Friday, May 28, 2010

The Tony Hulman Classic; The first 10 years

By Kyle Ealy
Terre Haute, Ind. – From its humble beginnings in 1971, it quickly became the crown jewel of USAC sprint car racing. At its peak, it was one of the richest prizes in all of sprint car racing. It’s a race that’s seen its share of controversy and great finishes.

This past Thursday, the Tony Hulman Classic celebrated its 40th anniversary right where it all started, the Terre Haute Action Track. The drivers that have either competed or won the event are practically all legends of the sport. The 1976 race was seen by millions on national television and brought in a whole new generation of sprint car fans.

We’ll take a look at the first 10 years, the races that shaped the history of this great Indiana spectacle.

The inaugural race was a tribute to Anton (Tony) Hulman, a native of Terre Haute, the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and one of the biggest names in racing at the time. The event, which would coincide with the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the month of May, would be televised live on ABC Wide World of Sports for a full hour on Saturday afternoon, May 1, 1971. "It will be the first sprint car race ever televised live on a dirt track," mentioned director of competition Don Smith.

Smith added that with a purse that was expected to be near $25,000, he was hoping that it would attract the top drivers from all over the country. It did exactly that…top names like Gary Bettenhausen, Larry Dickson, Carl Williams, George Snider and even the legendary A.J. Foyt were entered for what was quickly becoming the race of races.

Come the day of the event, an estimated 14,000 fans were on hand to view the race that was covered live by ABC's Wide World of Sports and broadcast nationwide. The purse that officials were hoping would reach the $25,000 mark exceeded that, paying out a whopping $28,538 in cash and merchandise. It was the richest purse ever for a USAC sprint car race.
George Snider won the inaugural Tony Hulman Classic in Terre Haute, Ind., on May 1, 1977. - Bob Mays Collection

George Snider walked away with top honors as he captured the feature event. Snider was followed closely by Don Nordhorn and then by Sam Sessions who started sixth in the lineup. The remaining top 10 finishers in order included, Jim McElreath, Larry Cannon, Rollie Beale, Merle Bettenhausen, Dutch Wilkerson, Karl Busson and Jimmy Oskie.

The official results of the feature were not obvious at the finish as Nordhorn, who finished second, protested for what he thought was a violation of USAC racing regulations.

Nordhorn's protest originated between the first and second turn when Johnny Parsons Jr. lost a tire with only three laps remaining in the 40-lap feature event. The accident forced the waving of the yellow flag until the car could be removed from the track.

Under USAC rules, laps on the yellow flag do not count so as a result of the cars and their drivers circled the track awaiting the final three laps to begin. At this point in the race, Nordhorn was in first place, a lead that he had taken away from George Snider only the lap before.

After circling the track for about four revolutions, the green flag was finally dropped. It was here that George Snider shot around Nordhorn and into the lead. Nordhorn seemingly had momentary engine trouble but quickly recovered only to finish second.

On his return lap around the track, Nordhorn pulled his sprint car up in front of the control tower and jumped out, yelling at anyone who would listen. "I was trying to run a fair race. Snider went around me before the green flag went out," he asserted. He then ran up the stairs, followed closely by his mechanic and one member of his crew. Once in the tower, Nordhorn exclaimed, "You are not going to do that to me this time."

Don Nordhorn (7) races against Tom Bigelow (25) and Leigh Earnshaw (27) during action at the Tony Hulman Classic on May 1, 1971. Despite protests, Hordhorn would be credited with runner-up honors. - Bob Mays Collection

He protested that Snider had passed him before the green flag went out. Nordhorn maintained his poise but was vehement in his protest. USAC officials called for Snider and then asked for Sam Sessions, who was behind both drivers.

Sessions later said, "I saw the green flag go out and Snider was entirely right. When the green flag goes out, you're supposed to stand on it. Nordhorn was caught sleeping, plain and simple."

After a few moments Nordhorn settled down and discussed the problem in a quiet manner with USAC officials. At one point in the discussion Nordhorn remarked that this was not the first time a flagman had cost him prize money.

After about a 30-minute discussion USAC officials declared George Snider the winner with Nordhorn finishing second. They did state, however, that Nordhorn had the right to protest the results.

Probably the loudest protesters of the afternoon were the fans, most of who felt that Nordhorn was in the right. A young race fan approached Sessions afterwards, saying that was the dirtiest deal he had ever seen giving Nordhorn second place. The usually congenial Sessions momentarily lost his cool. "What did you expect Snider to do?" he yelled. "Wait up for him?"

Rains forced a one-day delay in the second running of the Hulman Classic but the ending couldn't have been more exciting. Toss in the spectacular flips, the over-flow crowd and the celebrities on hand and you have an event that would be regarded as one of Terre Haute's finest.

On Sunday, April 30, 1972, Bruce Walkup and George Snider nearly repeated the same dramatics that happened in the inaugural event as the race once again went down to the wire.

The rich ($22,000) race was won by the popular Hoosier, Bruce Walkup. Walkup had led 17 laps and then Snider took the lead. He kept it until the lap 23 when a young USAC sprinter named Billy Cassella ran into some traffic, making contact and then slowing Snider just enough for Walkup to regain the lead. Snider, in fact, was fortunate he didn't incur more serious damage.

Bruce Walkup (29) of St. Paul, Ind., slides thru traffic en route to winning the 2nd Annual Tony Hulman Classic - Bob Mays Collection

Walkup maintained his lead until the third turn of the final lap, the 40th go-round. Then, Snider passed him - just a few yards from where he had made his 1971 move. But Walkup wasn't to be denied a win, and he passed Snider in the final turn and held last year's winner off by a "hair" to triumph. After a not so great 1971 season for the St. Paul (Ind.) resident, the victory meant the world to Walkup.

He started the feature on the pole, while Snider was second fastest qualifier among the 20 cars in the feature and was farther back in the lineup. Even though the Saturday "live" telecast was called off because of the rains, ABC-TV recorded Sunday's show and showed an hour-long replay a week later.

The race was highlighted by some spectacular flips and rolls. Karl Busson flipped right on the starting line on a restart during the semi-feature. Busson was okay but had a badly damaged car and wasn’t able to make the feature. Gary Bettenhausen made contact with another car on the first turn on the third lap of the feature. In spite of flipping two or three times and nearly landing on the outside railing, Gary scampered free of the vehicle and wasn't hurt. On the 22nd lap of the feature, Dick Tobias started going sideways in traffic on the back stretch and flipped. He was treated and released at a local hospital.

In addition to Walkup and Snider, Sam Sessions, Lee Kunzman, Larry "Boom Boom" Cannon, Jim McElreath, Tom Bigelow, Don Nordhorn, Billy Puterbaugh, Larry Dickson and Carl Williams rounded out the top 10.

Lil' Joe Saldana avoided all the bumps and bruises on the track to win the 1973 Tony Hulman Classic. - Bob Mays Collection

On Saturday afternoon, May 5, 1973, Joe Saldana weathered a soggy, bumpy track and outlasted a charge by Rollie Beale to win the rain-delayed feature race. The Lincoln, Neb., driver led the 28-car field from wire-to-wire on the 1/2-mile Wabash Valley Fairgrounds dirt track, in a race in which no times were kept because of four yellow caution flags. A brief shower delayed the start of the nationally televised race for about an hour and turned the track into a quagmire of mud.

Beale, of Toledo, Ohio, went the final five laps with smoke streaming from his car, and trailed Saldana by only two seconds at the checkered flag, while third place finisher Don Nordhorn of Wadesville, Ind., and Bruce Walkup of St. Paul Ind., were well behind the leaders. Sammy Sessions, defending USAC sprint champ, took fifth place, despite spinning his car out in the middle of the race. John Toth, Lee Kunzman, Tony Simon, Jerry Poland and Johnny Parsons followed the top five.

There were no serious accidents, but drivers experienced overheating problems because of mud being kicked up on the wet track.

On April 14, 1974, before another capacity crowd and a national television audience watching, Gary Bettenhausen grabbed the lead after a yellow late in the race and roared on to win the 40-lap feature on a Sunday afternoon.

       Veteran Gary Bettenhausen slipped past former winner George Snider to win the 4th Annual Tony Hulman Classic on April 14, 1974. - Bob Mays Collection

The Indianapolis 500 veteran flashed past George Snider with about 10 laps to go. Snider had pulled ahead of the pack after early leader Jackie Howerton brushed the wall for the second time on the ½-mile dirt track. Jan Opperman, the fastest qualifier during Saturday qualifying, came in second ahead of Snider, who couldn’t keep up the pace in the late stages. A.J. Foyt and Duane "Pancho" Carter brought up the top five.

A sick engine didn’t prevent Duane "Pancho" Carter from winning the Hulman Classic on Sunday, May 4, 1975 but tinkering with it almost did.

Carter said the engine felt unresponsive when the race started, but a spectacular first-lap crash involving Chuck Booth and Jim McElreath red-flagged the race. Before the 40-lap feature was restarted, Carter's crew made adjustments they hoped would remedy engine problems. "We were running a lean fuel mixture and on the restart we leaned it down even more, thinking that would correct the problem," the defending USAC sprint car champion said. "Instead we made it worse."

Duane "Pancho" Carter won the Tony Hulman Classic on May 4, 1975 despite engine woes early in the contest. - Bob Mays Collection

But a combination of a new set of tires and a deteriorating track gave Carter a traction advantage over the rest of the field. He led all but the first two laps around the ½-mile Vigo County Fairgrounds dirt oval, picking up an estimated $12,000 of an estimated $40,000, still considered sprint car’s richest prize.

Defending Hulman champion Gary Bettenhausen, who led the first two laps was the victim of two near spins and finally looped his machine into the wall on the last circuit that eliminated him. The race, which had been postponed from Saturday, when it had been scheduled for national television, ended on a yellow caution light, which, according to the rulebooks, it cannot do. Caution laps are not counted but the officials' decision was not challenged.

Jim McElreath suffered a dislocated elbow and other minor injuries when his car became airborne on the first turn, left the track and flipped into the parking lot. Carter, who was also the fastest qualifier, was trailed to the finish line by Lee Osborne, George Snider, Tom Bigelow and Sheldon Kinser.

It was 1976 and "Speedy" Bill Smith had entertained the thought of taking on the USAC drivers in their neck of the woods. He could think of only one driver to pilot his new ride, the hippie Christian from Montana, Jan Opperman.

Two other USAC-sanctioned events earlier in the spring had netted Opperman sixth and second place finishes. There was no doubt that he was ready to take on the best of the best on their own turf.

The May 1, 1976 Hulman Classic pitted the brightest and best USAC had to offer, Duane "Pancho" Carter, against the "King of the Outlaws" Jan Opperman. It was almost more than any promoter could dream of. The race drew an estimated 8,000 race fans and with the race being intercut with the Kentucky Derby on national television, millions more were watching at home.
The "long-haired hippie" Jan Opperman, powered the Speedway Motors sprinter to victory in the Tony Hulman Classic before a nation-wide audience on May 1, 1976 - Bob Mays Collection

Opperman qualified fifth fastest in time trials and won his heat. He started on the front row alongside one of his best friend’s, Bubby Jones. Carter would start behind Opperman in the inside second row. Opperman would quickly grab the lead, using the upper cushion to his advantage. Carter, Jones and Jimmy McElreath followed suit and also rode the cushion. In trying to keep up with Opperman, Carter’s driving was so erratic that at one point, he got up on two wheels, almost tagging the corner fence.

A yellow flag came out with 10 laps to go for lost wheel on Tom Bigelow’s ride. It also bunched up the field and gave the Carter the opportunity he was looking for. As the green waved restarting the race, Opperman went from his high cushion driving that got him a healthy lead and dropped to mid-track. He was now in defensive mode, able to block any attack that Carter put on him from every angle.

It worked perfectly for the remaining laps. Opperman held Carter at bay and snatched victory from USAC’s elite, collecting $11, 429 from the rich $43,000 purse.

Carter of Brownsburg, Ind., settled for runner-up honors. Bubby Jones was third and Carter's brother, Dana took fourth. Bruce Walkup, who had to qualify for the main event through the semi-feature, finished fifth. Chuck Gurney of Hayward, Calif., got into trouble on some loose dirt and went over the wall. Bruised but not battered, Gurney was credited with a sixth place finish and a trip to the local hospital.
James McElreath displays perfect form en route to winning the 1977 Hulman Classic.

On Saturday, May 7, 1977, a young 23-year-old Texan decimated the field in a wreck-marred Hulman Classic. While his 49-year-old father was in Indianapolis preparing for the 500, Jim McElreath Jr’s margin of victory was nearly 10 car lengths ahead of pole sitter Clark Templeman.

McElreath started fourth and grabbed the lead on lap 16 of the 40-lap contest kept it up front for the remainder of the race. Roger Rager was third, Billy Cassella took fourth and Jerry Weeks fifth in the $52, 000 grinder.

Before a full lap was even turned, Joe Saldana flipped over the third turn fence escaping with a small cut. A little later on, Steve Chassey was battling for sixth when he was bumped and began flipping in the third turn. In the melee, Bob Frey hit Chassey’s ride and suffered a bad gash on his right arm.

Dick Tobias is interviewed after his Hulman Classic victory.

Dick Tobias was towed into the winner’s circle after his Hulman Classic victory on May 6, 1978. Mere moments after taking the checkers at the eighth annual event, Tobias’ rear torsion bar gave way. They say timing is everything and it couldn’t of been truer in this race. Tobias, of Lebanon, Pa., was only seconds ahead of Duke Cook of Sidney, Ohio when he finished the 40 laps of the feature event. Leland McSpadden of Tempe, Ariz., was third, followed by Rich Leavell of Elwood and Rick Vogler of Glen Ellyn, Ill.

On Saturday, May 5, 1979, Bubby Jones of Danville, Ill., chances of winning a Hulman Classic went from hope to heartbreak. Jones was leading the 40-lap feature when his car broke a front axle and flipped over a guardrail during the 28th circuit.

Running second behind Jones at the time, Duane Carter of Brownsburg, Ind. took the lead after the accident and held it the rest of the way. Sheldon Kinser, Larry Rice, Johnny Parsons and Bob East, who qualified through the B-main, rounded out the top five.

As the event started a new decade, it was Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo., who already owned two Knoxville Nationals titles, adding a different trophy to his ever-growing mantle as he took home the Hulman Classic win on May 3, 1980. Leavitt out dueled Steve Chassey for top honors. "Pancho’ Carter, Sheldon Kinser and Bobby Olivero rounded out the top five.

As the years have gone by, some of the biggest names in sprint car racing have won the Tony Hulman Classic; Sheldon Kinser (1981), Jack Hewitt (1983 & 1995), Ron Shuman (1985), Rich Vogler (1986 &1989), Steve Butler (1987 & 1988), Dave Darland (1993), Tracy Hines (2001), J.J. Yeley (1997 & 2003), three-time champion Levi Jones (2005, 2008 & 2009)) and most recently Jerry Coons Jr.

Still, there were other big name drivers who never saw victory lane. Norman "Bubby" Jones of Danville, Ill., was one of the most successful sprint car drivers in his era, yet "Stormin’ Norman", as he was sometimes called, took third in 1976, sixth in 1977, was leading the 1979 race when he broke and finished fifth in 1981, but that was as close as he ever got.

The event has also made some unknown drivers household names after winning. Cary Faas was just another face in the crowd, winless in a four-year career, when he won the Hulman Classic in 1992. Faas would go on to add two more Hulmans in 1994 and 1998. The "Sikeston Sawblade" Daron Clayton etched his name into Hulman Classic history in 2006 with a dazzling performance.

Forty years down for the Tony Hulman Classic; an impressive list of winners and memories to last a lifetime. Open Wheel times’ Kevin Eckert said it best; Christmas used to come in May to those who won the Tony Hulman Classic, once the richest prize in all of sprint car racing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This week in history

1992 - Bob Hill of Story City, Iowa ran down Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., on the final circuit of to win the 50-lap Busch All-Star Tour feature at Mid-Continent Raceway near Doniphan, Neb. on Saturday, May 23. Despite being on the pole at the beginning of the race, Hill appeared to be out of contention midway through the event but finished with a flurry to nip Kraft at the wire to take the$3,000 prize. Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., Kyle Berck of Marquette, Neb. and Tom Hearst of Tipton, Iowa rounded out the top five.

1987 - Thanks to Jeff Swindell, the Hulman 100 for USAC Silver Crowns at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianpolis was truly a classic. Starting 27th out of a 30-car field, Swindell, in only his third career Sliver Crown start, won the 7th annual event on Friday, May 22. Swindell effortlessly advanced to 10th within 15 laps and took second on the 22nd go-round. Swindell then sped past race leader Steve Butler on lap 28 and was never challenged after that. Jack Hewitt, Brent Kaeding, Kenny Jacobs and Rick Hood followed Swindell across the finish line.

Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wis., scored his fourth late model feature win in a row at Red Cedar Speedway.

1981 - Leon Plank of Eau Claire, Wis., won his fourth late model feature of the season as he edged hometowner Ron Prochnow on Friday night, May 22 at Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie, Wis. Gary Dorn of Altoona, Wis., Jim Bruggeman of White Bear, Minn. and Ron Schreiner of Eleva, Wis., rounded out the top five.

1970 - Tom Nesbitt made the 450-mile trip to Fountain City, Wis., pay off as he won the 25-lap late model feature there on Friday, May 22. Nesbitt, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, got rained out at his regular track Superior, as well as Rice Lake, so kept heading south until he found a dry track to race on. After beating the likes of Dave Noble, Bob Saterdalen and Paul Fitzpatrick, the 29-year-old veteran remarked how well he liked the track, the competition and vowed to make the long back again the following Friday.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Remembering the Mile at Sedalia

Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa was a frequent winner on the one-mile dirt at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Mo. - Kyle Ealy Collection

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. — One of the most interesting venues for racing in the Midwest during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s was the Mile track at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Racing was held on both the half-mile and the mile, but the mile provided for a different, longer and faster track than most of the competitors were used to.

The old International Motor Contest Association held its first event for Stock Cars on the mile at Sedalia on July 4, 1951, when Des Moines, Iowa’s Chris Skadal won the 100-lap feature event. Later that year on August 25, during the Missouri State Fair, Springfield, Mo.’s Chug Montgomery took his No. 37 Oldsmobile to victory lane in a 25-lap event.

Over the next few years several drivers were victorious on the mile at Sedalia in IMCA Stock Cars. Dominic “Shorty” Perlick won in 1952 in his Oldsmobile on his way to winning the 1952 IMCA Stock Car Championship. Topeka’s Wild Bill Harrison won in 1953 in a Hudson and then won again in 1955 in an Oldsmobile. Jim Ward won in 1954 in a Hudson.

In 1956, the largest crowd ever to attend any attraction in the history of the Missouri State Fair, over 18,000 fans watched as Avondale, Mo.’s R.G. “Shorty” Eberts wheeled his 1956 Ford to victory lane in the 100-mile affair. Eberts assumed the lead when IMCA superstar Don White was forced from the race on the 97th lap because his Dodge had lost most of its oil. Earlier, White had shattered Jim Ward’s record of 50 seconds flat in qualifying when he turned a lap of 47.33 seconds. Ebert’s set a new record in running the 100 miles in 1 hour 23 minutes 19.48 seconds.

The next year, Bob Burdick of Omaha destroyed White’s track record with a lap of 45.78 second and then went on to win the 100-mile event defeating Ernie Derr before a new record crowd at the Missouri State Fair of 20,503. The year of 1958 proved to be a very interesting year in the history of the race. Omaha’s Loyal Katskee driving his 4.4 liter Ferrari set a new track record of 45.58 seconds in qualifying.

In the 100-lap feature, before yet another record crowd of more than 22,000 fans, Katskee held on to win the feature over Don White by a car-length after White was forced to pit with 17 laps to go with a rubbing fender. Katskee’s Ferrari was allowed to compete as the race was one of IMCA’s International Races that allowed foreign made cars to compete.

In 1959, drivers from Keokuk, Iowa, started taking over the mile at Sedalia, just as they did with most venues on the IMCA schedule. Ernie Derr, who would win an astonishing 12 IMCA Stock Car Championships and 328 feature victories, would set fast time and go on to win the 100 miler before more than 23,000 fans at the Missouri State Fair. It would be the first of three wins on the mile for Derr.

In 1960, Keokuk drivers would dominate the action with Derr setting a new track record of 43.91 seconds in qualifying and in the feature it was a one-two-three Keokuk finish with Ramo Stott winning over Dick Hutcherson and Derr. The crowd for the race dropped back to ONLY 22,000 fans.

Sycamore, Illinois’s Paul Burrow would win in 1961 driving his No. 98 Ford, but then the “Keokuk Connection” took over with Dick Hutcherson winning in ’62, ’63, and ’64 before he left for NASCAR. Ramo Stott would then win three in a row, ’65, ’66, and ’67. Hutcherson would defeat Ernie Derr in 1962 with pit stops making the difference. In 1963, Stott would set a new record of 41.62 second in qualifying, but Hutcherson would once again take home the gold as he guided his yellow No. 3 Ford to the win over Ernie Derr. Hutcherson would best Stott in 1964 to make it three in a row.

Ramo Stott would then start his own streak of three wins in a row. Finally in 1968, the Keokuk streak was broken when Lenny Funk, the “Kansas Wheat Farmer” took his Ford to victory lane. Ernie Derr would put Keokuk back in the winner’s circle in 1969. In 1970, it was Fred Horn of Marion, Iowa. setting fast time and then holding off a trio of Keokuk drivers in Ron Hutcherson, Mike Derr and Gordon Blankenship for the win.

Mike Derr won the 50-lap IMCA new model stock car feature on the Sedalia, Mo., mile on August 25, 1973. Joining Derr in victory lane is (left to right); Ralph Jones (Missouri State Fair secretary), Al Sweeney (IMCA race director), Jimmy Glenn (Missouri Governor Bond), Derr, Gene Van Winkle (IMCA official) and Al Hall (Flagman). — Ivan Jackson Photo

In 1971, Ernie Derr set a new track record of 39.67 seconds in qualifying and then went on to win the 100-mile event over his son, Mike. Fred Horn returned to victory lane in 1972. On August 25, 1973, a new Derr appeared in victory lane as Ernie’s son, Mike, claimed a 101-lap feature win on the mile in 1 hour 11 minutes 15.33 second in defeating Missouri short track legend Larry Phillips. That evening Topeka’s Gerry Harrison piloted his No. 98 Monte Carlo to a 25-lap win on the mile.

IMCA did not hold any Stock Car races at Sedalia in 1974, but returned in 1975 with Mike Derr winning the 100 lapper in his Charger. Kansas City’s Super Joe Wallace would win the 1976 event, with Lampe, Mo.’s Ferris Collier winning in 1977, which would be the last year of the old IMCA circuit.

Other sanctioning bodies including the United States Auto Club would run stock car races on the mile at Sedalia during this period of time, and they would continue to run on the mile at Sedalia for a number of years, but the huge crowds that watched races on the mile during the IMCA era were a thing of the past, and while they still race at Sedalia on the ½-mile track, the “Missouri Mile” has faded into history.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This week in history

1989 - Scott Hansen of Green Bay, Wis., became the first rookie driver ever to win a ASA Racing Series event by capturing the Badgerland 150 at the Milwaukee Mile on May 14. Hansen, driving the Baker Motorsports Chevrolet, which was prepared only 10 blocks away from the speedway, averaged 84.149 miles per hour in claiming the $8,650 first place prize out of a record purse of $83,658. Hansen, in only his 16th career start on the circuit took the checkers a little over a second ahead of Junior Hanley. Reigning ASA champion Butch Miller took third followed by Dick Trickle and Mike Eddy. 

1978 - A power shortage struck on opening night at Buffalo River Speedway in Glyndon, Minn., but defending track champion Don Spieker had no such difficulties as he swept his heat and the feature in the Midwest Sprint Association program on May 13. The feature was shortened to 15 laps because of an electrical problem which prevented the lights in turns one and two to work. To solve the problem, push trucks were stationed in the area with headlights on to illuminate the track. Spieker, of Moorhead, Minn., used the low groove to pass race leader Bob Hop on lap 11 to take the victory. 

1972 - Super modifieds got their season opened at Knoxville Raceway on Saturday, May 13 and saw a tremendous duel between Roger Rager and Lonnie Jensen, both of Lincoln, Neb. The 25-lap feature saw the two go side by side throughout most of the feature before Rager was able to pull ahead and stay in front. Jensen, Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., fast qualifier Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City and Earl Wagner of Pleasantville rounded out the top five. 

1967 - Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa and Kenny Ellis of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, captured feature events at 34 Race Ways Park before 3,600 fans. Jackson won the A feature in semi super modified competition and Ellis grabbed the checkered flag in the B feature. Jack Alter and Ron Lekander, both of Burlington picked up most of the marbles in the cadet class. Duane Stoneking of Oquawka, Ill., set a new track record for the modifieds, when he was clocked at 18.73 seconds in time trials.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This week in history

1992- Jim Weber of Roseville, Minn., cruised into the lead and went to win the 25-lap Fox River Racing Club late model season opener on Thursday night, May 7th at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna. Weber passed race leader Mike Reichenerger of Oshkosh on lap 15 and won by three-car lengths. Reichenberger settled for second while Steve Paoli of Wausau finished third. 

1987 - Steve Kinser shot past Ron Shuman in turn two of lap 27 and went on to claim the 30-lap World of Outlaws/Copenhagen-Skoal Shootout sprint car feature at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on May 8. The victory was Kinser's ninth of the young season and the 177th in his career. Shuman, Steve Butler, Brad Doty and Craig Keel rounded out the top five. 

1982 - Tom Hearst of Wilton went three for three over the weekend with late model victories at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport on Thursday, May 6th, Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 7th and the Muscatine County Fairgrounds in West Liberty on Saturday night, May 8th. Bill Breuer of Wapello, Iowa went two for two in winning late model mains at 34 Raceway in Burlington on Saturday, May 8th and Sunday, May 9th at the Cedar County Fairgrounds in Tipton. 

1975 - Rick Weld ran away from the modified sprint car field at Topeka (Kan.) Raceway on Sunday, May 9th before the smallest crowd of the year. Weld won handily over "Tiger" Bob Williams and Dale Moore. In an attempt to alleviate the small turn-out of spectators, officials decided to switch this week to Sunday night racing card and drop admission from $3 to $2.