Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1978 Iowa Track Champions

Boone Speedway – Boone, Iowa
Promoter - George Barton
Late Model: Tom Bartholomew, Waterloo, Iowa
Sportsman: Denny Rosenberg, Grimes, Iowa
Street Stock: Ron Cochran, Marshalltown, Iowa

Buena Vista Speedway – Alta, Iowa
Promoter - Dick Simpson
Late Model: Arnie Braland, Boone, Iowa
Roadrunner: Stanley Kramer

Davenport Speedway – Davenport, Iowa
Promoter – Bill Schwader
Late Model: Tom Hearst, Wilton, Iowa
Sportsman: Garry Kerres, Edgington, Ill.

Eldon Raceway – Eldon, Iowa
Promoter – Claus Stricker
Late Model: Bill Rice, Des Moines, Iowa
Sportsman: Mike Benjamin, Keokuk, Iowa

Hamilton County Speedway – Webster City, Iowa
Promoter – Don Cryder
Late Model: Bob Shryock, Estherville, Iowa
Sportsman: Steve Coe, Ames, Iowa

Hawkeye Downs Speedway – Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Promoter – Al Frieden & Jim Brown
Late Model: Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
Sportsman: Mark Liebfried, Rickardsville, Iowa
Street Stock: Smoke Wilson, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Independence Motor Speedway – Independence, Iowa
Promoter – Vern Weber & Jack Hunt
Late Model: Gary Crawford, Independence, Iowa
Sportsman: Gary Tigges, Durango, Iowa
Roadrunner: Scott Braun, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Iowa State Fairgrounds Speedway – Des Moines, Iowa
Promoter – George Barton
Late Model: Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
Sportsman: Denny Rosenberg, Grimes, Iowa

Marshalltown Speedway – Marshalltown, Iowa
Promoter – George Barton
Late Model: Darrell Sells, Waverly. Iowa
Street Stock: Arvid Borchers, Marshalltown, Iowa

Midway Downs Speedway – Charles City, Iowa
Promoter – Rick Baker
Sportsman: Mike Krall, Waterloo, Iowa
Street Stock: Wencie Baker, Shell Rock, Iowa

North Iowa Speedway – Mason City, Iowa
Promoter – Marion Robinson
Late Model: Don Hoffman, Des Moines, Iowa
Sportsman: Dutch Van Wygeern, Hollandale, Minn.
Street Stock: Lee De Vries, Hollandale, Minn.

Shelby County Speedway – Harlan, Iowa
Promoter – John Beaman
Late Model: Randy Sterner, Blair, Neb.
Hobby Stock: Mel Sorenson, Omaha, Neb.

South Iowa Speedway – Oskaloosa, Iowa
Promoter – Dale Gegner
Late Model: Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
Sportsman: Jim Anderson, Des Moines, Iowa

34 Raceway – Burlington, Iowa
Promoter – Dale Gegner
Late Model: Roger Dolan, Lisbon, Iowa
Sportsman: Kenny Fenn, Washington, Iowa
Semi-Super Stock: John McClure, Burlington, Iowa

Tunis Speedway – Waterloo, Iowa
Promoter – Claus Stricker
Late Model: Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
Sportsman: Larry Schmidt, Hampton, Iowa
Roadrunner: Scott Braun, Cedar Falls, Iowa

West Liberty Raceway –West Liberty, Iowa
Promoter – Dale Gegner
Late Model: Roger Dolan, Lisbon, Iowa
Sportsman: Mark Keltner, Morning Sun, Iowa

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ARCA Takes to the Dirt in Nebraska

Andy Hillenburg (11) races with Tim Steele (16) at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb., on June 25, 1995. Hillenburg would win the 1995 series title and Steele would claim the ARCA championship three times in his career. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - On June 24 & 25, 1995 drivers from thirteen states descended on I-80 Speedway near Greenwood, Nebraska for a race sanctioned by the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). This would be the first and so far only appearance by ARCA in the Cornhusker State. ARCA is a stepping stone to NASCAR. Many drivers have went on from ARCA to successful careers in NASCAR, the most notable being 1968 & 69 ARCA champion, the late Benny Parsons who would win the 1973 Winston Cup Championship. While most of ARCA’s races are run on asphalt tracks, they still occasionally run a race on the dirt. Several Midwest dirt track stars were entered in the event and for the most part made a good showing. The event would carry a purse of $98,390.

Qualifying was held on Saturday, June 24 with Midwest star Bob Hill of Story City, Iowa the 1993 NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour Champion setting fast time at 82.988 miles per hour in the Clement Monte Carlo. Harris DeVane of Cuthbert, Georgia qualified second in his Ford Thunderbird, Eric Smith of Bloomington, Illinois put his Thunderbird in third place, and Washington, Missouri’s Ed Dixon a veteran of the Midwest dirt tracks qualified his Pontiac Grand Prix fourth. Beatrice driver Johnny Saathoff (who would go on to become one of the nation’s best modified drivers) qualified in 15th starting position in Bob Hill’s back up car, and Leon Zeitner of Omaha qualified Steve Kosiski’s Olds Cutlass in 23rd place. Kosiski was racing Friday and Saturday at the Route 66 Shootout in Joplin, Missouri.

On Sunday, June 25 a crowd estimated at 4,500 turned out at I-80 despite threatening weather, which included a short rain delay, to watch the ARCA Conoco 200. In support action, Joe Kosiski of Omaha won the 25-lap dirt late model feature. A field of 36 drivers was scheduled to take the green in the Conoco 200 with local star Steve Kosiski relegated to starting last because someone else had to qualify his car.

Pole-sitter Bob Hill grabbed the lead and led the first 37 laps before retiring with a broken axle. Hill would return to the race many laps down and complete 177 laps finishing the race in 26th place. After the race Hill would say, “We were just cruising. The car was good. I was just putting in laps; I wasn’t pushing it at all. It just broke apart.” Fourth starting Ed Dixon of Washington, Missouri another dirt track specialist grabbed the lead and held the lead until pitting on lap 113 under the yellow flag. Frank Kimmel of Jeffersonville, Indiana, who would become "Mr. ARCA" in later years by winning 8 ARCA Championships(and he’s still going strong) assumed the lead. Kimmel held the lead until Dixon got by him on lap 149 and held on for the win.

The drive of the day was put on by Omaha’s Steve Kosiski as he roared thru the field from his last starting position passing cars left and right and had moved all the way up to third by the he also pitted under yellow at lap 113. Kosiski came out of the pits in seventh place and by lap 173 was back up to third place where he entered into a battle for second place with Kimmel. In the closing laps of the race, Kosiski said, “I just got a nice roll coming off the corner and carried it in far enough to put me along side him.” Kosiski went on to take the position from Kimmel.

At the end of the race it was Dixon, Steve Kosiski, Kimmel, Harris DeVane of Cuthbert, Georgia, and Concord, North Carolina’s Andy Hillenberg rounding at the top five. Hillenberg who won the ARCA Daytona 200 to start the season would take his Fast Track Driving School Chevrolet on to the 1995 ARCA National Driving Championship in his rookie season with the series.

Ed Dixon (shown here earlier in the year at Daytona) of Washington, Mo., would win the ARCA-sanctioned Conoco 200 at I-80 Speedway on June 25, 1995.

Dixon commented after the race, “It was a slick race. We had a little rain fall, but it tacked up real well and it just ended up great.” Kosiski commented after the race, “Practice, when I wasn’t here, kind of made everybody gun shy to run the middle and the top. I could see the track was different from what I was told. So I rode the middle of the track and with everybody kind of hugging the bottom, the drivers had to set and brake for each other. I just went around them.”

Other notable drivers who participated in the event were Tim Steele, the 1993 ARCA Champion (he would also later win the championship again in 1996 and 1997). Steele qualified his Ford Thunderbird in 25th starting position. The Cooperville, Michigan native would have to settle for a 23rd place finish as his Thunderbird expired with engine failure after 188 laps.

Bobby Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio, the 1992 & 1994 ARCA Champion faired better as he qualified his Ford Thunderbird in 9th starting position and ended up running all 200 laps logging a 6th place finish.

The race lasted 1 hour 43 minutes and 25 seconds with Dixon’s margin at the checkered flag being about 1 second. There were 8 cautions for a total of 42 laps with Hill, Dixon, Kimmel and Dixon again being the only race leaders.

Friday, November 19, 2010

1954 – Slater, White Crowned I.M.C.A. Champs

Minneapolis, Minn. (UP) - Bob Slater of Kansas City, Mo., and Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, today were named winners of the 1954 International Motor Contest Association speedway car and stock car championships.

Slater outpointed Bobby Grim of Indianapolis in the Speedway Car division 2,950 to 2,635. White narrowly defeated defending champion Ernie Derr, White’s his brother-in-law and also from Keokuk, 2,892 to 2,795 for the stock car title.

Officials for the International Motor Contest Association said more than 200 drivers competed in I.M.C.A. events in 18 states and Ontario, Canada in 1954.

Trophies and a cash fund of $4,000 will be distributed to the 10 top point leaders in each division at the annual International Motor Contest Association meeting in Chicago on November 27th.

Slater and White each will receive $500 awards.


Speedway Car Division -

1. Bob Slater, Kansas City, Mo. –2,950
2. Bobby Grim, Indianapolis, Ind. – 2,635
3. Marvin Pifer, Adrian, Mich. – 2,435
4. Jimmy Campbell, Bates City, Mo. – 1,806
5. Jud Larson, Kansas City, Mo. – 1,715
6. Stan Callaway, Hialeah, Fla. – 1,299 (Deceased)
7. Jim McWhitney, Anderson, Ind. – 1,185
8. Hershel Wagner, Independence, Mo. – 1,160
9. Richard Amick, Muncie, Ind. – 1,150
10. Don Branson, Champaign, Ill. – 1,146

Stock Car Division –

1. Don White, Keokuk, Iowa – 2,892
2. Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa – 2,795
3. Herschel Buchanan, Shreveport, La. – 2,163
4. Bill Harrison, Topeka, Kan. – 1,551
5. Bob Potter, Duluth, Minn. – 1,165
6. Tubby Harrison, Topeka, Kan. - 741
7. Robert Peterson, Chicago, Ill. - 571
8. Robert Narber, Cedar Rapids, Iowa - 521
9. Dominic Perlick, Minneapolis, Minn. -503
10. Chris Skadal, Des Moines, Iowa - 460

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1974 - Keokuk; that means “champion”

From the Des Moines Register – November 17, 1974

Keokuk, Iowa – Keokuk is not exactly a name that conjures up visions of famed auto races, like the names of Indianapolis or Daytona or Atlanta or Ontario, Calif.

But this southeastern Iowa town of nearly 15,000 persons has produced at least one national stock car champion in each of the past 17 years and 20 in the past 22 years - 25 championships in all.

Say the word "Keokuk" anywhere on the nation's stock car racing tracks and most of the drivers will know that you are talking about the home of champion drivers.

How did Keokuk produce so many champions - more than most big cities in the nation?

Perhaps it all started in 1948 when Don White became interested in stock car racing while watching his father Gene work on cars in his garage.

The younger White started by driving a "Junker” at Burlington and two nearby Illinois tracks,

Then one night he went up to Davenport to watch the prestigious International Motor Contest Association races. White decided right there, "That's for me."

Ernie Derr was bitten by the racing bug next and it wasn't long before the White - Derr battles on the-track became widely publicized and this attention apparently sparked an interest by others in Keokuk.

The two aren't winning as many races as they once did but Derr, who will be 53 on November 29th, - still hasn't quit.

White, 48, is trying to extend his achievement of being the all-time feature winner in the United States Auto Club (he has won 50) stock car circuit.

The auto racing "disease" continues to spread in Keokuk. Gordon Blankenship was a strong contender for a second straight International Motor Contest Association title but finished second.

Gordon (28 years old) and Ron Hutcherson (31) who has captured a third straight Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) championship are the young lions now.

Two of Derr’s boys, Mike and Russ, both in their 20s, are the youngest drivers from Keokuk to be involved in national competition.

Mike, a teacher at Central Argyle High School, lost the IMCA championship by a mere five points to Blankenship last year.

Dick Hutcherson (42), who now builds stock cars in Charlotte, N.C., opened his career at the Keokuk track in 1956 and started racing late-models in 1959.

"I bought a 1957 Pontiac from Ernie for $1, 500," he recalls. "I won the first two races in 1959 and beat Ernie in the second one."

Dick may be the best driver ever at Keokuk, although that subject would spark one tremendous argument. He won IMCA championships in 1963 – 64 and then was asked by the Ford Motor Co., to compete in NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing). Dick, who has never finished below third in point standings at any time during his career when he raced full-time, was third in 1965 and second in '67 in NASCAR points.

Ramo Stott (40) had some wild races with Dick at Keokuk's quarter-mile track back in the '50s. In IMCA competition Stott was always a bridesmaid, never a bride. But when he left for ARCA in 1970, he proved he could be a champion, capturing titles that year and in ‘71.

Ron Hutcherson, Dick's brother, followed Ramo to ARCA and continued the Keokuk trend of winning championships.

Not all Keokuk drivers credit White and Derr for their interest in racing. Gordon Blankenship and his brother Lem report their interest stemmed from helping Stott work on his jalopy racer in the '50s.

"Their dad, Pete Blankenship, lived near the Keokuk track, explains Ramo. “I left my car at their place and Pete and the boys helped me work on it when we weren't playing pinochle. Racing was a lot more, fun in those days."

When Lem grew up, he worked in Ramo's shop and later drove one of Ramo's late model cars in USAC.

Jerry McCredie, Jim Washburn, Darrell Bradley, Mick McMahan and Eldon Sheffler also are among Keokuk drivers who have been involved in national racing competition.

Derr, who has won more than 300 features, and White are hard-pressed to explain why Keokuk drivers have been so successful.

"The most successful race drivers are those who not only have the ability to, drive and the desire and determination to win but are the ones who build and maintain their own cars," says White.

The top drivers from Keokuk have those credentials. Derr points out those four drivers - himself, White, Stott and Dick Hutcherson – were factory-backed at one time.

“That should say something about the quality of drivers here," he says. Manufacturers backed only those drivers who are in the top five to 10.

“Heck, I’d like to name my new garage (where he builds and maintains his race cars) the ‘Dodge House’, they (Dodge) helped pay for it," laughs Derr.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Northland 300

by Kyle Ealy 
St. Paul, Minn. – There was a time when long endurance stock car races on a half-mile track were the norm. It was quite common to see 100, 150, 200 or even 250 lap races ran at some of the bigger dirt (and very dusty) venues throughout the Midwest. Usually, most of these races were run on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when the temperatures were in the 90’s. 

Starting in the mid-1960’s, as summer was starting to wind down and fall was on its way, the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul would host two of the bigger long endurance races for the IMCA new model stock cars on the half-mile asphalt. 

As was the rule back then, the more laps, the bigger the prize and both of these races, the Northland 300 and the North Star 500, were two of the higher paying races on the IMCA national circuit each year. The North Star 500 was considered the granddaddy of the IMCA stock car season. It has an interesting history, but I’ll save that for another time… 

The Northland 300 was usually scheduled on or near Labor Day weekend and normally, the 500-lap race would follow a day or so after. You could probably say that the 300-lap race was “merely” a warm-up before the big one. 

The Northland 300 race started in 1966 but upon further research, the first 300-lap race at the fairgrounds was actually held the year before. The aptly named Paul Bunyan 400 was run in June of 1965. It was actually two races; a 50-mile race (100-lap) for the IMCA sprint cars and a 150-mile race (300-lap) for the IMCA stock cars. Harold Smith of Dayton, Ohio won the sprint car portion of the program in the afternoon while Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa led all 300 laps in taking the stock car nightcap. A crowd of 13,723 packed the grandstands to see what I’m sure was a full day of racing. With the great success that it had, the next year, Northland Oil Company jumped on board to sponsor the race and the Paul Bunyan name, while catchy, was tucked away. 

On Saturday afternoon, September 3, 1966, Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa won the first annual Northland 300 stock car race before 11,702 fans. Piloting a 1966 Dodge, Derr captured the race in 2 hours, seven minutes and 49 seconds. Amazingly, it was Derr’s first victory in over three years at the half-mile track. 

The win was worth $1,250 to the six-time IMCA national champion but more importantly, vaulted him back into the IMCA point lead over his fellow townsman Ramo Stott; a point’s lead he would not relinquish on his way to his seventh national championship. Stott, a victim of a pre-race warm-up mishap, which forced his regular ‘66 Plymouth out of commission with a bent frame and busted radiator, was plagued with car trouble throughout the race and actually competed in three different cars, all of which were borrowed or begged. He would finish seventh in a car originally driven by Hank Melborn of Kansas City. 

Soon to be NASCAR star Dave Marcis of Wausau, Wis., would finish behind Derr at the finish line followed by Bill Mueller and Norm Setran, both of Minneapolis, and Phil Cronin of Houston, Tex. As nice a guy as Ramo Stott was, he showed up with a chip on his shoulder and looking for revenge when the Northland 300 rolled around next year. 

On September 2, 1967, he not only got his revenge on Derr, whipping his arch-rival by two laps when the checkers flew, but he also set a new world record in the process. In qualifying, Stott set a new one-lap record on a half-mile by timing in at 22.68 seconds, erasing the old mark set two years ago at the same track. 

After wrecking his car, the year before, the victory was satisfying to Stott. “I wrecked my car here last year during warm-ups,” he mentioned. “I was running really well at the time, and I can’t help but feel that wreck cost me the national championship.” “I actually prefer asphalt to dirt tracks,” he pointed out. “I’ve always run well on them, and I guess today was no exception.” 

Stott would collect $1,250 for his dominating performance. Stott’s car, according to one driver who wished to remain anonymous, was a “picture of perfection” on this day. He lapped Derr twice, the first time on the 180th lap. He gave up the lead to Derr on lap 207 when he pitted briefly for a tire change but came roaring back to grab the top spot back from Derr only two laps later. Stott would increase his lead to two laps by lap 246. Despite the whipping he received, Derr would hang on to second place while veteran Ole Brua of Albert Lea would take third. Wisconsin asphalt ace Jim Sauter of Necedah would grab fourth and 1966 IMCA rookie of the year, Bob Malechek of Marshalltown, Iowa would round out the top five.

Ernie Derr set a new record in capturing his second Northland 300 IMCA stock car victory on August 31, 1968. 

On Saturday, August 31, 1968, Ernie Derr was back in victory lane at the Northland 300. In what was a mediocre race at best, Derr set a new IMCA record on the half-mile completing the 300 laps in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 38 seconds. Driving a 1968 factory-built Dodge Charger, the victory netted a Derr a first-place check for $1,400. Stott, after dismantling Derr the year before, was a non-factor in the race. He led the event at the beginning but yielded the lead to Derr around the 50-lap mark. 

Midway through the race, Stott would have to pull to the infield to change a tire and would spend the rest of his day playing catch-up. In fact, the only “excitement” of the day happened when three members of Norm Setran’s crew were burned at the midway point of the race when his ’68 Ford Torino burst into flames while refueling. None of the pit crew were seriously injured and miraculously, Setran (and race car) was able to continue and was soon back on the track. Engine trouble later on would finish his day. 

In 1969, Ramo Stott left IMCA for greener pastures (ARCA), leaving the old fox, Ernie Derr, to have it all to himself. When the Northland 300 rolled around on August 24th, he was the overwhelming favorite to claim his third victory. Derr, however, would lose his brakes early in the contest, which would end his chances. 

In fact, the top five drivers in points for IMCA didn’t fare well at all. Darrell Dake, a top-five IMCA pilot, was in the top five most of the day until his rear end went out and he too, finished on the hook. Cedar Rapids, Irv Janey had the best showing that afternoon, finishing seventh. 

 Marv Marzofka took advantage of what was an “off day” for the IMCA stable of hot shoes to grab the victory. Hailing from Nekoosa, Wis., Marzofka was no stranger to half-mile asphalt ovals, and he showed why. He not only took home the $1,700 first place prize money but also broke the half-mile mark set by Derr a year earlier by powering his 1969 Mercury Cyclone around 300 times in 2 hours, one minute and 14 seconds. Another future NASCAR star, Joe Frasson of Golden Valley, Minn., took runner-up honors while Bill Mueller of Minneapolis took the show spot. Hometown boy Bob Jusola grabbed fourth while Mike Stein of Burnsville, Minn., giving the gopher gassers four out of the top five spots. 

 Marzofka enjoyed himself so much at the ’69 race he made sure the event was on his social calendar for the 1970 season. Driving a 1969 Ford Torino, Marzofka timed in fastest among the 40 cars entered with a clocking of 21.68 seconds. When the checkers waved, it was Marzofka out front again for the second year in a row. Finishing the race in 2 hours six minutes and 20 seconds, Marzofka cashed in $1,825 for his efforts that Saturday afternoon, August 29th. Bud Helm of Minneapolis finished second, Bill Mueller took third, Johnny Boegeman of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., grabbed fourth and Jim Sauter rounded out the top five. Ernie Derr, on the downside of his great career, earned sixth.


Ron Hutcherson of Keokuk, Iowa would win the Northland 300 on August 28, 1971, and then score the 250-lap victory in Des Moines, Iowa (shown here in victory lane) the next day. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

After being “shut out” for two years in a row, IMCA drivers got back on track for the 1971 Northland 300 race. When Keokuk, Iowa’s Ron Hutcherson pulled into town on Saturday, August 28th, he was on a hot streak. When “Hutch” left St. Paul later that evening, he hadn’t cooled off any. 

Hutcherson led most of the race, touring the half-mile pavement in 2 hours, three minutes and 42 seconds and taking home $1,825 of a total $11,000 purse. Rich Somers of Steven Point, Wis., would come home in second followed by Mike Stein, Bill Mueller, Jim Sauter and Bill Nelson. Not satisfied with one win for the weekend, Hutcherson packed up his gear immediately after the race and headed four hours south to Des Moines, Iowa. That hot and steamy afternoon, he promptly led 217 of 250 laps in picking up the win on the half-mile dirt of the state fairgrounds. He won by two laps over a pair of Derr’s, Mike and Ernie, picking up a check for $1,250 in the process. If you stop and think about it, Hutcherson raced 550 laps in a 24-hour period, something that would be unheard of in today’s era. He also competed on both asphalt and dirt in that same time frame…and won both of them in dominating fashion. 

 The seventh annual (and final) Northland 300 would take place on August 27, 1972. One of the odds-on favorites for the race that year was Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Trickle was having a season that most drivers could only dream of. When he pulled his rig into St. Paul, Trickle was already sitting at an incredible 54 feature victories on the season.


Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., would win the final Northland 300 stock car race at the Minnesota State Fair on August 27, 1972.

The 30-year-old speedster made his appearance at the historic half-mile a memorable one making short work of a stellar field that afternoon and winning handily. Front-row starter Jim Sauter grabbed the initial lead only to be passed by Trickle on the 28th circuit. From there, Trickle would gun his 1970 Mach I Mustang around for the remaining 272 laps on his way to win number 55. He would earn $2,000 for the victory plus an additional $100 for setting fast time. 

Try as he might for a third straight victory, but Marv Marzofka would have to settle for second place while Tom Reffner of Rudolph, Wis., grabbed third and Jim Sauter would take fourth. Trickle would go on to amass 67 feature wins that season besting the old mark of 58 feature wins by Ramo Stott. The Northland 300 was a unique race in the sense that it was an IMCA-sanctioned event, but it didn’t necessarily mean that an IMCA-sanctioned driver ended up in victory lane. 

It started as an “south of the border” IMCA-dominated race in the early years but as their top stars (Derr, Stott and Hutcherson) moved on to other sanctions of racing, it became much more of a northern dominated (Marzofka, Trickle) event. Still, it was as star-studded as they came. If you consider that three of the greatest short track drivers ever to get behind the wheel of a race car, Derr, Stott and Trickle, all have their name etched on that Northland 300 trophy. There aren’t many big-name race events that can boast of that worthy honor.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Curt Hansen !!!

Happy Birthday to one of the greatest late model drivers ever to compete in the Midwest - Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa. Curt is 66 years young today!

Monday, November 8, 2010

1967 - Sterling Speedbowl Point Standings (Final)

Lloyd Ewing of Kewanee, Ill., would finish fifth in the point standings at Sterling Speedbowl Park in 1967.

1. Verlin Eaker – 1,272
2. Darrell Dake – 1,205
3. John Schlemmer – 1,155
4. Don Bohlander – 1,105
5. Lloyd Ewing – 1,090
6. John Connolly – 990
7. Alan May – 887
8. Bruce Linbeck – 700
9. Ed Bolen - 681
10. John Beauchamp – 585
11. Jim Strube 556
12. Bill McDonough – 530
13. Tom Hughes – 520
14. Al Terrell – 345
15. Art Brady – 336
16. Jim Kaehler – 321
17. Jerry Reinhart – 284
18. Jerry Roedell – 245
19. Les Peterson – 230
20. Dick Quimby – 230


July 4th winner – Del Williams
Mid-season champion – Darrell Dake
Labor Day winner – Darrell Dake
Season champion – Don Bohlander

Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa set a new track record of 17.98 seconds at the July 4th event.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The National Dirt Racing Association visits the Hawkeye State

Robert Smawley founded the National Dirt Racing Association (NDRA) late model series in 1978. - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

by Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - In 1978 Robert Smawley of Kingsport, Tennessee created a dirt late model touring series that would become the first national dirt late model touring series. However, in the seven year history of the National Dirt Racing Association (NDRA) the series made just two trips to the Hawkeye State. Those stops were in 1980 at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids and in 1985 at the Knoxville Raceway.

In May 1980, nearly 60 drivers from at least 10 states and Canada descended on Hawkeye Downs for the running of the NDRA Iowa 100. When qualifying was over Don Hobbs of Whiteland, Indiana had set a new track record of 23.19 seconds and grabbed the pole for the Iowa 100 (The top 3 in NDRA qualifying started in the first three spots in the feature and did not run heats). Tom Helfrich of Haubstadt, Indiana and Jim Curry of Norman, Indiana qualified second and third, also locking themselves into the feature and putting three Hoosiers at the front of the field.

In the first heat, pole sitter Rodney Combs of Loveland, Ohio would take the win over Mike Wallace (name sound familiar) of Valley Park, Missouri and Don Hoffman of Des Moines. Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wisconsin would use his front starting position to hold off two Iowans in the second heat. Finishing second and third were Ed Sanger of Waterloo and Tom Hearst of Wilton. Fulmer Lance of Washington, Georgia would grab the third heat over Mike Niffenegger of Kalona and Dick Taylor of Springfield, Illinois.

The fourth heat would be the only heat that was not won by the pole sitter. Inaugural NDRA national champion and race pole sitter Leon Archer of Griffin, Georgia faded to fifth allowing Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wisconsin to take the heat win with B. A. Malcuit of Strasburg, Ohio second and Curt Hansen of Dike third.

Larry Phillips of Springfield, Missouri led from start to finish in heat five with Denny Osborn of Cedar Falls second and Snooks DeFoor of Chatsworth, Georgia finishing third. (Unfortunately DeFoor’s car and trailer were stolen from his motel parking lot during the night and he was unable to compete in the feature).

Larry Moore of Dayton, Ohio won the final heat with Tom Nesbitt of Thunder Bay, Ontario and Joe Kosiski of Omaha, Nebraska also making the feature. Sunday nights 50 lap B feature would see three more cars qualify for the big show. Morning Sun’s Johnny Johnson came away with the win with Leon Archer and David Speer of Campbellsville, Kentucky also making the Iowa 100.

At the drop of the green it was outside pole sitter Tom Helfrich taking command of the race. Helfrich would stretch his lead out over second place Rodney Combs with pole sitter Hobbs fading to third. At one point in the event Helfrich held a commanding 10 second lead as he continued to set a torrid pace. On lap 87, however, while leading Combs by half a lap, Helfrich would develop rear end problems and he dropped from the race.

Combs would assume the lead but Hobbs was right there to challenge for the lead, and on lap 90 Hobbs took a lead he would never give up. Hobbs victory was especially impressive in the fact that he was running on only 7 cylinders due to the fact that a spark plug wire had come off on the first lap. Following Hobbs and Combs to the line were; David Speer who came from 24th starting position to claim third, Curt Hansen would finish fourth and Jim Curry fifth.

Don Hobbs of Whiteland, Ind., set a new track record in qualifying (23.19) and took the 100-lap feature win at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in May of 1980. - Lee Johnson Photo

“It’s been a long time coming but I knew we would get one sometime soon.” said an elated Hobbs after the race. Hobbs was driving a C. J. Rayburn built machine.

The NDRA would return to the Hawkeye state on July 25, 1985 when they visited the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa. Iowa native Billy Moyer then racing out of Batesville, Arkansas would set fast time with a lap of 20.22 seconds. Close behind was Ashland, Kentucky’s Chargin’ Charlie Swartz with a lap of 20.26 seconds. Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minnesota, Larry Phillips of Springfield, Missouri and Jeff Purvis of Clarksville, Tennessee (on his way to a second straight NDRA championship) rounded out the top five in qualifying.

Phillips would take the first heat over Kenny Brightbill of Sinking Springs, Pennsylvania and Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Illinois. Purvis would take heat two followed by Joe Kosiski of Omaha and T. J. Pauschert of Carlisle, Arkansas. Charlie Sentman of Waveland, Indiana won the third heat over Buddy Boutwell of Lynn Haven, Florida and Dick Schiltz of Waterloo.

For 33 laps it looked like Charlie Swartz was the man to beat in the National 100 but at that point Swartz slowed dropping from contention and Billy Moyer inherited the lead. After the 50 lap fuel stop, Jeff Purvis was all over Moyer but Purvis’ shot at the win ended on lap 97 with a flat tire.

Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., would pick the NDRA late model victory at Knoxville Raceway in July of 1985. - Photo courtesy of Dennis Piefer

Moyer would hold on for the win and picked up a $5,000 bonus in the process. Willy Kraft would finish second, Phillips third, Pauschert fourth and Purvis would race his way back to a fifth place finish.

The NDRA would fade from the scene following the 1985 racing season but during their existence they provided dirt late model fans with some great high dollar events and proved that a national dirt late model touring series was feasible.