armstrong. Kay Whitehead of Clarinda, Iowa scored her second win in the "unusually" accident-free powder puff race.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Roger Clark

Roger Clark, Rock Island, Ill., receives the checkers for his win in the super modified trophy dash at 34 Raceways Park in Burlington, Iowa, on June 24, 1972. – Roger Meier Photo

Monday, June 22, 2009

1976 - Tucker stops Kosiski; claims $600 bounty

Kent Tucker 

Omaha, Neb. - It was a night of firsts at Sunset Speedway on June 27, 1976. 

Kent Tucker of Aurora, Neb., made history with his first career win at Sunset that evening. He was also the first late model driver in victory lane this season not named Kosiski. Bob Kosiski of Omaha had a five-week feature winning streak in the late model division heading into the night's program. 

After Kosiski's second victory, a $200 bounty was placed on his head but Kosiski kept winning. Three weeks later, the bounty was a whopping $600. The 25-lap race turned out to be one of the most thrilling features that Sunset Speedway had seen in years, with the lead changing six times among four drivers, Joe Kosiski, Craig Spetman, Bob Kosiski and finally Kent Tucker. 

At many times, the top eight cars ran bumper to bumper, side to side with Tucker finally passing Bob Kosiski on lap 20 to take the lead. Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa followed Tucker past Kosiski and gave chase until the apple farmer developed problems and dropped back with two laps left. Kosiski picked up the pace but was unable to extend the bounty for another week and settled for second. Fremont's Don Styskal took third, Spetman finished fourth and Paul Zdan rounded out the top five. 

With the $400 regular night winnings and the collected bounty, Tucker should of taken home $1,000 but because of what flagman Poncho Goldsberry and association president Randy Sterner termed "rough driving" by Tucker and Martin earlier in the contest, they were both fined $25 after the feature thus leaving Tucker with a $975 payday instead. This decision outraged some of Tucker's fans and upon hearing this coughed up $25 so his winnings could be an even $1,000.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1990 -Steve Kinser won the 2nd Annual Beertown Showdown for the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars at Hales Corner Speedway near Milwaukee on June 20. Kinser, driving his #11 J.W. Hunt Maxim, beat Sammy Swindell into turn one on the start and led all 30 laps to score the $12,500 payday. Sammy settled for second, Dave Blaney took third, Jeff Swindell grabbed fourth and Bobby Allen rounded out the top five.

1980 - Marion, Iowa's Fred Horn sped past leader Ken Walton of Viola, Iowa, on lap six to grab the lead and went on to win the Pepsi 100 at the Wapello County Fairgrounds in Eldon, Iowa on June 20. Horn would lap all but six of the 24 starters in picking up the $1,400 first prize plus lap money. Walton grabbed runner-up honors while Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun, Dick Schiltz and Ed Sanger, both of Waterloo, rounded out the top five.

Bill Barthelmes of Troy Mills, Iowa was the late model winner in Dubuque, Iowa on June 22, 1975.

1975 - Bill Barthelmes of Troy Mills, Iowa won the late model feature at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds on June 22. Barthelmes grabbed the lead from Waterloo's Larry Wasserfort on lap nine and then held off Independence, Iowa's Glen Martin at the wire. Barthelmes' victory was even more impressive when it was learned that a broken motor mount on the last few laps caused his accelerator to stick. He finished the lap two laps by turning the ignition switch on and off.

1969 - Bob Tattersall won the 40-lap USAC midget feature at Joe Shaheen's Lil' Springfield Raceway on June 20. Tattersall scooted past Bob Wente of St. Louis on lap seven to take the lead and held on from there to extend his point's lead in the national standings. The best race of the night was for second with Wente, Jimmy Caruthers, Mike McGreevy and Chuck Arnold finishing in that order.

Mt. Pleasant closed shop when the Big Cars came to town

Roy Blinstrup was the MVARA Big Car winner at the Henry County Fair in Mount Pleasant, Iowa on August 7, 1949 - Bob Mays Collection

By Kyle Ealy

Mount Pleasant, Iowa - They were called “Big Cars” back then and in the 40’s, 50’s and even into the early 60’s, when they came to town, it was a big thing. So big in fact, that the town of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa literally shut down.

The Mississippi Valley Auto Racing Association started operations in 1946 and like their bigger competitor, IMCA, scheduled events in small towns usually during that town’s county fair, hence the name “Fair Circuit”. Small towns like Davenport, Iowa, Kahoka, Mo., Aledo, Ill., and Sandwich, Ill., played host to these speed demon machines and standing room only crowds were the norm.

The MVARA made its first appearance in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and the Henry County Fair on August 8, 1948. The ½-mile track had been used primarily for horse racing throughout the years but Big Cars were the thoroughbreds on this day. Unfortunately, the day’s events off to a poor start. In the very first race, Merritt Wandling’s car crashed through the fourth turn guard rail taking out several posts. In the process, a piece of wood pierced Wandling’s abdomen. He was transported to the University of Iowa hospitals where he was pronounced dead. When the action resumed, Charlie Irons grabbed the feature victory.

On August 7, 1949, the Henry County Fair closed out its annual summer fair with another overflow crowd at the McMillan Park Amphitheater. It was said that not only were the stands at full capacity but fans who couldn’t find a seat found a spot on top of the nearby cattle barns. The main event on the crowd on their feet as local boy Dick Nau took the early lead and battled side by side with Roy Blinstrup. Nau’s engine finally gave up towards the end of the feature allowing Blinstrup to take the win.

The August 8, 1950 race saw another full house. It also saw a disqualification as Johnny Noble was first across the finish line with a hard charging Clair Peterson right on his heels as the checkers waved. A post-race inspection showed that Noble’s car did not meet MVARA specifications and Peterson was awarded the victory.

A young lanky driver from Brimfield, Ill., had also joined the circuit that season and left an impression on the Mt. Pleasant residents. He would go on to win the 1951 Mississippi Valley Auto Racing Association championship but would be more noted for winning the 1971 and 1972 IMCA sprint car titles. His name was Jerry Blundy.

Mt. Pleasant residents took their Big Car racing seriously. An advertisement in the August 6, 1951 Mt. Pleasant News stated that all retail stores would be closed on the day of the big race. Even store owners didn’t want to miss out on the action. Jack Biddison pulled double duty that evening. He not only took the 15-lap win but doubled as the announcer that afternoon when he wasn’t behind the wheel.

Over 3,500 fans filled McMillan Park on August 2, 1952. Herb Shannon, who would later go on to star in USAC and ARCA, made one of his first starts in a Model T flathead. Winning the race was Jimmy Vichetti of St. Louis over Jimmy Haines of Chicago and local favorite Dick Nau.

On August 1, 1953, race fans saw the good and the bad. Dick Nau finally won a feature on his hometown turf. What made his win even more interesting was Nau was entered as the “Masked Marvel” with a big question mark painted on the side of his car. It was a publicity stunt at it’s finest. The crowd was told that the masked driver didn’t have to reveal his identity unless he lost a race. Nau topped the time trials, won his match race, first heat and feature, thus he kept his mask on.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck once again. In the third heat Eddie Loetscher was leading on the last lap when he slowed for a turn. Dutch Morehouse went over Loetscher’s rear axle, causing Morehouse to flip violently. Morehouse was thrown from his car and bounced several times on the track. He died later of a skull fracture.

Another healthy crowd of 3,000 plus race fans showed up on July 31, 1954. The Mt. Pleasant News reported, “Fans filled the stands, lined the rails and were at overflow capacity in the infield”. Defending MVARA champion Roy Blinstrup of Rock Island, Rocky Williams of Peoria and current series point leader Ray Knepper of Belleville, Ill., were all in attendance. What also made the Mt. Pleasant race unique it was one of the few tracks in that period able to compete at night. James Wegescheider of St. Louis took the win. Hometown boy Dick Nau had given up driving duties and was now flagging the event.

Mount Pleasant, Iowa native Dick Nau (holding checkers) gave up driving and became the flagman for the MVARA. He's shown here in victory lane with Vic Watson - Bob Mays Collection

Bob Cleburg of Rio, Wis., grabbed Big Car honors on July 31, 1955 before another crowd estimated at 3,000. The annual event had become so popular the MVARA Big Car’s had become the grand finale of the Henry County Fair.

Once again, on July 28, 1956, the Henry County Fair came to a close with another large crowd. Indiana’s Ray Duckworth had a huge lead in this affair until Freddy Lambach cut into that margin. Duckworth’s engine gave out on the final lap allowing Lambach to speed by for the win in a thrilling finish.

Although the MVARA didn’t close out the Henry County Fair in 1957, another large crowd and a field of 20 cars came together on June 29th. Another future Hall of Famer, Red Hoyle grabbed the victory. In that field was Barney Knaack possibly the biggest driver of all time. It was said that Knaack stood 6’9” and was somewhere in the vicinity of 300 pounds.

On June 28, 1958, Ken Rubright, driving Merle Heath’s Chevy, tangled with Jerry Blundy and Herb Shannon in the second heat severely damaging Rubright's machine. He made lightning quick repairs and was able to win the feature. He would go on to win four times that season en route to the MVARA championship.

With the beginning of the 60’s, stock cars and jalopies were becoming more of the main attraction and with it came the slow demise of the MVARA and racing at the Henry County Fair. Another Big Car series, US Speedways, sanctioned races there for a few more years but the crowds and the car counts were considerably smaller.

In 1963 and 1964, the last two seasons for the MVARA, they came back to Mt. Pleasant for one last hoorah. They scheduled a two-day show on July 26 and 27, 1963 with crowds reported at 1,100, far below the 3,000 plus the fair had turned out in it’s hey days. Rollie Johnson took the win on the 26th over Kenny Wines, Ed Frese and Rocky Williams. The next day that lanky kid Jerry Blundy grabbed top honors over Tom Custer and Gene Cunningham, driving a Ranger-powered car.

On July 25, 1964, the MVARA made their last-ever appearance. It seemed only fitting that it was the last day of the Henry County Fair as well. The crowd, maybe sensing the end of Big Car racing in their small town, came out in support to the tune of 2,300 paid spectators. Ed Frese timed in at 25:55, better than the 22 other competitors that showed this day. Frese made it a clean sweep, winning his heat, semi-main and the feature event over Kenny Higginson.

Like the quote says, “All good things must come to an end”. By 1965, the Mississippi Valley Auto Racing Association had disbanded and gone forever was Big Car racing in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa at the Henry County Fair.

Ken Rubright (66), Red Renner (4) and Tom Cherry (38) race three-wide during a MVARA-sanctioned event in the late 1940's - Armin Krueger photo/Bob Mays Collection

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1992 - Mike Smith of Jewell, Iowa had an impressive week, winning the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA late models event at Southern Iowa Speedway on Wednesday, June 10 and then following that up with a win in the Bob Shryock Memorial at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 13. Smith passed Bruce Hanford midway through the 35-lap feature and then held off Ron Jackson to win in Oskaloosa and then stayed ahead of Bob Hill and Joe Kosiski to capture the $1,500 prize in Webster City.

1981 - Rodney Combs of Lost Creek, W.Va., was fast qualifier and Dave Bjorge of Sargent, Minn., was quickest around the track in the feature as I-70 National Speedway in Odessa, Mo., re-opened as a dirt track on June 13. Acquired by Weld Enterprises earlier in the season, the asphalt racing surface was covered with tons of dirt as the speedway started a new era of racing. Combs set a new track record (:19.67) and Bjorge would win the 50-lapper convincingly by 10 car lengths.

Bill Robison of Topeka, Kan., grabbed top honors in the super sprint feature at Fairgrounds Speedway in Algona, Iowa, on June 13, 1975.

1975- Bill Robison of Topeka, Kan., made the long haul north pay off as he grabbed the checkers in the super sprint main at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Algona, Iowa on Friday, June 13. The feature was completed with one restart, with Robison followed to the wire by Dick Forbrook by half a car length. Jim Edgington, fast qualifier Bob Hop and Stacy Redmond rounded out the top-five.
1969 - On what was declared "Mel Kenyon Day" by Davenport, Iowa Mayor John Jebens, Bobby Tattersall of Streator, Ill., took fast time (:15.43), won the fourth heat and then won the 30-lap feature as the USAC midgets made an appearance at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds on June 17. Merle Bettenhausen of Tinley Park, Ill., Bob Wente of Normandy, Mo., Mike McGreevy of Hayward, Calif. and Mel Kenyon, formerly of Davenport were the top five finishers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2001 - Aikey and Birky...This Bud's for you

Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, raced to his first Bud Open Late Model Shootout victory at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds Speedway on June 12, 2001.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - With a couple of Open Late Model Shootouts in the books and two more coming up, I decided to look back at a couple of previous late model specials that were held right around this time in 2001.

The Budweiser Open Late Model Shootouts will long be remembered for top-name drivers, big crowds and exciting finishes. Two of those exciting finishes occurred on back-to-back nights eight years ago this very week.

The Winnebago County Fairgrounds Speedway in Pecatonica, Ill., hosted a Budweiser Open Late Model Shootout on Tuesday evening, June 12th. Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa was in the right place at the right time to pick up his first "Shootout" victory of his career.

The race looked to be a route as pole-sitter Steve Boley of West Liberty, Iowa, rocketed to the lead at the start and was off to the races. Even on a couple of restarts, Boley would open up full straightaway leads on his competitors. Unfortunately, engine failure found Boley and he retired after 33 laps of the scheduled 50 lapper. Gary Webb of Blue Grass, Iowa, took over the top spot and he too looked like the man to beat.

Meanwhile, Aikey, who started 10th, picked his way through traffic and finally got to second with 10 laps to go. It was then that a low tire started to slow Webb down and Aikey capitalized, passing the leader with six laps to go and finding himself taking the checkers first along with a $6,000 payday. It was Aikey's first "Shootout" victory ever.

The other story of the evening was Darren Miller of Chadwick, Ill., Miller had to qualify for the feature through the consolation and then starting at the rear of the field, made his way all the way to the runner-up spot before running out of laps. Rick Wendling of Hazelton, Iowa finished third after running second most of the night. Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., took fourth and Ryan Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa rounded out the top-five.

Muscatine, Iowa's Brian Birkhofer scored his second Bud Open Late Model Shootout win of the young season at the Dubuque County Fairground on June 13, 2001. 

The following night at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds, it was a young man from Muscatine, Iowa, that showed the way to victory lane. 

Brian Birkhofer displayed a little patience and used a mid-race caution to grab the checkers and $6,000 pay check. Like Saturday night, Steve Boley grabbed the lead and showed his backside to the rest of the field until lap eight when Coralville, Iowa's Denny Eckrich nosed inside of Boley in turns 1 and 2, raced side by side down the backstretch and then managed to sneak by for the lead coming out of the fourth turn. Eckrich then opened up an insurmountable lead by over half a track, lapping cars left and right in the process.

The first yellow of the night slowed the pace of the field, which was on lap 29. It proved to be a costly caution for Eckrich who had built such a huge lead. Birkhofer had managed to secure the fifth spot when the caution came out and with no lapped cars to overcome, it was time to go to work. Advancing one position as a series of yellows fell on laps 33, 34 and 36, Birkhofer moved past second place runner Gary Webb to move within striking distance of Eckrich with a dozen laps to go. 

Birkhofer used several different lines in an attempt to get past Eckrich but found the cushion the best part on the track to make the winning move past Eckrich on lap 41. From there Birkhofer opened up a comfortable lead, winning by 20 car lengths in the end. It was already his second "Shootout" victory of the young season.

The previous night's winner and runner-up, Aikey and Miller, followed Birkhofer past Eckrich to finish second and third respectively. A disappointed Eckrich settled for fourth and Gary Webb took fifth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Future promoter gettin dirty

Larry Kemp was the substitute flagman at Tipton (Iowa) Speedway on June 11, 1967, when an out-of-control super stock race car hit the flagman's platform knocking him into the mud alongside the track. Larry suffered slight injuries to his back and legs in the mishap but continued on with his duties for the evening. - Claire Schreiber photo

Monday, June 1, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1992 - Robbie Reiser of Allentown, Wis., passed Bryan Reffner of Wisconsin Rapids on the final lap to win the late model feature at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wis., on Friday, June 5. Reiser became the fourth winner in as many weeks at the half-mile oval.

1987 - The largest crowd in nearly 20 years jammed the grandstands and the pit area to watch NASCAR star Kyle Petty compete in the late model division at Marshalltown Speedway on June 5. A standing room only crowd of 2,600 watched Petty, driving a car owned by Frank Jorgeson of Carroll, Iowa, race to a 11th place finish in a feature won by Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls.

1982 - John Stevenson from St. Paul, Minn., won the winged sprint car feature and Bo Smith of St. Charles took his fourth late model feature win of the season at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill., on June 4. Stevenson grabbed the lead at the green and was never challenged. Smith battled fellow front-row starter Fred Strobe until Strobe retired to the pits midway through allowing Smith to claim the victory.

1976 - Ron Bergsma of Richmond, Wis., battled wheel to wheel with Jimmy Hendges of Kenosha and then held off defending champion Dick Colburn of Muskego to win the 25-lap super modified feature at Kenosha County Speedway in Wilmot, Wis., on June 6.

Dale Swanson: A Mechanical Genius

Dale Swanson poses between his two race cars and his drivers; Dewayne "Tiny" Lund (#5) and Johnny Beauchamp (#55) - Lee Ackerman Photo

by Lee Ackerman 
Omaha, Neb. — Every so often a person comes along that just has a natural gift. People who are blessed with great mechanical skills have always fascinated me, probably because I have always lacked in that area. We all know that if you go to Charlotte or Indianapolis, you can find many of these mechanical wizards.

But you don’t have to go that far to find them...

Let’s take a little trip back in time to a hot bed of racing in Western Iowa. To Harlan, and to a mechanic, who’s cars won races from the local scene to NASCAR and most levels in between. His name was Dale Everett Swanson.

Dale Swanson was actually born in Monona County, Iowa, in 1918 in a little town called Castana. In his youth, he moved with his family to a farm near Mondamin, Iowa, and in 1936 graduated from Mondamin High School. Later the family moved to a farm near Harlan where Dale continued to farm. In August of 1941 Dale married Phyllis Kohles and in 1942 they moved to Harlan where Dale would operate gas stations and auto repair businesses.

In the late ’40s, Dale got the racing bug. After the war, racing had started up again at the Shelby County Fairgrounds and Dale tried his hand. He soon found that although he prepared good race cars, he lacked driving skills. It just so happened that another driver was struggling as well, he was a good driver, but his cars were not reliable. So, the two decided to team up, Dale preparing the cars and the other driver would drive. That drivers name was Johnny Beauchamp. It didn’t take long and the pair was winning, something they would do a lot over the years. First, in hot rods, Dale even promoted a hot rod race at Harlan. Soon the pair was winning hot rod races all over western Iowa and Nebraska.

In 1950, they moved to the coupes and won most of the races in which they were entered. In 1951, they won the championship at Playland Park Speedway. About this time, Swanson built a second car for another Harlan area driver, DeWayne “Tiny” Lund. Swanson cars dominated races in the area, with Beauchamp in the No. 55 and Lund in the No. 5. At some point the team just wore out and decided to take a break from racing. I asked Dale Swanson Jr., where the number 55 came from. He said, “Well one night Dad had a very good night playing craps, he kept winning when two fives came up, so he decided that would be the number on his race car.”

In 1955, an individual named George Short decided he wanted to go IMCA racing. So, he hired Dale as the crew chief and Johnny Beauchamp as the driver. They raced a ’55 Chevy with the familiar No. 55 on it. On August 16, they won their first IMCA feature at the Crawford County Fairgrounds in Denison, Iowa. On August 21, they won again at Wausau, Wis. They would win five races that first year and finish sixth in IMCA points despite getting a late start to the season. In 1956, with Chevrolet support Dale became the car owner as well as the chief mechanic and the two decided to run the entire IMCA Stock Car schedule. The results were overwhelming! Forty-three wins as they ran away with the championship.

In 1957 they successfully defended their IMCA championship winning 32 races and pulling away to another championship after an early season battle with Roy and Bob Burdick. It was a promoter's dream, Chevrolet versus Ford. Before that season started, Dale spent time at the General Motors facilities building cars for General Motors to run in NASCAR. One of those cars, the No. 50 owned by Hugh Babb finished second in the 1957 beach race at Daytona Beach driven by who else, Johnny Beauchamp. During this time Dale found time to open a Johnson Outboard Marine dealership in Harlan. It was a business he would continue until his death.

In 1958, campaigning a partial IMCA season without General Motors support, the Swanson-Beauchamp combo won four races and finished fourth in the points. In 1960, the two combined to run nine races in the NASCAR Grand National Division (now the Cup Series). They made their debut at the new Charlotte Motor Speedway in the inaugural running of the “World 600”. They finished second to Joe Lee Johnson. They would have five top-10 finishes in those nine races with the highlight being a win at the Nashville Fairgrounds on August 7, 1960 in a rain-shortened event.

In 1961 Beauchamp would drive the No. 73 Swanson car in one of the 100-mile Daytona qualifiers. It was during this race that Beauchamp and Lee Petty (principles in the controversial first “Daytona 500”) would both be hurled over the guardrail in a frightening accident that pretty much ended Lee Petty’s racing career. His car destroyed; Dale worked on Smokey Yunick’s pit crew for the 1961 “Daytona 500.” Marvin Panch ended up winning the race for Yunick.

In 1962, Swanson and Beauchamp would team up to win one last race together, the prestigious “Iowa International 300” at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. During this time Sonny Morgan would occasionally drive for Swanson. In 1964, Dale opened a new automotive business in Harlan, and discontinued racing operations in order to grow the business. He would later return to racing at what he called “hobby racing” Dale would pass away in January 1996, but the Swanson racing legacy would live on, thru his son Dale, Jr. who was involved in racing for many years, and it still lives on today through his grandson, Ken, who currently lives in Charlotte, N.C., and has worked on a number of top NASCAR teams.

I’ve always been amazed by the logistics of racing back in the day, and one of my favorite stories is a story related to me by Dale Swanson, Jr. On July 3, 1956, IMCA ran an afternoon-evening doubleheader in Jamestown, N.D. The Swanson-Beauchamp team won both events. The next day, they were to run an IMCA race in Topeka, Kan. (Remember there was no such thing as Interstate Highways back then).

Dale made arrangements with his cousin, Russell Smith, an over the road trucker, to pick up Dale, Jr. in Harlan and meet him at Columbus around three or four in the morning. Well about seven or eight in the morning, Dale shows up with the race car, seems that Dale had decided to work on the race car in Jamestown after the races.

Off they went to Topeka, getting there just in time as the crews were already ironing in the track and they had to wait to get into the infield. Since they towed the race car, the first thing Dale had to do was put the drive shaft back in the race cars. That almost proved to be a serious problem as after jacking the car up with one of those old frame screw type jacks, and getting under to put the drive shaft in, the car tipped over almost trapping Dale, fortunately the car tipped the other way.

As for the race, Beauchamp was running away with it, building a several lap lead much to the disappointment of Promoter Al Sweeney who pleaded with Dale to slow Beauchamp down because he was ruining the show. Dale Jr. said, “I don’t know the exact words my father used but it was a definite NO.” 

The Dodge Dealers of Topeka had put up a $500 bonus if a Dodge could win the race. Toward the end of the race, another driver in a Dodge hit Beauchamp in turn two and put him through the cyclone fence. They got the car back to the pits and made sure it was okay and sent Beauchamp out to finish the race. Beauchamp ended up winning the race despite a broken right front motor mount. The motor was riding on the fuel pump and cross member. Dale Jr. says, “We use to solder copper tubing rings to the radiator so if the fan hit the radiator it would skid on the rings and not cut into the tubs and drain the water. The fan was running on these skids at the end of the race.”

One final thought on Dale Swanson. If you see old pictures of Dale at the track, you will see that he always carried a trucker type wallet in his back pocket, attached to a chain. In the old days, they paid off the races in cash, and you can bet that with all the success Dale Swanson had, that wallet was always pretty full. The other drivers use to kid him and call him moneybags, with good reason.

Dale Swanson knew how to prepare race cars to do one thing, win, and win they did.