Sunday, September 26, 2010

This Week in History

1994 - Kevin Roderick of Palos Park, Ill., bested a stellar field of late models to win the Miller Genuine Draft 200 at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on Sunday, September 25th. Roderick, who posted the second fastest qualifying time, edged Tom Pauley, Kevin Gundaker, John Provenzano and Bob Pohlman Jr., to take the $13,000 top prize. Roderick held the lead for the balance of the first half of the race. After the mandatory pit stop to re-fuel, Provenzano, from Somonauk, Ill., jumped out to the lead and looked to be a sure winner with 20 circuits to go until the nose of the car came into contact with his right front wheel, preventing him from turning correctly. Roderick blew past Provenzano and led the remaining laps to seal the deal.

1988 - Mike Frieden of Swisher, Iowa captured the 35-lap IMCA modified feature in the 2nd Annual Fall Challenge at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on September 24. Frieden started on the inside second row, but moved quickly to the front of the 33-car field as he won over Merv Chandler of Cedar Rapids, Mark Noble of Blooming Prairie, Minn., Denny Banks of Washington and Rick Wages of Davenport. In support action, Bob "Gabby" Hayes of Ottumwa, Iowa captured the 20-lap IMCA stock car feature over Dean Hughes of Oskaloosa and Randy Harter of Jefferson.

1982 - After three consecutive second place finishes, Joe Shear of Beloit, Wis., won the 200-lap late model feature at the 17th annual National Short Track Championships at Rockford Speedway on Sunday afternoon, September 26. Shear also won in 1972, 1974 and 1975. Driving his United Telephone-sponsored 1981 Camaro, the popular Shear took the lead on the 88th lap, going around Jim Sauter of Necedah, Wis., and then held off second half challenges from both Sauter and Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., before cruising to the win. John Ziegler of Madison, Wis., Ted Musgrave of Grand Marsh, Wis., Watson and Al Schill of Franklin, Wis., rounded out the top five finishers.

1976 - Johnny Johnson of Hermantown, Minn., surged ahead of pole sitter Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wis., on the opening circuit and led the rest of the way to capture the 50-lap finale of both the Wisconsin Dirt Track Championship Series and International Late Model Championship (ILMC) Series at Ashland Raceways on September 26. Sharing the spotlight with Johnson was Johnny Jones and Tom Nesbitt, both of Thunder Bay, Ont. Despite leading every lap in his drive to the $1,200 first place prize, Johnson's victory was anything but easy. Plank stayed directly behind Johnson for the duration of the 50-lap main event and pulled along the front runner on numerous occasions. Red Steffen of Eau Claire, Wis., took third followed by Jones and Bill Goeden of Kewaskum, Wis. By virtue of his fourth place finish, Jones wrapped up the driving crown for the Wisconsin Dirt Track Championships Series and gained a share of the ILMC title with Nesbitt, who placed eighth in Sunday afternoon's headliner.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Remembering when: The IMCA Stock Cars at Knoxville

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. — The Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa, is and has been for a long time the Sprint Car Capital of the World. But occasionally, the Sprint Cars have given way to those guys with fenders on. Such was the case back in the heyday of the old IMCA Stock Car Series. The series visited what was to become the legendary Knoxville Raceway six times in eight years and the races were fast and furious.

On August 7, 1959, the series made their initial visit to Knoxville and a fast track provided for the setting of two new IMCA records. Future NASCAR star Dick Hutcherson of Keokuk would set fast time of 27.49 seconds edging out Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids. Heats went to Bob Kosiski of Omaha in his Thunderbird, Bruce Nystrom of Oshkosh, Wis., in a Chrysler and Bill Harrison of Topeka in a Pontiac.

Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa was a 12-time national champion in the IMCA stock car division.

Then they turned the wick up as Ernie Derr of Keokuk set a new IMCA record for 10 laps when he won the dash in 4 minutes 31.50 seconds. Lee Pickney of Des Moines won the consy and then it was feature time. Darrell Dake driving a ’57 Chevrolet convertible got the lead early on in the race and with constant pressure from Hutcherson and Derr went on to win the 50-lap main event, setting a new IMCA record of 22 minutes 59.78 seconds for 25 miles in the process. Following Dake, Hutcherson and Derr were, Newt Bartholomew, Sonny Morgan and Bob Kosiski.
The IMCA Stock Cars did not return to the Marion County Fairgrounds again until May 27, 1962, and this time it was for 200 laps. A crowd of 3,500 fans was on hand and they were treated to the some of the fine points of racing strategy.
Chub Liebe of Oelwein, Iowa, brought his Ford in for service, early in the race, long before necessary, and was out fast and soon picked up the leaders. Several drivers stayed out too long and ran out of gas while leading or near the front. Those included John Mickey, Ernie Derr and Johnny Beauchamp. Mickey’s problems were compounded when his crew mixed filler cans and put water in his fuel tank taking him out of the running.
Liebe reassumed the lead and was holding off a closely pursuing Beauchamp, when on the 198th lap, Beauchamp ran out of gas and Liebe sailed to the win. Liebe covered the 200 laps in 1 hour 33 minutes 49.63 seconds. Dick Hutcherson was second, Beauchamp third, Mert Williams fourth and Rookie Gil Haugen fifth.

On May 18, 1963, the series returned to Knoxville and Columbus Junction, Iowa’s John Mackey started things off with a bang as he drove his Gene Stewart tuned ’63 Pontiac to a new one lap IMCA record in qualifying with a lap of 25.60 seconds. Ernie Derr and Buzz McCann also broke the old record.

Ramo Stott was a successful stock car pilot not only in the IMCA stock car division but the USAC and ARCA ranks as well in the 60's and 70's.

A capacity crowd of 10,000 watched as Ernie Derr took an early lead and would set a new record for 50 laps at 21 minutes 46.1 seconds. When Derr pitted on lap 55, Ramo Stott assumed the lead in his little ’63 Plymouth and was bound and determined to keep it. He did and along the way set a new track record for 200 laps of 1 hour 31 minutes 10.95 seconds. Fellow Keokuk resident Jim Washburn was second in a Ford, followed by Bob Reynolds of Edmond, Okla., Chub Liebe and Ralph Wilhelm of Milwaukee.

One of the famous "Keokuk Komets", Dick Hutcherson was a two-time IMCA stock car national champion in 1963 & 1964.

The May 2, 1964, race at Knoxville can be summed up in one name. Dick Hutcherson! Hutch started things off by driving his Ford to a new IMCA one-lap record of 25.44 seconds.
In the feature, Hutcherson was pressed all the way by fellow Keokuk driver Ramo Stott. The results were record setting as Hutcherson set new IMCA marks for 50, 75 and 100 miles turning the 200 laps in 1 hour 29 minutes 47.29 seconds. Stott was right on Hutcherson’s bumper the whole way and finished second. Gil Haugan of Sioux Falls was third, Bill Thomas of Lake Elmo, Minn., fourth and Roland Wilson of Bedford, Iowa, fifth.
Ernie Derr may not have always won on the first trip to a new race track but eventually he would figure it out. At Knoxville that happened on May 1, 1965. Qualifying second to rival and fellow Keokuk resident Ramo Stott, Derr went on to pick up his first IMCA win at Knoxville touring the 200 laps in 1 hour 31 minutes 39.5 seconds. Stott held on for second with Ron Hutcherson driving his Ford to a third place finish and giving Keokuk a one-two-three sweep. Bob Jusola of Mound, Minn., was fourth and Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., fifth.
The IMCA Stock Cars would make their final visit to Knoxville on May 14, 1966 for the running of the “Hawkeye 200.” It was time for somebody to be a repeat winner, and it was no surprise that the driver would be from Keokuk. Ernie Derr set fast time at 25.74 with Ramo Stott second at 26.07. In the feature, however, it was Ramo Stott in his Plymouth taking top honors as he turned the 200 laps in 1 hour 31 minutes 48.54 seconds. Ernie Derr was second, Ed Negre of Monett, Mo.; the STP dash winner was third, with Lewis Taylor of Shawnee, Kan., and Bill Moore fifth.
While the IMCA Stock Cars would never return again to Knoxville and the Sprint Cars would make Knoxville a household name in racing, the Stock Cars provided the fans in Marion County with some exciting and fast paced racing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This Week in History

1994 - Steve Kosiski of Omaha, Neb., passed the ailing machine of Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., on lap 81 and went to score his fourth career Yankee Dirt Track Classic victory at Farley Speedway on Saturday, September 17th. Kosiski's first-place prize, not counting the 19 laps he led, totaled $6,500. Following Kosiski across the line was Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., previous leader (laps 9 - 71) Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Steve Boley of West Liberty, Iowa and Terry Ryan of Davenport, Iowa. Seventy-seven late models, believed to be a Busch All-Star Tour record for entries, signed in for competition.

1988 - Johnny Ziegler of Madison, Wis., held off Scott Hansen of Green Bay and Rich Bickle Jr., of Edgerton, Wis., to win the 303-lap NASCAR/ARTGO Challenge Cup Series feature at the 23rd Annual National Short Track Championships at Rockford Speedway on Sunday afternoon, September 18. Ziegler took home an ARTGO Record $11,814 for his win, which was co-sanctioned by NASCAR. Hansen, Bickle, Tom Carlson and Steve Carlson, both of Lacrosse, Wis., trailed Ziegler in the event, which was interrupted by a 36-minute rain delay in the closing circuits.

1982 - Ron Hekkema of Renselaer, Ind., avoided the problems other drivers had and drove to victory in the 100-lap late model feature at Kankakee Fairgrounds Speedway on Saturday, September 18th. Hekkema had the early lead only to surrender it to Paul Shafer of Highland, Ind., on lap 13. Shafer held the point until the 24th go-round and lost an axle giving the lead back to Hekkema. Dick Potts of Morocco, Ind., wrestled the lead away on the 49th circuit only to be victimized by a flat tire 10 laps later. Hekkema inherited the lead again and led the rest of the way to grab the $1,200 first prize.

1977 - Fred Horn of Marion, Iowa, won the 5th Annual Stock Car Futurity at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City, Iowa, on Saturday, September 17th. Horn set fast time (23.02) and started on the pole but it was Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa who jumped out front first. Sanger got too high in turns one and two on lap nine allowing Horn to slip by for the lead. Horn then fought off a gallant charge by Estherville, Iowa's Bob Shryock for the remaining 20 laps. Horn earned $1,000 for the victory while Shryock settled for second and $750. Kenny Farrell, Roger Klingfus and Denny Osborn finished out the top five.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This Week in History

1989 - Kevin Pittman of Waterloo, Iowa won the 40-lap IMCA modified championship at the 7th Annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa, on Sunday night, September 10. Pittman passed race leader Tom Bartholomew (with a flat tire) of Huxley, Iowa coming out of turn four on the final lap to take the checkers and the $2,000 payday. Denny Schwartz of Ashmore, Ill., was on Pittman's heels at the finish and finished second while Kelly Shryock of Story City, Dave Erpelding of Algona and Doug Hillson of Blooming Prairie, Minn., following. Jeff Havlik of Madrid took IMCA stock car honors, Bobby Thompson of Des Moines drove his IMCA Sprint car to victory and Greg Kastli of Waterloo won the IMCA late model championship.

1978 - An exhaust leak made things uncomfortable for Bobby Unser at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on Sunday afternoon, but he made things even more miserable for his opponents as Unser cruised to a convincing victory in the Governor's Cup 250-mile USAC Stock car race on September 10. Driving a 1978 Camaro, Unser, out of Albuquerque, N.M., led 190 of the 250 laps and finished well ahead of Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., to pick up the $7,885 winner's share of the $41, 440 purse. An exhaust leak on Unser's car poured fumes into the cockpit giving him a severe headache for the most of the race.
Earl Wagner is congratulated by IMCA officials after winning the 25-lap sprint car feature in Topeka, Kan., on September 9, 1972.

1972 - Earl Wagner, the fast driving plumber from Pleasantville, Iowa, slipped inside of Thad Dosher of Topeka, Kan., on lap 20 and went on to win the 25-lap IMCA sprint car feature at the Mid-America Fair Saturday, September 9th before 2,500 fans. It was Wagners second straight IMCA-sanctioned victory, having scored the win at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln on Wednesday. Until he slipped a bit high coming out of turn four on the 20th circuit, the day had belonged to Dosher, much to the delight of the hometown fans. He had set a new track record in qualifying with a time of 23.44 breaking the old record set by Bobby Grim in 1955.

1967 - Having already won the point's championship the week before, Butch Householder of Algona, Iowa, powered his way to three wins on Saturday evening during the final night of stock car racing in Denison, Iowa, on September 9th. On a night where the cars were allowed to run with unlimited carburetors and tires, Householder grabbed wins in his heat, the handicap race as well as the "A" feature. In the main event, Householder was trailing Junior Brunick of Vermillion, S.D., by a good distance until Brunick tangled with Don Wood of Ida Grove, allowing Householder to easily pass by, take the lead and the victory.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This Week in History

Jim O'Connor of Kankakee, Ill., won the Prairie State Championships at Santa Fe Speedway on September 2, 1984.

1984 - Kankakee's Jim O' Connor returned from his 50-lap victory on Saturday night and topped the 100-lap late model Stroh's Prairie State Championship at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill., on Sunday evening, September 2. O' Connor passed race leader Arnie Gardner of Batavia, Ill. on the 46th circuit when Gardner's car spun after driving through some water from someones radiator. O' Conner was never challenged winning handily. Tony Izzo of Bridgeview, Ill., finished second while Gardner recuperated nicely to take third ahead of Al Johnson of Justice, Ill. and Ken Widdes of Chicago.

The late Larry Detjens of Wausau, Wis., was considered one of the best short-track drivers in the Midwest.

1978 - Despite sweltering 90-degree temperatures, Larry Detjens beat a talent-laden field of drivers at the Minnesota State Fair Speedway to win the Amsoil 300 for the ASA Circuit of Champions on Monday afternoon, September 4. The former rodeo cowboy and ski instructor from Wausau, Wis., kept his 1978 Camaro in front for the final 196 laps despite a daring pit stop for a splash of gas with just 23 laps to go. Mike Miller of Wisconsin Rapids drove his 1978 Cutlass to a second place finish, eight seconds behind the winner. Point's leader Mark Martin of Batesville, Ark., placed third followed by Ed Howe of Beaverton, Mich. and John Anderson of Massillion, Ohio.

1972 - Al Truesdow of Omaha took home his second late model win of the season at Whitehead Speedway's final program on Monday, September 4th in Nebraska City, Neb. Bill Martin, also of Omaha, made a strong bid for the feature win and led the majority of the 20-lap feature until a broken axle with three laps remaining put him out of contention. Truesdow then took the lead and won the race. John Adkins of Plattsmouth, Phil Bivens of Nebraska City, Mike Dizona of Omaha and Paul Zdan of Omaha rounded out the top five.
Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids is presented the checkers after winning at Sterling Speedbowl Park on September 4, 1967.

1967 -Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took home the lion's share of the purse after winning the 50-lap Labor Day Invitational at the Speedbowl Park in Sterling, Ill., on September 4th. Dake, starting in the third row, took the lead from Ben Hofer of Rock Island and held off Verlin Eaker, also of Cedar Rapids, to take the hard-fought win. The hot sun made for a hard, dry track and spinouts were the order of the day. Bill McDonough, John Schlemmer and Johnny Beauchamp were all involved in mishaps during the afternoon affair.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Ferrari Battles the IMCA Stock Cars in 1958

Loyal Katskee's 1957 Ferrari Monza

by Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - The old IMCA Stock cars series rule book stated that the cars eligible to compete should be “Cars must be of standard American stock makes, with hardtops, manufactured during (a certain year or after), of which 500 or more unites must have been manufactured and sold to the public, in order to qualify as a STOCK CAR (for IMCA Stock Car Races).

Except in races classified as “Free for Alls” or “Internationals” in which domestic and foreign sports car type cars can compete.” These Internationals were organized so that “foreign sports cars” could compete in certain events, and it helped to insure a larger field of cars. Typically, the sports cars that entered these events had performed poorly.

In 1958 Omaha sports car enthusiast Loyal Katskee entered his 4.4-liter 1957 Ferrari Monza in several IMCA Internationals. The first of these events was the Kansas International held on July 6, 1958, before a crowd of 6,500 fans at the Kansas Free Fairgrounds in Topeka. In that event, Katskee recorded a time trial lap of 30.25 seconds, third to fast qualifier Bob Burdick, also of Omaha in his dad Roy’s Ford, and Don White of Keokuk, Iowa also in a Ford.

At the end of the day, Bob Burdick came out on top in the grueling 200 lap feature in a time of 1 hour 51 minutes 3.06 seconds and picked up the $500 first prize. White would hang on for second. But the surprise of the afternoon was that Katskee backed up his fine third place qualifying effort with a third-place finish in the Feature.

One-week later IMCA held another International, this time the Iowa International 300 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. In qualifying the day before the race, Katskee shocked the Stock Car fans by setting a new track record of 28.86 seconds in out qualifying Herb Shannon and Ernie Derr.

The next day 10,300 fans showed up for the Iowa International. It turned out to be accident packed as only 15 of the original 33 starters were able to finish the race which saw 14 yellow flags. The race was won by Don White (who would win the 1958 IMCA Stock Car champion, his third and then move on to become the winningest stock car driver in USAC history). Bob Burdick ran second, Frank Lies of Wichita was third, and in fourth was the Ferrari of Loyal Katskee, who made another fine showing.

The next IMCA International was held on the mile track at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri on August 24. Katskee once again set fast time breaking Bob Burdick’s IMCA record for the mile with a time of 45.58 seconds. The feature ran before a state fair crowd of 22,000 fans was for 100 miles and it looked like late in the race that White would hold off Katskee for the win, but with just 17 laps to go, White had to pit for a rubbing fender. Although, he was only in the pits for a few seconds, it was enough time for Katskee to go roaring by in his flame-red Ferrari. Despite a late charge by White, Katskee held on to win the race by a car length and score a major upset in IMCA stock car racing. His winning time was 1 hour 20 minutes 24.15 seconds.

Katskee next took on the IMCA stock cars regulars at the North Central Kansas Free Fair in Belleville, Kansas on August 30. Katskee sailed around the Belleville High Banks in 25.96 seconds and once again set fast time. In the 200-lap main event, Loyal pulled into the pits after about 15 laps with a bad misfire. He thought he had broken the engine. He casually looked under the hood thinking his day was over and found that two spark plug wires had come off. He put them back on, fired the engine, and it purred like a kitten, so he quickly put his helmet back on and rejoined the race, three laps behind the field. At the end of the race, he had just passed the leader to get back on the lead lap, without the help of any yellow flags.

Lenny Funk, the Kansas Wheat Farmer from Otis, Kansas drove to the win in 1 hour 36 minutes 19.66 seconds with Shorty Eberts of Avondale, Missouri. Third place went to the flame red Ferrari of Loyal Katskee.

Katskee hoped to follow these efforts by competing in the International to be held over Labor Day weekend at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln, but Mother Nature had other ideas and the event was rained out.

Loyal Katskee and his Ferrari certainly weren’t a serious threat to defeat the IMCA regulars for the season championship but his efforts in the four Internationals that he competed in proved that his Ferrari could run just as well on the dirt as the road course of America.

In his career Loyal Katskee would compete on many of America’s most famous road courses from Lime Rock to Daytona to Riverside to Laguna Seca. In 1953 he competed at Offutt AFB south of Omaha in a SCCA extravaganza that General Curtis Lemay promoted. The race drew 55,000 fans. In 1954 he again entered the events at Offutt, winning the Cornhusker over 50 miles and then the SAC Trophy race again over 50 miles. In the 200-mile Omaha Centennial Grand Prix he finished third to Jack McAfee and Bill Spear.

In 1959 he would compete in the Speed Week Trophy Races in Nassau, Bahamas and in 1960 competed in what was undoubtedly one of the last major races in Cuba when he drove his Maserati at the Cuban GP de Libertad. But for several races during the 1958 IMCA stock car series, he made the veterans take notice of his flame red Ferrari.