Thursday, January 26, 2012

1973 - Melton Gets Fairgrounds Racing 6th Year in Row

Des Moines, Iowa (January 26, 1973) - Homer Melton will again promote weekly stock car races at the Iowa State Fairgrounds this summer.

The Milan, Ill., promoter was awarded the contract for the sixth straight year when the Iowa State Fair’s board of directors met at the Fairgrounds.

His proposal was for the fair to receive 40 percent of total income after sales taxes and he will pay a $5,000 purse, up $800 from the money paid weekly at the end of last season.

Melton was one of four groups still in consideration for the prize. Eight groups had originally submitted bids and four were eliminated at a December 14th meeting.

Others remaining in consideration were Denny Murray and Tom Spagnola, both Des Moines used car dealers; Keith Knaack of Vinton, racing promoter there and at Waterloo, and Bob Hilmer of Dysart, the 1972 late model stock car champion at the Fairgrounds.

Knaack and Hilmer had proposed a $4,500 purse and 35 per cent of total income after sales taxes or a $5,000 purse and 30 percent. Murray had offered a $5,000 purse plus a weekly contingency fund - of $1,000 and would have paid the fair 40 percent of total income, less taxes. Spagnola had guaranteed the fair $65,000 or 40 percent, whichever was greater, and would have paid a $5,000 purse with an $800 contingency fund.

Iowa State Fair Secretary Kenneth Fulk said the board considered six criteria in making the decision: managerial ability, knowledge and experience in auto racing, promotional plan, financial responsibility, purse offered and percentage to the fair.

“Homer definitely had the most experience in racing,” Fulk said. “And I used a point system to score the candidates. Homer won, although not by much.”

Before the board made its decision, there was considerable discussion about contingency funds, which would have meant a $5,800 or $6,000 weekly purse, and how it would affect the racing program.

Melton and Knaack both voiced opinions that large purses would draw big-name drivers from around the Midwest and they would push out the local talent. Also it was felt that the cream of talent at other Iowa tracks would be drawn to Des Moines and the smaller tracks would be hurt.

Harry Duncan of Columbus Junction, Iowa, a board member for many years, said this had to be avoided. Murray wanted to put most of his contingency money on the lower end of the purse and pay more drivers.

This is apparently what Melton will do. He said he will meet soon with a committee of drivers and set up the purse breakdown for 1972.

He at first indicated the winner of the 25-lap late-model feature would receive $600 this season and the winner of the 15-lap sportsman feature would be paid $300. But this is subject to change. The late model winner received $500 and the sportsman winner $225 at the end of the ‘72 season.

Spagnola was disappointed that his bid was not accepted and he said he felt he had the best offer. “I guess they thought I was trying to buy the track,” he said of his offer to guarantee the $65,000. “I learned some things and will definitely bid again if given the chance.”

Murray said, “I believe the board made a fair decision. I believe that my bidding will make the Fairgrounds a better place to race and I am happy that it has had the effect of raising the purse.”

Melton has acknowledged that he was worried about losing the promotion opportunity. “I am happy that the fair board has the faith to again give me the opportunity,” he said.
Melton has been in auto racing promotion for 17 years.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1938 - Challenge of Gus Schrader to World Carries $5,000 Side Bet

Chicago, Ill. (January 24, 1938) - Gus Schrader of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, five times world dirt track racing champion, has issued a challenge “to any driver in the world” for a series of match races on dirt with a $5,000 side bet.

Backed by the Racing Corporation of America which contends it stages 75 per cent of all dirt track racing in the United States, the 48-year-old veteran will defend his title either on half mile or mile tracks - or both.

Schrader has been racing 24 years. He holds approximately half the dirt track records in existence and for five years has been the kingpin of the racing circuit under the sanction of the International Motor Contest Association.

If his challenge is accepted, it will be the first similar series since Sid Haugdahl defeated Ralph De Palma three out of five races at Ascot in 1923.

The sandy-haired Iowan won his dirt track title against the toughest sort of opposition. Racing for the RCA, which now is headed by John A. Sloan Jr., “Gloomy Gus” met picked drivers on a circuit, traveling to 41 cities from Massachusetts to Montana and Minnesota to Florida.

Sloan is the son of the late J. Alex Sloan, pioneer-racing promoter, who broke with the American Automobile Association to found the International Motor Contest Association. J. Alex was credited with making Barney Oldfield famous; he picked Leon Duray off a street corner and made him a threat in the 500-mile classic at Indianapolis, and gave first opportunities to Tommy Milton, Sid Haugdahl and others.

Sloan and his troop operated before 2,545,821 spectators in 1931 and completed their fourth consecutive year without a fatality either to driver or spectators.

“We have plenty of crashes, but few fatalities,” Sloan said. “When there's a crash our drivers know what to do. It’s the inexperienced driver who begins to panic that causes most of the trouble around a racetrack. We won't let them race until they’re ready for fast competition.”

IMCA’s big day last year was at the Minnesota State Fair, where 161,484 paid customers flocked into Minneapolis and St. Paul, breaking all attendance records for dirt tracks.

The Minnesota fair topped the list last season. Des Moines, Iowa was second, Atlanta, Ga.; third with Topeka, Kan.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Springfield, Mass.; Sedalia, Mo.; Spencer, Iowa; Shreveport, La.; and Ionia, Mich.; also in the first 10.

Spencer, Iowa, a little town of only 5,000, drew 15,000 fans in two days.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1974 - Invitation for drivers to race at West Union

West Union, Iowa (January 19, 1974) – Larry Sommerfelt, the latest driver turned promoter, announced recently he was going to head late model street stock racing at the Fayette County Speedway located here starting next season.

Sommerfelt, a regular driver in the stock car class at Tunis Speedway in Waterloo, Iowa, for many years, said he was amazed by the tremendous response from the West Union people associated with the Fayette County Fairground.

“Public response is good,” commented Sommerfelt. “We plan on running on Friday nights and any driver is welcomed to come and participate with us,” he concluded.

The new promoter stressed that the race track will pay on a percentage basis to be announced later. Sommerfelt said there’ll be a women’s race every week along with a trophy dash as well as a novelty race on the program.

The new promoter held a meeting in October at West Union when rules were discussed. The association plans on having a $250 claim on the engine. This means the short block only, no carburetor, headers, clutch, flywheel, distributor, fuel pump or bell housing. These rules were adopted to hold the cost of racing to a minimum.

The one-fourth mile banked dirt track expected to drop the green nag in the middle of May 1974. It is located on the south edge of West Union.

Cars must be 1955 through 1974 and American made. No quick changes are allowed. Only original type suspension will be permissible. A seven inch maximum tire width, which may be cross-grooved along with stock ignition, must be used. The race cars must have four wheel brakes and engines must be in original stock position and cannot be crossbreed. There will also be a two-barrel limit on the engines.

A field of 25 cars is expected for the upcoming season.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gordon Woolley: Even an Outlaw can win a Championship

Gordon Woolley in the Weinberger #1 at Des Moines - 1963 (Bob Mays Collection)

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - The dictionary defines an outlaw as “someone outside the law.” In auto racing, the term has usually been used to describe someone who did not run regularly with sanctioning bodies but just ran wherever he wanted to. One of the first drivers that I can remember that fits that description to the letter was Gordon Woolley.

Woolley started racing jalopies in the 1940’s in his hometown of Waco, Texas and moved on from there. He would later become known for his black boots, scarlet driving suit and yellow helmet. But he was best known as a “real racer”, one who would race anywhere and everywhere with anyone and the miles he put on his vehicles to get from racetrack to racetrack showed it.

For years he drove all over the country as a driver for hire. He would be gone for weeks at a time. It was said that he always returned home with two suitcases; one filled with all the money he had won and the other with dirty clothes.

Woolley began racing with IMCA in 1960. The IMCA Sprint car series was a steppingstone to USAC and the Indy 500 back in those days. He would finish 10th in points that first year with IMCA winning at Northwest Missouri State Fairgrounds in Bethany. In 1961 he finished 11th in points after a serious accident in mid-season winning at Meyer Speedway in Houston. Consistency, but no wins got Gordon an 8th in IMCA points in 1962. During these years Woolley would race many other places as he was too independent to be tied down to one circuit.

Woolley started the 1963 season driving the Chet Wilson Chevy. As was tradition, the IMCA Sprint Car season started at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. On February 9, Gordon qualified sixth and then finished third in the second heat. He was running second to Pete Folse in Hector Honore Offy when Folse experienced a problem and Woolley shot by and took the win. It would be the highlight of the four race meet for Woolley and he left Tampa in seventh place in the points after Folse won the last three races.

By the time the IMCA Sprint series raced again on the Winchester High Banks on May 12, Woolley had switched rides and was now behind the wheel of the Colvin-Young Chevy. He would finish fourth in his first outing in that car. Five days later at Illiana Speedway he would qualify third and finish third. On May 25 at Sun Valley Speedway in Anderson, Indiana it was the 15th running of the grueling “Little 500.” Gordon continued his consistency and came home third.

At Des Moines on June 2 he ran second to a Johnny White in the Weinberger Chevy in the Hawkeye Futurity. A sixth at Dayton and a fourth back at Winchester and another runner up to White and Woolley was still holding down third place behind White and Folse. White made it four wins in a row at Hawkeye Downs on July 4 and was starting to build a substantial lead over Folse and Woolley.

After 17 days off, the series went to Winchester again with Woolley getting a fifth and White tenth. On July 26 the series entered the fair stage and with races almost daily. In fact they ran at both Champaign, Illinois and Minot, North Dakota on the 26th. Folse won at Minot with White third and Wooley fourth at Champaign. Folse won again at Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin on the 28th with White second in the Lempelius Offy. Wooley would finish 10th in the Goodrich Chevrolet.

Woolley got back on track at Lacrosse, Wisconsin winning in the Colvin-Young Chevy. White responded by winning one of two shows at Knoxville, Illinois. Woolley beat Folse at Eldon, Iowa. Then a strange thing happened. Johnny White bolted to USAC and Gordon Woolley ended up in the Weinberger Chevy. In his first outing in the car he won the feature at Ionia, Michigan. That same day, Folse won at Springfield, Missouri. Suddenly the IMCA championship had become a battle between Woolley and Folse. Could Woolley give Chevrolet an IMCA Championship or would the Hector Honore Offy win its eighth championship in nine years.

Woolley won again at Wausau, Wisconsin with Folse fourth. Woolley lost a wheel the first day at Sedalia but came back to set a new track record on the mile and run second to Al Unser in the feature. Woolley now had a 241 point lead.

From this point in the season the wins for Woolley and Folse slowed down as the competition got even stronger as big name drivers migrated to the Midwest to run the busy fair season. In fact, Folse would not garner another IMCA feature win the rest of the season. On August 24 Woolley would pick up a big win at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. New Mexico’s Al Unser would take home the 50 miler on the mile at Sedalia the following day.

Woolley would continue to pick up wins during the busy big fair season winning on September 5 at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln and then again the following week at Topeka and finally on September 15 at Muskogee, Oklahoma. Woolley would pick up one last win this time on the paved facility in Nashville, Tennessee and coast to the 1963 IMCA Sprint Car Championship. His win would give Chevrolet their first IMCA Sprint Car Championship and would bring to an end the long reign of the Offenhauser.

By this time in his career, the lanky Texas was averaging 60,000 miles a year going to and from race tracks. He preferred the dirt tracks to the high banked paved ovals of USAC. He did get a chance in USAC Sprints in 1964 but it was short lived. “I got out of the car to get a drink of water, and when I got back, the owner had another driver sitting in the car.” said Woolley.

In 1964 Woolley also would get an offer for Indy in the Dayton Walther car but it didn’t work out. “My chance didn’t work out. I guess I wasn’t suppose to race at Indy. A lot of guys I knew never got a chance to take the rookie test. I know I could have raced if I hadn’t hurt me eye.” Woolley recalled later.

Woolley would return to racing in IMCA finishing 13th in the IMCA standings in 1964, picking up a win and then 3rd the following season in Hector Honore’s Black Deuce registered several wins and also picked up a CRA win at El Centro in the Pop Miller car.

Woolley would continue to race with IMCA off and on throughout his career but also you could find him hitting more outlaw shows as well.

Gordon Woolley in the Goodrich #6 at Des Moines - 1968 (Armin Krueger Photo)

In 1972 Woolley would race his final Sprint Car race at the Devil’s Bowl in Mesquite, Texas, although he would continue to drive stock cars in the Waco area. The World of Outlaws did not arrive on the seen until 1978 and before that there was Jan Opperman, Bobby Allen and others. But before them there was Gordon Woolley, “A True Outlaw.”

Special thanks to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum for letting me use some of their materials for this story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

1973 - Irv Janey Is USAC’s Top Rookie

Milwaukee, Wis. (January 13, 1973) - Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids has been selected stock car rookie of the year for 1973 by the United States Auto Club.

Announcement of the honor came Saturday night at the annual awards banquet at the Pfister hotel here. Janey was presented a plaque on behalf of USAC by Al Miller, auto-racing editor for The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

“This is my biggest thrill in racing,” Janey said. “And that includes winning the IMCA title in 1972. There is only one winner and you get only one chance to win the award. I’m just very pleased. I just wish my dad (Ed) was alive to see this.”

Irv’s closest competition for the award came from Bob Whitlow, the ex-Detroit Lions football player. Janey is the second driver from Cedar Rapids to win rookie honors in the last five years. Verlin Eaker was chosen in 1969.

The 31-year-old Janey, who was sidelined for a month and missed three racing events after being seriously burned in an accident at Michigan International Speedway last July, finished 11th in the point standings. But Irv and car owner Marty Sixt of Iowa City both finished eighth on the point-fund money list and received $708 a piece.

The total point-fund melon was $35,000 and the biggest slice ($3,161) went to Butch Hartman who won an unprecedented third straight stock car championship.

Ramo Stott, another Iowan from Keokuk, was second in the point derby and second in the point fund, claiming $2,164.

Janey, whose ride was a 1973 Dodge Charger under the Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. banner, had his best finish with a fifth place at Lacrosse, Wis.

“But we were competitive all season,” he added. "I thought we ran with the best on the half mile and mile and a lot of time we were running in the top three before something went wrong with the car.”

Janey and Sixt announced they would run the full USAC schedule in 1974. However, this year Irv will have two Chargers at his disposal - one for asphalt and one for dirt.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1968 - Frank Winkley named new Downs’ race promoter

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (January 12, 1968) - Frank R. Winkley of Minneapolis, Minn., well-known promoter of Auto Racing, Inc., under the International Motor Contest Association banner, today was named race promoter at Hawkeye Downs by the All-Iowa Fairboard.

Winkley, 60, was awarded a one-year contract by the fairboard. He replaces Homer Melton of Rock Island, who governed racing at The Downs for three seasons. Under Winkley, The Downs’ may continue to operate as a regional division of IMCA.

“Wink’ is no stranger to the Cedar Rapids track, having promoted annually for the last several years programs involving late model stocks, midgets, sprints and super stocks.

“I think Cedar Rapids has the finest racing plant in the Midwest,” Wink said. “With the avid racing fans here, I see no reason why this shouldn't be one of the top racing areas in the country.”

“I've been promoting racing for 30 years and I think I understand drivers and fans. The drivers like to make money and race fans want to see racing at its best. We need cars to get the public and when we get the crowds, the drivers will start making money.”

The Downs will continue to operate on Saturday nights. Most of Wink's other promotions’ tentative plans involve Sunday afternoon dates (aside from the fair), so he expects to be at the Cedar Rapids locale two-thirds of the time.

Bernie Carlson of Minneapolis, one of the nation's outstanding flagmen, will serve as starter at the Downs. Carlson was tabbed “the best man I've got on my staff” by Wink and he'll run the show when the latter is absent.

Winkley plans to promote at least one major racing event each month. In fact, the 1968 campaign will get the green flag with the Hawkeye 200 for late model stock cars on April 28. Another major event will be the World 100 for super modifieds on May 30.

Tentative plans call for the regular Saturday night programs to start May 4.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who Can Remember These Tracks? Part III

 Waterloo, Iowa

Converse, Indiana

Great Bend, Kansas

Monticello, Iowa

Branson, Missouri

Urbana, Illinois

Ottumwa, Iowa

Lacrosse, Wisconsin

Austin, Minnesota

Saturday, January 7, 2012

1973 - Florida State Fair Auto Races To Be Bigger Than Ever

Tampa, Fla. (January 7, 1973) - The 53rd annual Winternational Sprints sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association, Florida's oldest racing event, will be held in conjunction with the Florida State Fair, February 7-10-11-14 and 17, according to J. McKinley Jeter, IMCA secretary-manager.

A number of changes and improvements will be unveiled during the midwinter speed classic, which has won the reputation as the "Original World Series of Dirt Track Racing".

Increased purse money and a new time trial format, which was passed upon at the recent board meeting of the International Motor Contest Association, held in Las Vegas, will be in effect starting Wednesday, February 7. Time trials will be held Wednesday afternoon, February 7; Sunday afternoon, February 10 and Wednesday afternoon, February 14.

Time trials on the two Wednesdays will be open to the public free of charge. The race, held under lights will face the starter at 7 p.m.

The two Saturdays will see racing at 2 p.m. and the middle Sunday as well. Added lights have been provided for the backstretch and the two turns to assist with visibility for both spectator and driver, on both Wednesday nights.

Purse money has been increased to $20,875 for the five events and it is now possible for the IMCA champion to win $300 on top of his purse money by setting fast time and appearing for advance publicity purposes.

The first five qualifiers will win $100-$75-$60-$50-$40 instead of the straight $50 paid in former years. The 50-lap feature on February 17th pays $1,000 to win.

The top 30 drivers finishing in the 1972 IMCA championship standings will be automatically accepted as entries, then the next 30 received in the mail will fill the field of 60 cars and drivers. The promoter is allowed to invite five national and regional champions. Entry blanks have been mailed and those rejected will receive a telegram 10 days before race time.

A “preview’ race meet is being discussed and total prize money may run over the $25,000 total paid out in 1972, according to Al Sweeney, chairman of National Speedways, Inc.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The World Cup 400

By Kyle Ealy
Odessa, Mo. – From 1976 to 1980, it was one of the biggest and richest short track events not only in the Midwest but the entire nation, and it became well-known for bringing together the very best stock car drivers from the ASA, ARTGO, NASCAR and USAC organizations.

Every autumn, just as the leaves were starting to turn brilliant colors, the stars and cars of short track racing would congregate to the high-banked half-mile asphalt of I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., to compete in the prestigious World Cup 400.

The inaugural race in 1976 would be dominated by Midwestern pilots with Tom Reffner of Rudolph, Wis., winning the 200-mile contest on Sunday afternoon, October 17.

The first driver to take the track during time trials on Saturday, Reffner overcame temperatures hovering in the upper 30’s to circle the half-mile in 17.414 seconds, eclipsing his own month-old mark of 17.49. Although 37 other drivers timed within one second of Reffner’s mark, no one was able to better the new track record.

Reffner led early in the 44-car feature, but Joe Shear, Larry Detjens, Bob Senneker, Dave Watson, and Johnny Ziegler dominated the middle stages of the contest. However, Reffner returned to the front of the pack again as the race neared its conclusion and he proved to be unstoppable in the final laps.

The Michigan “Blue Bird”, Bob Senneker, bolted into the lead at the race’s outset, but before the first lap could be completed, Bay Darnell of Deerfield, Ill., spun coming out of the fourth turn, collecting five other cars, and forcing a complete restart.

Reffner would take command when the green flag fell again but any chance of building a cushion on his nearest rivals were dashed by a series of caution flags for the next dozen or so laps.

The second caution occurred on lap three when California’s Sonny Easley rammed the outer wall and two Michigan drivers, Jerry Makara and Tom Maier, tangled trying to avoid Easley.

Action finally resumed on lap 18 but nine laps later, defending USAC stock car national champion Ramo Stott spun on the backstretch, taking out Ed Hoffman of Niles, Ill., Jim Campbell of Harrison, Ark., and Jack Constable of Princeton, Mo. The incident retired Stott with a broken rear frame and the clean-up necessitated the yellow flag to wave through lap 35.

The race’s fourth caution period, encompassing four caution laps, came when Terry Bivens of Shawnee Mission, Kan., spun in water spewed on the track by Easley’s mount and moments later, the yellow flag waved once more when Freddy Fryar of Baton Rouge, La., slammed into the front stretch wall of the 58th tour. The mishap retired Fryar’s Chevy Nova from the competition but Fryar would return to relieve country and western singing star turned racer Marty Robbins in a joint effort, which would net them a 19th place finish.

Another USAC standout, former four-time and current point leader Butch Hartman of Zanesville, Ohio, lasted only 109 circuits before pulling out when his Camaro began smoking.

Dave Watson began making a strong bid for leadership when he passed Senneker for second on lap 70 and after another caution on lap 76 the Milton, Wis., star zipped past Reffner into the lead on the restart.

Reffner and Senneker fell back when the decided to pit on lap 91, which brought Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill., and Johnny Ziegler of Madison, Wis., into contention. Watson and Ziegler would pit on lap 136, allowing Shear to claim first in front of Red Farmer of Hueytown, Ala., Larry Detjens of Wausau, Wis., and Reffner, who had made his way back to the top five.

Detjens, driving a 1974 Camaro, put on a strong rush and took the lead from Shear on lap 147 and remained in front until the halfway point of the race. A caution of lap 209 forced a slowdown for the field and both Detjens and Shear went to the pits for fuel and fresh tires and when the yellow flag was replaced by green, it was Senneker again out in front.

A caution on lap 238, allowed both Senneker and Reffner to pit again and Watson regained the top spot with Shear close behind. Shear moved ahead of Watson on the 262nd circuit and he held the upper hand until lap 333, when overheating problems forced him to slow his pace.

Three laps later, I-70 regular Bill Crane of Kansas City spun on the backstretch and sailed over the turn three wall, bringing the yellow back out. Shear pitted on lap 342, giving the lead back to Watson, who would pit two laps later, permitting Reffner to regain control.

Despite one more caution on lap 374, Reffner cruised to victory over Watson, who was handicapped by an overheating problem, which forced him to make a late pit stop, and Senneker, who had lost valuable ground when he pitted under the green to remedy a tire problem. Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., took fourth and Mike Eddy of Midland, Mich., grabbed fifth.

Reffner collected $10,000 for his efforts, a sum nearly three times larger than his biggest previous single-race earnings of $3,500.

Four hundred laps would turn into a 5-lap trophy dash on September 11, 1977 between Larry Detjens and Bob Senneker and when the checkers finally waved, it was Detjens’ Camaro a car-length ahead of Senneker’s.

Finishing third, one lap behind Detjens and Senneker was Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Dick Trickle, driving relief for fellow townsman Mike Miller in a Ford Mustang.

Finishing fourth, after seemingly having the victory in his hip pocket just eight laps from the finish was Larry Schuler of Lockport, Ill., in his Camaro. Holding a half a lap lead and in cruise control, Schuler’s hopes were dashed on lap 391 when gasket let go and he spun in turn four in his own water. That cost him two spots before he could get his car straightened out.

To compound his woes, Schuler was penalized a lap after completion of the race because of failure to drop to the end of the line under the yellow. The American Speed Association, the sanctioning body of the event, stated in its rule books that the last five lap of any race 50 laps or longer, must be run under green flag conditions. Schuler spun out on lap 391 and the yellow was displayed through lap 395, at which time scoring of all cars was halted until the green flag came back out.

When Schuler spun, Senneker jumped into first with Detjens right on his tail. And when the green came out for the final five laps, those two tied up in a head to head dashing duel. Senneker led three of those laps, with Detjens putting the nose of his car inches ahead of Senneker as the crossed the start/finish line to take the white flag.

Detjens pulled away temporarily down the backstretch, only to have Senneker come roaring back as they entered the final turn. But Senneker didn’t have the horses to overhaul the Wisconsin ace and Detjens was the winner by a car-length, picking up $7,590 out of a purse that well exceeded $50,000.

Senneker was the fastest qualifier of the 35-car field, but it was Detjens grabbing the lead at the green with Joe Shear sliding into second. Shear slipped past Detjens on lap 33 and took charge with Detjens, Don Gregory of Columbus, Ohio, Dick Trickle, Dave Roahrig of Inwood, Ind., Jimmy Pierson of Janesville, Wis., hot on his tail.

Shear continued to set the pace after 100 laps but positions behind him were being juggled like hot potatoes. Trickle had settled into second followed by Gregory, Roahrig, Senneker, Schuler, Detjens, Jerry Makara, Mark Martin of Batesville, Ark., and Larry Phillips.

Trickle had his Pontiac Firebird hamming and overhauled Shear on lap 120 to take the lead. Shear’s car would last only four more turns and then began overheating sending him to the sidelines.

Gregory would grab the point away from Trickle on lap 132 as misfortune started to strike some of the top contenders. Mark Martin retired on lap 145 with a red-hot engine and Trickle was done on lap 169 when an oil pump let go in his car.

At the halfway mark it was Gregory, Detjens, Makara, Schuler, Phillips and Bob Sensiba of Middleville, Mich.

Gregory increased his margin a little bit with each lap until he was going down the backstretch on lap 296. At that pint, his right front tire blew, sending Gregory climbing up the wall between turns three and four and almost out of the ballpark. Damaged beyond any immediate repair, Gregory’s machine went to the pits as Schuler flashed into the lead.

At 300 laps it was Schuler, Senneker, Detjens, Trickle (driving relief for Mike Miller) and Everett DeWitt of Janesville, Wis., in the top five. The only change in that running order from the three-quarter mark and lap 350 came when DeWitt blew an engine on lap 345 and Sensiba moved up from his sixth position.

That set the stage for all of the big dramatics in the final nine laps of the chase, which Schuler triggered with his spin and the five lap slugfest between Detjens and Senneker.

Mike Eddy of Midland, Mich., would drive a near perfect race in the World Cup 400 on Sunday afternoon, October 15, 1978, but a tiny miscue would cost him the $9,500 winner’s share of the nearly $60,000 purse.

Eddy had dominated the entire race, leading 320 of the event’s 400 laps and was in the lead when he bobbled slightly exiting turn four on lap 386. Dick Trickle, who was close behind, capitalized on the mistake, surging around Eddy to take the lead at the outset of the 387th circuit and held off Eddy the rest of the way to record the win.

Michigan’s John Anderson, the only other driver to complete the 400 laps, placed third and could have well won the event had he not incurred a one-lap penalty for passing Eddy’s pace-setting Camaro during a caution period on lap 292. Bob Senneker came in fourth with fellow statesman Jerry Makara rounding out the top five.

Bob Sensiba, who set a track qualifying record on Friday with a time of 17.17 seconds, started the long-distance race on the pole and charged into the lead at the drop of the green flag. However, after leading for only four laps, mechanical issues forced Sensiba into the pits for a series of lengthy stops. The issues eventually sent him into early retirement after only 65 circuits.

Eddy, who had started third by virtue of winning the first 15-lap semi-feature on Saturday, inherited the top spot when Sensiba pitted and remained there until lap 193. Eddy was forced to earn his feature starting berth in the semi-feature after the engine in his racer gave way during Friday’s qualifications.

Mark Martin took over the number one spot on lap 194 and stayed in the lead until yielding to Eddy on the 229th circuit. Eddy surrendered the lead to Martin for the second time on lap 298 and the 19-year-old Batesville, Ark., pilot remained on top until lap 321, when he was forced to the sidelines, turning over the point to Dick Trickle.

Eddy passed Trickle four laps later to take command again but was unable to open up a comfortable lead over the Wisconsin chauffeur. Then on lap 386, Eddy made his slight mistake, which Trickle converted into victory.

“I was starting to lose some of my stagger, but I was running real hard to that point. I simply lost it,” a disappointed Eddy said afterwards. “I lapsed just for an instance and it cost me.”

Mark Martin parlayed a hard pace and efficient pit work into the biggest payday of his young career on Sunday, October 21, 1979, winning the fourth annual World 400 on an unseasonably hot and windy afternoon. Martin would collect $10,475 for his impressive victory.

The victory gave Martin a clean sweep of the two-day event, which he led off by turning a record 16.813-second qualifying run on Saturday afternoon. No late model driver had ever toured the .54-mile oval in under 17 seconds before. Martin’s Camaro was the only car credited with completing the full 400-lap distance of the main event.

Second place finisher Bob Senneker was credited with only 399 circuits, despite incurring two separate one-lap penalties, the first for passing the lead car during a caution period and the second for racing through the stop sign while exiting the pits to rejoin the field.

If there was a bright spot to finishing second, Senneker netted $5,350, making him the first driver in the ASA circuit’s history to top the 100,000 mark in career earnings. Third place went to Mike Eddy with a couple of Illinois veterans, Joe Shear and Ray Young, following in the fourth and fifth spots.

Dick Trickle grabbed the early lead from his outside front row starting spot and led the first 53 laps before being overhauled by Shear. A caution on lap 98 precipitated wholesale pit action as a result and Martin took the top spot on the 101st circuit.

Eddy, Randy Sweet, Don Gregory, and Trickle followed behind Martin until yellow flag waved for debris on the track, which triggered a rash of pit stops on lap 175. Gregory paced the 176th lap under caution, but pitted the next time around, giving the upper hand to Shear.

With the green back out, Trickle mounted a charge at the event’s midpoint and got around Shear on lap 211. However, a spent water pump and housing gasket forced Trickle to the pits five laps later, handing Eddy the lead. The problem eventually forced the defending race champion to park his Firebird after 223 circuits. The Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., resident didn’t sit in the pits for long though, as he relieved Dave Roahrig, eventually bringing his Camaro home in seventh.

Martin replaced Eddy in the front running position at 219 rounds and held of both Senneker and Eddy until pitting during a caution period on lap 323. Senneker incurred both of his penalties during the slowdown and Eddy claimed first place on the same lap when he returned to the track ahead of Martin at the conclusion of pit stops.

Eddy remained in front until an oil pump leak slowed his Camaro allowing Martin to regain the number one position on lap 343. “I thought at first it was a bearing because the smoke was coming out by the front wheels,” Eddy said. “But the car wouldn’t turn because oil was spewing all over the tires. I was driving in my own oil.”

Although the problem was repaired during a late caution period, Martin put Eddy a lap down in the closing circuits.

Meanwhile, Senneker also had his problems late in the chase, slowing perceptibly in the last 10 circuits. “The heat did it,” a nearly exhausted Senneker said afterwards. “The car was capable, but the last 10 laps I was just too damn tired to drive it.”

Surprisingly fresh following the grueling contest, Martin said, “The race was fast, but I expected it to be fast. I don’t normally lead races, but I got mad when Bob (Senneker) passed me under the yellow. I thought I was racing Eddy.”

The final World Cup 400 would place on Sunday, October 21, 1980. Dick Trickle, despite having a flat tire at the midpoint of the race, would claim the $10,000 first prize at the ASA Circuit of Champions event.

Joe Shear would beat Alan Kulwicki in a photo finish for second place in a margin so small, that ASA officials in the tower and on pit road were consulted and video replays were viewed before a decision was rendered. Jim Sauter of Necedah, Wis., took fourth and Michigan’s Randy Sweet would come in fifth.

Defending champion Mark Martin got the event off to a flying start on Saturday night by shattering his own one-lap track qualifying record by a half-second with a 16.323-second (119.095 mph) clocking. That mark compared favorably to the USAC sprint car standard of 16.8 seconds set in 1978 at the speed plant.

Martin, however, was plagued by two broken valve springs in his mount on the day of the big race, and wound up retiring after 239 laps, good for 19th place. Nevertheless, the performance enabled Martin to clinch his third ASA Circuit of Champions driving title.

The race began with a bang when sixth-running Mike Eddy had his engine in his Camaro fail in turn four on the second lap. Eddy’s sudden loss of power in the groove triggered a massive tangle which to one degree or another involved at least 20 of the 34 starters. John Martin, Don Gregory and Terry Wooten were sidelined immediately and several additional races were forced out later as a result of damage sustained in the mishap.

Trickle’s road to top was complicated by a flat tire, which forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop at 159 laps. As Trickle was about to make his stop, the caution flag appeared, forcing him to complete another lap because of an ASA rule requiring the pace car to be on the track before any pitting can be done under the yellow. The time lost amounted to one lap, forcing Trickle to drive harder than he had planned for the next 125 rounds.

After un-lapping himself shortly after the midway point in the race, Trickle needed about 50 laps to down Kulwicki for second place. Then on the 292nd revolution, Trickle passed Shear to take over the top spot for good.

“Once I got that last lead I just wanted to stay out of trouble,” Trickle commented. “I knew I had it made if nothing further happened. After getting myself back on the same lap, I felt pretty good when I was in second place, saw Joe (Shear) and was gaining on him.”

Shear and Kulwicki traded second place several times even though Shear was running on only seven cylinders late in the race. Shear finally reclaimed the runner-up spot for good 10 circuits from the finish, but Kulwicki’s last turn charge nearly allowed him to earn second place money.

Shear was philosophical about his problems later saying, “A rocker arm broke, but I just kept going because it was still running cool. All of a sudden you have to take what you can get.”

In 1981, Bill Roberts, the man who built I-70 Speedway in 1969 and made it one of the fastest and toughest paved ovals in the Midwest, sold the facility to open-wheel legend Greg Weld, who immediately covered the racing surface with dirt.

Gone was the asphalt; gone were Trickle, Shear, Detjens, Eddy, Martin, and Senneker. And gone was one of the greatest short track events ever, the World Cup 400.

Gone, but not forgotten...