Monday, May 30, 2011

1972 - Profitable weekend for three MVSC drivers

Ron Prymek of Iowa City accepts the checkers after winning the MVSC feature at Columbus Junction.

Iowa City, Iowa (May 30, 1972) - It was a profitable weekend on the Mississippi Valley Speed Club circuit for Jim Gerber of Long Grove, Larry Jenkins of Wilton and Ron Prymek of Iowa City.

The three each won trophy dashes, heat races or feature events Saturday night at West Liberty or Monday night at Columbus Junction to take the first three spots in that order in unofficial drivers point standings.

Gerber now has 49 points, Jenkins 46 and Prymek 41 to rank ahead of last week's leader, Mel Morris of West Liberty who now stands fourth with 38 points.

Gerber had his big night Saturday at West Liberty, winning the first heat and the feature, but Jenkins also picked up valuable points by finishing second in the feature and also won the trophy dash. Gerber took over the lead on the 19th lap of the 25-lap feature and held it the rest of the way in a race marred by spinouts, wall crashes and several restarts. The finishing order of the feature was protested when a couple of cars violated rule 35 (no water, oil or gas may be added on the red or yellow light).

Prymek, who won the feature at Columbus Junction a week ago, came back on Monday with a clean sweep at the Louisa County Fairgrounds half-mile to surge into third place in the point standings. Prymek won the trophy dash, second heat and the feature.

Although he did not win an event, Jenkins was again a strong third place behind Prymek and Gerber. Morris was right on Prymek's tail through two restarts but went to the pits with a blown engine on the 18th lap of the 25-lap event, marred on the last couple of laps by a passing rain shower. Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree, who is sixth in current point standings, and a heat winner Saturday night, was running fifth in the feature before pulling out with mechanical problems on the restart.

Results -

West Liberty –

1. Jim Gerber, Long Grove
2. Larry Jenkins, Wilton
3. Benny Hofer, Rock Island
4. Ron Hemsted, Lone Tree
5. Perry Beckler, Tiffin
6. Ron Prymek, Iowa City
7. Richard Hamilton, Muscatine
8. Mel Morris, West Liberty
9. Lyle Gehn, East Moline
10. Ed Mellecker, Iowa City

Columbus Junction –

1. Ron Prymek, Iowa City
2. Jim Gerber, Long Grove
3. Larry Jenkins, Wilton
4. Perry Beckler, Tiffin
5. Bob Helm, Andalusia
6. Don Morgan, Muscatine
7. Benny Hofer, Rock Island
8. Charlie Moffitt, Stanwood
9. Bill Douglas, West Liberty
10. Ken Boyse, Wellman

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Week in History

1994 -Jim Weber of Roseville, Minn., drove to an impressive win in the ARTGO Challenge Series Spring Nationals 100-lap event on Monday afternoon, May 30 at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna before a crowd of 7,899. Weber roared into the lead on lap 23 and then survived numerous cautions to win the event by a four-second margin over Steve Carlson of West Salem, Wis., and Matt Kenseth of Cambridge, Wis., who was a close third.

1988 - Chuck Gurney dazzled the large crowd at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Friday night, May 27 by winning the USAC-sanctioned Hulman 100 for Silver Crown Cars on the historic mile dirt. "It was hooked up so good; it was slopping over the cushion," Gurney said, describing the racing surface. It was Gurney's fourth career victory in the famed event and was worth $10,400. He led from the pole and was never headed. Initially, he was challenged by Jack Hewitt and later by both George Snider and Kenny Jacobs but nobody had nothing for the Californian.

1983 - Jack Mitchell of Cedar Falls, Iowa continued to be the hottest driver in the International Motor Contest Association this season as he remained unbeaten with his third straight modified feature win at Vinton Speedway on Sunday, May 29. Mitchell, who won the 1982 point's title at Vinton, has won seven features overall this year in IMCA competition. In Sunday's 20-lap main, Mitchell held off Todd Jensen of Waterloo and Mike Schulte of Norway for the victory.

1977 - Wendell Kuehn of Rochester, Minn., took the lead on lap three and then held off bids by Leroy Scharkey and Rich Olson to win the 30-lap feature at the Dodge County Speedway near Kasson, Minn., on Saturday evening, May 28. Scharkey received the first black flag of his career when he and Olson tangled on the last lap, sending Olson to the pit area. Bob Saterdalen would claim the runner-up spot while a young Mark Noble, who won his very first late model heat race earlier in the program, took third in the feature.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Week in History

1994 - Long-time racing photographer, Morris "Beetle" Bailey died of heart failure on May 19th. The Boone, Iowa resident was 80-years-old. With a memorable name and abilities to match, Bailey carved himself a permanent place in the memories of race fans and drivers through his photography and publishing contributions to motorsports journalism.

1988 - Tom Nesbitt posted his third consecutive WISSOTA late model feature win at Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie, Wis., on Friday, May 21. Nesbitt made shambles of the competition, jumping into the lead at the green and racing to a half-lap victory over runner Don Swearingen. In WISSOTA modified action, defending two-time track champion Mike Kelley, Jr. picked up his first main event win of the season after passing Tim Ludwigson on lap 12 of the 20-lap feature.

1983 - Gene Gennetten of Parkland, Mo., captured the 30-lap World of Outlaws Midget (WOOM) feature at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa on Friday night, May 20. Gennetten overtook early leader Mel Kenyon of Lebanon, Ind., along the front straightaway on the 17th circuit after fighting side by side for six laps with the former USAC midget titlist. Genetten then held off a hard-charging Stan Fox of Janesville, Wis., on the last lap to seal the win.

1977 - Competing for the first time this season, Ramo Stott led all qualifiers in time trials and then scored a wire to wire victory in the Indiana Classic 100-mile USAC stock car race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on May 21. Stott's ninth career USAC victory was worth $4,275. Runner-up Paul Feldner, whose closing rush fell only inches short at the checkers, took over the lead in the USAC point's standings. Jack Bowsher, Ralph Latham and Bay Darnell rounded out the top five finishers

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

1968 - Twin 100’s booked at Lawrenceburg

Lawrenceburg, Ind. (May 18, 1968) - A spectacular auto racing show is on tap Saturday night, May 25th at Lawrenceburg Speedway.

Billed as the “Lawrenceburg Twin 100”, the program will consist of separate 100-lap championship races for both sprint cars and late-model stocks, plus fast car dashes in each division.

Topping the sprint car division will be such tap speedsters as Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., current leader in the Lawrenceburg sprint car point standings; Don Nordhorn of Wadesville, Ind., racing teammate of Kinser in the Bloomington Raceway Chevy Specials; Dick Gaines and Cecil Beavers, both of Mitchell, Ind. in the Diz Wilson Chevy Specials; and Larry Cannon of Danville, Ill., in his Tri-R Construction Special.

Heading up the competition among the late-model stocks will be rivals Pat Patrick and Ross Smith, both of Sayler Park, driving two of the “hot” new cars in the area this year; Earl Smith of Richmond, Ind., former stock car champion at the speedway. Bob Smith, also of Richmond; Joe Burdette and Bob Creviston from the Cincinnati area; and young ace John Mugavin of Glen Este, Ohio.

1971 - Williams takes season opener at Fairmont before 5,000

Fairmont, Minn. (May 17, 1971) - A near capacity crowd of more than 5,000 spectators jammed into the Fairmont Speedways grandstand and not a single spectator nor driver came away disappointed from the first race of the 1971 car racing season.

Promoter George Trimbo’s first presentation of late model stock cars at Fairmont Speedway's regular race program drew 23 cars with Mert Williams of Rochester walking off with $300 as the winner of the main event.

Williams, driving a '70 Monte Carlo, took the lead on the first lap and held a comfortable margin the rest of the way to the checkered flag. Sonny Morgan of Blue Earth, in a ‘71 Chevelle, took second place, moving into that position on the 17th lap. Ten of 14 cars finished the main event.

Mert Williams won the first heat of the late model class by staying in the front of the pack after winning the pole position. He finished the accident free race in 3:16.7. Williams drove a ‘70 Monte Carlo.

Wally Christensen of Minneapolis, driving a 69 Ford took the checkered flag in the second heat of the late model after passing Paul Fitzpatrick of Rochester in a ‘71 Monte Carlo on the sixth lap. Fitzpatrick had led from the first lap. Christensen finished the race in 3:19.3.

In the best heat race of the night, Sonny Morgan of Blue Earth, in a ‘71 Chevelle, passed Ole Brua of Albert Lea, in a ’69 Torino, on the fourth corner in the eighth and final lap to nip Brua at the checkered flag. Brua had led after gaining the lead in the first lap. Morgan's winning time was 3:12.4.

Brua gained revenge in the trophy dash, however, taking the checkered flag in a good time of 3:10.9. Brua passed Gerhard Wellenberg of Austin, in a ‘67 Chevelle, on the lap after Wellenberg had led since the start of the race.

Butch Hall of Russell, Minn., driving a ‘69 Ford won the semi-main event in the late model class by outdueling Darreld “Bunny” Bunkofske of Estherville, in a ‘65 Plymouth. Hall led in the early going of the race but lost the lead to Ray Forsythe of Mankato, in a Chevelle, on the sixth lap. Hall regaining the lead on the ninth lap and finished in 5:08.0. Only two cars of seven finished the race.

A pair of Fairmont drivers won first place in the two street stock class races. Bob Wohlford won the heat race and Rich Clark took the feature race.

There were only seven entries in the street field, while there were 23 entries in the late model field. Heat races in the late model division paid $40 for first place while the trophy winner won $45 and $75 went to the winnner of the semi-main event.

The main event winner took home $300 of the guaranteed $2,000 purse while second place won $220, third $160, fourth $100 and fifth $85.

Monday, May 16, 2011

1969 - Dolan caught in traffic; Swanson cops feature at CR

Cal Swanson of Reinbeck, Iowa grabbed the late model feature win at Hawkeye Downs on May 16, 1969. - Kyle Ealy Collection

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (May 16, 1969) - Cal Swanson took advantage of Roger Dolan's misfortune and raced off with the 25-lap late model stock car feature Friday night at Hawkeye Downs.

Dolan, the young hotshot from Lisbon who was performing in his 1968 Plymouth for the first time this year at the Downs, started on the pole and led the feature for 19 laps. Swanson of Reinbeck had his '69 Chevelle humming and was right on Dolan's tail, with Ed Sanger, Curt Hansen and Red Droste closing fast.

Down the back-chute Dolan got caught in traffic he was lapping and Swanson wisely took the inside and sailed home with the checkered flag. Ironically, Dolan wasn't able to recover and finished sixth. Both he and Swanson were critical of the lapped cars.

"Yes, I figured that was going to happen to Roger," said Swanson. "That's what happens when drivers don't heed the move-over flag when they are being lapped.

"It's unfortunate for him, but I just took advantage of the situation."

Dolan appeared stunned. "I wonder where the black flag was," he said. "If they don’t move over after two warnings, they’re supposed to be flagged off the track. I had to run high because that's where the only groove was. But the traffic I was passing stayed up there, too."

Swanson ended the two-week victory streak of Droste, the defending champ on the quarter-mile dirt oval. But the Waterloo red head finished second, followed by Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids, Curt Hansen of Dike and Ed Sanger of Waterloo.

Dolan did win the 10-lap second heat, while Droste copped the 6-lap fast dash. Roger Kruse of Independence won the 15-lap consy and John Webb, also of Independence was the first heat winner.

Attendance on the brisk evening was 3,419.

Roger LaCoursiere of Cedar Rapids became the third different driver in as many weeks to grab honors in the novice 20-lap feature. Roger also won the first heat with Red Dralle of Evansdale grabbing the win in the second heat.

Results –
Trophy Dash: Red Droste, Waterloo, Iowa
First Heat: John Webb, Independence, Iowa
Second Heat: Roger Dolan, Lisbon, Iowa
Consolation: Harold O’Deen, Marion, Iowa


1. Cal Swanson, Reinbeck, Iowa
2. Red Droste, Waterloo, Iowa
3. Bill McDonough, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
4. Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
5. Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa

Saturday, May 14, 2011

1971 - Season opener goes to Sanger

Waterloo, Iowa's Ed Sanger won the late model feature at Hawkeye Downs on May 14, 1971.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (May 14, 1971) - When the gates open, you walk through, according to Ed Sanger. Ed should know - he's been walking through a lot of them lately.

Friday night it was the 25-lap late-model stock car feature at Hawkeye Downs and the Waterloo dandy raced off with the season opener before an anxious crowd of 4,032.

Remarkably, it was “Easy” Ed's sixth straight feature triumph of the young season in the same 1970 Monte Carlo he drove to season championships last year at Independence and Waterloo and a third-place finish at Cedar Rapids.

In this one, though, someone from up above must have been smiling down on Sanger, who started 10th in the 16-car finale on the quarter-mile dirt track.

Pole-sitters Chub Liebe of Oelwein and Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo waged a bumper to bumper duel for the first 12 laps, with Wild Bill’s 1970 Nova holding the front spot over Liebe’s 1967 Ford.

Then, right at the start-finish line on the next tour, the two machines got together and Zwanziger spun out, nearly clipping the infield guard rail. Sanger shot by and into the lead, as Liebe slowed considerably.

Zwanziger was down nearly a lap before he was able to recover. From that point it was clear sailing for Sanger and he pocketed $350 for his victory. Liebe finished second, with Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Ed's brother, in third, Curt Hansen of Dike in fourth and Cal Swanson of Reinbeck in fifth.

“When the gates open, you're supposed to walk through,” smiled Sanger. “I had clear sailing after Bill and Chub got together, but I was picking up on them pretty good before it happened.”

“Liebe kinda got into Bill…guess that's part of racing.”

Zwanziger was bitter and he didn't spare his feelings. “There was only one way Liebe could get around me and that was to spin me,” he said. “I was in the lead and I had the groove. I was entitled to it.”

Red Droste of Waterloo, the season's point champion at the Downs, finished seventh in the feature behind Glen Martin of Independence.

Zwanziger did walk off with the checkered flags in the 15-lap semi-main and second heat. Sanger took the 6-lap dash, while Liebe claimed the first heat. The 10-lap consolation went to Benny Hofer of Rock Island, who returned to the Downs after a four-year absence.

Late Model Results –

Feature –

1. Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
2. Chub Liebe, Oelwein, Iowa
3. Karl Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
4. Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
5. Cal Swanson, Reinbeck, Iowa
6. Glen Martin, Independence, Iowa
7. Red Droste,Waterloo, Iowa
8. Red Dralle, Waterloo, Iowa
9. Bill Barthelmes, Troy Mills, Iowa
10. Blackie Lyons, Cascade, Iowa

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This Week in History

1994 - Kim Mock roared past race leader and defending Interstate Racing Association champion Joe Roe with four laps remaining to capture the season opener at Manitowoc (Wis.) Expo Raceway on Saturday, May 7th. Mock powered by on the high side as the two entered the first turn on lap 16 of the 20-lap encounter. Roe would settle for second with Dave Moulis, John Tierney and Todd Daun following.

1988 - It was announced that the dirt era had officially ended for I-70 National Speedway n Odessa, Mo. A foreclosure notice was served on Monday, May 9th against Greg Weld of Kansas City, Mo., in Lafayette County Circuit Court and the facility was returned to it's original owner, Bill Roberts of Blue Springs, Mo. Weld purchased the half-mile oval from Roberts in 1981 and had changed the racing surface from asphalt to dirt. Roberts then announced plans for changing the surface back to asphalt and running five or six specials beginning in 1989.

1983 -Rockford's John Knaus won the season-opening 25-lap late model feature at Freeport (Ill.) Raceway half-mile dirt oval on Sunday afternoon, May 8. Knaus' victory marked his return to dirt track competition after running asphalt for the last seven years. The 31-year-old veteran took the lead midway through the contest and outdistanced the field for the win. Bob Jaeger of Dubuque, Iowa and Jim Jeffries of Freeport finish second and third respectively. Gus Hughes of Monticello, Iowa made a clean sweep of the roadrunner class, winning both his heat and feature.

1977 - James McElreath of Arlington, Tex., posted his first career USAC sprint car victory on dirt, Saturday afternoon, May 7th, when he breezed to victory in the seventh annual Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. The $50,293 purse offered was the largest ever for a sprint car race. McElreath, the 23-year-old second generation star, took the lead from Jerry Weeks on lap 19 and ran untouched from there. Another second generation star, Clark Templeman, finish second in the 40-lap main event and was followed by Roger Rager, Billy Cassella and Weeks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remembering Whitehead Speedway

by Lee Ackerman

Nebraska City, Neb. - Since last Thursday was Arbor Day, which as you probably know originated in Nebraska City, I thought it would nice to recall the race track that was built in 1968 just across the river from Nebraska City. Since I never had a chance to attend a race there I enlisted one of the tracks most ardent fans to help me with the story, Tony Anville.

In 1968 a young man by the name of Richard Whitehead decided to build a race track. He chose a location just east of Nebraska City because he wanted to be close to a good sized town. He also knew that the interstate would be coming through just east of the location.

In the summer of 1968 racing got underway at Whitehead Speedway with Sunday afternoon racing. Sunday afternoon worked well because, first the track had no lights and secondly it allowed drivers to race and then make it back to Eagle Raceway or Sunset Speedway to race on Sunday evenings.

Whitehead wanted a fast track so he built a high-banked half mile track and brought in gumbo from a couples miles east of the track to ensure a good racing surface. He also was able to get bleachers from a closed race track in Lincoln. “The grandstands were painted bright yellow and orange. The track was a high banked half-mile.” remembers Anville. “Driving up to the place on old highway 2, to a kid in love with racing, it looked like the Land of Oz.”

Stock cars battle through the turns at Whitehead Speedway during the inaugural 1968 season - Photo courtesy of Lee Ackerman

On August 4, 1968 the track had its first race with a crowd of nearly 2,000 fans and a total purse of $1,500. Louie Quattrocchi of Lincoln won the A feature and with it $210. Dave Chase of Council Bluffs won the Bronco Race.

In 1969 Whitehead bought a generator and installed lighting which ran off the generator and moved the shows to Saturday nights. He would run the facility through 1972. “When the first gas crisis hit, I knew it was time to get out,” remembers Whitehead. While the track would open and close through 1976, the years under Richard Whitehead was its heyday with crowds as large as almost 4,000 fans.

During those years some of the best Midwest drivers in the country made their way to the track. The first couple of years the Super Modifieds would race at Whitehead Speedway occasionally and three of those drivers, Joe Saldana, Jan Opperman and Roger Rager would go on to race at Indianapolis. Other drivers who raced at Whitehead that went on to greatness in sprint cars were Jay Woodside, Earl Wagner, Lloyd Beckman, Lonnie Jensen and Kenny Gritz.

The June 20, 1969 Sprint car race at the track reads like a who’s who of Midwest sprint car racing. Over 2,500 turned out to watch Roger Rager, Lonnie Jensen and Little Joe Saldana win heat races. Jay Woodside won the trophy dash and Jan Opperman the speed dash. The feature would go to Woodside followed by Rager, Opperman and Gritz.

The feature class throughout most of the tracks existence however, was late models. The high banked half mile was home to countless duels between two local racing legends in Bob Kosiski and Jim Wyman. Bill Martin, Dave Chase, Glen Robey and Keith Leithoff were also regulars. Occasionally other area legends such as Bud Burdick would show up in Wayne Mason’s 2x.

It was the track where a young Joe Kosiski would register the first of over 400 career wins. In the early days of the track, it was an even younger Joe Kosiski who carried line-ups from the scoring desk down to the flag stand. Turns 3 and 4 held water and both Richard Whitehead and Tony Anville remember cars sailing off the track and through the water throwing up a huge rooster tail of water.

Bob Kosiski was one of the most successful drivers ever to compete at Whitehead Speedway. - Photo courtesy of Kyle Ealy

Bob Kosiski was the man to beat at Whitehead in the late models although Jim Wyman gave him a real battle at times. They waged some real Chevy versus Ford battles with Bob in his #53 Chevelle and Jim in his #14 Mustang Mach 1.

“I remember a local driver who has some success in the late model class was Max Peeler,” recalls Anville. “Max drove a red Chevy convertible one year. A guy named Ernie Adams from Council Bluffs ran a 62 Ford in the Bronco class one year and most have won just about every main event.”

It was said that Bob Kosiski turned a lap of 18 seconds there back in the early 70’s in the old steel bodied late models. “I liked the track it was fast,” recalls Bob Kosiski.

It makes one wonder how fast the lighter, sleek late models of today could turn a lap in. “Whitehead was where I won my first feature,” recalls Joe Kosiski. “It was a very fast race track.”

Early on the announcer was Jerry Hall and later it was Bob Lundberg who was one of the IMCA announcers for about 10 years. Smokey Jordan was a pit steward and later flagman. Elmer Saathoff (Johnny the Jet Saathoff’s dad) was also a pit steward.

In 1973 a group of individuals ran the track as attendance declined it was eventually shut down. In 1976 the track was called I-29 Speedway and was run by Ted Wilson with Bill Clevinger as the announcer, Vernon Christianson as Pit Steward and Bill (Smokey) Jordan as the flagman.

That would be the last year of racing at the facility. “It sat vacant for about 3 years and then was torn down and has been a farm field every since,” remembers Anville. Thus ended the short life of one of the fastest tracks in the region. A track that provided plenty of thrills to local race fans during its brief history.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

1951 - Good field for Sunday's auto races; DeRock out for another win

Mason City, Iowa (May 12, 1951) - The second big car auto races in the Midwest this season (now that we're finally free of snow) will be held at the North Iowa Fairgrounds in Mason City and there will be two big things the spectators will be watching:

1. Will Mason City's Leon DeRock become a leader after one year of racing?
2. Is there any real successor for Emory Collins (now retired) and can any driver touch the records he holds here and at almost every spot at which he raced for more than two decades?

DeRock pulled a big surprise last Sunday in his first race program of the season by winning the feature race at Topeka, Kan. That wasn't exactly a poor field; in fact it was a very good one.

Trailing him were Bert Hellmueller, a top flighter for many years all over the country and one of the few drivers who nipped Collins in straight competition, and Russ Lee, the Minnesota speedster who gave Collins his toughest races last season.

The big trio of the Topeka show will be here Sunday. DeRock to prove that he's the leader and Hellmueller and Lee to prove that the Topeka race was all a mistake.

Fourteen drivers have been entered with the possibility that more may join the field by the deadline for filing entries. A surprise entry was Ernie Johnson of Christine, N. D. He has been among the leading money winners but announced that he had retired after last season. Maybe he feels the “pickins” are good because he'll be here Sunday.

Clair Cotter of Austin is another leader who will be on hand. He ranked 4th last season in the final point standings for competition in I.M.C.A. sanctioned races.

Frank Winkley, manager of Auto Racing, Inc., promises racing fans a good show and has announced that the heat races here Sunday will be longer than the conventional 5 laps or 2.5 miles. He plans to run the heat races over 7 laps to give the drivers a wide open shot at top placings.

Too often, one bad turn can keep a driver from placing in the money. Plenty of calcium chloride will be used on the track so that it should be virtually dust free.

The program starts off with the time trials at 1:30 and will be followed in order by the following events: Two heat races: a consolation; a pursuit race; a trophy dash; and finally the big feature race, probably over 5 miles.