Saturday, June 26, 2010

This week in history

1994 - Randy Belk took advantage of Shane Essary's misfortune to win the late model feature at Monett (Mo.) Speedway on Sunday, June 26. Essary jumped to the early lead in the 25-lap encounter and was making shambles of the field when he suddenly pulled to the infield with engine woes with only a few laps left. Belk took over from there and grabbed the win, his first of the season. Rich Lebow, Darrell Mooneyham, Rex McCroskey and Leslie Essary followed Belk across the finish line. In other action, Kelly Bremer took top honors in the IMCA modified feature and super stock driver Brett Henry and Deana Stockton were married in a ceremony that took place on the frontstretch.

1988 - George Snider of Bakersfield, Calif., moved into the lead on round 87 and then went on to take the checkered in the 100-mile USAC Valvoline Silver Crown event Sunday afternoon, June 26th. Snider moved ahead of leader Steve Chassey of Carmel, Ind. and won by a two-second margin over Richmond, Ohio's Gene Lee Gibson. Fast qualifier Johnny Parsons (120.866 mph) of Speedway, Ind., finished third in a race that saw a record 8 lead changes amongst the 31 car field.

1983 - Dean Roper won his second consecutive USAC stock car race of the season on Saturday afternoon when he captured the DuQuoin 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds on June 25th. Roper, the defending USAC champion, held off a late charge by Joe Wallace for the victory. Roper moved around Wallace on the sixth lap and paced all but two of the remaining go-rounds of the race. Wallace, Ramo Stott, Butch Garner and Rick O' Brien rounded out the top five finishers.

1977 - Bob Hilmer of Dysart, Iowa won the 25-lap late model feature at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City, Iowa on Saturday, June 25. Hilmer started in the fourth row and had his work cut out for him but managed to work his way through the field. On lap 12 he passed Jerry Holtkamp of Williams for second and two laps later, overtook race leader Bruce Sommerfeld of Fort Dodge for the top spot and held on for the final 11 laps. Sommerfeld, Holtkamp, Dan Nesteby and Bob Shryock were the top five. In the sportsman feature, Al Urhammer of Radcliffe out dueled point leader Keith Conroy of Jefferson to win an exciting 15-lap feature.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This week in history

1999 - Scott Bloomquist returned to the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series winner's circle in a record breaking event at the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon, June 20th. Bloomquist passed early leader Steve Francis on the front straightaway on lap 18 and then checked out to win the first United Dirt Track Racing Association event ever held on the one-mile clay oval. The 40-mile trip paid Bloomquist $12,750. Francis, Freddy Smith, Billy Moyer and Ray Cook rounded out the top five.

Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., continued his dominance of Hales Corner Speedway with his seventh win in nine tries.

1993 - Steve Kinser led flag to flag to win the rain-shortened World of Outlaws/Copenhagen -Skoal Shootout "Beertown Showdown" at Hales Corner speedway in Franklin, Wis., on June 20. The event was originally scheduled to be a two-day affair beginning on Thursday but rain forced the preliminary program to be canceled. Kinser outraced Kenny Jacobs to grab the lead of the 25-lap headliner and was lapping cars by the sixth circuit in what was a runaway. Mark Kinser, Andy Hillenburg, Stevie Smith and Jacobs were the top five finishers. The win was Kinser's seventh in nine events at Hales over the past few years.
Bob Senneker held off the likes of Mike Eddy and Dick Trickle to win the ASA Circuit of Champions event at Berlin Raceway on June 20, 1982.

1982 - If their was a "home track advantage", Bob Senneker made good use of it to win the 200-lap ASA Circuit of Champions event at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway Saturday night, June 20. Senneker won by one and a half seconds over Mike Eddy and Dick Trickle before a standing room only crowd of 14,000. Although Senneker led from lap 81, he was hounded the entire distance by Eddy ad Trickle, who managed to get within a second of Senneker late in the race but ffaded slightly before the finish as they relentlessly battled each other. For the victory, Senneker earned $5,420 out of $33,500 total purse. Senneker, Eddy, Trickle and Bruce Vanderlaan were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap.

1976 - Bob Kosiski of Omaha, Neb., won his fifth straight feature at Sunset Speedway on Sunday, June 20, upping the bounty placed on him several weeks ago to an even $1,000. Des Moines' Don Hoffman made the trip hoping to earn some extra cash but settled for second. Jim Cominoli of Omaha, driving a 1973 Chrysler kit car, led the first 13 laps before giving way to Kosiski. He would finish third ahead of John Oswalt of Kansas City and Jerry Wancewicz of Omaha.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Belleville High Banks: Celebrating 100 years of racing

An aerial view of the famed Belleville Highbanks - Photo courtesy of Belleville High Banks

by Lee Ackerman
Belleville, Kan. - To drivers it is one of the scariest places in the world to race. “Man is this place fast,” said national known Iowa dirt late model driver Brian Birkhofer, after winning a Hav-A-Tampa race at Belleville in 2004. “The track is definitely flat out wide open all the way around.”

They have been racing at this historical venue continuously for 100 years. The first documented race at Belleville was on July 4, 1910 when somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 fans watched three cars raced around the half mile for ten laps with a winning time of 7 minutes and 10 seconds or 43 seconds per lap. On July 30, 2009 Terry McCarl turned the track in 14.32 seconds in a 410 Sprint car. Of course he had a little more banking and a lot more horsepower to work with.

It started as a flat ½ mile track but in the in 1932 it was changed to a high banked oval that in the 50’s saw 18 feet banking. While the banking has been lowered somewhat from those summit type banks it is still one frightening place to race. They don’t call it the World’s Fastest ½ mile dirt track for nothing.

The track itself is almost a circle and you don’t get the same perspective you do on most dirt tracks with their very distinctive corners. At Belleville it’s virtually flat out all the way around the track and its truly demanding on both driver and equipment. It’s seen sprint cars, late models, motorcycles and most everything in between and since 1978 it’s been home to the Belleville Midget Nationals.

In 1911, they raced again at Belleville with W. W. Brown of Kansas City, Missouri being declared the winner. While it's not known whether automobiles raced at Belleville in 1912, it is documented that they did return in 1913 with Belleville’s Harry White, the 1910 winner taking home top prize in the “Home Race” while Iona, Kansas Glen Breed won the Professional “Free for All Event.” A feat Breed would repeat in 1916.

In 1927 thru 1929 it was “Little Pat” Cunningham of St. Joseph, Missouri who dominated Belleville winning two features in each year and in 1928 setting a track record with a lap around Belleville of 28 seconds flat.

In the earlier 30’s winners at Belleville included the legendary John Gerber of Stanwood, Iowa and a two-day sweep in September, 1931 by Iola, Kansas’ Lew Irwin.

In the late 40’s and early 50’s the roadster ran a number of times on the high banks with most of the races being dominated by Andy Anderson in “the Belle of Belleville” owned by Belleville resident Ray Goodrich.

The International Motor Contest (IMCA) would race for the first time at Belleville in 1951 with Frank Luptow winning in the Big Cars and Bob McKim in the Stock Cars.

IMCA would race at Belleville continuously through 1960 and then on and off again schedule with the final racing being a 1968 stock car race won by Ramo Stott. Ironically it was just 50 years ago this July 4th that 12-time IMCA stock car champion Ernie Derr won a 50-lap feature at Belleville. Perhaps the car that had the most success over the years at Belleville was Hector Honore’s Black Deuce. First with Bobby Grim driving and later with "Pistol" Pete Folse behind the wheel the car won 13 IMCA Big Cars Races at the High Banks, including the last 8 in a row.

Pete Folse and Hector Honore's legendary "Black Deuce" claimed many victories at Belleville - Kyle Ealy Collection

The era of the Big Car Racing Association (BCRA) started at the high banks in 1965 and ran through 1976. Many of the best sprint car drivers in America would visit the famed high banks for either the Memorial Day event or the Fair races which both were held annually. Roy Bryant would drive the Red Forshee #84 to several feature wins at Belleville and win BCRA championships in 1968 & 69.

Lonnie Jensen behind the wheel of a number of different cars would win 6 BCRA features and would also claim the BCRA title in 70 & 72. The Pius Selenke #43, Williams-Swenson #24, Bill Smith 4x and Larry Swanson #14 were also multiple winning cars at Belleville in BCRA competition.

One of the benchmark events in Belleville racing history came during a BCRA on August 23, 1968 when Lloyd Beckman behind the wheel of the Larry Swanson Chevy broke the magic 20 second barrier when he toured the high banks with a lap of 19.94 seconds.

For more than two decades the O’Reilly National Championship Racing Association has been a staple at the High Banks. NCRA Outlaw Sprints, 360 Sprints, Late Models and Modifieds have all challenged the banks. Two stories of note about the NCRA, one was this writers experience at a NCRA 360 show. The feature went green, white, checker, and I recall saying out loud, “It’s over all ready.” It doesn’t take long to get around the high banks.

John Allen (98) and Jon Thompson (75) compete during an NCRA modified show at the Belleville High Banks. - Justin Sly Photo

The other comes from Warren Hardy of the NCRA as he recalled the time Al Purkey came in second to Kelly Boen during an NCRA Late Model Show at Belleville a few years ago. After the checkers waved, Purkey got out of his car for the interview and asked “Did I win.” As Warren relates, “Al hadn’t seen the race winner (Boen) because Boen had lapped every car in the field except Purkey and he was only a couple of car lengths behind him at the line. All, in just 25 laps.”

This year to celebrate its 100-year history they are holding a very special race, the Belleville 100. Actually its 40 laps one day and 60 laps the next and the race will be for modifieds. The modifieds have run Belleville many times but certainly nothing as demanding as this race.

On Friday, July 2 they will run a full card of racing featuring heat races, consolation races and a 40 lap feature paying $5,000 to win and $500 to start. On Saturday, July 3 they will run another series of qualifying events, a 15 lap non-qualifiers race paying $2,000 to win and $300 to start.

Then comes the thrilling conclusion. 30 cars will race for 60 laps, with the winner getting $10,000 to win and the race paying $1,000 just to start. But there’s a catch. If the pole sitter for this race decides to start 30th and last and wins the race, that driver will receive a cool $100,000 for winning from the back of the pack. Veteran Lincoln, Nebraska flagman Larry White will be in the flag stand.

The stands will be packed and the best of the best in modifieds will be at the Belleville High Banks on July 2nd & 3rd for the Belleville 100. - Justin Sly Photo

The Belleville High Banks are located at the North Central Kansas Fairgrounds on the north side of Belleville, Kansas. For more information, go to While in Belleville you can also visit the High Banks Hall of Fame and National Midget Auto Racing Museum located just off highway 81.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This week in history

1994 - Jerald Folk of Iola, Kan., of the famous "Folk Racing Family", out ran the rest of the field to win the Kansas Super Stock Clash at Linn County Speedway in Pleasanton, Kan., on June 11. Folk carted home $800 for his victory at the "Fast Action Track". In other action, veteran pilot Tom Corbin of Carrollton, Mo., showed the young guys the way around the track in the 20-lap winged outlaw sprint car feature.

1988 - Two-time Interstate Racing Association champion Jim Moulis abandoned his usual rim-riding style and used the low groove to score his first feature win of the season in the circuit's 25-lap headliner at Wilmot (Wis.) Speedway on June 11. Dennis Spitz paced the opening 23 circuits before Moulis dove low on him entering turn three. Moulis secured the lead coming out of turn four and never looked back in becoming the seventh different winner in eight events. Spitz settled for second followed by Frank Filskov, point leader Gib Wiser and Joe Roe.

1983 - Hometown favorite Don Weyhrich led the last 12 laps to win the late model feature at Riviera Raceway in Norfolk, Neb., on Saturday evening, June 11. Weyhrich passed early leader Mike Benson of Wakefield, Neb., on lap 13 of the 25-lap main and was never challenged after that. Weyhrich also won the first heat and trophy dash to make it a clean sweep.
Dave Bjorge of Austin, Minn., chalked up another late model victory at Dodge County Speedway in Kasson, Minn., on June 12, 1977.

1977 - A swift, late surge by Dave Bjorge of Austin, Minn., was enough for him to capture the 30-lap late model feature at Dodge County Speedway in Kasson, Minn., on Sunday, June 12. Bjorge, who started in the sixth row, passed five cars on the 26th lap to jump from sixth to first and go on to victory. Mert Williams and Wendell Kuehn, both of Rochester, Minn., took second and third respectively.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This week in history

1995 - Seventeen-year-old Ryan Newman topped the 30-lap feature that highlighted the season-opener for the United Midget Auto Racing Association (UMARA) at Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., on June 3. Newman tapped race leader David Thompson on lap 13 sending him to the infield grass. Newman would lead the rest of the way and win handily over Duane Pierson and Don Carter Jr.

Steve Holzhausen of Bangor, Wis., made history by winning the first Miller 100 raced on the new asphalt of Hawkeye Downs Speedway.

1989 - Steve Holzhausen of Bangor, Wis., made history as he won the ARTGO-sanctioned 17th Annual Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs Speedway on June 6. It was the first-ever Miller 100 on the new 1/2-mile asphalt track. Holzhausen, driving the only Ford in the field, grabbed the lead from Scott Hansen of Green Bay, Wis., on lap 47 and then held off fast qualifier Butch Miller of Coopersville, Mich., for the victory.

1978 - Tony Izzo of Bridgeview, Ill., captured the "Nifty 50" late model feature at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on June 4. Izzo passed race leader Ken Widdes of Chicago early in the contest and finished far ahead of Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wis. and John Provenzano of Glen Ellyn, Ill. Bill Knippenberg of Hinsdale won the 30-lap sportsman feature.

1967 - Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, driving a Dodge Charger, won two heat races and the 30-lap feature before 13,857 race fans at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 3. White, racing third for the first 20 laps, took advantage when Sal Tovella sent race leader Jack Bowsher into the south wall and White slipped by both of them. Tovella hung on to take second while Norm Nelson, Bill Shoulders and Bay Darnell rounded out the top five. Promoter N. Perry Luster announced that because of the higher than expected attendance, the original purse of $5,000 would be upped to $6,700. White earned $800 plus a bonus of $350 bonus with the pay raise.