Friday, July 31, 2009

1968 Knoxville Nationals Program

A photo of Thad Dosher of Topeka, Kan., published in the 1968 Knoxville Super Modified National Championship official program.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - I spent a considerable amount of time organizing my racing archives in my garage today. I ran across a real gem; the official program of the 1968 Knoxville Super Modified National Championships. While reading through it, I found some little-known facts about the '68 Nationals and the Marion County Fairgrounds...

* The total purse that year for the three-day event was $15,000.
* On the front cover they had head shots of some of the drivers competing in the event. They included Jay Woodside, Dick Sutcliffe, Lloyd Beckman, Joe Saldana, Roy Robbins, Bill Utz, Jim Edgington, Jerry Weld, Earl Wagner and Jerry Blundy.
* The Marion County Fairboard consisted of President Carroll Price, Race Director Marion Robinson and the treasurer at the time was some guy named Ralph Capitani.

On page two of the program they discussed how Knoxville Raceway had grown by leaps and bounds since it's beginning in 1954. That year, the fair association looked around for a way to make greater use of the grounds and it's facilities, rather have it sit idle except for the six days of the year when the annual fair came to town. Racing seemed to be the solution and beyond a shadow of a doubt, a wise choice.

It read, "In that first season - that was 1954 - a "crowd" of 600 and a purse of $240 for the drivers was about tops. There were seats for something over 1,200 people. Thirteen years later a crowd of 3,000 to 6,000 is not uncommon and drivers from several states split a purse of never less than $2,000".

Most of the earnings from the auto racing venture was poured back into the fairgrounds. The expansion of the grandstands and a increase in protective installations had taken a big chunk of the profits but it was money well spent. Here's why...

Once, several years ago, a driver flipped his car over the fence and in the process cut a telephone cable, putting part of Marion County out of telephone service for several days. The incident prompted officials to increase protective barriers along the highway, another expenditure taken from the racing profits.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

1972 - News and Notes from Illustrated Speedway News

by Kyle Ealy
Cedar Rapids, Iowa - I don't have many back issues of Illustrated Speedway News but I'll run across a copy once in a while. As I was sifting through my endless stacks of archives (which are really starting to pile up), I ran across this issue dated, August 8, 1972. 

While ISN covered mostly Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and eastern parts of the United States, they would venture west and cover some of the racing action in Illinois and Wisconsin. The paper had a column titled "Speedway Hot Line" written by a young up and coming hotshot who would go on to promote a successful (and highly popular) racing series. His name was John McKarns... Here were some of the reports and results from the "Land of Lincoln" and the "Badger State" in that issue;

Ray Lee Goodwin won the 25-lap IMCA sprint car feature at the Knox County Fair on July 30, 1972. Goodwin would go on to win the 1972 IMCA Sprint car national championship.

Weaving his way through traffic, Kansas City's Ray Lee Goodwin scored a come from behind win in the 25-lap IMCA sprint car feature at the Knox County Fair in Knoxville, Ill., on July 30th. The hard-charging Goodwin throttled his Chevy-powered sprinter into the lead with four laps to go and coasted to victory. Two new Knox County Fairground track records were broken on the semi-banked 1/2-mile that night. Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa, a newcomer to IMCA racing, cracked the eight lap mark (3:27.11) and Ottumwa, Iowa's Johnny Babb set a new standard for five laps (2:08.27).

Peoria's Steve Lance won a nail-biter during Freeport Raceway's mid-season championships on July 30th. Lance got past Lisbon, Iowa's Roger Dolan late in the 50-lap race and then had to hold off a determined John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa, on the last lap to seal the deal.

At Raceway Park in Blue Island, Ill., Ray Young won his 12th late model feature of the year on Wednesday night, August 2nd. Young started eighth in the short field of 13 cars, took the lead from a spinning Lonnie Prince on lap six and drove his 1970 Mustang to a half-lap victory over Bill McEnery.

Wisconsin Rapids' Dick Trickle would score his 49th feature win of the season at Capitol Super Speedway in Madison, Wis., on August 4, 1972. When the season was over, Trickle would accumulate an amazing 67 feature victories.

Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., added another feature win with ease, his 49th of the year at Capitol Super Speedway in Madison, Wis., on August 4th. The winningest driver in the state, Trickle set fast time on the 1/2-mile oval (19.31) and then starting at the back of the field for the feature, moved quickly through the pack in his #99 A & W-sponsored Mustang, grabbing the lead on lap nine and beating Jim Sauter to the checkers.

In his weekly column, John McKarns mentioned, "Forty-four wins by the end of July? That's Dick Trickle's 1972 record and he didn't even get started racing until late April as he was still building his 1970 Mustang while other drivers were in Florida for Speed Weeks".

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1996 - Story City, Iowa's Bob Hill led all 100 laps on the Indiana State Fairgrounds mile dirt to win the STP Indianapolis 100 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Supercar Series event on July 31. Hill collected $15,700 for his third career series win, all on dirt. Mike Wallace, Steve Kosiski, Scott Neal and Eric Smith rounded out the top five.

1987 - Bobby Layne showed why he was the national weekly racing series point's leader in the IMCA modified division by leading all 25 laps in winning the 4th Annual Modified Madness Special at Lakeside Speedway on July 31. The 33-year-old driver from Pleasant Valley, Mo., started in the inside second row but had the lead before the first lap was completed.

John Stevenson won the Midwest Sprint Association feature at Bemidji Raceway. 

1974 - John Stevenson took advantage of a late yellow flag to score the victory in the 20-lap Midwest Sprint Association feature at Bemidji (Minn.) Raceway on July 31. Stevenson, driving the Bethke Sprinter, moved past race leader Bob Hop on the last restart and won by a couple of car lengths at the checkers. Hop, Barry Kettering, Harry Johnson and Dennis Olson finished out the top five. 

1969 - Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio, fattened his IMCA championship point's lead by winning the 25-lap feature on the half-mile of the Knox County (Ill.) Fairgrounds before 3,700 race fans. Following Harrison across the finish line were Benny Rapp of Toledo, Ohio, Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., Jay Woodside of Kansas City and Buzz Rose of Lomita, Calif.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in hstory)

1998 - Jimmy Gustin of Union, Iowa and Scott Davis of Madrid, Iowa were the big winners at Greenbelt Speedway in Eldora, Iowa on July 23. Gustin rode the high side around the 1/2-mile to win the National Kidney Foundation of Iowa's Heartland Tour for modifieds and Davis passed Jeff Nielsen with four laps to go to score the win in the NAPA Series for IMCA stock cars.

1987 - Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa battled much of the race with Dale Fischlein of Independence, Iowa for second place, then chased down race leader Bob Hill of Story City, Iowa, to win the 50-lap NASCAR Busch All Star Tour event at Fairmont (Minn.) Raceway on July 24. Dolan, who started eighth, passed Hill on lap 34 and then held him off for the remainder of the race in front of approximately 3,000 fans on the Martin County Fairgrounds.

Roger Rager acknowledges the crowd from victory lane after winning the super sprint feature at the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds in Oskaloosa, Iowa on July 25, 1975.

1975 - Roger Rager of Mound, Minn., grabbed two super sprint wins in two days. On Wednesday night, July 23, Rager swept the the program, winning his heat, trophy dash and feature at Fairmount Speedway in dominating fashion. On Friday, July 25th, Rager set fast ime (21.300) on the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds 1/2-mile and then battled side-by-side with Leonard McCarl until securing the lead for himself on lap 15 of the 20-lap contest.

Lem Blankenship holds the checkers after winning the 100-lap stock car special in Harlan, Iowa, on July 25, 1969.

1969 - Lem Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa withstood the challenges of 17 of the best drivers in the Midwest to win the Centennial 100 stock car race at Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa, on July 25. Blankenship led the race for 95 laps. picking up a total prize of $495 for his efforts. A crowd of 3,306 saw Blankenship hold off George Barton of Ankeny and hometown driver Don Christensen for much of the race. Milo Stodola of Fremont, Neb., finished fourth and the "Flying Tiger" Red Rollins snared the fifth spot.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Did you know?

Jud Larson, shown here when he piloted the A.J. Watson sprinter to many victories, was a hard-drinking, hard-driving racer, a colorful character from the days when few drivers survived to retire, and roll cages were for sissies.

On July 23, 1965, the legendary Jud Larson won the 30-lap USAC sprint car race at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City? Averaging 70.88 miles per hour, Larson toured the half-mile in 12 minutes, 40 seconds.

Jerry Daniels, Carl Williams, Roger McCluskey and Don Branson were the top-five finishers. Two other drivers who didn't fare as well that day but would go on to experience quite a bit of success in their careers; Texan Johnny Rutherford would finish 14th and hometown hero Greg Weld would settle for 17th.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives Remembers (Danny Young)

Danny Young of Des Moines, Iowa speeds down the front stretch of Bloomfield Speedway on July 12, 1995. Danny Yound died a week later of injuries sustained in a crash at Knoxville Raceway on July 19, 1995. - Gordon O'Field Photography

Friday, July 17, 2009

1980 - Boogity, boogity, boogity; Waltrip is best of the Midwest

Darrell Waltrip of Franklin, Tenn., made his weekend trip north pay off as he won the overall title of the two-track, two-day NGK Spark Plug Summer Nationals.

Wisconsin Dells & West Salem, Wis. - It's not uncommon to see some of today's NASCAR stars make appearances at short tracks across the United States when time allows for it. Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart are some of the top stars that have raced this season on the asphalts of Wisconsin.

Twenty-nine years ago this week, another familiar name made an appearance at two of the cheese state's most historic tracks for the ARTGO-sanctioned 4th Annual NGK Spark Plug Summer Nationals. One of the hottest drivers on the Winston Cup circuit that season was Darrell Waltrip of Franklin, Tenn. While he was dominating the big tracks in the south, he figured it was time to test his driving ability against the best of Midwest. One problem, though, Waltrip didn't have a short-track car ready to race. "No problem," said Mark Martin, "You can borrow mine. I'll even lend you, my crew.". Problem solved...

Dells Motor Speedway was the first host track on Saturday evening, July 19 with the "White Knight" Dick Trickle dominating both 75-lap features.

Trickle, the ARTGO point's leader and two-time series champ, drove his infamous 1980 Superamerica Camaro to his eighth and ninth victories of the season. In the first main, Trickle outlasted Jim Sauter by a decisive 3.21 seconds. Joe Shear, Butch Miller, Larry Detjens, Mike Miller followed with Waltrip finishing seventh despite new surroundings and a car he was still trying to get used to.

In the second 75 lapper, Trickle proved that he got stronger as the day got longer winning the night-cap by a whopping 4.49 seconds over Shear, Detjens, Bob Senneker, Sauter, Tom Reffner and a fast-moving Waltrip who duplicated his feat of the first race by finishing seventh again. Trickle also bested a field of 44 late models in qualifying, turning in a time of 13.898 seconds.

On a side note, a young man by the name of Steve Carlson from La Crosse, Wis., wheeled his '78 Camaro to victory in the 15-lap hobby stock feature that same evening. Kevin Nuttleman won the semi-feature.

The next night, Sunday, July 20, the event moved to La Crosse Interstate Speedway for the finale that included a 200-lap feature event. Waltrip, driving the Dillon Enterprises Camaro of Martin's, started the afternoon's program by shattering the track qualifying record on the 5/8-mile oval with a time of 19.393 seconds, erasing of all people, Mark Martin's time of 19.480 seconds accomplished only a month ago in the very same car.

A field of 25 cars started the feature, which saw seven cautions and a hour and a half rain delay slow the action. One of the cautions was caused by Steve Holzhausen's Ford Fairmont erupting into flames at lap 130 after his engine blew. Tom Jones, Joe Shear, Larry Detjens, Dave Watson, Jim Sauter and finally Waltrip all led at one point or another.

Right after the halfway break, Waltrip grabbed the top spot from Sauter on lap 106 and was never headed after that. Trickle, the double winner the night before, nipped at Waltrip's heels as the race approached it's closing stages, but Dick had to pit under green flag conditions on lap 169 with a flat rear tire. With Trickle out of the picture, Waltrip finished in dominant style, with a 8.24 second lead at the checkers over Shear, Senneker, Watson, Sauter, Trickle, Steve Burgess, J.J. Smith, Jay Sauter and Dennis Vogel.

Waltrip's first career ARTGO victory clinched the overall title for him. Then it was time to head south to dominate another track.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Who can remember these tracks from the past?

Apple Creek Speedway – Appleton, Wis. (Located across the street from Gordy’s Outagamie Speedway)

Collins Field – Lemars, Iowa (Track was dedicated to Emory Collins/Closed in 1973)

Rolla Speedway – Rolla, Mo. (Tom Maier won the last race there, the “USA 300” in June of ’74. Drivers never got paid as promoter ran off with the purse)

Midwest Speedway – Lincoln, Neb. Lloyd Beckman was the first winner there/ Site is now a Wal-Mart)

Decatur County Speedway – Decatur, Iowa (Open for only 10 years/ 7 cars showed up for first night)

North Starr Motor Speedway – New Brighton, Minn. – (Original name was Twin city Speedway/Frank Winkley was an occasional promoter there)

Santa Fe Speedway – Hinsdale, Ill. (Dick Rathman, driving a Hudson, won a NASCAR Grand National race there on July 10, 1954)

Weetown Outlaw Speedway – Fergus Falls, Minn. (The track was under water from 1987 to 1989/Closed in 1995)

CeMar Acres – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Also known as the Cedar Rapids Speed Bowl/Closed in 1954)

Sterling Speedbowl – Sterling, Ill. (Closed in 1969)

Raceway Park – Blue Island, Ill. (Bud Koehler won over 490 features events in his career there/Site is now a super market)

Playland Park – Council Bluffs, Iowa (Tiny Lund got his start there/Bill Amick won a NASCAR Grand National race there on August 6, 1956)

Soo Speedway – Sioux Falls, S.D. (Paul Stogsdill won the first race/Dick Sutcliffe won the last)

Tunis Speedway – Waterloo, Iowa (First called Cordes Speedway)

Greenbelt Speedway – Eldora, Iowa (Also known as Harconia Speedway)

Midway Downs – Charles City, Iowa (Torn down in 1979/Also known as Harvey’s Bowl)

Newton Speedway – Newton, Iowa (Site is now a little league ball park)

I-29 Speedway – Sidney, Iowa (Usually referred as Nebraska City, Neb., even though the track was located in Iowa)

54 Speedway – Yates Center, Kan. (Also known as Badlands Raceway)

Waukegan Speedway – Waukegan, Ill. (Ted Musgrave started his career there)

Cannon River Speedway – Morristown, Minn. (Closed in 1980)

Leo’s Speedway – Oshkosh, Wis. (Alan Kulwicki started his career there)

Sportsman Speedway – Marshall, Mo. (Danny Lasoski started his career there)

Ottumwa Aces Speedway – Ottumwa, Iowa (Located west of town on Highway 34 in area known as Monkey Mountain)

Sportsbowl – Dubuque, Iowa (1953 – 1965/Site is now a city dump)

Wright County Speedway – Belmond, Iowa (The track was under water when the Iowa River flooded in 1993)

CeJay Stadium – Wichita, Kan. (Bill Mears, father of Rick Mears, was a jalopy champion there in 1950’s/Site is now Cessna Aircraft)

Mid-State Raceway – Mt. Olive, Ill. (Formerly a motorcycle track/first auto race didn’t take place until 1985/closed in 1989)

Sikeston International Raceway – Sikeston, Mo. (A fist fight broke out between the promoter and the drivers at the very last race on July 18, 1987)

Sunset Speedway – Omaha, Neb. (Built by August & Albert Haden/Joe Kosiski won last race)

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1995 - Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., "sputtered" to victory at the first-ever appearance of the NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour at Knoxville Raceway on July 18. Kraft snatched the lead from series point's leader Steve Kosiski of Omaha on lap 11 and led the rest of the way in the caution-marred 50 lapper. As Kraft accepted his trophy, he made the startling announcement, "On the last lap I was sputtering...I ran out of fuel," he admitted. "I cut it real close." Jay Johnson, Mike Smith, Bob Helms and Darrel DeFrance rounded out the top five.

1977 - Dike, Iowa's Curt Hansen grabbed top honors at the 11th Annual Hardee's Boone Grand Nationals on July 18. Hansen, who set fast time on the evening, showed off a nifty display of driving in capturing the 20-lap feature. Waterloo's Bill Zwanziger, Tom Bartholomew, Des Moines' Bill Rice and Ron Tilley of Council Bluffs were the top five finishers.

1975 - With Tom Reffner of Rudolph detained in Ohio with a broken-down hauler and Wisconsin Rapids' Dick Trickle suffering from engine woes, Dave Marcis of Wausau, Wis. came away with his first feature win of the season at State Park Speedway in Wausau on July 17.

1969 - Red Steffen of Eau Claire, Wis., fought off a number of challenges to win the 20-lap feature at Tri-Oval Speedway in Fountain City, Wis., on July 18. Steffen held off Mert Williams of Rochester and Gary Doelle of Arcadia to post the victory.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tom Rock

Tom Rock of Atalissa, Iowa, won the Australian Pursuit and the mid-season championship in the street stock division at Tipton Iowa, on Sunday evening, July 14, 1974.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

Curt Martin

2004 - Curt Martin made the Buchanan County Fair extra special by picking up his 100th career IMCA late model feature win of his career at Independence Motor Speedway on July 10. Martin passed race leader Les Verly early in the 25-lap contest and then held off Darin Duffy in the closing laps to seal the victory. 

1995 - Rick Aukland of Fargo, N.D., won the 40-lap Miller Genuine Draft Summer Nationals at West Liberty Raceway on July 10. Fast timer Ray Guss Jr. grabbed the lead but was overtaken by Greenbriar, Ark.'s Billy Frye on lap 10. Frye was passed 10 laps later by Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., until Aukland sped past Moyer for the lead on lap 32 and went on to score the $5,000 win. 

1989 - Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., drove to an overpowering victory in the 10th Annual NAPA Gopher 50 at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, Minn., on July 11. Moyer passed early race leader Steve Kosiski of Omaha, Neb., on lap 21, worked lapped traffic to perfection and won by 10 car lengths at the checkers. Steve Kosiski, John Gill of Brownstown, Ind., Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., and Joe Kosiski of Omaha were the top five finishers.

 Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., is interviewed by Jack Baker after winning the Miller 200 at the Milwaukee Mile. - Stan Kalwasinski Collection

1977 - Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., made his first appearance with the USAC stock cars pay off as he drove his 1977 Buick Skylark to victory in the prestigious Miller 200 at State Fair Park near Milwaukee on July 10th. Watson came from a lap down early in the contest to pass NASCAR star Bobby Allison of Hueytown, Ala., driving a 1977 AMC Hornet, on lap 158 for the lead and won by seven seconds. Allison settled for runner-up honors with Don White, Bay Darnell and Harold Fair rounding out the top-five finishers.

Monday, July 6, 2009

When the Midgets were Kings of Playland Park

A Playland Park Stadium program cover from the 1949 season. - Courtesy of Lee Ackerman

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In 1941, they built a dog track near the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “They” were led by the famous gangland czar, Meyer Lansky. It ran three years and was shut down. In 1947, the facility became a dirt track for car racing built by an enterprising gentlemen named Abe Slusky.

There were a lot of changes at the facility the next few years, in 1947 it was called Frontier Park, in 1948 Slusky added an amusement park and midway including a three-quarter mile long roller coaster and the track was renamed “Playland Bowl”.
In 1949 the name was changed again to “Playland Park Stadium. No matter what the name or the changes that was going on around the race track, the Mighty Midgets were the Kings of Playland those first few years. 

On June 7, 1947 the midgets made their debut at Playland and Danny Kladis of Chicago, Ill., set quick time at 16.91 seconds and went on to win the first midget feature at the facility. Kladis would win the Mississippi Valley Midget Racing Association Championship three years running from 1946 to 1948. That series would run as many as 70 races in a given year.

Kladis would set quick time in 7 of the 12 official programs at Playland that year and win five features. He also set quick time on July 12, but the balance of the program was rained out. Kladis had strong competition at Playland in 1947 from Red Hoyle, who would also win 5 features that year. The other two features in 1947 were won by Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s Johnny Hobel. Also making an appearance that year were Lloyd Ruby of Wichita Falls, Texas, who would race in many Indy 500’s and have a shot at winning that race a couple of times and Chuck Weyant, who would participant in four Indy 500’s.

In 1948 the midgets ran 21 programs at the quarter-mile facility. The action was dominated by drivers from the Kansas City Area. Both “Blazin Ben” Harleman and George Binnie won four features at Playland that year. Binnie had been the Kansas City Midget Racing Association Champion in 1946 & 1947. Harleman would claim the crown in 1948. 

Bob Slater

Another Kansas City driver, Bob Slater won three features and would be the Kansas City Midget Champion in 1951 & 1952 before going on to win the International Motor Contest Association Big Car Championship in 1954. Walt Raines picked up a pair of feature wins. 12 different drivers would visit victory lane in 1948, showing just how competitive the midget racing was at Playland.

In 1949 the action was dominated by Ben Harleman, who would pick up 6 wins of the 20 features contested that year. Wayne Selzer was close behind with four feature wins. Local racers did well with Larry Wheeler picking up three wins and Der Merkley scoring a win for the second year in a row. Hot Rod racing came to Playland that year, but fatalities in two successful nights of Hot Rod racing brought an end to their threat to midget racing as the king.

1950 saw the coming of the Modifieds (coupes and sedans) to Playland and the midgets would run just seven races at Playland that year. Bob Slater would dominate the action winning four features that year with the other features going to Vito Calia, a many times Kansas City Midget Racing Association Champion, Wayne Selzer and Buddy Cheney.
New names continued to show up at Playland in 1950 including Mac McHenry, who would win the 1950 Kansas City Midget Championship and Eddie McVay, also of Kansas City. The name McVay would be associated with midget racing for years to come.

The midgets would run a limited schedule at Playland in 1951 and again in 1953 before fading from the scene as the popularity of midget racing began to fade across the country. Bob Slater and Vito Calia, a pair of Kansas City aces would dominate the action in 1951.

Bobby Parker

Another new name would start appearing in 1951 at Playland in the midget races and that was Bob Parker of Harlan, Iowa. Parker would go on to have a storied career in both midgets and modifieds and would be inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2000.In 1953, two midget races were run at Playland with wins picked up by Mac McHenry and Wayne Selzer.

Two drivers who would go on to run at the Indy 500 and become open wheel legends would compete at the July 4, 1953 midget races at Playland. Jud Larson, the racing legend from Kansas City and Don Branson, the smooth chauffeur from Champaign, Illinois both won heat races that day with Branson taking second to McHenry in the feature. 

Midget racing would fade from the scene at Playland Park, ironically appearing there for the last time on July 5, 1975, many years after the track had been asphalted. A handful of drivers showed up to run the last midget race at Playland. Randy Northway of Cedar Rapids, Iowa won the 20-lap feature.

Over the years many great midget drivers competed at Playland Speedway. 2000 Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Bob Parker raced at Playland for many years. Several Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductees fielded cars there, including Les Vaughn, Les King, Art Jacobsen and Loyal Katskee. Promoter Abe Slusky was inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.

Playland Park was demolished in 1978 and is now a soccer field, but the memory of the mighty midgets running their will long be remembered.