Saturday, March 10, 2012

1977 – Le Mars businessman ends racing career

Le Mars, Iowa (March 10, 1977) - Dick Morris, Sioux City, well known in the area as a top sprint car racer, has retired from racing and purchased the Chevrolet dealership in Le Mars.

Formerly Chuck Wood Chevrolet, Dick Morris officially became the new owner on February 25. In Sioux City, Dick sold cars for Kidder-Knoepfler for five years and owned his own used car business for six years.

In 1972, Dick and his family moved to Circle Pines, a Minneapolis suburb, where he owned and operated the Outpost Sports Center, a boat, snow mobile and motorcycle dealership.

Cars have been Dick Morris's main interest in life. He has spent 17 years in auto racing, winning trophies and setting track records in spring car racing from Phoenix to Shreve port and at the national sprint car races in Knoxville, Iowa.

Dick Morris has been described as a very safe driver, yet a hard charger. He consistently thrilled audiences by his performances.

When Morris was just 17, he began drag racing and brought home many trophies. Because the required racing age was 21, he told his mother the trophies were extras they were giving away. She believed him for years.

In 1961, Dick began racing 6-cylinder stock cars at Raceway Park in South Sioux City, Neb., and later at Collins Field in Le Mars. In 1969, he began racing eight cylinder super-modified cars at Sioux Falls.

During the summer of 1974, Morris won more main events in a row than any other driver. He was given awards for best sportsmanship and best looking car and rig. He came in second for the 1974 season for overall racing points.

Morris moved up to the sprint racing ranks in 1975 at Knoxville, where he earned rookie of the year honors in his first year based on driving ability. At the end of the season, Dick placed in the top 10 in points, which is unusual for a beginner.

At the Western Sprint Car Nationals at Phoenix that next October, Dick qualified for the main event by winning his heat race. This was rare for a rookie sprint car driver. However, during the main event he experienced tire trouble and had to pull out.

The year 1976 was busy for Dick. As an owner-driver, he was as much a professional driver as the professional, but you might say he was self-employed.

Starting the season in Shreveport, La., in March and from there, he competed at tracks in Dallas, Fairmont, Minn., Eagle, Neb., and Lincoln, Neb., Des Moines State Fairgrounds and Sioux Falls.

Morris broke track records at Belleville, Kans., and Sedalia, Mo. In all his sprint races, he placed within the top five cars. Racing every week at Knoxville, Dick became increasingly popular.

Morris had more quick times than any other car. During the season he had six feature wins. He placed in the top five all summer and placed second in overall points in the season's end, even though his final race there was August 7.

On Saturday, August 7 at the Marion County Fairgrounds, Morris won the trophy dash. In the consolation race he was fighting for first position with another car. At the checkered flag, they were neck and neck and were lapping other cars that had not yet finished.

Going at top speed, lap traffic caused Morris to move to the outside groove and he careened off the guardrail. His car went, straight up in the air, rolling many times before coming to a stop on the top.

Fellow sprint car driver Dick Sutcliffe was coming from behind, stopped his car in the middle of the track and single-handedly turned the car upright. After the car was turned over, it took 20 minutes to get him out.

He was in intensive care at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines for two days and was in serious condition for quite a while afterward. Des Moines and Sioux City neurosurgeons recommended that Dick stop racing because his next accident, no matter how minor, might kill him.

“Retiring from racing was a very hard decision to make, but my family means too much to race,” said Morris. “Racing gets in your blood. I hope I can get my mind off racing by diverting all my energies to working hard at running the Chevrolet dealership in Le Mars,” he added.

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