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.

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1999 - Johnny Saathoff of Beatrice, Neb., won his fourth consecutive IMCA modified national championship while Johnny Miller of Burleson, Tex., (sprint cars) and Jeff Anderson of Atlantic, Iowa (stock cars) earned their third consecutive titles. Bill Bonnett of Knoxville, Iowa (hobby stock) grabbed his first championship after finishing runner-up the year before.

1988 - Bill Wease of Noblesville, Ind., won his first-ever IMCA modified feature race and picked a good time for it as he captured the 50-lap IMCA Modified Asphalt Super Nationals at Mt. Lawn Speedway in New Castle, Ind., on September 25. Wease led all 50 circuits but was constantly pressured by home towner Darwin Blankenship and Bob Fields of Anderson, Ind., throughout the contest. Wease won $2,213 in cash and contingencies.

National Short Track Championship winner Dick Trickle is joined by Rockford Speedway owners Hugh and Jody Deery.

1978 - Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., won the very first National Short Track Championship at Rockford Speedway in 1966. He had a long wait for the next one. Twelve years later Trickle repeated the performance as he won the 13th annual race in stylish fashion lapping all but one of the 32 competitors in the 200-lap race on Sunday afternoon, September 24.

Jim O'Connor (8) gets a little sideways in front of Dick Nelson (11) during the National Clay Short Track Championship at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on September 24, 1972. — Vince Mayer Pho1972 - Fatigued-ridden Arnie Gardner of Geneva, Ill., retired after leading 182 of the 200-lap National Clay Track Championship allowing Kankakee's Jim O'Conner to win the marathon 100-mile late model feature and the $2,200 prize that accompanied it. Gardner led every lap and by 125th go-round, had lapped the whole field with the exception of O'Conner and Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa. But on lap 182, Gardner waved his hand, drove into the infield and slowly exited his car, overcome from exhaustion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1986 - Mike Frieden of Swisher, Iowa waited through two days of rain, then topped a field of 106 IMCA modifieds in the IMCA Super Nationals at the historic 1/2-mile of Knoxville Raceway on Sunday, September 21. It was Frieden's second straight Super Nationals victory. Frieden took a rock through the radiator midway through the 30 lapper and started to show smoke with just a few laps remaining but held on for the win. Kent Kaplan of Ankeny, Iowa, Kevin Larkins of Firth, Neb., Ted Beaman of Council Bluffs, Iowa and Mark Noble of Blooming Prairie, Minn. were right behind Frieden as he took the checkers.

Jim Sauter was all smiles after winning his first National Short Track Championship at Rockford Speedway on September 21, 1980.

1980 - Jim Sauter of Necedah, Wis., became the 11th different winner in the 15 year history of the National Short Track Championships as he won the 200-lap event at Rockford Speedway 1/4-mile on Sunday afternoon, September 21. Sauter grabbed the lead on lap 51 only to lose it to Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill., on lap 134. Later on, Shear got bogged down by lap traffic relinquishing the lead back to Sauter for good on the 159th circuit. Despite numerous attempts by Shear to regain the lead, Sauter held strong to take the win followed by Shear, Dick Trickle, Mark Martin and John Knaus.

Joe Merryfield of Des Moines, Iowa, can lay claim to winning the World 100 as he pulled off the feat on September 21, 1975.

1975 - Joe Merryfield of Des Moines captured the coveted World 100 late model stock car race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio on September 21. Bill Beckman of Lisbon, Iowa led the first 18 laps before giving way to Doug Kenimer of Dahlonega, Ga. Merryfield would get past Kenimer where he would stay for the remainder of the race. Defending champion Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa and former winner Verln Eakers of Cedar Rapids would make it a top-three clean sweep for the Iowan contingent.

1967 - Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, driving a 1967 Ford Fairlane led all 30 laps of the IMCA regional new model stock car feature at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on September 20. Although he led green to checker, Reinbeck, Iowa's Cal Swanson and Cedar Rapids' Bill McDonough were in close pursuit the whole way until they both encountered problems. McDonough had just moved into second when he tagged the turn two wall hard sending him to the pits and Swanson blew an engine on lap 28 as he was moving to Dake's bumper. Lee Kunzman of Guttenberg, Iowa would grab runner-up honors and John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa would take third.

Bits and Pieces of the Yankee Dirt Track Classic

The late models go four-wide in a salute to a packed house at Farley Speedway prior to the green flag at the 25th Annual "Yankee Dirt Track Classic" on September 14, 2002. 

by Kyle Ealy 
Cedar Rapids, Iowa - With this weekend's Yankee Dirt Track Classic already in full swing I thought I'd go back and relive some of the great moments in the history of this great race. The Yankee started at my home track of Hawkeye Downs Speedway and moved to Farley Speedway in the following years and continues to be one of the most prestigious race events in the Midwest. 

1981 - Ken Walton of Viola, Iowa became the third Iowan in four years to win the Yankee Dirt Track Classic as he dominated the event at Hawkeye Downs Speedway on September 19. It was Walton's first win of the season on the half-mile and he picked up $5,000 of the $30,000 purse. Walton broke the track record (:21.237) previously held by Rodney Combs of Lost Creek, W.Va. With the top-six inverted, Walton started on the outside of row three but made his way up to second by lap 23 and passed race leader Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa on the 41st lap to take the lead and hold it to the checkers. 

1985 - Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa became the first two-time winner of the Yankee Dirt Track Classic as he scored an impressive 100-lap victory worth $3,000 before a sell-out crowd at Hawkeye Downs on September 14. Hearst, the top qualifier in time trials, started outside in the third row with the top six qualifiers inverted. Pole sitter Bob Hill of Story City, Iowa led the first 22 laps of the race then Hearst took over and stretched his lead. Hearst lapped all but Hill and third place finisher Steve Kosiski of Omaha on his way to victory. 

1987 - Dale Fischlein of Independence, Iowa cut short the string of victories in the Yankee Dirt Track Classic at two for Tom Hearst as he scored the $3,000 win in the 10th annual event on September 19. Fischlein started fourth in the 32-car field and followed Dave Chase of Omaha for the first 24 laps before making what would prove to be the winning pass. Steve Kosiski, Jeff Aikey, Dave Birkhofer and Rollie Frink rounded out the top-five finishers. 

1992 - Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., scored the biggest win of his young career taking the win in the prestigious 100-lap Yankee Dirt Track Classic at Farley Speedway on September 19. Guss stared on the pole by virtue of winning the J & J Challenge, which pitted the top six qualifiers in time trials in a six-lap race. Guss then proceeded to lead all 100 laps collecting all available lap money and pushing his Saturday night earnings to over $8,000.

1995 - Steve Kosiski of Omaha captured his second Yankee Dirt Track Classic in a row at Farley Speedway on September 16. Kosiski won the 18th annual event after inheriting the lead from Denny Osborn as the Janesville, Wis., driver pitted with a flat tire on the 85th circuit. Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jay Johnson of West Burlington, Iowa, Gary Webb of Blue Grass, Iowa and Greg Kastli of Waterloo, Iowa rounded out the top five. 

1997 - Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa captured the 20th Annual Yankee Dirt Track Classic at Farley Speedway on September 13. Aikey started the race on the outside of the second row and quickly settled into third position. He overtook Denny Osborn on lap 22 and then started to chase down race leader Steve Boley. After battling for numerous laps, Aikey was able to wrestled the lead away from Boley on the 79th lap. Boley would retire a few laps later with a flat right rear tire as Aikey sailed to the $10,000 victory. 

Steve Boley won the Yankee Dirt Track Classic in 2000. - Enhance Racing Images

2000 - Steve Boley of West Liberty, Iowa captured his second consecutive Yankee Dirt Track Classic, an O' Reilly Auto Parts All Star Series event, at Farley Speedway on September 16. The event marked the final race at Farley Speedway under the auspices of Frieden Inc. Al Frieden, the creator of the prestigious event passed away the month before. Boley, who won the pole award in Friday night qualifying, led all 100 laps in taking the $10,000 first prize. Jeff Aikey, Joe Kosiski of Omaha, Bob Dominacki of Bettendorf and Ryan Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa followed Boley to the finish line. 

2002 - The 25th anniversary of the Yankee Dirt Track Classic saw Brian Birkhofer come from the rear of the field to win the 100-lap A-main. Birkhofer had started on the pole but broke his left rear axle at the start. His crew quickly repaired the axle and Birkhofer realigned at the rear of the 30-car field. He steadily worked his way to the front, taking the point on lap 57 and never looking back in winning his first fall classic. Todd Davis of Iowa City, Iowa, Denny Eckrich of Oxford, Iowa, Jeff Aikey and Mark Burgtorf of Quincy, Ill., rounded out the top five.

Monday, September 14, 2009

1968 - What a salesman; Weedon wins at East Moline

Ron Weedon

East Moline, Ill. - Ronnie Weedon sures knew how to sell his product.

Prior to the start of the 50-lap IMCA late model season championship stock car race at Quad City Raceway on Sunday, September 15th, Weedon's crew had track announcer Dick Ferguson announce that Weedon's 1967 Ford convertible that Weedon had driven with great success all season long was for sale.

Weedon then drove the car to victory in the 50-lapper nosing out Mt. Joy, Iowa's Jim Gerber for the checkered flag and also edging out Gerber to win the season point's title in the process.

The veteran from Pleasant Valley, Iowa completed one of his greatest years in racing as he also captured the season championship at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa the previous week.

Gerber started on the pole with Weedon to his outside to start the feature. Weedon took the high groove past Gerber at the start and proceeded to lead for the next 31 laps with Gerber challenging for the lead every now and then. On lap 32, as the two ran through heavy traffic, Gerber put his nose out front as they crossed the start/finish line.

At this point Weedon, like fullback in football, used a "block" perfectly. Bob Stogdell was on the inside of the track, aware that he was about to be lapped. Weedon sailed past Stogdell as close as he could but Gerber was trapped behind the lapped car and had to ease up on the throttle to avoid contact.

Stogdell had no place to go and neither did Gerber and Weedon opened up a healthy lead after that and won by 50 feet at the checkers. Gerber settled for the bridesmaid role, Dean Montgomery of Milan, Ill., took third, Shorty Bennett of Moline grabbed fourth and Ray Guss of Milan rounded out the top five. Gerber was ahead in points to start the evening but with Weedon's heat and feature wins, he won the title by 45 points over Gerber.

Friday, September 11, 2009

1963 - National Speed Sport News

by Kyle Ealy
Cedar Rapids, Iowa - I was sifting through my newspaper archives this afternoon and ran across the September 18, 1963 edition of National Speed Sport News.

Here's a little of the Midwest action they covered in that issue:

Parnelli Jones won the 250-mile late model stock car race at the Milwaukee Mile on September 15, 1963.

Parnelli Jones of Torrance, Calif., and his red-hot 1963 Mercury continued its dominance of late model stock car racing as he won the 250-mile national championship race at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday afternoon, September 15. Jones averaged 90.659 miles per hour as he won in convincing fashion leading 247 of 250 miles and had a 31 second lead on teammate Rodger Ward when he took the checkers.

The grand finale of the '63 season at Olympic Stadium in Kansas City saw Greg Weld winning a "ding-dong" of a feature over his brother Kenny. A fire in Kenny's engine compartment with just a few laps left sidelined him leaving the door wide open for his older sibling.

Harry Turner, self-proclaimed "USA Globetrotter", won the 50-lap UARA-sanctioned midget feature at the Grundy County Fair in Mazon, Ill., on September 14. Turner came from his 12th starting position to win over Russ Sweedler by eight car lengths.

Bill Lutz, hit hard by bad luck all season long, captured the 100-lap season championship feature at O' Hare Stadium in Chicago on Saturday. September 14. Driving a 1961 Chevrolet, Lutz moved past Gene Marmor, who had a bit of bad luck of his own with steering problems, on lap 43 and led the rest of the way.

Jim Barton took the super modified feature at West Line Speedway in the suburbs of Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, September 15.

John Libby, general manager of the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Minn., announced on September 16 that preliminary work was being made to resurface the historic half-mile clay track. The new paved raceway would be unveiled during the 10 days of the 1964 Minnesota State Fair on August 29th through September 7th. Total cost for the project would be between $75,000 and $100,000. Libby said that Frank Winkley of Auto Racing, Inc. would once again be promoting racing events.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

1993 - Ron Pope of Spencer, Iowa won the 40-lap modified championship feature at the IMCA Keith Knaack Memorial Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa, on September 11. Pope inherited the lead on lap 36 when race leader Jeff Gorman of Ogden, Iowa pulled to the pits with mechanical problems. Mark Noble of Blooming Prairie, Minn., grabbed runner-up honors, Mike Withrow of Muskogee, Okla., took third, Jerry Muenster of Green Bay, Wis., fourth and Kansas City's Andy Caliborne finished fifth.

1987 - Randy Boggs of Grayson, Ky., regained the lead from Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., on lap 96 when Moyer's car lost the rear end to win the World 100 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on September 13. Boggs had led the most laps in the feature until surrendering the lead to Moyer on lap 87 only to get it back for good nine laps later. Fast qualifier and new track record holder (:16.114) John Mason of Millersburg, Ohio, finished second, Freddie Smith of Kings Mountain, Ga., took third, Bobby Carnes of Chillicothe, Ohio, fourth and Russ Petro of Columbus, Ind., rounded out the top five. Boggs took home $20,000 for the victory.

1981 - "I really wanted to win this one," said veteran race car driver Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids after winning the 1st Annual Larry Detjens Memorial at State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wis., on September 10. Trickle won the second of two 25-lap features and placed third in the first contest to clinch the overall crown before 3,000 race fans. Marv Marzofka of Nekoosa, Wis., won the first 25 lapper.

Doug Kenimer of Dahlonega, Ga., made his midwestern stock car tour pay off with a victory in Topeka, Kan., on September 12, 1976.

1976 - Race fans were treated to stock car racing southern-style when Doug Kenimer of Dahlonega, Ga., made off with the 30-lap feature and collected the $1,000 paycheck at the MId-America Fair in Topeka, Kan., on Sunday afternoon, September 12. Kenimer outlasted both Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa and Joe Wallace of Kansas City to take the win. Jerry Wanciewicz of Omaha grabbed fourth and Galen Schaefer fifth. The main attraction Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa was a no show but that didn't seem to deter the 2,500 fans in attendance.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

1967 - Dake takes Labor Day Special at Speedbowl Park

Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, proudly displays the checkers after winning the 50-lap Labor Day Invitational at Speedbowl Park in Sterling, Ill., on September 4, 1967.

Sterling, Ill. - Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, starting in third position, took the Labor Day Invitational 50-lap feature at Speedbowl Park in Sterling, Ill., on September 4.

Dake, starting in the third position, overtook early leader Benny Hofer of Rock Island, Ill., on lap 33 and then held off Speedbowl point's leader Verlin Eakers, also of Cedar Rapids, for the victory. Fast qualifier Lloyd Ewing took third while Hofer settled for fourth. Peoria's Don Bohlander, piloting a Dodge Charger rounded out the top five finishers.

The afternoon sunshine made the Monday special a wild affair as the hard dry slick track caused spinouts all day long. Several top drivers including Bill McDonough, John Schlemmer and Johnny Beauchamp were involved in mishaps during the event. Thirty-seven cars were on hand to qualify for the 50-lap main event.

Winning heat races were Jim Kaehler, Bruce Haack, Jim Gerber and Del Williams. The consolation was won by Bill Hunter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Midwest Racing Archives (This week in history)

2000 - Sixty-five drivers tried their best to qualify for the $10,000-to-win Pepsi USA Nationals at 34 Raceway on September 2-3 but only 26 made it into the main event. Coming out on top for the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA late models was Mark Burgtorf of Quincy, Ill., who became the eighth driver to win the annual event that was first run in 1992. Darren Miller of Chadwick, Ill., looked to have the race wrapped up when a flat tire sidelined him on lap 60 allowing Burgtorf to pass him for the lead and the victory.

1990 - Richie Bickle of Edgerton, Wis., grabbed the lead with 28 laps remaining to win the 14th Annual ARTGO Summer Nationals 150 at Wisconsin Dells Motor Speedway on September 1. The win was Bickle's first ARTGO-sanctioned triumph on the season as he became the 13th different winner in 15 events run so far this year. Bickle posted a eight-car length win over Joe Shear, Jim Weber, Steve Carlson and Matt Kenseth.

Steve Kinser wheeled his Gaerte Engine/Gambler Chassis into victory lane at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., on September 1, 1984.

1984 - Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., broke a month-long victory drought by winning the 30-lap World of Outlaws/Skoal Bandits Shootout sprint car feature at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., on September 1. Kinser passed Bobby Davis on lap 23 to take the point and was never headed after that. Davis, fast qualifier Shane Carson, Danny Smith and Rick Ungar rounded out the top five. The victory was Kinser's 17th of the season and 133rd of his career.

Thad Dosher of Topeka, Kan., scored the victory in the 30-lap IMCA sprint car feature in Lincoln, Neb., on September 3.

1973 - Thad Dosher ended Bill Utz's weekend dominance in IMCA sprint car racing at the Nebraska State Fair by winning the 30-lap feature on Labor Day, September 3 in Lincoln. Dosher took the lead on lap 17 and took the checkers soon after. Gene Gennetten took second, Earl Wagner was third and Ralph Blackett finished fourth. Utz, who had won on both Saturday and Sunday, finished fifth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Early Years of the IMCA Stock Cars at the Nebraska State Fair

IMCA stocks cars race down the front stretch at the Nebraska State Fair. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In 1915 a gentleman by the name of J. Alex Sloan created a new racing series called the International Motor Contest Association. Known for many years for Big Car Races, the series would start a stock car division in 1949. Actually, the first race of the series was held on November 9, 1947 in Lubbock, Texas. In 1949 it became a full-fledged series and like its Big Car counterpart raced mainly at State and County Fairgrounds. 

One of its venues was the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Lincoln during the State Fair. On September 9, 1949 the series made its debut in Lincoln. After 100 laps or 50 miles Eddie Anderson, an auto mechanic from Grinnell, Iowa would come away with the top money of $500. Anderson driving a 1949 Mercury that he had purchased and rebuilt after it had been in a major traffic accident earlier in the year, finally gained the lead on lap 63 and went on to take the win despite having a loose fender from banging the wall. 

Anderson would go on to claim the 1949 IMCA Stock Car Championship. Wayne Selzer of Omaha had led the race from lap 9 through lap 63 when he blew a tire and had to go pit side. The crew got the tire changed in good time and Selzer rejoined the race and was able to bring his Ford home in third. Herschel Buchanan of Shreveport, Louisiana (the 1950 & 1951 IMCA Stock Car Champion) would finish second in his Nash. Frank Luptow an IMCA Big Car driver and Champion of that series from 1949 through 1951 would finish fourth in his Oldsmobile. Norm Horn of Great Bend, Kansas would finish fifth in a Packard. Woody Brinkman of Lincoln, (later an IMCA official) would finish sixth in a Ford. (Are you noticing all the different brands of cars that competed).

Eddie Anderson of Grinnell, Iowa, would not only win the 100-lap Nebraska State Fair race but would go on to win the 1949 IMCA national championship. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman 

The series returned to Lincoln on September 8, 1950 to race before a crowd of 21,000 fans. Defending race winner and series champion Eddie Anderson grabbed the pole with a time of 33.04 seconds as 20 cars signed in. Anderson would keep his 1950 Mercury out front for a good portion of the race. Four drivers would challenge Anderson through various stages of the race, they included; Dick Howe of Chicago, Frank Trauer of Omaha, Don White of Keokuk, Iowa and Art Combs of Emporia, Kansas. 

Unfortunately, all four would end up out of the race because of accidents. On lap 69 Anderson and Howe tangled coming out of the turn two sending both cars through the infield fence. Anderson would lose five laps in the pits and Howe three straightening out bent up fenders. Anderson would retire from the race on lap 89 after spinning and going through the infield fence in turns 3 and 4. Trauer was leading on lap 86, despite a near spin after touching the wall would lose the lead, when he had a tire blow out sending him to the pits. 

This left three cars to fight it out for the win, Wally Dahl of Minneapolis, Marvin Sams of Montezuma, Iowa and Jim Morgan of Davenport, Iowa. Dahl, who had driven a heady race and stayed out of trouble was able to bring his 1949 Oldsmobile across the line ahead of the other two. Sams would come home second in a Mercury with Morgan finishing third in his Nash. Herschel Buchanan followed in fourth in another Nash with Carl Lilienthal of Atlantic, Iowa rounding out the top five in a Ford. Sixth would go to Don White of Keokuk, Iowa (later a three-time series champion) in a Mercury followed by his brother-in-law and later 12 time series champion Ernie Derr in a Ford. A driver named Carter from Chicago would finish eighth in a Kaiser. Yes, I said a Kaiser. 

In 1951 they lengthened the race to 125 laps and 18,000 fans showed up to see the stock cars do battle. Dick Rathmann, later of Indy 500 fame would set fast time of 32.53 seconds driving his Hudson. Rathmann’s race was however, short lived as he lost a wheel on the first lap of the race and retired from the event. Herschel Buchanan got the lead early in the race and keep his Nash in front until on lap 23 Wild Bill Harrison of Topeka, Kansas got by him in his Plymouth. Harrison would never relinquish the lead and kept his Plymouth in front the whole time. “It was a Plymouth track,” Harrison would say after the race, “hard and slick.” 

The advantages of the track condition were evident in the later stages of the race as defending race winner Wally Dahl could make up ground on the straightaways but give it back to Harrison in the turns. Harrison actually turned a lap of 32.16 seconds during the race which was faster than Rathmann’s pole setting time. Several accidents marred the event and on at least two occasions potential winners retired from the race with broken axles. Following Harrison and Dahl to the line was Buchanan in his Nash, Chris Skadal of Des Moines in his Oldsmobile, Ernie Derr in his Oldsmobile and Chug Montgomery of Springfield, Missouri in his Oldsmobile. 

The 1952 race was won by Dominic Perlick of Minneapolis, Minnesota in a record time of 1 hour 37 minutes and 25 seconds. Perlick would go on to win the 1952 series championship. Another crowd of 18,000 fans showed up for the 1953 IMCA Stock Car races at the Nebraska State Fair and the man who won the race would go on to dominate the IMCA Stock Car Series. Ernie Derr now driving out of Keokuk, Iowa would put his Oldsmobile in victory lane. Derr probably would not have had a chance for the win being down two laps to the pole sitter and race leader Les Snow, but on lap 101 Snow’s Hudson blew a tire. Snow had set fast time of 34.06 seconds and had literally checked out from the field when the incident occurred. Following Derr across the line at least one lap down was Bill Harrison of Topeka with Snow from Minneapolis finishing third, Lincoln’s Marv Copple fourth in his Oldsmobile and Russ Gross of Quincy, Illinois in fifth. Only 12 cars finished the grueling event. Ernie Derr would go on to win the 1953 series championship, the first of his 12. 

The 1954 race at Lincoln was extended to 150 miles. Don White of Keokuk, who had lost the 1953 series championship to his brother-in-law would set fast time of 31.48 seconds with Herschel Buchanan second 32.35 and Bill Harrison third at 32.62. White would keep his Oldsmobile at the front all day and set two new records along the way. He broke Dom Perlick’s 125-mile record and set a new record for 150 miles at 1 hour 40 minutes and 29 seconds. The battle for second through fourth was much more heated and involved at least two mishaps. Holding on to grab second was Herschel Buchanan with Chris Skadal third, Bill Harrison fourth and Bob Potter of Duluth, Minnesota fifth. 

Don White would also win the 1954 IMCA series championship edging out, who else, his brother-in-law, Ernie Derr. Over the years as other forms of entertainment became available and State and County Fairs became less of an attraction, attendance at the fairs and the races starting dropping. 

The IMCA Stock Cars would race annually during the Nebraska State Fair through the 1964 season. The series would continue to race through the 1977 season. But during its day in the sun, the IMCA Stock Car series provided some great moments to the fans at the Nebraska State Fair and other venues that they raced at.