Monday, February 28, 2011

1972 - Local group to run Little 500 - ASA announces sprint car circuit

Sprint car drivers such as Butch Wilkerson (shown here at Salem Speedway) would run under the American Speed Association sanctioning rules starting in 1972. - Kyle Ealy Collection



Anderson, Ind. (February 29, 1972) - In its 24th season, the Little 500 sprint car race at Sun Valley Speedway comes under local sanctioning.

The American Speed Association, under its president, Rex Robbins, will sanction and operate the Little 500 on May 20th. Robbins also announced today the formation of a sprint car division within the ASA.

The Little 500 has been sanctioned in the past by the International Motor Contest Association.

But the Little 500 was the only IMCA race in this area. The group operates a Winternationals series in Tampa, Fla., in February and the remainder of its sprint car races is run west of the Mississippi River.

The announcement of the switch in sanctioning was made jointly today by Robbins and Joe Helpling, owner of Sun Valley Speedway. It was because of the formation of a sprint car division by ASA that Helpling decided to sever the highly-successful relationship with IMCA.

Robbins also announced that Bob DeSchamps, widely-known promoter of auto racing events, becomes director of the sprint car division.

“This is Bob's program,” said Robbins, who will confine his activities to the stock car division. “He'll handle the programs and operate the division. I have every confidence he'll make it one of the best around.”

The USAC sprint car division is operating under a new rule this year which allows any drivers not in the top 10 in the point standings to run in outside races under a temporary permit.

“This should return the Little 500 to its original concept,” said Robbins. “It is meant to be an open, invitational race with the best drivers possible competing. The USAC rule should attract some top drivers who are just outside the top 10 in points to the Little 500 and several of our other races.”

One of the top stock car sanctioning bodies in the country, the ASA will run about 20 sprint car races this season in addition lo the more than 30 stock car shows on the schedule. The races will be run in Indiana and surrounding states giving the Midwest states east of the Mississippi River a fully-organized independent sprint circuit for the first time in several years.

“We want to get this season under our belts,” said Robbins, “and then grow as much as is feasible. We've raised the purse for the Little 500 to $15,580 plus tow money for cars which do not qualify and any possible prizes for breaking track records.”

“The payoff has been raised for each position in the Little 500, so we're anticipating 50 to 70 cars attempting to make the race. But the entire qualification weekend should be very appealing to the drivers and owners,” said Robbins.

The ASA is starting its fifth season of promoting races in the Midwest and has paid out more than $220,000 in purses. The annual payoff has jumped from $20,276 in 1968, the first season for ASA, to nearly $90,000 last season.

The average purse per event has jumped from $1,560 in 1968 to $3,560 last season. ASA sanctioned 25 stock car shows last season and has run 58 programs all told. In its first year ASA ran a partial season of sprint car programs and has promoted 25 all told in the four seasons.

Robbins said the rules on car configuration and equipment will be nearly the same as IMCA which will enable cars to run in both circuits. He also said the ASA hopes to attract more drivers from the eastern part of the country than in the past, particularly for the Little 500.

This will be the first time ASA has had a point system and season champion in the sprint car division. None of the additions, however, will affect the stock car division, which will still operate separately with a point system and champion.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

1968 - Master Mechanic Honore Retires

Chicago, Ill. (February 24, 1968) – Hector Honore, the master mechanic from Pana, Ill., whose sprint car, “The Black Deuce”, is the winningest sprint car in International Motor Contest Association history, has retired from racing and sold the infamous machine. Chuck Weyant of Springfield, Ill., is the new owner.

Honore’s famous Black Deuce Bardahl Special won 434 feature events and 704 heat races since being introduced in 1953.

Bobby Grim of Indianapolis drove it to four consecutive IMCA national sprint car titles from 1955 to 1958 and then Pete Folse of Tampa, Fla., took over the helm and earned three more titles from 1959 to 1961.

“Pappy”, as he was called, reports the car took in more than one million dollars in that span, but has Honore said, “It took twice that to keep it running.”

“It will be tough to quit,” Honore said. “My whole life has been auto racing. My bad habit, if I had one, was that I’ve never had time for anything else.”

His racing career spanned 32 years. He started with a Crager in 1935 and in 1937 he acquired a single-head HAL. He came out with a double overhead HAL in 1946 before switching to an Offenhauser engine for good in 1950.

In 1953, the Black Deuce was built. It’s magnificent record, which included three national championships in another racing association, 10 runner-up finishes and three third place showings. In 1955, Honore’s car, with Bobby Grim behind the wheel, won 27 of 32 feature races it entered.

In summing up his career, Hector mentioned he had one regret - he switched to a Chevrolet engine after the 1963 season after Gordon Woolley won the title in the Weinberger Chevrolet and the stock-blocks dominated the circuit. “I think we should've stayed with the Offy,” Honore said. “We would have found ways to make them competitive.”

Honore said the traveling became too much last summer. “I drove four nights without any sleep during one week,” he said.

Mrs. Honore, who made the circuit tour for many years, bowed out the last half of the 1967 season. That was a factor in Honore retiring this season.

The white-clad figure with the red baseball cap will still be around tracks this season, but he will be sorely missed as a contributor.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Six Named to 2011 Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame

The Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to announce its 2011 class of inductees. The fifth annual induction ceremony will take place during the Kossuth County Fair races, held Saturday, August 6th at Algona Raceway. This year’s class features six race drivers that achieved great success behind the wheel;
  • Emory Collins barnstormed the United States and Canada during the formative years of sprint car racing in the 1920’s until 1951. A four time IMCA ‘big car’ champion, Collins wrestled his red No. 7 during the Kossuth County Fair Races.
  • Marv DeWall was a seven time Jackson Speedway track champ who competed during the modified days at Algona Raceway. He also drove a sprint car owned by fellow hall of famer Daryl Arend.
  • Bud Fair was one of the toughest competitors in the modified and stock car divisions. He drove the “Swea City Oil” No. 88 and other cars in the 1960’s at Algona.
  • Wheelman Don Hiscocks will be recognized for his many years of racing and winning races. One of the fathers of the ‘first family of racing’ in the Britt area, Hiscocks was a hard charger at the Kossuth County track.
  • When most racers have long since retired, Stan Riedel was still racing and thrilling race fans well past 70 years of age. After racing for many years and performing stunts at county fairs across the country, Riedel most recently was a thunder truck champion at Algona.
  • Buzz Rose was one of the top CRA and IMCA sprint car drivers from the 1960’s. In 1973 he paired up with long-time sprint car owner Daryl Arend for an assault on the IMCA fair circuit. At season’s end, the team finished an impressive fifth in the final standings.

Input from the public and the committee garnered nearly 70 candidates for consideration this year. The committee, with the help of the living members of the Kossuth Racing Hall of Fame, selected the six inductees for 2011. Candidates not selected will be considered for future inductions.

During the August 6th Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the inductees will be recognized on the ‘Wall of Fame’, located at the entrance of the speedway grandstand. Inductees will also be introduced at the pit meeting prior to the races and during the formal induction ceremony during intermission of the fair races that night.

All race fans are invited to attend the Kossuth County Fair Races and the Hall of Fame ceremony held at the Algona Raceway. More details about the Hall of Fame and the induction ceremony will be released when they are available.

Remembering; Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun, Iowa

Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun, Iowa, with his trademark cigar, gets ready to race in 1981. - Kyle Ealy Collection



Johnny Johnson takes some hot laps around the track that he brought to prominence, 34 Raceways in West Burlington, Iowa in 2004. - Kyle Ealy Collection

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Remembering When: Don Carr dominates at the Florida State Fair

Indianapolis' Don Carr, behind the wheel of the Pete Mocca C2, would dominate the IMCA Winternationals in 1958. - Photo courtesy of Bob Lawrence/Kansas Racing History


By Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In 1921 the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) started racing Big Cars at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa during the Florida State Fair. That tradition of starting the season during the Florida State Fair would continue through the 1975 season. The February races at the fair would come to be known as the “Winternationals.” The races came to be promoted by Al Sweeney and his National Speedways Inc., one of two organizations that promoted IMCA races.

Entering the 1957 season, veteran Bobby Grim of Indianapolis, Indiana had won the last two IMCA Big Car championships behind the wheel of Hector Honore’s soon to be legendary Black Deuce. At the 1957 Florida State Fair races another Indianapolis native, Don Carr had won two of the four races, finished second in two others and had finished third in Big Car points. Carr had now moved his residency to St. Petersburg, Florida and would be behind the wheel of the Peter Mocca #C2 or Circle Deuce. The two drivers would once again dominate the Florida State Fair races in 1958.

The 1958 IMCA racing season kicked off at the Florida State Fairgrounds on February 5. Kirkwood, Missouri’s Eddie Loetscher behind the wheel of the Art Alexander Offy set fast time of 26.48 seconds with Carr right behind at 26.75 seconds. The three heats were won by Ken Rubright in the Heath Chevy, Chuck Marshall in the Helm Offy and Carr in the Mocca Offy. Rubright turned the 7 laps in 3 minutes 19.73 seconds which would be the fastest heat race of the four race meet. Bobby Grim won the match race over Carr and Loetscher and Bob Tattersall took the consy.

In the 15 lap feature, Don Carr put on a driving exhibition lapping all but four of the sixteen starters in the feature event. Bobby Grim and Eddie Loetscher put on a battle for second spot with Grim taking the honors and Loetscher settling for third. Buzz Barton and Jerry Blundy rounded out the top 5.

Three days later on February 8, they held round two and the results would turn out the same, in fact the top 3 in the feature would be identical to the first show. Buzz Barton, 1957 point runner-up, Jack Packard and Jerry Kemp would take home heat wins. Bobby Grim would once again take the match race and Carr would make the 20 lap feature by winning the consolation race.

Once again, Carr had the Peter Mocca Circle Deuce humming as he dominated the 20 lap feature. Grim and Loetscher would once again finish second and third with Jim Hurtubise fourth and Jerry Blundy fifth.

Round three of the Florida State Fair races were scheduled for February 11, but Mother Nature thought differently and the rains came. Al Sweeney and his group rescheduled the races for Valentine’s Day, February 14.

Valentine’s Day turned out to be an unusually chilly day and that certainly dampened the size of the crowd but it did not dampen the spirits of one, Bobby Grim. Grim was determined to avenge his two losses to Carr and he and the Honore Offy proved that they were up to the task.

Bob Tattersall in the Leo Melcher Chevy, Buzz Barton in the Buzz Barton Offy and Jim Packard in the Ed Lowther Offy won the heats. Jerry Blundy in the Lyle Hyneman Offy won the match race and Eddie Loetscher had to settle for a win in the consolation race.

In the 20 lap feature, Don Carr grabbed the early lead but Bobby Grim was on a mission and took over the point before the end of the first lap. Grim would sail on to the win in 9 minutes 51.54 seconds while Carr would fade back in the field. Johnny Pouelsen in the C. H. Perdue Offy would get by Carr on lap 15 and the Jim Hurtubuse would push the Bill Leach Chevy by Carr on lap 19. Pouelsen would finish second, Hurtubuse third; Carr would wind up fourth with Jerry Blundy finishing fifth for the third straight time.

4,500 fans would turn out for the IMCA finale at the Florida State Fair on Saturday, February 15. They would witness a battle between a home-towner and a transplanted Floridian. Heats would go to Jim Packard, Buzz Barton and Bob Tattersall. Grim won the match race and Tampa’s Rex Records won the consolation race in the Sherk Offy.

Thoughts of a Carr-Grim battle for the win went away in the first lap of the feature when Grim spun out in turn one of the first lap. This left Tampa native Buzz Barton to battle with Carr the transplanted Floridian. Carr would lead throughout the 25 lap feature with the exception of lap 23 when Barton banged wheels with Carr and grabbed the lead. Carr however closed the gap and regained the point on the next lap when Barton got in the loose dirt. Carr would go on to grab the win followed by Barton, Hurtubuse, Blundy and Tattersall.

Don Carr and the Pete Mocca Offy had dominated the Florida State Fair races. Carr would leave Tampa with a solid points lead over second place Grim, Carr with 440 points and Grim with 340 points. However, thoughts of Carr unseating Grim for the IMCA championship would quickly fade once action resumed in May. After a win by Vern Chamberlain at Huron, South Dakota on May 25, Bobby Grim and Hector Honore would have the Black Deuce humming and they would win the next six races in a row and go on to win their third straight IMCA Championship. Don Carr would use his great showing at the Florida State Fair as a springboard to finishing a distant second in points to Grim.

Friday, February 4, 2011

1956 – 1970: The USAC Champs at Du Quoin

A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., would win the Ted Horn Memorial a record 5 times (1960, '61, '63, 64, and '67). - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection


By Kyle Ealy
Du Quoin, Ill. – Labor Day Weekend and grass-roots racing have gone hand in hand for many a year.

The casual race fan usually doesn’t have to look hard to find a race to their liking. Some of the biggest races of the year tend to fall on this three-day vacation.

Probably the biggest Labor Day racing tradition will be entering its 63rd year and it’s still going strong. It’s one of the longest running events in racing, not only in the Midwest but the United States.

On September 4, 1948, a 100-lap race was launched at the historic dirt mile of the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. It was an AAA-sanctioned event with Lee Wallard, driving a "speedway-type" car, winning the race in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 53 seconds (88.381 mph). Myron Fohr finished second and third place went to Ted Horn.

The 38-year-old Horn was a very successful driver having won the AAA national championship two times and he was very popular with race fans. It was said that Horn always carried “lucky” coins in his shoes as a good luck charm on the days he raced.

Ted Horn's good luck coins, which he had carried in hundreds of races failed him a little more than a month later, on October 10th, when he crashed his race car at Du Quoin and was killed instantly. It was said that when hospital attendants removed Horn's left shoe, his "lucky" dime dropped to the floor. Two pennies he carried in his right shoe wore lost when that shoe was torn from his foot in the crash. Despite his death, Ted Horn clinched his third national title.

In 1951, Du Quoin State Fairground officials decided to name the race, the Ted Horn Memorial in honor of the fallen hero. Still AAA-sanctioned, Tony Bettenhausen would win the event. Ironically, Bettenhausen would lose his life in 1961 and in his honor, have a race named after him.

The event remained AAA-sanctioned until 1955, when they ceased racing competition due to the tragic racing accidents of some of their top stars, including Bill Vuckovich. For the 1956 season, the national championship was taken over by a new sanctioning body formed by the then-owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Hulman. It was called the United States Auto Club (USAC).

And that’s where this story begins….

With USAC taking over, the Ted Horn Memorial, already a reputable race, became one of the biggest events in the nation with some of the biggest stars, nation-wide, coming to Du Quoin, Ill., every Labor Day Weekend to see who could tame the one-mile dirt oval.

Jimmy Bryan would win the the first USAC-sanctioned Ted Horn Memorial. - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection


On Monday, September 5, 1956, hard-driving Jimmy Bryan of Phoenix, Ariz., who was seeking his second national championship in three years, won the 100-mile Ted Horn Memorial. Bryan took the lead on the 33rd lap when Johnny Thomson of Boyertown, Pa., lost control of his car momentarily on a curve, allowing Bryan to pass by and then stay in front for the remainder of the race. Thomson would settle for second, about half a lap behind the winner who collected a healthy $3,665.

The next year, it was hard-driving, hard-drinking pilot who wowed the crowd and his fellow drivers on the “Mile”. Jud Larson of Kansas City, Mo., piloting the Watson Offenhauser, won the 100-mile race after setting a new qualifying record in time trials.

Larson’s time for the 100-lap dirt track event was one hour, 5 minutes and 58.29 seconds – only a minute off the record set by Jimmy Bryan the year before. This all happening despite the fact the field was under the caution flag twice due to accidents. The biggest mishap eliminated both two-time former winners in this event, Bryan and Tony Bettenhausen.

Johnny Thomson would finish the race in the same spot as the year before, second place. Rodger Ward of Los Angeles, who led the first 52 miles, finished third, despite a broken shock absorber. It should be noted that a 21-year-old driver from Houston, Texas would qualify badly and not make the field that day. The young man’s name was A.J. Foyt, and he would be heard from again.

The next year, Johnny Thomson decided that the bridesmaid role was not for him and in a thrilling finish, won the Ted Horn Memorial on September 1st. Thomson took the early lead on a dusty Du Quoin track only to lose it to Tony Bettenhausen on the 57th circuit. Betterhausen stayed ahead until lap 97 when Thomson edged ahead of him and won by just a few feet at the finish line.

Johnny Thomson shed the bridesmaid role and won the 1958 Ted Horn Memorial. - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection


Thomson, in the D-A Lubricant Special, averaged more than 97 mile per hour in the event, which was witnessed by 15,000 fans. Following Thomson and Bettenhausen to the checkers was Don Branson of Urbana, Ill., piloting the Hoover Motor Express. So close was the racing action on this day, a spread of seven seconds separated the first six finishers.

When the Labor Day spectacular rolled around in 1959, Rodger Ward was already the talk of the racing world, having won the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day. When Ward left Du Quoin, he added the Ted Horn Memorial to his bags of titles.

Ward, steering the Watson D-3 Offy, took the lead at the green and never look back, leading all 100 laps. He finished 7 seconds ahead of second place finisher Don Branson and Tony Bettenhausen. The 38-year-old veteran of Speedway, Ind., received $5,450 of a $20,000 plus purse. A record-breaking crowd of over 22,000 packed the grandstands to take in the action.

Rodger Ward would win both the Memorial Day and Labor Day events on the USAC circuit in 1959. - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection


In 1960, Jim Packard, making his first appearance at Du Quoin, won the hearts of 17,000 champ car racing fans on Monday afternoon, September 5th even though he would finish fifth. Packard, out of Speedway, Ind., raced high on every turn with such reckless abandon that he wore out his right rear tire in 75 laps and had to make a pit stop which cost him the lead and the race.

Even after his pit stop, Packard kept racing as if he had a chance to win. He came out of the north turn so hard one time that he banged into the rail and sent railbirds scattering away from the fence. Packard kept his car under control and zoomed on down the home stretch.

Remember that kid named Foyt? Never worse than third position from start to finish in the race, A.J. moved into the lead by a process of elimination as first Don Branson and then “Mr. Thrill-A-Mile” Packard faded from contention. Once in the lead, he finished almost a lap ahead of runner-up Tony Bettenhausen. Driving the Bowes Seal Fast Special, Foyt collected first place money totaling $4,165. Don Branson shattered the qualifying record of 35.57 seconds with a 34.46 clocking that figured out to 104.47 mph.

Foyt had never won a champ car race until his win at Du Quoin. He went on to win the national driving title that year with the Du Quoin track eventually his stepping stone to stardom.

On September 4, 1961, a record crowd of 25,000 fans saw the defending champion jump into the lead as track announcer Ed “Twenty Grand” Steinbeck called the start. Foyt slipped by Jim Hurtubise of Lennox, Calif., in the first quarter-mile and he was only headed once after that. Parnelli Jones of Torrance, Calif., was Foyt’s top threat. After Foyt's car developed magneto issues on the 75th lap, Jones slowly closed the gap and grabbed the lead on the 86th lead. Jones' command was short-lived however.

Motor trouble forced Jones to the pit on the 90th lap while he was a quarter-mile ahead of Foyt. A.J. regained the lead and Jones, who seemed on his way to an easy victory before the misfortune, never was able to get back into the race. Foyt averaged 94.24 miles per hour en route to the $4,837 winner's share of the record purse. Second-place Shorty Templeman of Seattle, Wash., banked $3,483 and Eddie Sachs of Allentown, Pa., who came in with a solid third place, collected a $1,935 payoff.

The 1962 event was rained out, so Foyt had to wait another year to defend his title. On September 2, 1963, Foyt became the first three-time winner of the 100-mile Labor Day classic winning the race in the time of 1 hour and 3 minutes. Foyt set a breath-taking pace to cut more than 19 seconds off the one, hour, 3 minutes and 19 second mark set by Johnny Thomson in 1958.

The Texan had to go all out to catch Rodger Ward, who took the pole position with a 34.17 second qualifying time, which lowered the record of 34.46 set by Don Branson of Champaign in 1960.

After Jim Hurtubise unsuccessfully tried to grab the lead from Ward on the first turn, Ward streaked ahead of the open field to build up a huge lead, which he held for 43 laps. Foyt, starting from the fifth position, was close enough to touch Ward's car after 35 laps and dogged him on every turn until he got the lead in the north turn on the 43rd lap. Foyt then lengthened his lead steadily to as much as three quarters of a mile and won with out any threat from Ward to regain the lead. Foyt's only worry came in the closing laps when his fuel supply was running-low.

Foyt won $5,587 of the record purse of $22,350 before a crowd, which was some 2,000 short of capacity. Ward collected $3,799 for second, Chuck Hulse $2,458 for third, Bob Marshman $1,620 for fourth and Branson $1,341 for fifth.

The 29-year-old Foyt returned on September 7, 1964 and successfully defended his Horn Memorial title, scoring his record fourth victory. The Texan reached an all-time peak in auto racing by becoming the first driver in history to win $200,000 in purses in a season.

Foyt won the 100-mile big car event with a wire to wire blazing first place time of one hour, 1 minute and 21 seconds to lower his own race record of last year. He wheeled his Sheraton - Thompson Special around the mile Du Quoin dirt oval at a clip of 97.8 miles per hour.

Only Bobby Marshman of Pottstown, Pa., driving the Hopkins Special, gave Foyt any competition as the two drivers lapped the entire field. Marshman was never in a position to pass the front-running Foyt and finished five-eighths of a mile behind at the 100-mile mark.

Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., set a new qualifying record of 33.95 seconds to win the pole position. Branson's pole advantage lasted only a few seconds. He slowed momentarily coming out of the first turn and both Foyt and Marshman sped by him. The race continued to it’s conclusion with Foyt, Marshman and Branson running one-two-three on each lap.

It was time for someone needed to knock Foyt off his perch and on September 6, 1965, Don Branson, the 45-year-old grandfather, finally ended Foyt's four-time domination of the event.

Branson grabbed the lead from Foyt on the fourth lap and doggedly held his position for 30 more laps as Foyt stayed right behind him but could not pass. A.J. went to the pits for a change of his right rear tire on the 34th lap. He fell one full lap behind Branson and lost all hope of catching him as Foyt had to make another pit stop on the 60th lap to change the right rear tire again.


Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., broke A.J. Foyt's four-win stranglehold on the Ted Horn Memorial with an impressive victory in the 1965 race. - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection


Branson negotiated the entire 100 laps without a pit stop. The 16,000 fans saw the slowest time in 12 years as Branson's time of 1 hour, seven minutes and 34 seconds or 88.792 miles per hour was the first time the race had gone under 90 miles per hour since 1953.

The field of 18 was almost 100 percent Offenhausers, which had dominated the Indianapolis 500 for years until Jim Clark of Scotland won the 1965 race in a rear-engine Lotus Ford. There was one Chevy and most notably, one rear-engine Chevy in the starting lineup.

The rear engine car was a complete flop, not that wasn't expected on a mile dirt track. Driver George Morris of Indianapolis had the slowest qualifying time of 43.00 seconds and got to start only because his was the 18th car ready to race after three other faster qualifiers were withdrawn. Morris did not last even one full lap as he pulled into the infield without crossing the finish line once.

Every big racing event can usually boast of one upset and the 1966 race would probably be categorized as that...

Bud Tingelstad of Indianapolis, Ind., won the 100-mile big car race at Du Quoin on Monday, September 5th as 19,000 fans watched local favorite Arnie Knepper of Belleville, Ill., bow out of the race late with engine trouble. Nobody had come close to challenging Knepper until engine failure sent him to the pits on the 88th lap. He would settle for 11th place.


Bud Tingelstad would score the upset victory at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds on September 5, 1966. - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection

Tingelstad, no better than the 12th fastest qualifier in the 18-car race, captured his first major big car event and the $5, 000 first place money by means of steady rather than spectacular driving. He had his Federal Engine Special no better than seventh after 40 laps. He moved to fourth at 60 miles, third at 80 miles and second at 83 laps.

The elimination of Knepper put him up front and he breezed home easily when his chief contender and defending champ, Don Branson, blew a tire on the 91st lap.

Four-time Horn winner, A, J. Foyt, was a surprise added starter in the same Sheraton- Thompson Special with which he won at Du Quoin twice but he could finish no better than seventh. Bobby Unser of Albuquerque, the fastest qualifier in 34.10 seconds, held the lead for 23 laps until Knepper, charging up past Branson and Foyt in successive laps, slipped past Unser on the inside of the north turn to take the lead.

A.J. Foyt didn’t enjoy seeing someone else in victory lane and for the past two years at Du Quoin, that’s what he saw. The fiery Texan who thinks first is the only proper place for him to finish, toyed with the field on Monday afternoon, September 6, 1967 to win the 100-mile event by half a mile over runner-up Mario Andretti.

Andretti was one of several newcomers who had been threatening to take the spotlight away from A.J., until Foyt won his third Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend and then took his record fifth Ted Horn Memorial crown on Labor Day.

Fast qualifier Bobby Unser and Jim McElreath sat on the front row, but both had problems early. Unser went into a spin leaving the south turn on the second lap but got back on track to finish sixth. McElreath went out after 34 laps, never to return.

With the two fastest qualifiers off the pace, the first half of the race was a dog fight between race leader Roger McCluskey and Foyt. McCluskey went high in each turn with Foyt parking his Sheraton-Thompson Special inside to bring a thrill at every turn.

McCluskey withstood the pressure until the 44th lap when Foyt finally got past him. Andretti, after working his way from his 11th starting position, harassed McCluskey on the 48th lap and set out to challenge Foyt. The "Little Italian" from Nazareth, Pa., was no match for Foyt, however, as the latter gradually drew away to a half-mile advantage.

The Italian would get his revenge on September 1, 1968. Andretti withstood a final 15-mile challenge by his arch-nemesis to win before an estimated 18,400 fans. The leader of the race since the eighth lap, Andretti saw a 8 to 10 second lead almost completely disappear as Foyt nearly overtook him on the front stretch of the 86th lap.


The "Little Italian" Mario Andretti would win the 1968 Ted Horn Memorial outdueling A.J. Foyt. - Bob Scott Photo/Bob Mays Collection

The two ran neck and neck for the inside position for the next five laps until Andretti slowly widened his lead by three car lengths. Foyt’s final hopes for victory flickered as he hit one of the track's many large chuckholes coming out the first turn on lap 99. Andretti then slowly pulled away, winning $5,700 of the $24,100 purse. Early leader Bill Vuckovich would finish third behind Andretti and Foyt.

On Labor Day Weekend of 1969, Foyt would see victory lane once again…in the USAC stock car 100-miler on Sunday, August 31st. He would come up short in the champ car event on Sunday afternoon in what would be a wild finish with only a few laps left.

Foyt, Mario Andretti and Al Unser had been running in a tight blanket for 20 laps when they hit the north turn with only four miles to go. There was no reason to suspect the cars would not finish in that order.

That is when Jerry “Scratch” Daniels, one of 30 also runs still circling the track in search of that extra $50 for a higher finish than the next guy, ran out of gas. Instead of getting out of the way of the front runners, Daniel’s decided to coast toward the pit area. He cut in front of the charging Foyt, who had to brake his car to avoid Daniels.

Al Unser shot to the inside of the track entering the straightaway in front of the grandstand and Andretti came right with him in the middle with Foyt on the outside. They came across the finish line like trotting horses coming down the stretch.

All three cars hit the south turn side by side and Unser, on the inside, took the lead with Andretti second and Foyt third. Only the excellent driving skills of three great drivers prevented a pileup as the cars were tail pipe to tail pips.

Foyt's right rear tire was already wearing badly and he could make no run for the lead over the final three laps. Andretti could not get past Unser and the 1968 Indianapolis 500 winner held on to edge this year's Indy champion, Andretti, by a car length.

Sports writer Merle Jones of the Southern Illinoisan mentioned in his column; “A. J. Foyt probably felt like leaning out of his car and taking a swing at fellow driver Jerry Daniels after the 100-mile big car race at Du Quoin Monday. Then after a cooling off period, Foyt may have felt more like taking a few slugs of sour-mash Jack Daniels.”

Bobby Unser took the initial lead in the $27, 900 event with Andretti second and Foyt third coming out of the first lap. That is the way they raced for 30 miles until Foyt took the lead. It was anybody's race as Foyt, Andretti, Al and Bobby Unser raced in a blanket for almost 70 laps.

Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser gunned his Johnny Lightning Special to a seven-second win over his brother Bobby at the Ted Horn Memorial on September 7, 1970.

Unser, the Albuquerque, N.M. hot shot, was never seriously challenged in the final 50 laps of the race after A. J. Foyt lost control of his car and sailed over a wall on the third turn. Foyt was brought back to the pits in an ambulance but got out and limped around as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Before the accident, Foyt and Unser dueled wheel-to-wheel. Unser, sitting in the pole position, led for 12 laps before Foyt passed him on the 13th lap. Larry Dickson of Marietta, Ohio was running third.

After 25 laps of the 100 lap event, the race was still close as only a quarter of a lap separated the first six cars - Foyt, Unser, Dickson, Johnny Rutherford, Gary Bettenhausen and Bobby Unser.

Foyt began lapping the field on the 28th lap with only 11 of the 18 starters left in the lineup. Unser regained the lead on the 36th lap and steadily began pulling away from Foyt until the Houston, Tex. driver hit the wall at the halfway point.

Unser's winning time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 7.66 seconds was a new race record. The old record of 1 hour, 1 minute, and 21 seconds was set by Foyt in 1964. The winner's share of the $33,000 purse was worth $8,300.

Al Unser was a two-time Ted Horn Memorial winner, having won both the 1969 and 1970 events. - Bob Scott/Bob Mays Collection


In 1971, the United States Auto Club made the decision to cut the dirt tracks from the National Championship series making it all pavement for the first time since 1927. A separate, new division appropriately named the Champ Dirt series was formed.

Even with the new format, one thing did not change; on the first Monday of September, the 100-mile race on the dirt at Du Quoin. Through the 70’s, more drivers added to the legend; George Snider, Tom Bigelow, Bubby Jones, Duane “Pancho” Carter, Gary Bettenhausen and Rich Vogler all have their name etched on the trophy.

In 1981, the Champ Dirt series was renamed to what we know as today; the Silver Crown Series.

While the names of the cars have changed, one thing has remained consistent. On Labor Day each year, the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds is where the champs are.