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.