Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Week in History

2004 - Don O' Neal made a stop at his personal pay window at Kankakee (Ill.) Motor Speedway on June 25, when the UMP Summer Nationals tour made its annual visit. The Martinsville, Ind., veteran continued his winning ways by disposing of early leader Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa on the second lap, then setting he cruise control for the remaining 38 laps. The $10,000 first place paycheck more than doubled his early tour winnings and propelled him into the point's lead. Birkhofer held on for second and Shannon Babb of Decatur, Ill. finished third.

1999 - Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., won the twice-postponed Deery Brothers Summer Series race at Southern Iowa Speedway on June 24th. Guss' primary pursuit came from none other than Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, the series's point leader. Guss lined up fourth, took the lead early and battled with Boone McLaughlin of Mediapolis, Iowa before Aikey joined the fray. Aikey's challenges for the front spot would be interrupted by multiple caution flags and Gus would hold off the three-time Deery Brothers champion. McLaughlin, Chris Smyser of Lancaster, Mo., and Harry Walker of Washington, Iowa would round out the top five.

1994 - One week after the heartbreak of a blown motor with a half-lap lead, Al Schill of Franklin, Wis., returned to Slinger (Wis.) Super Speedway on Sunday, June 26th to win the Pat Schauer Memorial 50. The 28-year racing veteran battled a trio of drivers on the world's fastest quarter-mile. Schill swapped the lead several times with Tony Strupp of West Bend, Wis., for the first 30 laps of the contest and then held off both Lowell Bennett of Neenah, Wis., and Conrad Morgan of Dousman, Wis., for the remaining 20 circuits to secure the victory. Bennett, Morgan, Andy Wendt and Jerry Eckhardt, both of Watertown, Wis. followed Schill across the finish line.

1988 - Rookie driver Tracy Leslie was hotter than the 100 degree temperature at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway on Saturday, June 25th as he scored his first ever ARCA Permatex Series win in the 125-lap feature on a track he had never seen before. Leslie came from the fourth starting position to over take early leaders Larry Moore and Bob Strait for the top spot on lap 44. After that, he put his 1988 Oldsmobile V6 on cruise control, earning the biggest win of his young career. Bob Keselowski, Grant Adcox, Larry Moore and Jeep Pflum rounded out the top five.

Friday, June 24, 2011

1953 - Big Cars in action at Fort Wayne on Sunday

Tom Cherry of Muncie, Ind., was a regular competitor on the Central States Racing Association (CSRA) circuit.

Fort Wayne, Ind. (June 24, 1953) - The big cars will make their first appearance of the year at the Fort Wayne Speedway on Sunday, racing under the sanction of the Central States Racing Association.

A field of 30, including some of the fastest big cars racing under the CSRA banner, is expected here for the Gold Crown race. A purse of $2,500 has been posted for the eight-event card.

Among the early entries are Bud Randall of Union City, Ind., current leader in the Central States Racing Association point standing; Tom Cherry of Muncie, Ind., and Red Amick of Los Angeles, Calif., driving the Tom Cherry Specials; Jimmy Campbell of Kansas City, who will be at the wheel of a $20,000 Offy, and many others.

Time trials will get under way at 1 p. m., with the first race carded for 2:30 p. m. Two staggered reverse start races, an eight-lap conventional start race; international handicap dash, helmet dash, the semi-feature and feature event make up the big car program.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Moss closing in on Mississippi Valley Speed Club lead

Columbus Junction, Iowa (June 21, 1970) - Big John Moss recorded his second Mississippi Valley Speed Club triumph in as many weeks here Sunday night, as he picked up the checkered flag in the 50-lap mid-season championship race. In doing so, he closed to within striking distance of the point leadership, and now trails Mark Mosier by only 3 points.

Moss, who had been running second for the first eighth laps, took over the lead when Mosier was forced to take a pit stop during a restart on the ninth lap. Moss then held his lead the rest of the way, having only brief challenges from Pokey West and Mel Morris.

The race had to be restarted six different times due to numerous accidents, but there was no personal injury and only minor damage to the cars involved.

Morris and West battled continuously during the race for the number two position, with Morris finishing ahead of West by two car lengths. Finishing in fourth place, but quite a distance behind the leaders, was Ron Perdock, with Benny Hofer in fifth and Byron Buchele taking sixth. The rest of the cars that finished the race were all lapped at least twice.

In earlier events, Mosier came close to a track record in the time trials, with an elapsed time of 26.32 seconds, and also came home as the first heat winner. Bud Darting, Mel Morris, and Larry Jenkins picked up wins in the other three heat races, and Benny Hofer won the Semi-Main event. Tex Redlinger won the consolation race.

The most exciting race of the night, and maybe the most exciting of the year, was the second heat race. The entire bleacher section was screaming with frenzy during all 10 laps, as the first four cars ran bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side. It was Darting, West, Moss, and Helm, in that order for 9 laps.

Then Moss made one last challenge, which took him around West on the backstretch; and as he tried to pass Darting on the high side of the 4th turn, he slid high into the crumbs, letting West and Helm back around him. Moss got his car straightened out in time to place 4th.

Results –

1. John Moss, Iowa City, Iowa
2. Mel Morris, West Liberty, Iowa
3. Pokey West, West Chester, Iowa
4. Ron Perdock, Washington, Iowa
5. Benny Hofer, Rock Island, Ill.
6. Byron Buchele, Muscatine, Iowa
7. Mark Mosier, Washington, Iowa
8. Dan Robertson, Muscatine, Iowa
9. Bill Abney, Muscatine, Iowa
10. Bud Darting, Wilton, Iowa

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Week in History

2004 - Jason Johnson passed both Danny Smith and Jim Melius on the final turns of the final lap to win the Interstates Racing Association (IRA) feature at Kankakee Motor Speedway on June 18. Smith had led all of the 25-lap feature and appeared to have things locked up until a caution with four laps to go bunched up the field. Melius tried to make his move on the green flag but couldn't allowing Johnson to try the high side and get by both drivers in turns three and four. Johnson was out front for only the last 60 yards but took home the first place money in the first-ever appearance of the IRA at Kanakee.

1999 - Dale Hackwell Jr. and Dan Bohr were feature winners at the Howard County Fairgrounds in Cresco, Iowa, on Sunday, June 20. In the modified main, Bohr passed Ken Hofner on a restart with two laps remaining to score his fourth consecutive victory. Chuck Stanton would finish second. In the IMCA late model 25-lapper, Hackwell would lead flag to flag in winning his first feature of the season. Jim Gallery and Greg Bruening would follow Hackwell to the checkers.

1994 - Dave Weltmeyer outran Jon Lemke to capture the ARTGO Challenge Series 100-lap event at I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Mo., on Saturday, June 18. Matt Kenseth would take the initial lead only to be passed by Weltmeyer on lap 6. Lemke quickly settled in behind Weltmeyer and for the next 75 caution-free laps the top two pulled away from the rest of the field. Weltmeyer took the checkers a couple of car lengths in front with Lemke, Steve Carlson, Kevin Cywinski and Larry Schuler rounding out the top five.

1988 -Jack Hewitt pulled off the tri-fecta, winning three sprint car features over the weekend. Hewitt would collect $5,000 in winning the All Star Circuit of Champions feature on the half-mile at Mid-States Raceway in White City, Ill., on June 17. On June 18, Hewitt would win his third straight USAC sprint car feature at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio on June 18. Hewitt would pass Kevin Huntley on lap 18 of the 30-lap A-main to score the victory. Hewitt would receive an extra $2,000 from J.W. Hunt, the evening's event sponsor and Hewitt's sprint car sponsor as well. The next night, June 19, Hewitt would lead wire to wire in the 40-lap All Star Circuit of Champions contest at Whitewater Valley Speedway in Liberty, Ind. Hewitt's only serious challenge came from Joe Gaerte, who stayed within a few car lengths for the entire race but couldn't muster a pass.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bob Kosiski: The man who started the Kosiski Racing Legend

Bob Kosiski

by Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - If you are a Midwest dirt late model fan, then I don’t have to bring you up to speed on the name Kosiski and what it means to racing in the Midwest. For 30 years we have read about the accomplishments of three racing brothers from Omaha, Nebraska, Joe, Steve and Ed Kosiski. But what about the man that started it all, their father, Bob Kosiski. 

Bob Kosiski was born on October 15, 1934, in Omaha, and grew up with four brothers and as a teenager worked part-time in an auto repair shop that his father, Joe Kosiske owned. (More about the name change later). Bob got his racing career started almost by accident, in 1950 in Central City, Nebraska when a relative, Stan Williams didn’t show up and so Bob drove the car. “I’ve been hooked on racing ever since,” Bob said. 

After graduating from South High School in 1952, Bob started taking his racing seriously. He started racing a 32’ Ford Modified Coupe that his dad owned. They raced at Riverside Speedway in South Omaha, Playland Park in Council Bluffs and Grandview Race Bowl in Bellevue. 

In 1953 Bob won his first track championship at Riverside beating out Bud Burdick, Bob Parker and Carl Lillenthal. Bob continued racing Modifieds at Playland, Capital Beach in Lincoln and Norfolk until 1957 when he married his high school sweetheart, Grace. Shortly, thereafter, he started a two-year stint in the service. While he was in the service, they recorded his name incorrectly as Kosiski not Kosiske, and he just never bothered to change it. 

After getting out of the service in 1959, Bob returned to racing, but decided to step up a notch and starting racing with the International Motor Contest Association. Driving his dad’s 1959 Thunderbird, he did very well his first-year winning racing at Hutchinson, Minnesota and La Crosse, Wisconsin. Bob finished eighth in points behind legends Ernie Derr, Dick Hutcherson, Darrell Dake and Ramo Stott. 

In 1960 Bob started out the season running the Daytona 500 and was doing well until his Thunderbird’s rear end gave out and he retired from the race. He returned home and started running IMCA and on August 29, 1960, scored the biggest win of his career at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, defeating Dick Hutcherson, Ernie Derr and Ramo Stott in the 100-lap feature at the Minnesota State Fair. Bob set an IMCA national 12 lap record that day for half-mile tracks. 

Things were going well for Bob, and he scored another win at Madison, Minnesota, but then tragedy struck and Bob’s father Joe, was killed in an auto accident near Rock Rapids, Iowa the morning following the win at Madison. Bob did not race again that year and still was still able to finish fifth in IMCA points that year. The death of his father hit Bob hard, and he came close to quitting racing. 

In 1961 he decided to stay closer to home and he began racing at Sunset Speedway. While he didn’t win often early, he began to run better and better running the modified coupes. In 1963, he drove for Ernie Matz in a car that would become Bob’s signature number, 53. They would finish fourth in points.

Bob Kosiski ran modified coupes early in his racing career. He's shown here in 1967 at Sunset Speedway - Lee Ackerman Collection

The next year he would finish second to Jim Wyman in points. In 1965 he won the Playland Park Championship, finished third at Sunset and won the Nebraska State Fair Modified Championship. In 1966 Bob drove the Matz’ coupe to track championships at both Playland, and Sunset. 

In 1967 and 1968 Bob repeated as Sunset Speedway Champion. In 1968 Sunset introduced the Late Model class as a companion class to the Modifieds. Bob won the track championship in the Modifieds, but on July 2, 1968, became the first driver in Sunset history to win two features by winning both the modified and late model feature. Bob had a tough start to the 1969 season as a stuck throttle but him into the guard rail. Bob suffered a bruised kidney and some cracked ribs and was forced to set out for several weeks. 

In 1970 Bob won the track championship at Whitehead Speedway near Nebraska City and was edged out at Sunset by Bud Burdick. In 1971, Bob went on a roll at Sunset that would see him win 7 consecutive track championships. He also won the track championships at Whitehead in 1971 & 72. In addition, he scored major wins at Fairmont, Minnesota, Denison, Iowa, and the Nebraska Fair Championships (the first of five in a row) at Lincoln in 71. 

In 1973 Bob won just about everywhere he ran including six straight wins over a two-week period at (Sunset, Harlan and Corning) as well as the Nebraska Late Model Nationals at Doniphan and the Nebraska Fair Championships in Lincoln.

Bob Kosiski accepts the checkers and trophy from IMCA's Gene Van Winkle after winning the Nebraska State Championship in Lincoln in 1973. - Lee Ackerman Collection

In 1974, Bob continued to dominant the competition winning several times at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City (including the Lakeside 100) also winning at Topeka, Harlan, South Sioux City, the Spring Invitational at Sunset and added another Nebraska State Fair Championship as well. In 1975 he added the Dakota State Fair Championship at Huron. During the 70’s Bob raced against the best in the country at times including Ed Sanger, Curt Hansen, Joe Merryfield, Verlin Eaker and others.

Bob Kosiski traveled all over the Midwest in pursuit of racing excellence. Bob relaxes before a race at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1974. - Lee Ackerman Collection

Bob would continue his string of Sunset championships in 75, 76, 77 and his eleventh in 1979 and also win the F&J Pleasant Valley Special at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in 1978 before retiring from driving. I did not say he retired from racing. 

Since then, Bob and Grace have been fixtures around racetracks throughout the Midwest, helping sons, Joe, Steve and Ed with their racing events. Bob was the engine tuner for the boys and helped them to win many races and championships. In fact, with Bob tuning the engines his three sons would win two National and six Regional NASCAR Weekly Racing Series titles. They would also dominate the NASCAR Busch All Star Tour winning that title twelve times. 

Due to their accomplishments Joe and Steve have both been inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. In addition, Bob remains active in the affairs of the family business, Kosiski Auto Parts as well as helping out at Nebraska Raceway Park (which is part-owned by Joe, Steve and Ed). In the last several years we have seen the next generation of Kosiski’s hit the track. Joe’s son Andrew, Steve’s sons Brian and Robbie and Ed’s daughter Kortney have all began racing locally. 

If you go to I-80 Speedway at Nebraska Raceway Park and look down in the pits before the races you will most likely still find Bob under the hood of one of the grandchildren’s race cars tuning the engine.

Bob considers his biggest win to be the 1960 win at the Minnesota State Fair, “I beat Ernie Derr, and Ramo Stott, who I have top respect for, Yep, that was the most memorable,” Bob recalls. His other most memorable race was the 1960 Daytona 500, even though the car broke halfway through the race. 

One of wife Grace’s fondest memories is Bob racing one Holiday Weekend. “He raced five times in four days and won all five.” Recalls Grace. Bob was inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in its inaugural year, 1998.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hawkeye Downs' Wall of Fame - Class of 2011

Les Burianek - John Burianek accepting

Ron Hochstetler

Karl Sanger

Johnny Mudd

Jim Gerber

Paul Newkirk - Tracy (l) and Darin Newkirk accepting

Charles "Chopper" Safley - Alan Safley (r) accepting

Benny Jamison

Hawkeye Downs' Legends (l-r) - Roger Dolan, Verlin Eaker, Curt Hanson, Ed Sanger, Karl Sanger, Bill Beckman & Arlo Becker

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This Week in History

1989 - Jack Redmond, 88, of Mason City, Iowa, passed away from natural causes on June 10. He was a pioneer among race car drivers, owners and mechanics in the Midwest. He began racing motorcycles in 1918, then switched to Model T Fords. In 1925, he fractured his neck in a race, thus ending his career. Later, he became involved with his son Stacy in sprint car racing as well as his grandson Wayne. He was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1987.

1978 -Tim Panghorn of West Allis, Wis., held off Rockford, Ill.'s Kevin Olson to win Sunday night's Badger Midget Auto Racing Association feature at Angell Park in Sun Prairie, Wis., on June 11. Panghorn surged to a commanding lead early in the 25-lap affair but a caution bunched up the field on lap 13. After the green flag, Panghorn used the high groove while Olson utilized the low side and they waged battle for the remaining 12 laps until Panghorn was able to edge Olson by inches at the checkers.

1972 - Chuck McWilliams of Walton, Ky., drove his '72 Plymouth to victory in the 100-lap USAC Stock car race at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa on June 11. The victory for McWilliams was witnessed by 10,500 spectators. McWilliams finished the race on a bald right rear tire but the 36-year-old veteran knew that a pit stop would have been costly. Second place finisher Lem Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, made a stop for a tire change earlier and that cost him the win. Ray Bohlander of New Berlin, Wis., Ken Ritter of Louisville, Ky., and Butch Hartman of South Zanesville Ohio rounded out the top five. Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was fast qualifier powering his 1970 Dodge Charger around the half-mile in 24.60 seconds.

1967 -"The Flying Frenchman" Johnny Beauchamp won the 25-lap modified feature at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa on Friday night, June 9. Beauchamp started in the third row, made his way to the front quickly and won going away. He had no strong challengers throughout the event as Bill McDonough, Lyle Bohne, Jim Gerber and Dean Montgomery rounded out the top five finishers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hawkeye Downs honors 2011 ‘Wall of Fame’ class

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – Eight more inductees will join the Hawkeye Downs Speedway “Wall of Fame” on Friday evening, June 10th.

The Class of 2011 includes Les Burianek, Jim Gerber, Ron Hochstetler, Benny Jamison, John Mudd, Paul Newkirk, Charles “Chopper” Safley and Karl Sanger.

The late Les Burianek of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (above photo) competed in Midgets before becoming an award-winning race photographer at the Hawkeye Downs in the 1950’s and 60’s. He also penned a column, The Finish Line, for the Cedar Rapids Citizen-Times.

Jim Gerber of Davenport, Iowa the son of 2010 inductee Johnny Gerber, ran Jalopies and Stock Cars at Hawkeye Downs with great success in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Ron Hochstetler owns a towing service in Cedar Rapids and has provided tow trucks and safety equipment for Hawkeye Downs Speedway for over a decade.

Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa (above photo) was a consistent top-10 competitor in the Late Model division starting in the 1970’s and continuing into the early 80’s. Sanger posted numerous feature wins, competing against some of the best drivers in the Midwest during that time.

Benny Jamison of Lisbon, Iowa, was a successful racecar builder and owner for many years, having the likes of Roger Dolan and Bill Beckman behind the wheel of his race cars.

The late Paul Newkirk of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (above photo) was an accomplished Midget driver in the 1940’s and 50’s before a race-related accident cut short his driving career. He then became a nationally recognized mechanic for the Zecol Lubaid Ford race team in the 1960’s, wrenching for legendary drivers such as Don White, Norm Nelson, Joe Leonard and Mario Andretti.

Johnny Mudd of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was a model of consistency in the Sportsman division, regularly placing in the top five in the point standings and winning track titles in 1999 and 2003.

Charles “Chopper” Safley of Springville, Iowa competed at Hawkeye Downs Speedway starting in the late 1970’s in the Street Stock division when the Downs’ was a dirt surface and into the early 90’s in the Pro Stock class when it turned to asphalt. He was the Street Stock track champion in 1979 and 1980.

There will be a meet and greet with the new inductees as well as previous inductees under the main grandstand before the evening’s program. Many former Wall of Fame inductees are expected be on hand for the evening's program.

Spectator gates open at 6:00 with racing to follow at 7:00.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This Week in History

1999 - Bart Hartman continued his mastery of Florence Speedway leading all 100 laps of the STARS National DirtCar Racing League-sanctioned 13th annual Ralph Latham Memorial 100 in Union, Ky., on Saturday, June 5. Hartman broke into the lead at the drop of the green and ran uncontested to the $10,000 payday. It was his first STARS triumph of the season and second straight Ralph Latham Memorial 100 victory. Steve Shaver finished nearly two seconds behind with Mike Balzano third, Donnie Moran fourth and Gary Stuhler in the fifth spot.

1993 - Larry Schuler of Minooka, Ill., won the 12th annual Chicagoland Showdown 100-lap ARTGO Challenge Series feature at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind., on Saturday, June 5. Schuler jumped from from 14th to sixth in the point standings with the runaway victory. Rookie Dudley Fleck of Cedar Rapids, Iowa drove a steady race and held off a furious last lap charge by Tom Carlson of La Crosse, Wis., for second place.

1982 - Emory Collins, 77, a man who raced for more than 32 years over five decades died suddenly in his hometown of Le Mars, Iowa following a series of heart attacks. Collins, a four-time International Motor Contest Association sprint car champion. began his racing career in 1919 in Canada and drove his last race in the United States in 1951. Collins was the IMCA champion in 1938, 1946, 1947 and 1948.

1976 - The world's oldest racing organization, the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) has been sold, it was announced by President Kenneth Fulk. The new owners are longtime race promoters Lyle Kline and Gaylen Brotherson of Omaha, Neb., and Keith Knaack of Vinton, Iowa. The new owners announced that they plan to operate IMCA under nearly the same guidelines as previously set. The racing organization will be set up as a non-profit group where all income will go back to the member drivers, owners, purses and point funds.