Thursday, December 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did you know?

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

1972 - Goodwin, Janey crowned IMCA champs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Remembering the Nebraska Triple Crown at Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

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