Saturday, April 30, 2011

This Week in History

1994 - Bitterly cold temperatures chilled race fans to the bone, but it didn't keep them from turning out in masses for the season opener at Greenbelt Speedway in Eldora, Iowa, on Sunday, April 30th. Promoter Al Urhammer and his staff ran a quick, smooth program that saw the final checkered fly at 8:50 pm as John Logue of Boone (IMCA Modified), Al Johnson of Jewell (IMCA Stock Car) and Al Dixon of Webster City (IMCA Hobby Stock) capture season opening victories.
1988 - Veteran Harold Fair survived a last lap challenge and went on to capture the $54,438 ASA Racing 200-lapper and notch his first career ASA Racing victory of his career on Sunday afternoon, May 1 at Salem (Ind.) Speedway before 9,481 spectators. Fair, making his 109th career start, grabbed the lead on lap 83 when pole winner and race leader Butch Miller spun trying to avoid lap traffic. Fair retained the lead after the midway break, held off Dick Trickle and then Miller on the last lap to earn $7,425 of the massive purse. Miller, Bob Senneker, Kent Stauffer and Mike Eddy rounded out the top five.

1983 - Bill Kojis opened Wilmot (Wis.) Speedway's season with an impressive victory in the 25-lap super modified feature on Saturday, April 30. Carmen Manzardo took the lead on the event's sixth lap and appeared headed for victory until the halfway point when a broken axle sent him to the sidelines. Kojis took over from there, and despite a late challenge from Gib Wiser, maintained the top spot to the checkers. Wiser, Bob Robel, Gene Erdmann and Ron Luedtke were the top five.

1977 - Doug Wolfgang of Des Moines, Iowa scored the 40-lap sprint car feature victory on Sunday night, May 1st at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln, Neb., before a crowd of 4,000. Wolfgang made it look relatively easy as he grabbed the lead on the fourth lap and never faced a serious challenge throughout the contest despite numerous restarts. "This is the first time this car has been raced, but it worked like a veteran tonight," Wolfgang stated in victory lane afterwards. Lonnie Jensen and Roger Larson put on a show in the battle for runner-up honors with Jensen eventually getting the edge. Jim Riggins and Butch Bahr rounded out the top five.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

1966 - Dake won't be ready for first Stock Car test

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (April 24, 1966) - The first regional division in the history of the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) will open the season next weekend with Davenport’s Mississippi Valley fairgrounds the scene of the action Friday night, April 29, and Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, Saturday night, April 30.

Most drivers will probably be happy to know defending champion Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids will not be ready for either opening night. “I just don't see how I can make it,” Dake said. “I've been really busy building cars for other drivers all winter, and right now, I'm about two weeks from finishing my own.”

“I'll just have to spot ‘em a few races,” Dake chuckled.

IMCA race promoter Homer Melton stated that he's had nearly 60 IMCA late model modified license applications, which would certainly indicate that there will be a larger field of cars than ever before. All of the top contenders plus many new faces will be in the lineup next weekend.

Red Droste, former stock car champion from Waterloo, will be testing a new idea in modified stock cars. His 1957 modified Chevrolet convertible will feature an automatic transmission.

“I tried it out a couple of weeks ago in Oklahoma City,” Droste said, “and I was very satisfied with the performance.”

Jerry Mabie of Cedar Rapids, now in his sophomore season, will be driving a 1965 Chevrolet powered by a 427 cubic inch engine. Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo will return in a 1964 Ford convertible; Mert Williams of Rochester, Minn., in the same 1956 Pontiac; Charlie Moffit of Stanwood in the same 1957 Plymouth; Jerry Reinhart in a 1964 Ford, a car driven on the USAC late model circuit last season by Bay Darnell; and Roy Pearson of Cedar Rapids is in the 1959 Plymouth that John Connolly drove last season. Connolly earlier announced he’d be driving the 1961 G & H Racing Ford.

A partial entry list for Cedar Rapids and Davenport;

1. Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo, ‘64 Ford
2. Rick McDole, Davenport, ‘56 Ford
3. Lyle Baney, Davenport, ‘56 Ford
4. Charlie Moffitt, ‘57 Plymouth
5. Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids, ‘63 Ford
6. Shorty Bennet, Rock Island, ‘57 Chevy
7. Ernie Speth, Davenport, ‘51 Ford
8. Del Williams, East Moline, ‘51 Chevy
9. Ray Guss, Moline, ‘57 Chevrolet
10. Jim Strube, Peoria, Ill., ‘65 Chevrolet
11. Jim Baker, Davenport, ’63 Ford
12. Jack Lueth, Davenport, ‘57 Ford
13. Red Droste, Waterloo, '57 Chevrolet
14. Tom Hughes, Monticello, ‘64 Ford
15. Dean Montgomery, Milan, ’64 Chevy
16. Verlin Eaker, Cedar Rapids, ‘65 Dodge
17. Ben Hofer, Rock Island, ‘57 Chevrolet
18. Jerry Reinhart, East Moline, ‘64 Ford
19. Lloyd Caldwell, Milan, Ill, ‘56 Chevy
20. Al Terrell, Davenport, ‘56 Chevrolet
21. Jerry Mabie, Cedar Rapids, ‘65 Chevy
22. Buzz McCann, St. Paul, Minn., ‘64 Ford
23. Bud Price, Davenport, '64 Buick
24. Jim Gerber, Mt. Joy, Ill., '64 Dodge
25. Lee Kunzman, Guttenberg ‘66 Chevy
26. Ralph Heinzman, Guttenberg, ‘57 Chevy
27. John Beauchamp, Atlantic, ‘65 Plymouth
28. Mert Williams, Rochester, Minn., ’56 Pontiac
29. Ron Weedon, Davenport, ‘63 Ford
30. Roy Pearson, Cedar Rapids, ‘59 Plymouth
31. Jiggs Seymour, Davenport, ‘61 Ford
32. John Connolly, Delhi, ‘61 Ford.
33. Bill McDonough, Cedar Rapids, ’66 Chevrolet
34. Jim Higham, Cedar Rapids, ‘57 Ford

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Week in History

1994 - A packed house at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa, watched Waterloo, Iowa's Greg Kastli score his first career Deery Brothers Summer Series victory on April 23. The race started with Jeff French of Adel, Iowa and Greg Hunter of Independence, Iowa on the front row. Hunter would lead the first lap but that would be it, as Kastli would pass Hunter for the top spot on lap two and lead the rest of the way from there. Kevin Cale would thrill his hometown fans with a strong second place finish while Bryan Wanner of nearby Winfield, Iowa would take third, Davenport, Iowa's Rollie Frink earned fourth and Curt Martin of Independence, Iowa grabbed fifth.

1988 - Rich Vogler outdistanced Stan Fox to win the USAC Jolly Rancher's Candies National Midget Series 30-lap feature on Sunday afternoon, April 24 at Impact Speedway near Oregon, Wis. Mel Kenyon charged out to the early lead but Vogler took command on the fifth round. A red flag accident on lap 27 would bunch up the field, but Vogler held off a late charge from Fox to grab the checkers. Kevin Doty, Kenyon and Johnny Parsons rounded out the top five.

1983 - Roger Otto of Burlington, Wis., with the help of a fellow competitor, won the 30-lap limited late model feature at the Lake Geneva Raceway season opener on Sunday afternoon, April 23. Otto was having motor issues before qualifying, so Bob Delany of Lake Geneva ran home to his garage and retrieved some spare parts to get Otto up and running. In the feature, Otto raced past early race leader Eddie May of Crystal Lake, Ill., on lap 13 and then held off Delany at the checkers. May, Bob Rossa of Burlington and Bob Dauterman of Spring Prairie, Wis., followed Otto and Delany across the finish line.

1977 - Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa and Kenny Fenn of Washington, Iowa each scored a clean sweep before a crowd of 5,000 race fans during the season opener at West Liberty Raceway on Saturday, April 23rd. On hand for the evening were 38 late models and 25 sportsman, trying for a share of the $4,000 purse offered by Super Stocks, Inc. Hearst would display extreme driving proficiency in his 1977 Camaro, leading from start to finish in the 25-lap feature. Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Red Dralle of Evansdale, Duane Steffe of East Moline, Ill., and Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley would follow. In sportsman action, the veteran Fenn would battle rookie Darrell Walker of Wapello for all 15 laps of their feature before finally prevailing in the closing laps to seal the deal. Walker, Ron Pallister of Wapello, Ron Boyse of Wellman and Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun rounded out the top five.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This Week in History

1994 - After having to wait a week because of rain on opening night, the Deery Brothers Summer Series season opener took place at Bloomfield (Iowa) Speedway on April 16th. Davenport's Gary Webb and Marshalltown's Darrel DeFrance traded the lead several times in a real "nail biter" before Webb was able to secure the top spot for good on lap 33 and led the remaining seven laps to take the $1,500 top prize. Greg Kastli of Waterloo made a late move on DeFrance to take the second spot while DeFrance, Kevin Cale of Donnellson and Craig Jacobs of Des Moines rounded out the top five.

1988 - Dick Trickle opened the 1988 ASA Racing Series season by leading the final 10 laps in his Coors Light Silver Bullet Camaro to win the $60,000 Buckeye 200 in front of 6,500 fans at Columbus Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, April 17. Trickle passed Butch Miller, who led 187 circuits, three laps earlier, but the defending ASA champion regained the lead for two laps. Trickle, a two-time ASA champion himself, took over for good on lap 191 to win $7,475 in prize money and awards. Miller settled for second while Mike Eddy grabbed third, Ted Musgrave finished fourth and the "Zero Hero" Tom Jones took fifth.

1982 - A standing room only crowd at Sunset Speedway watched as Doug Wolfgang of Sioux Falls, S.D. threaded his way through traffic from his 13th starting position to post what most believed to be his third feature victory in two days in the World of Outlaws event on Sunday, April 18th. However, WoO officials disqualified Wolfgang for changing a tire on the track under the yellow and he was placed in 18th position, giving the win to Steve Kinser of Bloomington, Ind. Wolfgang had posted a pair of wins on Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds (USAC Midgets) and at Knoxville Raceway (World of Outlaws).

1971 - Cal Swanson of Reinbeck, Iowa took on some of the Midwest's best late model drivers on Saturday night, April 17, to capture the Spring Championship at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Vinton, Iowa. Swanson banked $250 for his feature victory, his first and only checkered flag of the evening as more than 2,100 race fans watched the thrilling action on the renovated 1/4-mile. Arlo Becker of Atkins churned around the oval to finish second followed by Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Curt Hansen of Dike and Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo. Many fans were turned away on a perfect night for racing as the Cedar Valley Racing Association, sponsors of the race program, had to put up "standing room only" signs at the ticket window a full hour before the racing commenced.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Iowa Racing Great Gone but Never Forgotten

Johnny Gerber in his Chevrolet powered "Whippet Special"  - Photo courtesy of Bob Lawrence/Kansas Racing History

Marion, Iowa (April 4, 2011) - For the younger people involved in the sport of grass-roots racing, the name Johnny Gerber doesn’t mean a lot. But for race car drivers and fans from more than a few decades, it was 32 years ago today that Iowa lost a former big car champion and later manager of the very popular Midwest Midget Auto Racing Association and it left a very deep void.

Born in Kansas but raised in the Cedar County town of Stanwood, Iowa, the farmer-race car enthusiast would spend much of his life in Davenport. Many considered Gerber the greatest name ever in Iowa racing circles.

From 1921 through 1942, John built and raced his own sprint cars with amazing success. He was a popular figure in the early days at old Frontier Park in Cedar Rapids, which is now Hawkeye Downs. At one time, his homemade cars held track records in four states at the same time.

“The old Whippet didn't look like much,” John was quoted as saying. “But it could run with the best of them.” Back in the early days of “open racing”, Gerber's homemade machines were once the toast of the nation in dirt track circles. In his prime, he usually finished in front of another pair of Iowa racing greats, the late Gus Schrader of Newhall and Emory Collins of LeMars.

Gerber was on top of the racing heap for around 20 years before temporarily retiring back to the farm. One of his greatest personal achievements came back in 1933 when Gerber and Maynard “Hungry” Clark of Milan, Ill., teamed up to challenge the East Coast racing competition. The two took the Gerber car to the Woodbridge, N.J., Speedway, considered the heart of big-time, dirt track competition.

When the dust had cleared, Johnny had the feature trophy and all the east coast stars were nursing red faces. He and Clark became the best source of copy for eastern newspaper writers, including many New York columnists. The two were billed as the “farmers from I-0-way” and the columns all told of the “Iowa farmers who stunned the East Coast racing fraternity.”

Jack Curley, the top racing promoter of the era, went clear to south New Jersey to find a pig that suited John well enough to have Gerber pose with the pig in his cockpit for publicity purposes. “I wouldn't accept just any of those scrawny eastern pigs,” Gerber was quoted as saying.

On an occasion during Gerber's hey-day as a race driver, rumors that he had been killed in a crash in Milwaukee spread like wildfire around the Cedar Rapids area.

Old-timers said those few rumors resulted in a flood of calls to the old Cedar Rapids Gazette-Republican newsroom. “They finally tracked me down," John once recalled. "I told them if I was dead it was all news to me.”

After World War II, a group of drivers, mostly from Eastern Iowa, and many from the Cedar Rapids area, tried to start a midget racing program. It did very poorly until the drivers got together and talked John out of retirement.

Under his direction, the MMARA became one of the most popular racing circuits in Iowa history. At the height of its glory, midgets were racing weekly before 5,000 or more fans at the former CeMar Speedbowl on First Avenue East in Cedar Rapids and even more in Davenport. One championship race at Davenport drew 12,000 fans and several thousand more were turned away.

Johnny Gerber’s impact on racing in the state of Iowa will probably never be surpassed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

This Week in History

2005 -Bobby Toland, the son of defending Deery Brothers Summer Series champion Rob Toland, scored his first career series victory at 34 Raceway on Saturday, April 9. Toland, of Hillsdale, Ill., ran second most of the 40-lap race before passing Waterloo, Iowa's Dean Wagner II with five laps to go and collecting $2,000. Wagner, Kevin Blum of Colona, Ill., Rob Toland and Darren Ackerman of Readlyn, Iowa were the top five finishers. The race was 34th in series history at the West Burlington, Iowa oval, which had hosted more Deery events than any other track. The field of 57 late models was loaded with talent, with everyone looking to win "The 34th at 34".

2000 - Scott Hatton took advantage of lapped traffic to score a thrilling victory in the 47th annual Hut Hundred midget feature race at the Terre Haute Action Track on Sunday afternoon, April 9. Hatton moved around race leader Kevin Doty on lap 94 of the 100-lap race and then held off his opponent by .95 seconds at the finish. Hatton's $5,000 victory came in his first race driving for Dwight Huston's Budweiser-sponsored race team. Doty, Aaron Fiscus, Dean Franklin and J.D. Turner would follow Hatton across the finish line.

1989 - Doug Wolfgang, the third winningest driver in World of Outlaws history, recorded his second "A" main win in as many weekends, edging WoO point's leader Jac Haudenschild by one car length at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway on Friday, April 7. Wolfgang started on the pole and led the first 38 laps before Haudenschild made the pass for the lead just as the white flag waved. Wolfgang would return the favor by passing the "Wild Child" on the backstretch and win by just a few feet at the wire. Wolfgang earned $5,000 for the victory, while Haudenschild would settle for runner-up honors. Bobby Davis Jr., Kevin Huntley and Steve Siegel would round out the top five.

1979 - Publisher Keith Knaack announced the appointment of Bill Haglund as editor of Hawkeye Racing News on April 9. A native of Alleman, Iowa, Haglund joined the staff at HRN with more than 14 years experience in daily newspapers in both sports and news department. Haglund's background in racing went back more than 20 years when he began attending races at Fort Dodge, Iowa and the now-defunct tracks in Dayton, Iowa and Pioneer Raceway in Des Moines.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This Week in History

Darren Miller hoists his $5,000 check high after winning the WDRL season opener in Davenport, Iowa on April 2, 2004. - Enhance Racing Images

2004 - Darren Miller of Chadwick, Ill., picked up the top prize Friday evening, April 2, at the World Dirt Racing League's season opener at Davenport Speedway. Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, was a contender throughout the race, leading much of the early going, but he was passed by Miller on the 32nd circuit of the 40-lap event. Birkhofer, Mark Teske, Jim Sandusky and Denny Eckrich would round out the top five. Seventy-one late models signed in for the race.

1999 - Tom Gille took the win in the Budweiser Ice Breaker 40-lap main event for the NASCAR late models at Rockford Speedway on Saturday, April 3. Gille led all 40 laps and withheld pressure from both Bobby Hacker and Bobby Wilberg to take the season-opening victory. In other action, Tom Atchinson grabbed top honors in the American Short Tracker feature and Bobby Frisch won the Roadrunner feature on the final lap.

1993 - Danny "The Dude" Lasoski became the fifth different driver in six events to win a World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series "A" feature this year at Memphis Motorsports Park on April 3, leading the final three laps to claim the $5,200 prize. Kenny Jacobs, who earned the right to start the 30-lap main on the pole by winning the fast dash, raced ahead of the 24-car field and led the first 27 laps before Lasoski grabbed the lead and won going away by 10 car lengths. Jacobs would finish second followed by Dave Blaney, Mark Kinser and Danny Smith.

1988 - Rick Standridge and Eddie Shickle won UMP late model features at the 42nd season opener at Macon (Ill.) Speedway on Sunday, April 3. Standridge held off Roger Long by mere inches to win the first feature while Shickle, from Bloomington, Ill., led all the way in winning the second 25-lap main event. Due to heavy rain on Friday, the track had to push the season opener from it's regular Saturday night date to a Sunday afternoon matinee.