Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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.

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