Sunday, February 26, 2012

Looking Back at the SuperBirds

The Dodge Charger Daytona and the Plymouth Road Runner SuperBird were built for just one reason - to dominate stock car racing.

The Dodge Daytona and Plymouth SuperBird demonstrated the extremes to which the factories would go to earn victories on the nation's race tracks. The winged aero warriors graced the nation's speedways from September, 1969 until September, 1972, when major sanctioning body rule changes ended their reign.

Their legacy is one of success, having won over 45 percent of the NASCAR races they competed in, as well as scoring a total of eleven victories in ARCA and USAC.

Midwest Racing Archives takes a look back at some of the cars and their drivers…

Buddy Arrington - NASCAR Grand National - Dodge -1970
Charlie Glotzbach - NASCAR Grand National - Ray Nichels Dodge -1970
Richard Petty - NASCAR Grand National - Plymouth -1970
Dave Marcis - NASCAR Grand National - Dodge - 1969
Fred Lorenzen - NASCAR Grand National - Ray Fox Dodge Daytona - 1970
Pete Hamilton - NASCAR Grand National - Petty Ent. Plymouth - 1970
Jim Vandiver - NASCAR Grand National - Dodge Charger - 1969
Joe Frasson - NASCAR Grand National - Dodge -1970 - Online Auto Parts Warehouse

Friday, February 24, 2012

1963 - Tiny Lund Wins Daytona 500

Dewayne "Tiny" Lund celebrates in victory lane after winning the 1963 Daytona 500. - photo

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 24, 1963) - Drafting scientifically to save fuel, hulking Dewayne “Tiny” Lund rode into the auto racing record books today as winner of the grueling Daytona 500-mile stock car classic.

Drafting is following in the leader’s wake at high speed and being towed along in his vacuum. Lund, a comparative rookie among the racing veterans who blasted off in the field of 50 which started the "500", proved himself an expert and it netted him a 24-second victory over Fred Lorenzen of Charlotte, N.C., Sunday with 30-year-old Newton, N.C., grain broker Ned Jarrett a disappointing third.

They were running bumper to bumper, Lorenzen, Lund and Jarrett in that order, with only 15 miles to go when the pace-setting Lorenzen had to hit the pits for gasoline. Lund immediately let Jarrett take over and set the pace. And with only three laps remaining, Jarrett, too, had to halt for fuel.

That’s when the towering Lund, a 6 foot, 4 inch 270-pounder born in Harlan, Iowa, took over and drove it home through those last 10 miles for his triumph, his own gas just barely lasting.

It was a $23,350 payoff for his victory in a 1963 Ford which had been designed for another man.

Marvin Panch, the 1961 winner of the Daytona 500, had been scheduled to pilot the car, which Lund drove. But two weeks ago in practice for a sports car race, Panch crashed and Lund risked his life to pull Panch from the car.

The race was delayed an hour and 46 minutes by midday showers and the first 10 laps were run under the yellow caution flag while the track dried. Then, in the middle stages, there was another eight-lap caution drive while the car of Dick Good of Mishawaka, Ind., was removed from the backstretch racing strip.

Thus Lund didn't have a shot at the average speed record of 152.529 miles per hour establishes last year by Fireball Roberts on Daytona Beach. But his winning average of 151.966 was indicative despite the delays, of the lap speeds of 162 to 164 miles per hour with which the pack was touring the two and one-half mile asphalt oval.

Results –

1. Dewayne “Tiny” Lund
2. Fred Lorenzen
3. Ned Jarrett
4. Nelson Stacy
5. Dan Gurney
6. Richard Petty
7. Bobby Johns
8. Joe Weatherly
9. Johnny Rutherford
10. Tommy Irwin
11. Larry Frank
12. Troy Ruttman
13. LeeRoy Yarbrough
14. Rex White
15. Parnelli Jones
16. Darel Dieringer
17. Sal Tovella
18. Bob James
19. H.B. Bailey
20. Stick Elliot
21. Fireball Roberts
22. Ed Livingston
23. Jim Cushman
24. Herman Beam
25. Jimmy Pardue
26. Wendell Scott
27. A.J. Foyt
28. Jim Hurtubise
29. Red Foote
30. Johnny Allen
31. Len Sutton
32. G.C. Spencer
33. Floyd Powell
34. Frank Graham
35. John Rogers
36. Jim Paschal
37. Dick Good
38. Jim McGuirk
39. Bob Cooper
40. Paul Goldsmith

Sunday, February 19, 2012

1967 - Cincy’s Ralph Latham Becomes Daytona Auto Racing Winner

Ralph Latham wins ARCA 250-miler at Daytona

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 19, 1967) - The newest winner at Daytona International Speedway, Ralph Latham of Cincinnati, Ohio, hopes to get a chance at the richest stock car race ever held - the $200,000 Daytona 500 next Sunday.

Latham collected $5,100 for winning the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) championship Sunday and said he never put his accelerator to the floor, except on the last lap when he whipped his 1965 Plymouth past Iggy Katona’s 1965 Dodge and finished a car length in front.

If he starts in the Daytona 500, Latham will race for the $37,000 prize that goes to the winner. “I’ve got to make quite a few changes to get the car eligible for the 500,” Latham said. ‘If the car passes inspection, I’d like to run as an independent.”

Most top entries in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing classic are factory backed with the newest and finest machinery. Latham will have to battle the 72 NASCAR drivers for one of 50 starting spots in the 500 through qualifying trials this week.

Andy Hampton (68) battles Iggy Katona (30) at Daytona

The 34-year-old Latham, a truck dispatcher, has been a regular on the ARCA circuit through the Midwest for several years and has been champion of at least one track each of the past 10 years. This was his second try on the high-banked 2.5-mile Daytona tri-oval. In last years’ ARCA 250, which Jack Bowsher won with a record speed of 164.05 miles an hour, Latham was running third when he spun with six laps to go.

“This year I didn’t have a bit of trouble,” Latham said. “We made the two pit stops we planned for fuel and never changed tires.”

Not everyone escaped trouble as three caution flags for mishaps held the winning speed to 134.008 miles per hour.

Johnny Roberts, 37, of Breckenridge, Mich., went tumbling end over end in his 1965 Ford as he came off the fourth turn. He suffered a concussion, multiple bruises and internal injuries and was taken to a hospital in serious condition. Roberts later came off the serious list but remained in the hospital. Jack Shanklin of Indianapolis also wrecked on the fourth turn. He was only bruised.

The third caution flag came out with 10 laps left and Dorus Wisecarver of Zanesville, Ohio, nearly half a mile out front in a 1966 Ford. A stalled car on the backstretch brought out the yellow flag, and the field was re-bunched behind the pace car for the last seven laps, allowing Latham and Katona to close the gap behind Wisecarver. Katona took over the lead on the restart, but lost it on the final backstretch to Latham.

Latham would fend off the ARCA veteran for the remaining six laps and take a well-deserved victory. Second place was worth $3,450 to Katona and Wisecarver received $2,200 for third. Andy Hampton of Louisville, Ky., was fourth in a 1966 Ford and won $1,125, while Bill Kimmel of Clarksburg, Ind., was fifth in a 1967 Ford and earned $800.

The fastest qualifier, Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., blew the engine in his 1967 Dodge Charger on the second lap and didn’t drive five miles.

Results –
1. Ralph Latham
2. Iggy Katona
3. Dorus Wisecarver
4. Andy Hampton
5. Bill Kimmel
6. Gil Hearne
7. J.T. Putney
8. Coo Coo Marlin
9. Shad Wheeler
10. Rene Charland
11. Bob Dobyns
12. Dick May
13. Blackie Watts
14. Bill Seifert
15. Leon Van Atta
16. Dave Marcis
17. Neil Castles
18. Gene Borelli
19. Don Biederman
20. Bill Clemons
21. Bub Strickler
22. Roy Tyner
23. Buck Newland
24. Don Stives

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eddie Kracek - The Nebraska Midget Champion

Eddie Kracek at Olympic Stadium - Kansas City - 1941

By Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - In the 1930’s midget auto racing was in its heyday with tracks popping up all over the place. It didn’t take much to build a small ¼-mile or 1/5-mile race track to attract midget drivers from around the area. Some of those tracks would last for several years others would only last for a few races races. One of the hot beds of midget racing during this era was the Midwest.

Several outstanding midget drivers of the era would either be born or would live in Cornhusker State. Included in the list would be Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame Inductee’s Ronney Householder, Sam Hoffman, Otto Ramer and Carl Forberg. But another Cornhusker midget ace of the era would prove to be a very tough customer and that was Eddie Krajicek.

Edward Krajicek was born in Iowa on March 4, 1911 but resided in Omaha for the most part of his life. When Eddie started his career, the name Krajicek seemed to drive the press crazy and it would be spelled many different ways before he decided to shorten it and go by the name Eddie Kracek.

Kracek actually burst on the scene in 1930 (his second year of racing) in stock cars when he won on the mile at Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha on August 24 and again on October 30 defeating the likes of Lawrence Hughes and Bert Ficken. Information on his racing career then becomes very sketchy until 1935 when his midget career would take off.

In 1935 they built a race track in South Omaha and called it Western League Park. The track opened for midget auto racing on June 2, 1935 and attracted the best drivers in the area including Kracek, Forberg, Ramer, Johnny Russo and Pat Cunningham to name some of the best. For the first seven weeks Kracek totally dominated the action winning all seven features and scoring several clean sweeps behind the wheel of the Cliff Carlson H-D powered midget. He also raced at a track north of Omaha in Washington County that year but no results were found.

In May 1936 a new track opened near Sioux City, Iowa. Called Riverview Park, the track would be a hot bed for midget auto racing for several years. Many of the best midget drivers in the Plains states area would compete at Riverview including in addition to Kracek, Forberg, Sam Hoffman, Danny Oakes, Ken Beckley, Charlie Taggart and Perry Grimm just to name a few.

Kracek would be a force at Riverview winning several features there and in 1937 according to records would lead the point race throughout the first half of the season (No point standings were found for the later part of 1937). In 1938 Kracek did not compete every week at Riverview in a year which saw Sam Hoffman dominate action.

Along the way Kracek would expand his horizons and race as far east as the Detroit/Flint, Michigan area. He raced at the one-mile Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee. He would also begin racing regularly at Olympic Stadium in Kansas City as well as the indoor midget races at the American Royal Coliseum in Kansas City. During the 1936 to 1938 time frame, he would compete in North Platte, Ord and Lexington, Nebraska, Harlan, Iowa and several tracks in South Dakota and Minnesota.

In 1939 a new track was built at 72nd and Pacific in Omaha and was called Indian Hills. The track had a very short history and Kracek, then driving for Otto Ramer, missed the opening show because his car was not ready. The next two races at the facility saw Kracek totally dominate the action scoring clean sweeps in both programs. In addition to Indian Hills, he would continue racing at Riverview Park and Olympic Stadium as well as events at facilities such as Lakeside Speedway in Englewood, Colorado, Centennial Park in Council Bluffs and the Nebraska State Fairgrounds. Kracek would finish off the 1939 racing season by racing in several events at the Alamo Speedway in San Antonio, Texas picking up several heat race and pursuit wins.

Eddie Kracek works on his midget prior to a race

In 1940 Kracek would continue racing at Riverview Park in Sioux City scoring at least one win, he would also race and win at Landis Field in Lincoln. He also raced at least twice in Des Moines. He raced a number of times at Olympic Stadium in Kansas City and it was in September, 1940 he scored the biggest win of his career at Olympic when he won the prestigious 75-lap Great Northern Midget Championship competing against a star studded field of nearly 50 midgets. The previous week he led 42 of the 50 laps of the Western States Championship at Olympic before having problems with a strange car. Ironically he was driving for midget great Vito Calia that night. Later that year he would attend midget races in Los Angeles and Mexico but it is unclear if he actually raced in these events.

In 1941 Kracek would put a lot of miles on going from race track to race track. He raced as far east as the Detroit area and campaigned considerably in Illinois winning a feature at Raceway Park in Blue Island, Illinois against the likes of Tony Bettenhausen, Ray Richards and Myron Fohr. He won at least back to back features in Taylorville, Illinois and competed in several other Illinois tracks such as Riverview and Mazon, Illinois and the International Amphitheatre in Chicago. He also raced a number of events at Horlick Athletic Field in Wisconsin. It is believed he raced in the St. Louis area as well.

In 1941 they built a racetrack inside the Creighton Stadium in Omaha. Seven of the eight scheduled races were held and although Kracek was much advertised for the event, but because of his schedule in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and St. Louis he was able to race in only two events. He swept the competition both nights winning all three events he competed in each night once again behind the wheel of the Otto Ramer midget.

Kracek would continue to compete in midget races in 1942 although not as many were held due to World War II. Unfortunately just a couple of weeks before all forms of racing were outlawed in the United States because of the war effort, Kracek was badly hurt in a race at Olympic Stadium in Kansas City in July. He would pass away on August 4, 1942.

During his career Eddie Kracek competed against the best of the best, many times in the other driver’s backyard. The list of drivers he competed against would read like a who’s who of midget racing including; Tony Bettenhausen, Ray Richards, Myron Fohr, Vito Calia, Cowboy O’Rourke, Sam Hoffman, Ronney Householder, Carl Forberg, Otto Ramer, Johnny Russo, Johnny Zale, Louis Durant, Pee Wee Distarce, George Binnie, Ben Musick and Harry McQuinn. While it is not known how many track championship Kracek actually won, in the last few years of his career he was often billed as the Nebraska State Champion.

In quite a few cases documentation shows that Kracek was leading midget features only to have mechanical problems. Articles about him racing at Olympic Stadium suggest that he had a great deal of bad luck racing there as well. He still managed to go to victory lane six times at the legendary facility however. He would totally dominate action at several tracks that he competed against and was usually always very competitive.

While his life was cut short by a fatal accident, in the Golden Age of Midget Racing, Eddie Kracek proved to be one of the best midget pilots in the Midwest during his 14 year racing career. He raced against the best and he beat the best.

Monday, February 13, 2012

1972 - Andy Hampton Proves He Still Has What It Takes

Andy Hampton in victory lane after winning the 1972 ARCA Royal Triton 300 at Daytona Speedway

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 13, 1972) - For Andy Hampton, who admits he’s in the twilight of his career, winning a race at famed Daytona International Speedway “is something your grandchildren can remember after you’re gone.”

“It really doesn’t mean that much to me, other than showing the younger drivers that you still have what it takes to win. But it means a lot to my seven children back home,” the pudgy, graying, 43-year-old campaigner from Louisville, Ky., said Sunday.

Hampton, who with his four sons operates a “soft sell” used car business when he isn’t racing, had just won the ninth annual Royal Triton 300 stock car race at Daytona - a race he dominated like no other driver in recent years.

He broke away from the other 39 starters with the dropping of the green flag and, except for brief pit stops, was never out of the lead. He paced the field for 104 of the 120 laps. Hampton, frequently turning the awesome 2.5 mile tri-oval at speeds above 178 miles per hour, averaged. 199.175 miles per hour for his 300 mile trip - an outing he said was made “just a little bit tough by high winds.”

Iggy Katona, a 56-year-old veteran from Willis, Mich., finished second, while Red Farmer of Hueytown, Ala., a comparative youngster at 37, was third. Both trailed Hampton by more than five miles. Dave Sisco of Nashville, Tenn., and Charles McWilliams of Walton, Ky., were fourth and fifth, respectively, far off the pace.

Andy Hampton #2 on his way to winning the ARCA-sanction Royal Triton 300  - photo

Hampton was paid $4,300, a small sum as auto racing purses go these days, but still the biggest on the ARCA circuit each year. The money, however, wasn’t the big thing for the winner.

“I have a lot of trophies scattered around the house in Louisville,” he said, “but the one I took for winning at Daytona back in 1968 has a special place all by itself. This one will go in beside it, something for my children and grandchildren to scrap over when I'm gone.”

The race, favored by mild, clear weather, drew 23,500 spectators and most of them were still around when Hampton completed his 2 hour, 9 minute and 20 second chore, though it was obvious from the halfway point who the winner should be.

Asked how much longer he expects to race, Hampton smiled and said, “Well, all you need is a pair of strong arms, 20-20 vision and enough sense to stay out of trouble.”

Results –

1. Andy Hampton
2. Iggy Katona
3. Red Farmer
4. David Sisco
5. Chuck McWilliams
6. Kenny Reiter
7. Blackie Wangerin
8. N.D. Copley
9. Harold Fair
10. Jesse Baird
11. Dave Dayton
12. Leroy Austin
13. Kenneth Kalin
14. Freddie Holbert
15. Bob McCoy
16. Jim Tobin
17. Charlie Paxton
18. Charlie Thomas
19. Len Blanchard
20. Tony Schiller
21. Hubert West
22. Buck Newland
23. Gary Weinbroer
24. Coo Coo Marlin
25. Lem Blankenship
26. Kenny Black
27. A. Arnold
28. Paul Feldner
29. Mickey Flora
30. Jim Osgar

Saturday, February 11, 2012

1973 – Opperman Takes Fair Victory

Before a frigid crowd of 6,150, Jan Opperman captured the hearts of race fans by winning setting fast time, winning the STP trophy dash and the 30-lap feature. Speed queen Barbara Weeks presents the trophy to Opperman.

Tampa, Fla. (February 11, 1973) – Jan Opperman scored another flag-to-flag victory in the Winternational Sprints at the Florida State Fair on Sunday.

Opperman, who won the opening feature on Thursday, then flipped and damaged his car on Saturday, came back to lead green to checkers during the Sunday afternoon matinee. He was helped by a slick track with a narrow groove that made it all by eliminated any passing.

Finishing runner-up in the 30-lap main was Wib Spaulding of Granite City, Ill., who started on the inside of the front row and remained in the second spot the entire race. Thad Dosher of Topeka, Kan., was the biggest mover of the afternoon, starting in the sixth position and finishing third.

Other winners were Kenny Weld in the first heat, Dick Sutcliffe in the second heat, and Cliff Cockrum in the third heat. Opperman won the match race and Doc Dawson was the consolation winner. 

Results –

Heat #1 - Kenny Weld, York, Penn.
Heat #2 – Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo.
Heat #3 – Cliff Cockrum, Benton, Ill.
Match Race – Jan Opperman, Beaver Crossing, Neb.
Consolation – Doc Dawson, Kansas City, Mo.
Feature -
1. Jan Opperman
2. Wib Spaulding, Granite City, Ill.
3. Thad Dosher, Topeka, Kan.
4. Jerry Nemire, Toledo, Ohio
5. Dick Sutcliffe
6. Doc Dawson
7. David Ross, Jetmore, Kan.
8. Kenny Weld
9. Jerry Camfield, Argenta, Ill.
10. Tom Corbin, Farmington, Mo.
11. Ray Lee Goodwin, Kansas City, Mo.
12. Don Mack, East Grand Forks, Minn.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

1974 - Marcum Top Drumbeater

Daytona, Fla. (February 9, 1974) - John Marcum, one of auto racing’s few remaining Barnum-class impresarios’, arrived in Daytona Beach a few days ago wheeling a new Continental Mark IV and bringing his usual supply of chocolates and silver dollars.

“Two years ago you’ll remember, it was half dollars. I have to go along with inflation,” said the silver-haired, well-kept veteran of 46 years in a sport he once thought would never make it.

The candy? “Well, it’s costing more now than it used to, but the lady who makes it is an old friend. I'll give away about 600 boxes.”

Silver dollars and chocolates aren’t Marcum’s only identifying graces. Not by a very, very long shot. There is the brightly-stitched maroon jacket. It matches the Continental’s color.

And, of course, there are the $125 alligator shoes. Before he leaves Daytona, a few friends will be added to his mailing list, to receive the shiny alligators. They will be inscribed “made especially for…”

And there is the same diamond cluster ring, the same solid-gold watch, the gold key chain, the brown-feathered hat, ties right out of the latest fashion box, bows and four-in-hands in colors you wouldn’t believe.

Marcum, a throwback to the early days of racing, when he was both a driver and a huckster at short, dirty, back-yard ovals, is president - and czar, chief sultan and benefactor – of the Midwest-based Auto Racing Club of America.

His drivers, including 55-year-old Iggy Katona and 47-year-old Andy Hampton, will lead off Daytona International Speedway’s “Speed Weeks” program with a 300-mile race on Sunday.

If you take chief drumbeater Marcum’s word for it, his race will be the best of seven scheduled during week of high speed capers at the 2.5-mile oval.

“My boys get to a big speedway like this only once a year. They get their adrenalin flowing when they see the ‘Big D’ and you can’t blame them if they drive a bit over their heads,” Marcum said

“I started turning down entries two weeks ago. When the list got up to 45 or so, with only 30 starting positions available, I began turning them back.”

“The outsiders, the big boys from the other circuits, like to run my big races because they think my country kids like Iggy and Andy are easy pickings.”

The ARCA regulars, indeed, were easy pickings last year. A 40-year-old short-track upstart named Charlie Blanton, from Spartanburg, S C., came in and took all the gravy. It can be added that Blanton’s entry was turned down this year. Marcum slyly confides that the defending champion’s entry arrived after the deadline.

“There are rules, you know, and I make my people abide by them,” the 60-year-old, well preserved veteran from Toledo, Ohio, said with a wink.

Marcum swears he prints a rule book each year for his short-track circuit. But he also admits he changes not only the technical rules but the race rules anytime he thinks they need changing.

“I have changed them from one race to the next, even just before a race,” he acknowledged, “but only for the good of my boys. They call me a crotchety old so-and-so, but they never leave me until they get ready to go for bigger money and some of them come back after trying other pastures.”

Marcum proudly points to the fact that Benny Parsons, a two-time ARCA champion, went on to win the Grand National title in the richer, more prestigious National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing series last year.

Marcum and his wife Mildred - he calls her “Grandma” - are majority owners of ARCA.

She’s the treasurer, the chief money-handler. Frank Canale, a short-track expert, is chief aide to the couple and has the title of vice president. There is no board of directors to interfere with they way they run the show.

Marcum, despite attempts by “Grandma” to restrain him, not only tosses the silver dollars around at the wink of an eye, but he frequently pays off on birthdays, too.

“He doesn’t remember my birthday month,” Mildred remarked. “So about every three months or so, I get a $50 bill with a note, ‘Buy yourself a present.’”

Marcum doesn’t admit to being wealthy. “I’m comfortable,” he will say. “I could quit tomorrow and never have to work again. But I’d go crazy doing nothing, and pretty soon Grandma would have me committed.”

Marcum drove a sprint car in the Midwest in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He quit as a driver shortly after a race at Daytona's old beach-road course in 1936.

“Bill France, who also was driving, intimidated me and I turned upside down in a dune,” Marcum recalls. “There I was, hanging upside down and the only thing I could see was a wooden sign stuck in the dune. It said, ‘Danger, watch for rattlesnakes.’”

France later founded NASCAR and Marcum worked for him before going back to Toledo and forming ARCA in the early ‘60s.

Marcum explains his love for fine cars and clothes, and his generosity to drivers and friends by saying he was poverty-stricken as a youth.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1965- Barton wins third leg of IMCA Winternationals

Tampa, Fla. (February 7, 1965) - Fiery driving and fiery tempered Buzz Barton, the buzz bomb of Tampa, won the third feature race in the series of Florida State Fair and IMCA Golden Anniversary events Sunday afternoon.

It was an endurance run for the 48-year-old Barton and his face was almost as red as his flaming shirt as he crawled out of the Thomas Offy after completing the 30 laps.

“Man, I’m all done,” was his comment, although he managed a smile to collect the Pepsi Cola Trophy and a kiss from lovely Cookie Benken, the Golden Girl Speed Queen.

Gordon Woolley of Waco, Tex., driving the Honore Bardahl Chevy in which he won the opener last Wednesday, rode a comfortable second. Jim Moughan, Springfield, Mo., was third in the Lancaster Chevy.

Barton took the lead early in the race on sheer grit and energy, wrestling through the soft dirt thrown to the top of the track. After that he came down in the comfortable middle groove on the turns and gunned it just hard enough to build a big lead and keep it.

Heat winners were Russ Laursen of Cumberland, Wis., in a Chevy; Ralph Quarterson of Greenville, Pa., in a Chevy; and Carl Williams, Kansas City, Mo., in the Wilson Chevy. Williams broke his own track record on the eighth lap, with a time of 3:45.29. Saturday he set a record of 3:46.39.

A heavy rain early Sunday morning made the track tacky and heavy at the start of the afternoon of action, but it smoothed out to a slick center groove by the end of the heats.

Results –

1. Buzz Barton
2. Gordon Woolley
3. Jim Moughan
4. Bill Brown
5. Sam Sessions
6. Jim McCune
7. Larry Dickson
8. Keith Thomas
9. John Myers
10. Carl Williams

Monday, February 6, 2012

1965 – Daytona ARCA 250 Captured by Iggy Katona

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 6, 1965) - Iggy Katona of Willis, Mich., a 47-year-old veteran of Midwest tracks, won a wild and confused 250-mile Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) championship race Sunday.

He survived spins, smashes and penalties, which weeded out six others who led at various stages, and finished two car lengths in front of Andy Hampton of Louisville, Ky. Benny Parsons of Detroit finished in the bunch with Katona and Hampton but was one lap behind and placed third. All three drove 1964 Fords.

Six caution flags flew a total of 29 of the 100 laps around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. This slowed the pace to 132.684 miles per hour compared to the ARCA record of 154.103 miles per hour set by Nelson Stacy of Daytona Beach last year.

The ARCA drivers, more accustomed to shorter Midwest tracks where they race in the summer, nevertheless put caution aside and thrilled the crowd of about 10,000 by running full tilt when turned loose.

Four sensational crashes sent one driver to the field hospital. He was Rich Clement of Chicago, who was treated for bruises and released. Clement crashed into the outside concrete wall coming off the west turn.

Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio, who started in the pole in a 1965 Ford, led for several laps but was penalized for passing the pace car on a regrouping of the field during a caution flag. He would finish fifth.

Harry Pick of Cicero, Ill., took a similar penalty of several seconds holdup in the pits and was fourth in a 1964 Mercury.

Results –
1. Iggy Katona
2. Andy Hampton
3. Benny Parsons
4. Harry Pick
5. Jack Bowsher
6. Ralph O’ Day
7. Blaine Kaufman
8. Junior Spencer
9. Danny Byrd
10. Harold Smith
11. Clyde Parker
12. John Baker
13. Mike Brown
14. Johnny Ditch
15. Dick Freeman
16. Jack Shanklin
17. Jerry Norris
18. Ed Grady
19. Rich Clement
20. Tony Bolick
21. Gene Ploughe
22. Don Arnold
23. Jack Pickens
24. Willie Schweibert

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Hawkeye Futurity

Tom Custer (76) and Jim Moughan (2) lead the field to start at the 1967 Hawkeye Futurity at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

By Kyle Ealy
Des Moines, Iowa – The word “Futurity” is defined as “a race or competition for which entries are made well in advance of the event”. That definition turned into a dream for a former Huron, South Dakota auto racing promoter.

The Hawkeye Futurity, held annually from 1955 until 1970 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, would be considered the biggest and richest event on the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) sprint car circuit.

The idea behind the Hawkeye Futurity was considered brand new in dirt track racing circles and was actually conceived in 1952 by Gaylord “Lefty” White, then a partner with Al Sweeney in National Speedways, Inc.

White wouldn’t live to see his dream become a reality, passing away unexpectedly in 1954, but plans for the one of kind event were never abandoned. Instead, they were given even further impetus by his partner, Sweeney, in cooperation with the race supervisors for the Iowa State Fair Board, and fittingly, the meet was dedicated to White’s memory.

Modeled after the horse racing “Futurities,” entry fees had been paid into the purse by car owners and drivers starting in 1952. That money was matched dollar for dollar by National Speedways for the next three years and the money was held in escrow in a Des Moines bank. By the time the first event became reality in 1955, L. B. Cunningham, the Iowa State Fair secretary, noted that the purse had reached the neighborhood of $10,000, quite the hefty sum back in this time and it was by far the richest purse ever paid in Iowa racing history.

When the inaugural race started on June 5, 1955, a total of 21 states were represented in the entries, with the state of Missouri leading the way with 11 cars and Illinois second with five. Other states represented include Minnesota, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Kansas, South Dakota, Arizona, Oklahoma, Iowa, Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, California, Michigan and Florida.

The inaugural race was marred by the death of 29-year-old Bob Slater of Kansas City, Mo. Slater, the 1954 IMCA national champion, would slam into a retaining wall on the sixth lap of the race and die instantly before more 10,000 horrified spectators.

Slater spurted to an early lead in the 100-lap feature race, but Leland “Bud” Randall of Fairmount, Ind., overtook him quickly. Slater fought back into the lead and was comfortably holding the top spot when his car went out of control and slammed into a retaining wall, bouncing back quickly on the speedway and landing on its wheels.

Photographer Les Burianek took this shot of Bob Slater right before he was killed at the 1955 Hawkeye Futurity. This spectacular shot was seen in newspapers all over the country. - Courtesy of John Burianek

The race was stopped when the accident happened and resumed again at the sixth lap when the track was cleared. It was slowed by two other minor accidents in which the drivers suffered no Injuries

Slater was pronounced dead on arrival at local Des Moines’ hospital. His wife, who was in attendance that day, was hospitalized with shock. Slater, it was said, died of head and chest injuries.

Randall would lose the lead on lap 26 to Bobby Grim of Indianapolis who was then overtaken by Jud Larson of Austin Tex., at the halfway point of the race. Larson would go on to win the 50-mile event in a time of 45 minutes and 51 seconds.

Larson claimed $1,680 in prize money, plus another $225 in lap and special prize money. Twenty drivers were in the feature race, which was held at the start of the day’s program because of threatening rain.

Jud Larson would win the Hawkeye Futurity in both 1955 and 1956. - Barry Cisna Collection

Slater had held four of the distance records on the fairground track, including the 25, 20, 15 and 3 ½ mile events. Slater also held the IMCA half-mile track record for a 25-mile race, which he posted almost a year to the day in Des Moines on June 6, 1954. He also held the IMCA 15 and 7 ½ mile records. His reckless, “go for broke” driving style would be sorely missed.

On June 10, 1956, it would be Jud Larson again in victory lane in the Hawkeye Futurity. Larson, now operating out of Kansas City, outhustled Bill Chennault, also of Kansas City, to secure his second straight victory in the big race. Jack Jordan of Alhambra, Calif., Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., and Vic Ellis of Rockton, Ill., would take the top five spots on the afternoon.

Larson, still recuperating from burns he sustained in a crash in September of 1955, set a half-mile track record in time trials with a car he borrowed on a commission basis from Jimmy Campbell of Bates, Mo., only hours before the big race.

Larson added $100 to his $750 Futurity purse by racing around the track in 23.55 seconds to beat the former record of 24.10 set by Bobby Grim of Indianapolis in a 1953 spring meeting. He also picked up another $75 as a heat winner and another $25 as a lap leader at the end of 15 miles.

The same crowd of 10,000 that watched Larson speed to victory also witnessed one of the most spectacular crashes in years at the Iowa State Fairgrounds track. Walt McWhorter of Wichita, Kan., spun end-over-end in a six-car crash on the opening lap of the 5-mile race. McWhorter suffered only a bruised shoulder and minor scratches.

Before another capacity crowd of 10,300 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Bobby Grim of Indianapolis, Ind., the defending IMCA national sprint car champion, would break Larson’s stranglehold of the event on June 9, 1957, winning a race delayed nearly two hours by a muddy track. A record 48 cars entered the meet.

Grim pushed his big car through the 25-mile feature race in 23 minutes, 5.53 seconds to take his first victory in the Iowa racing classic. Second place went to Cotton Farmer, Fort Worth, Tex., and third to Jerry Kemp, St. Louis Mo. The $1,010 purse money Grim won would be split with Hector Honore of Pana, Ill., who owned the speedy Offenhauser that Grim drove.

Fourth-place finisher Buzz Barton, Tampa, Fla., threatened to protest his placing, claiming he passed Kemp just as the starter gave winner Grim the checkered flag. Leon Rubble of Linton, Ind., would round out the top five.

Despite the muddy condition of the track, only one accident occurred during the afternoon. During time trials, John Parker of Shakopee, Minn., flipped his car on a turn but was not hurt in the mishap. The best time trial turned in on the afternoon was by Don Carr of Detroit, Mich., who turned a lap in 25.41 seconds. In the feature race, Carr led briefly but was forced out by engine trouble.

Bobby Grim, behind the wheel of Hector Honore's Black Deuce, would win the Hawkeye Futurity in 1957 and 1958. - Bob Mays Collection

Just like Jud Larson in the first couple of Hawkeye Futurity’s, Bobby Grim would go out and prove that winning the prestigious event again was no fluke. On June 8, 1958, the 33-year-old Indianapolis hotshot won his second consecutive race. Driving the signature “Black Deuce”, Grim won the event in 22 minutes and 58 seconds to nip the mark of 23 minutes and 5 seconds he set the year before.

The winner was one lap ahead at the halfway mark and was never pressed. His victory put him back in the lead in the International Motor Contest Association’s rating, ahead of Don Carr. Carr, for the second year, couldn’t finish the feature race here. This time he spun and tagged the wall, sending him and his battered car to the infield earlier than expected.

Cotton Farmer of Fort Worth, Tex., would place second, veteran Herschel Wagner of Hickman Mills, Mo., would be scored in third and Vern Chamberlain of St. Paul, Minn., would grab fourth.

The race was almost marred by tragedy. Ken Gottschalk, a 28-year-old St. Louis, Mo., speedster, came out of a spill with only a black eye and sprained shoulder alter his car flipped end over end and rolled almost the entire length on the east curve on the very first lap.

You could say that Pete Folse “backed” into the winner's circle of the 5th annual Hawkeye Futurity on Sunday, June 7, 1959.

Folse, of Tampa, Fla., was running third for most of the race, but the two pace setters, Arnie Knepper of Belleville, Ill., and Herschel Wagner of Hickman Mills, Mo., would both drop out with mechanical woes, making it clear sailing for Folse, who was now behind the wheel of Hector Honore’s “Black Deuce”.

Folse would finish several hundred yards in front of up-and-coming driver from Lennox, Calif., Jim Hurtubise. Folse’s winning time in the race was 23 minutes and 48 seconds.

Pete Folse of Tampa, Fla., piloting Hector Honore's Black Deuce, would win the Hawkeye Futurity in 1959 and 1960.

Following suit with the two previous winners of the Hawkeye Futurity, Folse would come back on June 19, 1960, and successfully defend his title, collecting $700 for the victory and another $200 for setting fast time.

Driving the Honore Offenhauser, Folse was clocked going around the half-mile in 22 minutes, 28.72 seconds, a new record for the event.

Bob Hewitt of Mount View, Calif., suffered back injuries, face cuts and possible internal injuries when his car rolled at the conclusion of his time trial. The car rolled three times and pinned Hewitt. Track officials said rollbars on the car kept him from being killed.

Buzz Barton accepts his trophy from National Speedway's Al Sweeney after winning the 1961 Hawkeye Futurity. Joining in the celebration is car owner Irene Lempelius (far left) and mechanic Red Lempelius (with hat). 

Emmet “Buzz” Barton of Tampa, Fla., driving the beautiful red and white #52 Lempelius Offenhauser, would come from behind to win the 7th annual Hawkeye Futurity on Sunday afternoon, June 11, 1961. Barton, who started in 17th position, would make his way through the field and close with early leader and two-time defending Futurity champ Pete Folse. After a caution, Barton would speed past his Tampa rival and breeze to an easy victory.

Jim McElreath of Arlington, Tex., would grab second behind Barton. Harold Leep of Wichita, Kan., and Gordon Woolley of Waco, Tex., would earn third and fourth respectively with Colby Scroggins of Eagle Rock, Calif., coming in fifth.

The race, before some 9,700 fans, was marred by only one accident. Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., crashed into the west retaining wall on the 19th lap when the steering arm on his car broke. He was thrown 25 feet from his car but did not suffer any serious injuries.

Harold Leep accepts the Gaylord White Memorial trophy from promoter Al Sweeney after winning the 1962 Hawkeye Futurity. Car owner Red Lempelius joins in the ceremonies. 

It was same car in victory lane at the ‘62 Hawkeye Futurity but a different driver behind its wheel. Harold Leep of Wichita, Kan. won the 25-mile race on June 17, driving the same Lempelius Offenhauser that Buzz Barton had won with in ’61.

Leep covered the 50 laps in 24 minutes and 36 seconds in capturing the $600 top prize. Leep moved in front at the 13th lap and was never headed. Bill Horstmeyer of Stoughton, Wis. finished second in an Offy and Gordon Woolley, of Waco, Tex. was third, driving Leep’s former Chevrolet owned by Chet Wilson of Wichita.

The 1962 IMCA national champion Johnny White of Warren, Mich., was already enjoying a banner year when he pulled into the Iowa State Fairgrounds on June 2, 1963, for the 9th annual Hawkeye Futurity. White, driving the #1 Sid Weinberger Chevy, became the first man in racing history to turn a lap at 100 miles per hour at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in early May. A little over a week before the Futurity, White won the grueling Little 500 on the paved quarter mile in Anderson, Ind.

Johnny White of Warren, Mich., is shown accepting his trophy in victory lane after winning the 1963 Hawkeye Futurity.

Before a crowd of 8,500, White would set the tone for the afternoon by eclipsing a 25-year-old world’s record, winning the 8-lap first heat in a blistering 3 minutes and 21 seconds, breaking the old mark set by the late Gus Schrader in 1938. In the 30-lap finale, White covered the field, winning in 13 minutes and 56 seconds over Gordon Woolley, Bill Horstmeyer, Jerry Richert and Dale Reed. White would collect $500 for the win.

The Hawkeye Futurity had been graced with skilled drivers, spectacular crowds and great weather for the first nine years, but it would take two years for the race to happen again. The 1964 event would be rained out and the event (for some unexplained reason) wasn’t even scheduled in ’65. In September of that year, Al Sweeney released a statement assuring everyone that in 1966, the Hawkeye Futurity would be back on the IMCA sprint car schedule.

But even the ’66 event was almost canceled…

An early morning rain on Sunday, June 5th had turned the newly refinished fairgrounds track into a muddy quagmire. Sporadic showers threatened to wash out the entire program but after a two-hour battle officials managed to get the first race off. The crowd, estimated at 5,500, was by far the lowest in the history of the event.

Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., dominated the 1966 Hawkeye Futurity, setting a new qualifying record and winning the 30-lap feature in record time. - Bob Mays Collection

Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., would race to victory through the muck and mud, collecting a $590 payday for his efforts. The 40-year-old air conditioning engineer beat Jim Moughan and Chuck Lynch, both of Springfield, Ill. Blundy, who started in the front row alongside Moughan, headed his Illinois rivals by five car lengths most of the way in an accident-free race. The remainder of the field was a quarter mile or more back from the familiar # 33 red Chevy.

Bill Puterbaugh of Roxana, Ill., was a surprise in fourth place. He qualified badly and did not place in any of the preliminary heats. But he managed to slip into the last row of the field for the 30-lap feature as the alternate.

Blundy was something of a surprise himself, turning in a dominating performance despite the track conditions. He set fast time in qualifying (27.39 seconds) and then wheeled to a track and Futurity record of 12 minutes and 53 seconds in the 30-lap main event. Since it was the first time the 15-mile feature had gone without a yellow flag, the time was well under the 14 minute and 54 second time set by Johnny White in the ’63 race.

White, was in the pits on that Sunday afternoon but as a car owner. Paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a 1964 race crash, White’s luck wasn’t much in his debut as owner. His Offenhauser-powered rig was piloted by Jay Woodside of Topeka, Kan. Woodside would make the big show but exit early with a blown piston.

The highly anticipated duel between IMCA point leader and defending national champion Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., and his rival Rollie Beale of Toledo, Ohio would never materialize as planned. Beale, the recent winner of the Little 500, went to the sidelines with his Kenny Lay-Don Harrell Chevrolet on lap 18 and Richert was forced out on the twenty-fifth lap with overheated engine as a result of a mud-clogged radiator.

The Black Deuce had more years on it that the Hawkeye Futurity did itself. The famous car was introduced in 1952 and the first Futurity took place in 1955. It was considered practically an antique among the current sprint cars competing then. Once it got ahead of a field of cars, though, there was no catching the old buggy that was the pride and joy of Hector Honore.

When Honore and his sprint car pulled into the state fairgrounds on June 4, 1967, the car had seen victory lane over 400 times in its career. Honore believed it had a few more wins left in it. He believed that Jim Moughan, the runner-up in the '66 Futurity, was the guy who could get one in the Hawkeye Futurity. Honore was correct on both accounts.

Jim Moughan of Springfield, Ill., took Hector Honore's Bardahl Special for one last victory lap, winning the 1967 Hawkeye Futurity. - Bob Mays Collection

Despite a broken front axle and more yellow caution lights than you’d see on an Interstate 80 detour, Moughan took the Black Deuce to a hard-fought victory in the 11th annual Hawkeye Futurity.

Moughan, a 37-year-old interior decorator, toured the 30 sunbaked laps in 15 minutes and 39 seconds. The defending champion, Jerry Blundy, was a close runner-up. Or, as Moughan put it later, “I could hear him coming. That was a lot of competition behind me.”

A crowd of 6,600 watched the program in ideal weather, which was a real switch compared to the last couple of years. Des Moines Register sportswriter Ron Maly said it best, “It had rained so much in previous Futurity races that folks were wondering if anyone would know how to drive on a dry track.”

Moughan got off to a great start, touring the half-mile in 23.95 seconds, but things turned from sweet to sour in a hurry. The Black Deuce’s front axle broke after the qualifying run and no one was quite sure if repairs could be done in time. Moughan, in fact, was so uncertain that he borrowed a car from Bill Myers of East Alton, Ill., and attempted to qualify that, which he did in the time of 24.85 seconds.

Moughan’s pit crew, headed by the tireless Honore, sprang into action when the Black Deuce limped in. The axle was replaced in about an hour and Moughan had it back in time to race in the second heat. He finished seventh in the eight-car race. The four-car match race was next for Moughan – and he managed a second place showing behind Blundy, but in the 10-lap consolation, Moughan took the win over Blundy.

Now he was ready…

Starting on the front row alongside fast qualifier Tom Custer of Rock Island, Ill., Moughan waited patiently while two first-lap spinouts delayed the feature and then shot into first place, never letting it go after that. Another spin on the thirteenth lap caused the yellow to light up again, but if anybody hoped to stop Moughan from winning by then he’d have needed a stop light and a police escort.

Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City, Tom Corbin of Carrollton, Mo., and Lee Kunzman of Guttenberg, Iowa would follow Moughan and Blundy across the finish line.

It was the fifth career Hawkeye Futurity victory by the Black Deuce. Pete Folse and Bobby Grim had steered it to 2 victories apiece and now Moughan grabbed one for the thumb. Honore’s car had now posted 426 feature victories, 746 heat race triumphs and has been responsible for 201 track records.

After two successful Hawkeye Futurity’s, the event would come to a standstill once again. The race, scheduled for June 9, 1968, became a dark mark on the IMCA’s calendar of events with the untimely assassination of Robert Kennedy that shocked the nation. The Futurity was cancelled, and rightly so, when newly appointed President Lyndon Johnson declared a day of mourning.

Part of a grand old lady returned to haunt the Hawkeye Futurity on Sunday, June 8, 1969.

Jan Opperman of Hayward, Calif., won the 30-lap feature before an estimated crowd of 5,500. His Chevrolet - powered sprint car had the frame of the machine the late Bob Slater drove in winning the 1954 International Motor Contest Association championship. It was also the same frame on the sprinter that he was killed in during the 1955 Hawkeye Futurity.

Opperman, 29, led all the way in the feature and pocketed $500 for winning the feature. Second place, worth $400, went to Dick Sutcliffe of Kansas City, Mo.; Jay Woodside, also of Kansas City, finished third; Roy Bryant of Wichita, Kan., was fourth, and Bill Utz of Sedalia, Mo., took fifth.

 Jan Opperman accepts his trophy from Iowa State Fair President Kenneth Fulk after winning the 1969 Hawkeye Futurity. Car owner Bill "Speedy" Smith looks on with approval. 

Still, Opperman was never in danger of being passed. He mentioned after the race that the softer tires gave him a better bite than the regular tires.

There were few changes in the 30-lap feature until the last five laps. Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa and Kenny Gritz of Lincoln, Neb., all saw their chances to finish in the top five end within that brief period. Blundy was running fifth and Wagner was fourth when Blundy tried to pass going into the third turn on lap 28. Blundy apparently lost control and hit Wagner. Blundy rammed into the wall and both cars were eliminated.

Gritz was a surprise performer. He qualified fourth fastest, finished second in the match race for the six fastest cars, and started the feature in the second row. He was in second place until Sutcliffe and Woodside passed him on the twelfth lap. He was still in fourth place when he spun out on the twenty-fifth lap.

Unfortunately for Gritz, it would be the last Hawkeye Futurity he would ever compete in. Two months later, Gritz would win the Knoxville Super-Modified National Championships at the Marion County Fairgrounds, then a couple of weeks later, lose his life in a race-related accident at the Nebraska State Championships in Lincoln.

Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., erected a one-half lap lead in the early stages of the Hawkeye Futurity sprint-car feature on June 7, 1970, and it would turn out to be a good thing.

Just after he took the white flag, Richert’s engine went sour and to the estimated 5,200 fans in attendance, it appeared he wouldn’t make the checkered flag. But Jerry nursed the Chevrolet-powered racer along and won the 30-lap event by approximately 150 yards over Dick Sutcliffe.

The victory was worth $500 for Richert, who missed most of last season while recuperating from chest surgery and to that point in the ’70 season, had won only one other feature: at the Florida State Fair in February.

After years of trying, Minnesota's Jerry Richert would finally win the Hawkeye Futurity in 1970. - Bob Mays Collection

Richert, the four-time International Motor Contest Association champion was in tears as his family gathered around to congratulate him. The kisses from his wife and two young daughters were probably more appreciative to Richert than that of the speed queen in victory lane.

Richert also received $100 for his qualifying run, $50 for winning his heat and $15 for the trophy dash position. Sutcliffe was paid $400 in the feature, third-place finisher Jay Woodside took home $300, Jerry Blundy $200, and Eddie Leavitt $150.

Blundy made several attempts to pass Woodside for second place, who was driving a car owned by Hank Smith of Mount Ayr, Iowa but the IMCA point leader was unable to accomplish the feat.

Richert, who had things his going his way most of the afternoon, said he didn’t know what happened to the engine. “The temperature started rising about midway in the race,” he said. “Then, just after I took the white flag, it started missing. It may have been the magneto.”

Richert was the fastest qualifier with a 24.12 second clocking around the half-mile. He easily won his 10-lapheat race after starting last in the field He also started last in the five-lap trophy dash, an event for the six fastest cars, and finished second. He started in the third row of the feature.

The track condition was dry-slick and under those circumstances, there was little passing and few changes in the top five after the first lap. However, Dave Ross of Jetmore, Kan., was not content to sit back. He put on an excellent driving performance, starting back in the eighth row and finishing in sixth place.

The last hurrah for Hawkeye Futurity would come on Sunday evening, May 30, 1971. The grand race, however, would not be at the historic State Fairgrounds this year but two hours East at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

And while the crowd was a disappointing (2,299 paid) for the sprint car classic, few could have been disappointed in the racing itself.

Earl Wagner, the “Pleasantville Plumber”, and Jerry Blundy, the defending IMCA national champion, had everybody on their feet as they raced wheel to wheel in a fierce duel for the final 10 laps on the half-mile dirt oval.

Wagner, piloting a new Chevrolet-powered sprint, won by a car length and in the process established an IMCA world record of 11 minutes and 46 seconds over the 15-mile distance. The old mark of 12 minutes and 25 seconds was set by Pete Folse and his Offenhauser at Kansas City in 1961.

Earl led all the way, but by the 15th tour it was a three-car battle including Dick Sutcliffe of Kansas City and Blundy of Galesburg, Ill. Sutcliffe was forced to drop back on the 18th lap after peeling a right rear tire. Then Wagner and Blundy went at it.

Several times Blundy went low going into the first turn and actually was even with Wagner coming out of two, but Earl had the groove and couldn’t be pulled from it.

“Yes, I'm a full-time plumber; I just have to take time to go racing," remarked Earl Wagner after winning the very last Hawkeye Futurity in 1971 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. - Bob Mays Collection

“That Jerry sure was pushing me,” drawled Wagner, “and I want to tell you I was getting super tired.” 

“I've only been in the car four or five times, and I've had trouble getting used to it. It just didn’t fit me. They’ve really worked hard on it and tonight it was great.”

“It’s not that the car was bad before - it just didn’t feel good to me. So tonight, we changed the rear shocks and jacked some weight around and that did the job.”

Wagner, who also won the second heat, pocketed $500 for his efforts in the feature, while Blundy earned $400. Sutcliffe had to settle for eighth in the feature. But he did win the trophy dash and the third heat and set fast time in qualifying with a 22.26 second clocking.

Dick Forbrook of Morgan, Minn., won the first heat and Dick Jones of Whitewater, Wis., topped the consolation. The seven-event program was accident free.

The Iowa State Fairgrounds was the stage; names like Larson, Grim, Folse, Blundy, Opperman and Richert were the artists. For 15 years they created excitement, drama, tragedy, thrills, and sheer brilliance. The Hawkeye Futurity was an act like no other.


Special thanks to Bob Mays and Lee Ackerman in writing this story - Kyle Ealy