Thursday, May 31, 2012

1976 - Plank: Better late than never at River Raceways

Fountain City, Wis. (May 31, 1976) - Leon Plank found out Monday night it’s better late than never. Plank arrived at River Raceways late for the Memorial Day program, had to start on the tail end of the field for the late model feature, but rallied lo win the 2O-lap event.

The Mondovi native said later he hadn’t planned on being at River Raceways at all.

“We had gone over to a track near Green Bay,” he explained. “About 5:30, they rained out the program there. We called ahead here, found out they were still racing and came on.”

Plank took control of the race in the latter stages when he slipped by Red Steffen along the outside as the leaders rounded the sharp third turn. Then, he held off Steffen to win the last of three feature races.

“Anytime Red starts in front and you’re in back, it’s a problem,” said Plank. “When I finally got ahead of him I thought I could go ahead and win it.”

The race was red-flagged several times because of spin cuts, slight crack-ups and other problems on the track. It followed street and hobby stock features which were highlighted by spectacular crashes and rollovers.

“You watch those early races and you start wondering if there is something about the track that’s causing it,” said Steffen, “but the track was nice.”

One of the members of Plank’s pit crew remarked how you just don't pass somebody on the outside at River Raceway.

“I didn’t have any choice,” insisted Plank. “Red had the groove on the inside and I wasn’t getting anywhere trying to go past him that way.”

Plank, who races much of the time at Eau Claire, has won six late model features on five different tracks this season.

“We feel our machine is working for us,” he noted. “Sometimes, a whole lot of red flags like we had in this race can hurt you when you’re coming from behind. It might have helped me this time around.”

Plank and two members of his pit crew speculated they averaged no more than 80 or 85 miles per hour in winning the race.

The Wisconsin driver doesn’t run a whole lot at River Raceways. He made only four or five appearances here last year.

One of the members of his pit crew confided they nickname Plank “The Flying Farmer’ everywhere he goes. Monday night, the River Raceways public address announcer nicknamed his Camaro, “The Mean Machine.”

Wayne Kranz of Winona won the street stock feature and John Rogge of Winona was the victor for the 15-lap hobby stock feature.

The hobby stock feature was enveloped in controversy when Dave Tradup and Karl Fenske were black flagged out of the race for having pit crew members on the track during a red flag situation.

Tradup left quietly, but Fenske, the point leader here for the season going into the race, showed his displeasure by parking in front of the grandstand and coming up into the crowd to argue with track officials.

Fenske had flipped over on his side on the third turn but had been righted by pit crewmen and wanted to continue. His visit into the crowd earned the Winona driver a suspension from the program set this Friday night.

“Look, I’m a hometown guy here and I get treated worse on this track than anywhere else that I race,” he added. “I won the point standings here and the Dodge County Speedway last year.”

“This year, I’ve had nothing less than a third,” he continued. “I’ve had one second and one third and all the rest have been firsts. The only way to beat a winner is to keep him from racing.”

Fenske’s near-disaster was the first time he’s flipped.

“I’ve come close three other times but it’s never happened,” he said. “I think the only thing that worried me when it happened was how hard I was going over. The car really looks bad if you beat the top in good."

It didn’t seem to be Fenske’s night. His starter stuck before his heat and he didn’t get out on the track before the rest of the cars had been around once.

“It just locked everything up,” remarked Fenske. “It upset me that they wouldn’t even wait another lap for me so I could get on the track for the start.”

But Fenske showed his skill in surpassing the field in only one lap; however, he wasn’t able to make up the circuit he had lost.

“The car wasn’t hurt at all,” he continued. “It could still have won the race but the people didn’t want it to have the chance.”

Fenske discounted he had a villain-image with the fans, even though the youthful driver did get a good share of boos.

“Look, I could make racing my bread and butter if I wanted to,” he continued. “I’m not the first guy out here to get booed. It’s a habitual thing with a winner.”

Track owner Bob Hahn said Fenske’s car was disqualified not for the fact his pit crew put his car back on four wheels, but because they gave him a running start on the track to get him going again.

“He won’t be allowed to run this Friday night because of the fact he came up in the stands to argue with the officials,” said Hahn.

There were crashes a plenty in the earlier races but none of the drivers was injured to the extent he had to be removed to a hospital.

Scott Stephens flipped over five times on the back straight during the street stocks in addition to the three-car crash in front of the crowd.

The crowd was 1,608 paid admissions and the purse of $2,840 was the biggest in the two years that Hahn has running the facility.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

1964 - Hutch Grabs Topeka Cash

Topeka, Kan. (May 29, 1964) – Ramo Stott made one bobble Saturday afternoon in the Memorial Day 50-lap late model stock car race at the Mid-America Fairgrounds, and Dick Hutcherson took advantage of it to grab the lead and make off with the victory.

A crowd of 6,200 sat through the speed, and wreck-filled program and quickly learned why Hutcherson, Stott and Ernie Derr have dominated the late model stock car division of the IMCA circuit for so long.

Stott had his 1964 Plymouth on the pole position by virtue of his record time trial and jumped into the lead. But coming out of turn four, Stott skidded just a little bit and Hutcherson leaped alongside him. Entering turn one as lap 5 began, Hutcherson sneaked past Stott and was off to the races.

Hutcherson finished the race in 22 minutes and 54 seconds, nearly two minutes faster than the old record.

Lennie Funk, in a 1963 Ford, passed Derr at the start of lap 21 when the axle on Derr’s 1964 Plymouth gave way, and was content to sit in third for the final two laps. Before going out with a broken axle, Derr was pushing hard on Stott’s rear bumper.

Funk made a final bid to catch Stott but the wheat farmer failed by just three-fourths of a car length at the checkered flag.

An unofficial record was broken by Bill Gibson who left a tire mark at the top of the west wall when his 1962 Pontiac tried to get out of the park. Gibson managed to get his car back on the track without any problem.

In the consolation event, Gibson gave his pit crew a thrill when the steering box broke on his car as he entered the pit area at full bore. He got the car stopped in time with only a water can getting damaged.

Results –
Fast Time: Ramo Stott (26.01 – new track record)
First Heat: Ramo Stott
Second Heat: Dick Hutcherson
Third Heat: Bump Willert
Match Race: Dick Hutcherson

1. Dick Hutcherson
2. Ramo Stott
3. Lennie Funk
4. Gil Haugan
5. Bob Jusola
6. Johnny Jones
7. Bill Thomas
8. Roland Wilson
9. Bump Willert
10. Dave Steffens

Saturday, May 26, 2012

This Week in Racing History

2000 – Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., picked up the biggest win of his career, winning the 8th annual Show-Me 100 at West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway on May 28. Cook came from the seventh row, taking the lead on the 92nd tour and then won a three-way duel with Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., and Davey Johnson of Greensburg, Pa., as the race went the full 100 laps without a caution after being delayed a night due to rain. Phillips led the first 57 laps of the event before Johnson took over. Phillips regained the point on lap 72 but Johnson would come right back 11 laps later and take the top spot. Cook would soon join the leaders and going three-wide on lap 85, Phillips was able to regain the point. Phillips’ lead would be short-lived, however, as Cook worked past him coming out of turn four on lap 92 and then opened up a 10-car advantage at the checkers. Phillips, Davey Johnson, Wendell Wallace and Scott Bloomquist rounded out the top five.

1990 – Steve Kosiski continued his winning ways by picking up the NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour victory at the Mid-Continent Raceways on Saturday, May 26. The triumph, Kosiski’s second in two nights, was worth $3,000 and came before a huge crowd on hand for the Busch Tour’s first appearance at the Doniphan, Neb., dirt oval. Kosiski waged a strong battle with his brother Joe for much of the 50-lap chase, but finally overtook the defending series’ champion on the 30th circuit. Another Kosiski brother, Ed, joined the family parade by finishing third. Earlier in the evening, Ed scored his first-ever pole award, setting fast time in 20.04 seconds. Steve Fraise of Montrose, Iowa and Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, took fourth and fifth respectively.

1984 – Wisconsin’s Dick Trickle was the overall winner in the ASA-ARTGO Challenge Series “Chicagoland Showdown” at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind., on May 26. The fifth annual running saw Trickle and Frank Gawlinski of Lynwood, Ill., share victory honors in the twin 50-lap feature competition. Gawlinski, the defending Showdown champion, wheeled to victory in the opening 50-lapper by six car lengths over Trickle. Rounding out the top five were Mark Martin of Batesville, Ark., Bobby Dotter of Chicago and Burt Weitemeyer of Lansing, Ill. Trickle, the four-time ARTGO champion, came back to win the second 50-lap installment, winning by four car lengths over Mel Whalen of Shakopee, Minn. Scott Hansen of Green Bay, Wis., Larry Schuler of New Lennox, Ill., and Joe Shear of Beloit, Wis., would follow Trickle and Whalen across the finish line. Gawlinski would get involved in an accident midway through the second race and finish 19th, giving Trickle the overall championship. 
1979 – Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa, remained one of the hottest late model drivers in Iowa, winning three consecutive features on three consecutive nights. Hansen would start at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, May 25. Escaping a first-lap pileup that took out several top drivers, including Ed Sanger, John Moss, and Rick Wendling, Hansen made his way thru the pack and passed Cedar Rapids’ Mike Frieden with only a few laps remaining to win the 25-lapper. The next night, May 26, at the West Liberty Fairgrounds, Hansen dominated the action, taking the lead away from Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun, Iowa, on lap three and holding it to the checkers. Sunday, May 27th saw Hansen and Ed Sanger stage a classic confrontation at Tunis Speedway in Waterloo, Iowa. Hansen and Sanger raced nose to tail for 25 laps before Hansen prevailed at the end to take his third victory of the weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2002 – This Bud’s For You; The Open Late Model Shootouts

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – One of the most popular racing events in Iowa was the Budweiser Open Late Model Shootouts. Promoted by Keith Simmons Promotions, the highly-competitive series featured the Midwest’s finest late model drivers.

It was 10 years ago this Memorial Day Weekend, that Simmons held a special four-day, four-event at some of the Midwest’s most popular late model venues. Farley Speedway, West Liberty Raceway, Dubuque Speedway and the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport would play host to the four late model slugfests. Simmons would put up a massive purse of $100,000 for the four-race event, with the winner of each 50-lap feature receiving $6,000.

The “Palace of Speed” would be the opening act on Friday night, May 24th with 48 late models taking part in festivities. Steve “Ace” Ihm of Hazel Green, Wis., Darren “The Thriller” Miller of Chadwick, Ill., Denny Eckrich of Tiffin, Mitch Johnson of Fargo, N.D., and Dave Eckrich of Oxford would snare heat wins while Matt Furman of Iowa City and Dan Galant of Clinton would take consolation victories. Chris Smyser of Lancaster, Mo., took the non-qualifier’s feature over Monte Ohrt of West Branch.

Darren Miller would score the win in the fast dash and sit on the pole for the 50-lapper. Miller would lead early in the event before giving way to Denny Eckrich. Eckrich used the wide track to his advantage, getting through lapped traffic with little difficulty and built a healthy lead in the process.

Meanwhile, Eckrich’s brother Dave was in a tough battle with Rob Toland of Hillside, Ill., for the second spot. Eckrich and Toland swapped that position for last 10 laps of the event.

A late caution would bunch up the field but neither Dave Eckrich nor Toland had anything for Denny Eckrich, as he sped to an easy victory and a $6,000 payday. Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa would finish fourth and Curt Martin of Independence, Iowa, would round out the top five.

The following night, May 25, would see a new race track and a new winner. West Liberty Raceway had a full house and 52 late models for their Saturday night show. Hometown hero Steve Boley brought the crowd to their feet by winning the first heat. Brian Harris of Davenport, Friday night’s feature winner Denny Eckrich, Darren Miller and Rob Toland were the other heat winners. Matt Furman and Todd Davis of Iowa City took consolation prizes and Mark Burgtorf of Quincy, Ill., was the non-qualifier feature winner.

Once again, it was Darren Miller winning the fast dash to take the pole position. Once again, Miller would hold the top spot for just a few circuits before yielding it to someone else. This night it was Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill., who took over from Miller and went on to provide the fans with a dominating performance.

Guss was masterful in working traffic in the 50-lapper. The only challenge came on lap 27 after a caution flag was thrown for Rusty Zook’s stalled car. Denny Eckrich, running in second at the time, would make a couple attempts at Guss on the ensuing laps, but Ray proved to be too strong. He again pulled away from the field, negotiated lapped traffic and stood in victory lane hoisting the $6,000 check.

Eckrich would hold on for runner-up honors while Gary Webb of Blue Grass would finish third. Rob Toland would score his second straight top-five finish with a fourth place showing and initial race leader Darren Miller would hold on for fifth.

Round three of the Budweiser Open Late Model Shootout would take place on the high-banked 3/8-mile Dubuque County Fairgrounds on Sunday, May 26th. Another capacity crowd and 43 late models checked in for the evening.

One late model hot shoe that was unable to attend the first two events at Farley and West Liberty made himself available for the final two stops and he would prove to be the top gun in both contests.

Steve Boley, Darren Miller, Clint Hines of Andalusia, Ill., and Curt Martin would score heat wins while Terry Neal of Ely would win one of the consolations. The other consolation winner was Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, who was forced out of his heat race with oil filter problems.

Darren Mish of Cassville, Wis., would take fast dash honors and start on the pole for the 50-lap main event but it would be Steve Boley taking the lead as the green flag waved and he would maintain the top spot for the first 36 caution-free laps. Gary Webb would hound Boley throughout the contest and the two veterans knifed through traffic until the first yellow flag waved on lap 36.

The restart had Boley out front with Webb, Darren Miller and Denny Eckrich. Brian Birkhofer, who had started 22nd had worked his way to the seventh spot and two laps later, passed two more cars and now had only Boley, Webb, Miller and Eckrich to deal with.

The final 12 laps of the race is still considered as one of the most exciting finishes ever at Dubuque as Boley, Miller, Webb and Birkhofer all took turns being in the lead, but when the smoke cleared, it was Brian Birkhofer taking the victory and the $6,000 payday.

Webb would settle for the runner-up position while Miller took third. Eckrich hung for fourth and Boley, after leading the majority of the race, was shoved back to fifth spot.

The fourth and final Budweiser Open Late Model Shootout would head to Davenport, Iowa, on Monday, May 27. Another full grandstand and 45 late models were signed in for the Memorial Day event on the historic half-mile.

Chris Smyser, Dan Galant, Birkhofer, and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., would claim heat wins while Monte Ohrt and Joe Izzo of Bridgeview, Ill., would take consolation wins. Brian Harris would win the non-qualifier feature.

Brian Birkhofer would win the fast dash and put himself on the pole position for the 50-lap A-main, but would trail Jay Johnson of West Burlington for the first seven laps of the event. Johnson, however, would jump the cushion and make contact with the retaining wall, sending him to the pit area for repairs.

Birkhofer would take the point on the restart and lead the remaining 43 laps to score his second straight Budweiser Shootout win and add another $6,000 to his bank account.

Ray Guss Jr., who started 15th, would have the drive of the day, working his way steadily through the field and taking second just ahead of Kurt Stewart of Ainsworth, who turned in a fine performance himself. Gary Webb would pass the most cars, starting in 25th and finishing in the fourth position and Darren Miller would round out the top five.

Four days, four races and four tracks; The Budweiser Open Late Model Shootout on Memorial Day Weekend of 2002 will go down as one of the most exciting late model events in Iowa racing history.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1970 - Want to race? Then buy the race track…

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (May 22, 1970) – What do you do when you want to go racing, but there’s no one holding a race nearby?

Well, if there’s a race track available, you might buy the track for one night and schedule your own race.

That’s just about what the brothers Cahill – Kenny and Larry – did when they arranged for an IMCA sprint car show to be held Saturday night, May 30, at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids.

The Cahill’s, a couple of Iowa City, Iowa farm boys, will sponsor the program through their Burger King Restaurant chain, in conjunction with National Speedways, Inc.

“It all came about when we found out there was no race scheduled here that night,” said Larry Cahill, who like his brother used to drive midgets and sprint cars.

“We wanted one here, so we talked with Al Sweeney (NSI president) and he gave it the okay. It cost us $5,500, which goes to IMCA, and they pay the $3,500 purse. If there’s a good turnout, we may hold another one later this year.”

The brothers also sponsor a car on the IMCA circuit and naturally, it’s called the Burger King Special. They bought it from Buzz Rose a year ago and Rose is now the pilot.

“I guess once racing gets in your blood you can’t stay away,” said Larry. “We had been out of racing for six years, but we still were great fans.”

“We saw Buzz at Knoxville, Ill., last year and he had a new car be wanted to sell, so we bought it. We just wanted to be around racing; we both enjoy working on a race car.”

Larry said they got out of racing to begin with because they were too preoccupied with their restaurants. They now have five, including one in Cedar Rapids. And the race car is not used as a tax deduction. It’s a separate corporation and the Burger King name is on the car strictly for advertising.

Buzz Rose behind the wheel of the Burger King Special - Coastal 181 Photo

The black sprinter with a Chevy engine hasn't seen any competitive racing since last September. That’s when it was totaled out, as Rose flipped eight times at Topeka, Kan. It’s taken all winter to get it back together. “We got fast time the day it was wrecked,” remembers Larry.

The brothers tried to qualify the car for this Saturday’s Little 500 at Anderson, Ind. Buzz wasn’t able to make the trip so Kenny renewed his driver’s license. Their plans had to be aborted, though, because the drive twisted off the end of the crank shaft and they couldn’t run.” But there’ll be no problem having it ready for the May 30 race,” promised Larry.

That’s good. But when the public address announcer says “Here comes the Burger King Special”, please don’t look frantically for someone carrying a hamburger, fries and malt.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

1973 - Watson claims Tri-County ARCA 100 after Clemens disqualified

Bill Clemons would cross the finish line first, but later be disqualified for an illegal carburetor

West Chester, Ohio (May 20, 1973) – A tornado with rain blowing parallel to the earth the night before, plus cloudy skies early in the morning hours, didn’t dampen the drivers at Tri-County Speedway.

Bill Clemens was the first car out to tour the track and set a one-lap qualifying record of 19.24 seconds or an average speed of 93.55 miles per hour in his 1973 AMC Javelin.

Tires were the topic of the day. Promoter Frank Canalle ordered all Firestones with the number 26 off of all the race cars. It caused a beehive of activity in the pits with crews scurrying to find a tire that was suitable to run in the race. This caused problems for Larry Moore as he couldn’t locate a suitable set of tires.

Clemens started on the pole position and took off as the green flag waved. He would lead the first 12 laps of the contest until Bruce Gould blew by Clemens into the top spot. Gould would hold the lead until lap 45 when a broken wheel sent his car into the guardrail in turn two.

Gould drove around the track on his rim with his oil pan dragging causing the entire car to erupt in flames as it entered the pit area. The on-board fire extinguisher proved its worth.

With Gould gone, Clemens went to the lead with Larry Moore in pursuit. Moore was closing ground when a tire blew entering turn three. He managed to get to the pit and change his tire, but lost several spots.

From there, Clemens, with the pressure off, put it on cruise control and glided into winner’s circle. Bobby Watson followed behind for second with Frank Lamp, Ron Hutcherson and Delmar Clark rounding out the top five.

After the race was completed, Watson and A. Arnold each put up a protest fee. John Marcum, ARCA boss, had issued a directive to car owners and their drivers that they couldn’t run more than a four-barrel carburetor. The winner, Bill Clemens, was found running a four-barrel carburetor to win the 100-lap feature.

Frank Canalle refused to change the results of the race. After much thought, Marcum decided that Clemens’ carburetor was indeed illegal and awarded the victory to Watson.

Results –

1. Bobby Watson
2. Frank Lamp
3. Ron Hutcherson
4. Delmar Clark
5. Len Blanchard
6. A. Arnold
7. Larry Moore
8. Dave Dayton
9. Dave Kulmer
10. Wayne Wattercutter

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This Week in Racing History

1990 – Rich Dauer of Lindsborg, Kan., proved to be the fastest man in Kansas over the weekend as the Kansas Late Model Association (KLMA) played host at Plaza Speedway in Junction City, Kan., on Friday, May 18 and Salina, Kan., the following night, May 19. Dauer won Friday’s feature by attrition as early pacesetter Shelby Steenson of Salina, and later Rodger Peck of Manhattan, both appeared ready to lay claim to the winner’s circle before dropping back due to mechanical knockouts allowing Dauer to seize the top prize. Saturday saw Dauer start mid-pack in the 20-car field and set a torrid pace to catch the leaders. Dauer would eventually pass the track hotshoe, Lonnie Smith of Wichita, on the last lap to take his second straight victory.
1984 – Jerry Richert Jr. of Forest Lake, Minn., made a last lap pass to take the checkered flag at Husets Speedway on Sunday, May 20. Richert, driving the L.L. Woodke Special, had led early in the 25-lap event, but lost the top spot to a hard-charging Marlon Jones of Hartford, S.D. Jones would run into trouble late in the contest enabling Richert and Rocky Hodges of Des Moines, Iowa to close the gap. Both Richert and Hodges threatened for the lead, but Jones held them off until the last lap when both slipped around Jones and Richert nudging by Hodges in the final turns. The second-generation driver collected $1,100 for the hard-earned victory.

1979 – Dick Trickle, a three-time winner of the Red, White and Blue State Championship Series, scored a two-car length victory over rival Tom Reffner to win the NGK Spark Plug Spring Opener 50 Sunday, May 20 at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, Wis. Trickel, who drove a 197 Firebird, held off a late charge by Reffner to win the 50-lap event on the WIR half-mile paved oval. Earlier in the afternoon, Reffner blazed around the track with his 1978 AMX to establish a new one-lap record with an average speed of 89.3 miles per hour (20.155 seconds). Steve Burgess led the first 12 laps of the feature before yielding to Mike Miller, who led the next 11. After a caution flag bunched up the field, Trickle would get by Miller on the backstretch and then spend the remaining laps fending off Reffner. Miller would finish third followed by Marv Marzofka and Larry Schuler.

1973 – Bill Wrich of Kennard, Neb., was a double winner on the weekend, winning late model features at Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa, on Friday, May 18 and then taking top honors at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Saturday, May 19. Wrich got into a classic duel with Jim Wyman of Griswold, Iowa on Friday night. Wrich and Wyman ran neck and neck for 20 laps until Wrich attain the top spot with 5 to go Once the lead swayed Wrich’s way, the veteran driver made sure it was his for good. Wyman made repeated attempts in the last few laps to regain his previous spot back, but Wrich held his line and took the checkers for his third win of the evening. Wrich’s victory in Des Moines the following night was a bit easier as he took the lead from Phil Reece of Des Moines on the first lap and never looked back in winning the 25-lap feature. Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids, Iowa would score runner-up honors and Reece would settle for third. Don Hoffman of Des Moines and Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids would round out the top five.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

1970 - Jack Meng Wins Race at Tipton

Tipton, Iowa (May 17, 1970) - Jack Meng won the action-packed feature at the Cedar County Raceway Sunday night. It was the Maquoketa driver's first feature win of the year at the Tipton track.

Meng got the lead on the first lap and held it for the 20 laps. It was fender-to-fender and bumper-to-bumper action by five other cars right behind Meng for about 12 laps when mechanical problems forced Duane Steffe and Ted Wanerus out of the race.

Pat Blake was in for second as he and Dick Bragg crossed the finish line almost in a dead heat. Close finishes were the rule, as Bragg barely nosed out Perry Beckler in the second heat race in the modifieds.

The Street Stock feature ended the same way as Jim Fausey beat Merle Ohrt to the finish by a whisker. Jerry Mull and Kenny Sauers were involved in a hard collision in the first heat in the Street Stocks.

Neither driver was injured but both cars were out for the night.

Results –

1. Jack Meng, Maquoketa, Iowa
2. Pat Blake, Clarence, Iowa
3. Dick Bragg, Hiawatha, Iowa
4. Perry Beckler, Tiffin, Iowa
5. Jim Minneart, Walcott, Iowa
6. Allan Hasselbush, Clarence, Iowa

Street Stock
1. Jim Fausey, Dixon, Ill.
2. Merle Ohrt, Anamosa, Iowa
3. Rich Reitman, Oxford, Iowa
4. Bob Aikman, Marion, Iowa
5. Bob Bollman, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
6. Don Seedorf, Marion, Iowa

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

1992 - Racing fans jam speedway

Oregon, Wis. (May 15, 1992) – Stock car racing is alive and well in the Madison area.

Any doubt regarding area fans’ interest in the sport was cast aside Friday night when an overflow crowd jammed Madison International Speedway for the track’s grand opening.

Owner Wayne Erickson poured close to $200,000 into refurbishing the former Capital Superspeedway and IMPACT Speedway and area fans responded.

When Erickson purchased the half-mile track last fall, he banked on the fact area race fans were hungry for the return of stock car racing. When the track closed in 1988, sprint cars were featured on a dirt track and interest waned.

The response of fans indicated at estimated 7,000 to 8,000 spectators turned out for opening night at the Madison International Speedway Friday, starvation for the sport.

An estimated crowd of 7,000 to 8,000 filled the bleacher seats and lined the track around turn one. Other fans sat on the hillside on blankets or stood, straining for a look. Basically, fans gathered wherever they could catch a glimpse.

"I think everybody missed it," said stock car driver Johnny Ziegler of Brooklyn, who was about to give up racing until Erickson announced his purchase. "They really missed the track and they're glad to see it back."

Racing was held in four classes: super late model, IMCA modifieds, sportsman, and street stock.

In the 50-lap feature event, Rich Bickle Jr. completed a successful homecoming. Bickle, a native of Edgerton, Wis, who now lives in Concord, N.C., and races in the Big Ten Series, won in dramatic fashion.

Starting from the 15th spot among the 21-car field Bickle slipped past Tony Strupp between turns three and four on the final lap to notch the victory and delight the crowd.

“I'm just a happy for them as I am for myself,” Bickle said. Conrad Morgan placed second and Strupp finished third. Bickle won despite racing the final 40 laps without front brakes.

“I won a lot bigger paying races, but this one means a lot to me,” Bickle said.

As with any opening there were a few minor problems. With the much larger-than-expected crowd, many people stood in long lines to park and buy tickets. The parking lot filled up and some cars were parked in.

Track spokesman Mark Gundrum said overflow parking will be addressed. The scoreboard balked at working initially, but kicked in for the heat and feature races. Drivers raved over the newly repaved half-mile and quarter-mile tracks, although they expected track speeds to increase as the track broke in. The track record for Capital was 17.823 seconds set by Jim Sauter of Necedah in 1984, and the consensus was that should shortly fall.

The only complaint mentioned was the front straightaway could use more lighting. “Besides that, it’s perfect,” said Bickle. “Wayne Erickson couldn't have asked for much better than this.”

Bickle, who was a two-time champion at Capital, posted the top qualifying time and then signed autographs for 1 hour before going back to work. “It feels good to come here and put a show on,” said Bickle, who proved to be the crowd favorite and posted the fastest qualifying time. “That’s what they come to see.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

1950 - Speedy midget field set for 25th anniversary at Downs’

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (May 14, 1950) - Competition a plenty for the silver anniversary of racing this afternoon at Hawkeye Downs was assured Saturday with the announcement that the entry list of midget drivers had reached 26.

“It’s one of the fastest fields we’ve ever had for an early season race and post entries could boost the total to 30 cars,” Manager John B. Gerber of the Midwest Midget Auto Racing Association declared.

Time trials will start at 12:30 with the first race at 2 p.m. The program will climax with the 20-lap feature on the new quarter-mile oval at the Downs.

“Only a heavy rain at race time or a visit from the sheriff will prevent the race,” Gerber said Saturday after a final inspection of the new track.”

The Downs has been plagued this week with court action and threats of injunctions to halt today's race meet.

Special ceremonies will highlight the 25th anniversary of racing celebration. Invitations have been sent to more than 20 old-time racing enthusiasts who were active in the early days of speed competition at Hawkeye Downs.

Harry Yonkers of Cedar Rapids, who managed the first races at Hawkeye Downs and also served as starter for races throughout the Midwest and East, will be honorary starter today,

Yonkers has dropped the flag on such dirt track luminaries as the late Gus Schrader, Gerber, who will be in charge of today's competition, Mauri Rose, Emory Collins and others.

Yonkers started the first race at Hawkeye Downs, then Frontier Park, and will drop the flag for the inaugural event on the new quarter-mile track today.

Driving in the “man to beat” role today will be Dick Ritchie of Cedar Rapids, defending champion MMARA driver. Ritchie won the heat race and the feature at the 1950 opener in Davenport last week.

Eastern Iowa will be heavily represented today with cars and drivers from Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Tipton, Ottumwa, Alta, Lowden, Columbus Junction, Calamus and Stanwood.

Four Cedar Rapids drivers, in addition to Ritchie, are expected to be in the center of things. They are Bill Sallow, Red Hoyle, Paul Newkirk and Willard Yates. George Miller of Cedar Rapids also is expected to enter the new #77 he built last winter.

Other eastern Iowa drivers will be Bob Earl of Stanwood, Dick Cox of Tipton, Eddie Critchlow of Ottumwa, Bill Murphy of Alta and Lloyd Thurston of Waterloo,

Outside competition will come from Red Boscher of Chicago, one of the top drivers in the United Racing Association. Other well known MMARA drivers include Tony Russo of Racine, Wis.; Ray Hall of Erie, Ill.; Vic Ellis of Rockton, Ill.; Jerry Draper of Carbon Cliff, Ill.; Jerry Bein of LeClaire, Iowa; and Jim Summers of Kansas City.

Two newcomers to the circuit are Cliff Albaugh of Council Bluffs, driving Bill Barbour's #60, and Der Merkley of Omaha, driving the Art Jacobson’s #33, which was piloted last year by Red Hoyle.

Adding color to the silver anniversary will be the Cedar Rapids boys drum and bugle corps, winner of several state, national and international championships, which will stage maneuvers between the time trials and the first race.

Tait Cummins, WMT sports director, will be at the public address microphone.

The entry list includes:

Jimmy Summers, Kansas City
Tony Russo, Racine, Wis.
Eddie Koslow, Chicago
Ray Hall, Kansas City
Clyde Skinner, Omaha
Bob Earl, Cedar Rapids
Dick Cox, Tipton
Red Bosher, Chicago
Bill Sallow, Cedar Rapids
Red Hoyle, Cedar Rapids
Der Merkley, Omaha
Paul Newkirk, Cedar Rapids
Eddie Critchlow, Ottumwa
Bill Murphy, Alta
Dick Ritchie, Cedar Rapids
Vic Ellis, Rockton, Ill.
Lloyd Brown, Chadwick, Ill.
Lloyd Thurston, Waterloo
Jimmie Wooten, Dallas, Tex.
Jerry Draper, Carbon Cliff, Ill.
Cliff Albaugh, Council Bluffs
Don Rose, Davenport
Bobby Parker, Omaha
Jerry Bein, Silvis, Ill.
Willard Yates, Cedar Rapids

Saturday, May 12, 2012

This Week in Racing History

1990 – Pete Parker guided his 1990 Lumina to a late model feature victory on Saturday night, May 12, at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway. V.J. Giguere took the lead at the drop of the green and set the early pace as Parker, who started in the fifth row, advanced towards the front. Parker overtook Giguere on lap 8, but cautions on lap 10 and 12 kept the rest of the field close behind. Chuck Buckbee, who started towards the back of the pack, would give Parker his sternest competition in the closing laps, but was unable to knock the Kaukauna chauffeur out of the top spot. Buckbee would settle for second while Russ Scheffler, Terry Anvelink, T.M. Miller rounded out the top five.

1984 – Appearing at the Milwaukee Mile for the first time in his career, Sam Ard breezed to victory in the 200-lap NASCAR late model sportsman event, outrunning home state pilot Alan Kulwicki to the checkers on Sunday afternoon, May 13. Ard, who had not driven on the one-mile oval prior to practice on Saturday, crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of Kulwicki to nail down his fourth victory of the season on the circuit. Ard, who started third, annexed the lead for the first time on lap 4 and held strong until lap 67 when he pitted. The Ashboro, N.C., pilot returned and fought his way back to the front, regaining the lead on lap 104. When he pitted again on lap 111, Kulwicki inherited the top spot until he was forced to pull his Oldsmobile in for fuel 6 laps later. Ard grabbed the point once again and never relinquished it after. Ard average 97.206 miles per hour, which was slowed by six cautions. After Ard and Kulwicki, a contingent of drivers, Trickle, Bobby Allison, Davey Allison and Dale Jarrett, all finished a lap down.

1979 – Mel Morris of West Liberty, Iowa, a 20-year veteran and winner of several track championships, out dueled another veteran, Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, to win the late model feature at Morris’ hometown track at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 12. Sanger would jump into the lead at the start ahead of polesitter Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa, but Morris, who started in the second row, would pass Sanger coming out of turn four on the lead lap. Morris would lead the remainder of the 25-lapper, but not without constant pressure from Sanger as they were never separated by more than a car length throughout the contest. Steve Keppler of Marion, Iowa, Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree, Iowa and Hansen would round out the top five finishers.

1973 – A head to head battle between point leaders Dick Sutcliffe and Eddie Leavitt highlighted the super modified program at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa, on Saturday night, May 12. Leavitt, of Kearney, Mo., would shoot out to the early lead and appeared to be well on his way to victory. However, two cautions midway through the 25-lap event bunched the field and gave Sutcliffe new life. On the second restart, Sutcliffe got the jump on Leavitt and the Greenwood, Mo., driving star proceeded to hide from the rest of the field, lapping all but the top four finishers. Following Sutcliffe and Leavitt to the finish line was Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., Thad Dosher of Topeka, Kan., and Darrel Dawley of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chicago Whispers - Wayne Adams

Wayne Adams handles the microphone at Chicago's Raceway Park in the early 1960's. Adams would handle the track's "announcing chores" from 1947 through 1989, calling over 2000 race events. (Bud Norman Photo/Stan Kalwasinski Collection)

by Stan Kalwasinski
Munster, Ind. - Longtime Chicago area auto racing announcer, Wayne Adams, was honored at the 1997 National Driving Championship Recognition Dinner in Chicago. Adams received the Chicagoland Merit Award. This story chronicles Adams' racing career, but also is a historical look at racing in the Chicagoland area.

For over 40 years, Wayne Adams was involved, heavily involved, in the sport of automobile racing. For nearly a half century, Adams, a native of St. Joseph, Mo., was wrapped up in the sport of speed, not as a driver, car owner or mechanic, but as a member of the racing fraternity on the other side of the fence, first as a photographer, newspaper correspondent, later a scorer and then as a race track announcer eventually becoming one of the country's foremost short track auto racing announcers.

From 1947 through 1989, Adams handled the microphone duties, sometimes as many as four nights a week, at Chicagoland’s Raceway Park near the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, calling both midget and stock car action during more than 2,000 race programs. In addition to being a fixture at the south suburban speed plant, Adams penned countless race result stories, feature articles and his Midwest Whispers columns for the old Illustrated Speedway News out of Brooklyn, N.Y. during a period from 1940 until the newspaper went out of business in 1982.

"As a kid, from the time I was 10-years-old till I came to Chicago after I graduated from high school, I had a desire to see an auto race,” reminisced Adams recently. A 17-year-old Adams and his mother and step father lived in an apartment near 51st Street and Drexel Avenue, a block or so from the 124th Field Artillery Armory, a military training complex and the site of indoor midget auto races during the fall and winter months since 1934. It was the fall of 1936 and another Chicago indoor racing was beginning.

On Sunday evenings, a young Adams noticed a more than normal amount of cars parked up and down neighborhood streets with people leaving their vehicles and migrating towards the Armory. Adams asked somebody what were they having over there at the Armory and he was told auto races

"I went over there one Sunday night and saw midgets for the first time,” remembers Adams about his first taste of racing. “I was so enthused and so excited about the action that I saw there and that was it. That was the start of it. I never missed a Sunday night after that during the winter of 1936 and 1937.”

A full one-fifth of a mile dirt oval was laid out inside the military installation at 52nd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. Long straight-aways and narrow corners provided fans and competitors alike with plenty of action. Smoke and fumes from the castor oil-belching little speed cars caused the building to quickly fill up with smoke. Near capacity crowds of between 3,000 and 3,500 fans packed the arena every night.

"The Armory was a much larger track than the (International) Amphitheatre,” reminisced Adams. “It was a big track and perfectly flat. They got around there in pretty good time. Gosh, they used to get a lot of cars. Guys from Detroit, St. Louis and Wisconsin would come in there and run. The smoke would get so bad some times that you couldn't see the people sitting on the other side.”

When the summer of 1937 rolled around, outdoor racing returned with the midgets running at Riverview Stadium, which was located just outside the grounds of Chicago’s famous Riverview Park amusement center at Western and Belmont avenues. Adams witnessed the competition on the flat fifth of a mile dirt oval which was perfectly flat and considered by many to have one of the finest racing surfaces in the country.

Adams’ parents got the “racing bug” and the threesome began chasing sprint cars throughout the Midwest, making long Sunday jaunts to watch the Central States Racing Association (CSRA) "stars and cars'" compete at places like Jungle Park in Rockville, Ind., the high banked speed bowls of Fort Wayne, Ind., Winchester, Ind., Dayton, Ohio and the half-mile dirt oval at Greenville, Ohio.

Locally, the Hammond Raceway in Indiana had opened for “big car” action with Raceway Park opening its gates for the first time in September of 1938. Adams had acquired an old German camera and became a racing photographer, selling 8 x 10, black and white photographs for 50 cents. Adams photographed CSRA races, along with midget battles at Raceway, in 1939 and planned to do the same again in 1940.

Early in the season at Raceway during the 1940 campaign, the track needed a scorer and Adams was asked to handle the job. Adams was the track's scorer for the balance of 1940 and again in 1941 and into 1942 until escalated World War II activity put a halt to all automobile racing in this country.

Late in 1940, Adams was approached by Illustrated Speedway News if he could start covering the Chicagoland racing activity for the popular racing publication. Adams' first byline in the paper appeared in December with his story covering indoor midget racing at the Amphitheatre with legendary Chicago midget driving ace, Wally Zale, winning the 100 lap chase coming back from a full two laps behind.

A big, powerful man, who manhandled his mounts to countless midget victories prior to World War II, Zale became close friends with Adams and was to be the best man at Adams’ wedding in 1942. Tragically, Zale and fellow racer, Frank Perrone, were killed in a devastating two-train, single-car wreck in April of that year.

During the War years, Adams was a member of the US Army and was a First Lieutenant in the Combat Engineers Battalion, serving one year in the Philippine Islands. Prior to his overseas duty, Adams married the former Grace "Boots" Stevens in November of 1942.

After the War, the Chicago area-based United Auto Racing Association (UARA) midget racing organization was born during the winter of 1946 and 1947 as a new sanctioning body for flat head engine-powered midgets was formed, breaking away from so-called “A” class of Offenhauser-powered midget cars and drivers.

Hanson Park on Chicago's northwest side was the site of UARA's initial event in the spring of 1947. A quarter mile cinder athletic track with cements stands for over 6,000 fans saw the UARA midget drivers do battle weekly during 1947. A dispute between UARA officials and the first night announcer resulted in UARA hierarchy asking Adams to announce the second event of the season.

Wayne Adams interviews the "legendary" Rex Mays in the infield of Soldier Field in 1947 prior to the track's annual Police Benevolent Race. Mays' driver Joe Garson sits in the car. (Stan Kalwasinski Collection Photo)

"From the time I started taking pictures at the races, I had a desire to announce a race,” commented Adams. “As a result, every time I went to the track I would listen to the announcer as best I could and try to pick up some of the good things and perhaps think about some of the things I didn't like so well. Ed “Twenty Grand” Steinbock was the dean of auto racing announcers all over the country. He was considered number one. He was working Riverview, Raceway Park and most of the tracks around. I kind of liked the way Twenty Grand presented a race. I use to listen to him and thought maybe I could do it the same way he did it.”

Adams recalls the Hanson Park action as being a real thrill show with a half dozen or so flips a night occurring as drivers battled on the narrow, flat track. “People would be lined up for two blocks some nights waiting to get it,” said Adams thinking back. “It was a sensational show. It seemed like it was a sell out every night.”

Adams’ announcing career blasted off after doing his first microphone handling job at Hanson Park. New Raceway Park promoters, Nick and Pete Jenin, along with Blue Island midget speedster, Bud Koehler, were in the stands at Hanson during Adams' microphone debut. After the races, the Jenin brothers asked Adams if he would like to announce the midgets at Raceway on Saturday nights.

A week or so later, Art Folz, headman of Soldier Field midget racing promotions, got a hold of Adams and asked if he would like to handle the announcing at the Chicago lake front arena. In less than a month’s time, Wayne Adams, auto racing fan, photographer, writer and scorer, was Chicagoland's busiest track announcer, working every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

"I remember the first Police Benevolent race at Soldier Field that I worked in 1947,” recalls Adams. “It was the last race of the season and they had 77,000 people for that midget race. I'll never forget that night. I was so scared. I was never nervous before, a little concerned maybe, but not nervous. But that night at Soldier Field, I walked out into the infield and there were about 30,000 people already there for time trials. Later that night, I thought here's a little boy from Missouri announcing in Chicago before 77,000. I really hit the big time.”

The 1948 season saw UARA branch out. The racing group, with Adams calling the action, visited numerous speed venues including Grand Rapids, Mich., Mendota, Streator, Peotone, Kankakee, Waukegan and Gill Stadium in Chicago.

"I announced over 100 race programs in 1948,” said Adams. “I was announcing five to seven times a week, sometimes doing one track on Sunday afternoon and another one that evening. I was also writing six to eight stories for Illustrated, plus doing my column.”

In addition, Adams was still behind the microphone and Raceway Park and Soldier Field. His Soldier Field announcing career came to an end part way into the 1948 season when Field promoter Art Folz told Adams he had to make a choice, either announce at Raceway Park or Soldier Field. Adams chose Raceway Park, a decision that would affect his life for the next 40 years.

Towards the end of the 1948 racing season, several exhibition stock car events were held at the quarter-mile dirt oval inside of Gill Stadium, a former girl’s softball arena on Chicago’s southeast side.

"Gill Stadium is where short track stock car racing got its start,” commented Adams. In the fall of ‘48, Chuck Scharf and Eddie Anderson brought out about a dozen cars from their used car lot and put on a little exhibition. That really touched off a spark.”

With midget drivers doing most of the driving, the purely stock cars with numbers painted on with water-based paint took off with fans screaming as headlights and windshields shattered, doors got smashed and fenders were knocked off..

"It seemed like the people screamed for a half hour after the 10-lap race,” remembered Adams. “The next week they came back again and pretty soon they (stock cars) had a night of their own at Gill.”

Raceway Park, along with Schererville (Ind.) Speedway (later renamed Illiana Motor Speedway), held stock car events also in 1948 with Raceway hosting the first of its annual 300-lap contests in late October. 1949 would see local tracks begin hosting weekly stock car events with fans clamoring to see the popular, wild and unexpected action.

Midget racing began to suffer in these parts with expensive cars, straight up starts, follow the leader racing and dwindling crowds beginning to takes its toll. Soon, the stock cars replaced midgets as the most popular type of racing in the area with midget events becoming fewer and far between.

Some highlights of Adams' career in racing include his first feature story in Illustrated Speedway News covering Zale’s win at the Amphitheatre, his calling the action in front of tens of thousands at Soldier Field, doing the announcing for live stock car races from Raceway Park on WBKB-Channel 7 television in 1954 and announcing and watching his son, Wayne Jr., win the novice division stock car championship at Raceway in 1966.

Looking back, Adams singles out Wally Zale, along with Tony Bettenhausen and local stock car aces, Bud Koehler, Bob Pronger and Bill Van Allen, as the best drivers he ever saw compete for one reason or another. Zale, perhaps, is Adams’ favorite due to his close friendship with the man and Zale's almost superman ability as a driver (more than 170 feature wins during in a three year period) during the early days of midget racing in the Midwest.

Adams' long-term involvement in the sport of auto racing allowed him to witness numerous changes on both the local and national racing scenes including the "glory days" of midget racing, the birth of local short track stock car racing, the decline and almost death of the midgets and the stock car mechanical revolution from simple off the street cars to the building up of “junkyard specials” and finally to the specially-built, for racing only, chassis and components.

"I don’t regret any of it,” commented Adams. “If I had to do it over again, I would do it all the same way, but there has to be an end to everything.”

Wayne Adams was recently inducted into the inaugural class of the Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame.

Editor's Note: Special thanks to Stan Kalwasinski for letting MRA post this story. You can view more of Stan's writings on

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1970 - Blankenship Bests Stott to Win Knoxville Main

Lem Blankenship is joined by starter Jack Thompson after winning the super stock feature at the Marion County Fairgrounds. 

by Ida May Van Genderen
Knoxville, Iowa (May 8, 1970) - Lem Blankenship of Keokuk took the Marion County Fairgrounds to his liking last night at Knoxville. Lem opened the new 1970 stock car race season by capturing the 15-lap feature in his 426 Hemi.

It was a hot battle all the way between Blankenship and Bob Bonzer of Liscomb with Ramo Stott of Keokuk coming into the battle during the last six laps.

Blankenship won by a wheel’s margin over Bonzer at the finish. Stott placed third. Blankenship also set a fast time of 24.75 seconds around the half-mile oval.

Don Hoffman put his Camaro into the lead in the first turn of the first lap and held it all the way to the checkered flag in the trophy dash. It was a three-car race between Hoffman, Stott and Bonzer with Stott edging out Bonzer for the second place finish.

Bonzer came from his sixth place starting position to cop the first 8-lap heat race. Bonzer, in a Chevy, took the lead from Jerry Roberts on the fifth lap.

Stott won the second heat race by taking the lead in the second turn of the first lap and never relinquished it for the full eight laps. After a two-car seesaw race, Tom Stewart edged Dale DeFrance for the second spot.

Dick Oldham of Des Moines won the 6-lap third heat event. Phil Reece took the lead at the start and had a considerable lead only to lose his steering and loop it in the fourth turn on the last lap.

Oldham made it two wins in a row by taking the 8-lap Australian pursuit. The four cars of Oldham, DeFrance, Stott and Blankenship came down for the checkered flag in a side-by-side blanket finish with Oldham in the lead.

Results –

Fast Time - Lem Blankenship, Keokuk (24.75)
Trophy Dash - Don Hoffman, Des Moines
First Heat - Bob Bonzer, Liscomb
Second Heat - Ramo Stott, Keokuk
Third Heat - Dick Oldham, Des Moines
Australian Pursuit - Dick Oldham
1. Lem Blankenship
2. Bob Bonzer
3. Ramo Stott
4. Dick Oldham
5. Tom Stewart, Washington
6. Don Davidson, Des Moines
7. Phil Reece, Des Moines
8. Gary Johnson, Newton

Monday, May 7, 2012

1973 - Fairmont Race Track to Be Open for Season

Fairmont, Minn. (May 7, 1973) – Fairmont’s Martin County Fairgrounds Speedway, one of Minnesota’s best auto racing facilities, will be operated in 1973 by a group formed by a prominent area businessman. The move apparently saves the track from inactivity this year.

The half mile clay-surfaced track, one of the area’s only sources of live sports entertainment, will be operated by PACE (Professional Auto Competition Enterprises), a corporation headed by Neil J. Larson of Blue Earth. Larson is president of L and M Motors, Chevrolet-Olds-Buick agency in that city.

After largely unsuccessful promotional efforts in 1972, Martin County fair board members had agreed the track would not reopen in 1973 under the same management.

The Larson group learned of this, and approached the board with a plan for operation of the track. After several meetings during the winter, the proposal was accepted.

In this announcement of the new track management, Larson said, “Fairmont is too good a track to be closed, and we need good live action entertainment in our area. The track has better grandstands than any speedway in the state except the state fair (the Fairmont stands came from Minneapolis’ Metropolitan Stadium, where they were the original expansion seating for Vikings football games).”

“We have made a detailed study of past operations,” Larson added, “and arranged for professional consultation in our planning. We think we have the answers that will make Fairmont the southern Minnesota headquarters for top racing action.”

One answer, says Larson, is to offer prize money equal to any in the state, to insure the entry of large fields of cars. In addition, admission prices will actually be lowered. “We want to make Fairmont Speedway a place for families to spend an entertaining Saturday evening at reasonable cost - no more than they would spend for a first-run movie,” Larson said.

The new management’s plans call for the track to operate Saturday evenings starting in mid May, and to feature the popular late model stock cars, along with a hobby stock racing class designed to encourage new entrants in the sport.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

This Week in Racing History

1995 – Racing history was made at Illiana Motor Speedway when Frank Gawlinski drove to his 100th career late model victory on the half-mile paved oval on Saturday night, May 6. The 47-year-old Lynwood, Ill., native started his career at the age of 29, a time when most race drivers are reaching their prime. Seven track championships later and eight Tony Bettenhausen Memorial victories later; it was only natural that 100 feature wins would be part of his resume. Gawlinski’s milestone win wasn’t easy as he had to come from the rear of the field after spinning initial leader John Hollifield early in the main event. Making his way back through the field, Gawlinski grabbed the point with five circuits to go in the 25-lapper and then held off the challenges of Terry Middleton and Mike White in the closing laps.

1990 – Sammy Swindell outran his brother, Jeff Swindell, to claim top honors in the 40-lap USAC Loctite/Crestliner Vans Winged Sprint Car feature Saturday night, May 5, at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. Danny Smith paced the first 20 laps of the A-main before Sammy Swindell took command. Swindell led the second half of the race for the victory, holding off his brother and Frankie Kerr. Steve Butler placed fourth ahead of Bobby Davis Jr. In other USAC racing action, Russ Gamester led all but two laps on his way to scoring the win in the 40-lap USAC National Midget Series feature. Mike Streicher placed second followed by fast qualifier Steve Knepper.

1984 – Veteran Gene Claxton of Kansas City, Mo., used all of his track savvy in winning the NASCAR Winston Racing Series 20-lap late model feature at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City on Friday, May 4. Claxton started on the fifth row and drove cautiously in the early going. He was fifth on the second lap, took over second on lap 5 and charged to the lead on the eighth circuit. He drove unchallenged for the rest of the event. Rick Beebe of Overland Park, Kan., would finish second followed by Ronnie Hoover on Fulton, Mo., and Andy Claiborne of Stanley, Kan. Bobby Layne of Kansas City, a long-time sprint car driver, won his first IMCA modified feature by going flag to flag in the 12-lap main event.

1979 - Jim Bruggeman of White Bear Lake, Minn., won the 40-lap U.M.D.A. late model feature on the half-mile Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, Minn., on Saturday, May 5. Bruggeman had a big day as he also won the second heat, placing him on the front row for the main event. In the feature, he led the entire event but had early pressure from Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wis., who had to retire when he lost his water pump. Tim McDonough of Cedar Rapids, Iowa finished a distant second and Dick Sorenson of Rochester, Minn., grabbed third.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

1975 – Fatality mars opening night at Capital Speedway

Bill Utz

Holts Summit, Mo. (May 3, 1975) - Stunned by the death of Columbia driver Tom Coleman in the season’s first race, the first fatality in track history put a damper on any joy shown by the winners Saturday night at the Capital Speedway in Holts Summit.

Coleman, 36, was fatally injured when his super-sprinter ran over one driven by Jim Robinson of Moberly on the last lap of the first sprint race.

Coleman’s car, new this year, took a wild series of end-over-end flips before coming to rest on its wheels in the middle of the back stretch. He died of head injuries en route to a Jefferson City hospital. Robinson was checked over and released after being taken to the hospital in a private car following the crash.

It was the first fatality at the Speedway since it opened in 1967.

Bill Utz, the defending super-sprint champ from Sedalia, scored a win in the 25-lap feature event, starting in the middle of the pack after a fourth place finish in his heat event.

Losson Leonard of Jefferson City captured the 20-lap late model stock car feature, holding off strong challenges from Eddie Gray and Ivan Long. Dale Caldwell of Jefferson City took first place in the eight-car hobby stock car class.

Ron Milton of Jacksonville, Ill., took first place in the first super-sprint heat, holding off Cliff Powell of Hannibal and Al Bodenhamer of Kansas City. Slater’s Jim Jenkins captured the second heat event, Gary Scott of Holts Summit took first in the third heat and George Lasoski of Marshall won the 10-lap consolation event.

Ivan Long of Pittsfield, Ill., took first place in the first of four late model heat races for the 36 cars. Leonard captured the second heat, Tom Frasher of Jefferson City won the third heat and Jerry “Flea” Atkin of Holts Summit won the consolation event.

The 20-car sprint car feature field was inverted, with the three heat race winners on the tail end of the field.

Results –

1. Bill Utz, Sedalia
2. Ed Grimes, Slater
3. Tom Corbin, Carrollton
4. Martin Godsey, Jefferson City
5. George Lasoski, Marshall
6. Bob Thoman, Lexington
7. Cliff Powell, Hannibal
8. Roy Comstock, Versailles
9. Ron Milton, Jacksonville, Ill.
10. Dennis Roberts, Syracuse

Late Model:
1. Losson Leonard, Jefferson City
2. Eddie Gray Jefferson City
3. Ivan Long, Pittsfield, Ill.
4. Terry Gallaher, Hannibal
5. Rick Kimberling, Gilliam
6. Dick Bloomfield, Perry
7. Vic Bentlage, Jefferson City
8. Pete Werner, Jefferson City
9. Dalton Walker, Vandalia
10. Jim Robinson, Fulton

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1964 - No 40-Hour Week in Stock Car Driving

Dick Hutcherson

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (May 10, 1964) – It looks easy; Racing late model stock cars about once a week and winning purses totaling $18,377 for the season.

But the man who said, “You can't beat the hours,” was talking about big-league baseball umpires, not stock car drivers.

Dick Hutcherson, one of the Keokuk Komets who won the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) championship last year, says the biggest single factor in successful stock car driving is putting in long, long hours making certain your machine is ready for each race.

“Almost every day I’m up and at it about 8 a.m.,” said Hutcherson, who was in Cedar Rapids Friday to help beat the drums for the Hawkeye 250 at Hawkeye Downs next Sunday, May 17.

“Unless I’m driving to a race or something else important comes up, I'm working on that car until 10 or 11 at night. A 95-hour work week is not unusual. Often seven days a week, too.”

Another thing; you have to drive a truck carrying your race car long distances. The 56 IMCA races last year were at sites as widely separated as Shreveport, La., and Minot, N. D.

“I put 65,000 miles on my new two-ton Ford truck last year,” Hutcherson said. “On top of that, during the off-season I went to Charlotte, N. C. (to the Holman and Moody plant) to help get my new car ready for this year, and I was at Daytona Beach, Fla., to watch the races and see what new techniques I could pick up.”

The 250-lap race at Hawkeye Downs next Sunday is being billed as a battle between Ford and Plymouth. Hutcherson, Bill Thomas, Ralph Wilhelm and Johnny Jones will be among those piloting Fords.

Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott and Gil Haugan are included in the Plymouth lineup. Derr and Stott, and Hutcherson, are from Keokuk. Derr, five-time IMCA national champion, was dethroned last year by Hutcherson to end a string of four straight annual titles.

Derr got off to a flying start April 19 by winning the IMCA opener, a 100-miler at Shreveport. Stott was second. Hutcherson broke Derr's six-month-old track record for one lap by turning the half-mile in 26.08 seconds in the time trials, but a faulty distributor condenser in the feature forced him to cut speed so he finished third.

We enjoyed our interview with Hutcherson, a handsome 6-1, 195-pound Keokuk native who is 32 years old. Here are some of the interesting points we picked up from him about late model stock car racing; His new car is a Ford Galaxy 500/XL with a piston displacement of 427 inches; He is sponsored by Zecol, the trade name of the Automotive Chemical Co. of Milwaukee.

Paul Newkirk, former Cedar Rapids race driver, is Zecol’s chief mechanic. This company also sponsors Don White, still another of the Keokuk Komets. White was national champion in the United States Auto Club (USAC) circuit last year.

Hutch says his Ford actually gets only about three miles per gallon (they use Ethyl, not less than 102 octane) during a race. This shouldn’t alarm the average car owner though; because the mechanics drill the jets on the carburetors to make sure the gas never is in short supply. His car has the usual 20-gallon gas tank, which means he probably will have to make two pit stops for gas in next Sunday's 125-mile race. He might make it with one fueling stop, but it could be close, and that’s why you occasionally see some drivers out there frantically pushing their machines across the finish line.

“A lot of stock-car drivers hope to get a chance to drive big cars some day and maybe compete in the Indianapolis 500,” says Hutch, “but not me. I like stock car driving, and right now my number one ambition is to win the IMCA national championship again. Yes, stock car driving is a hard life, but I think a man can continue racing until he’s about 50.”

“You’ve heard it said a race can be won or lost in the pits, and that’s true,” says Hutch. “I’ve got a real good crew. My dad, Leon Hutcherson, is our crew chief, and he organizes everything well. Dad is a house building contractor in Keokuk, but he got interested in racing about the same time (1956). My brother Ron, Bob Petty, Bob Brillon and Sonny Morgan (all of Keokuk) also serve on our pit crew. We don’t have the kind of wheels used by the big cars at Indianapolis; we use stock wheels, but our pit crew has air impacts and they can give me a tire change and a full tank of gas in 20 seconds. When I was racing at Sedalia, Mo., in 1962 I was trailing Ernie Derr by a half lap. We both went into the pits for tire changes, and my crew did so well that I was a half-lap ahead when we got back on the track. I won the race.”

“I’ve been lucky,” says Hutch. “I’ve never been hurt in late model racing, although when I was racing modifieds out of Keokuk I was in a wreck and suffered a cut in my lip that needed seven stitches. I ate soup for a week.”

“This late model racing is not really dangerous, because we have roll bars and excellent equipment. Some people think big crowds come out to races to see accidents, but I believe most fans turn out at late model races to see competition between the types of cars they’re driving themselves.”

Although the name of the racing is STOCK, most racing machines have heavily reinforced front ends and other parts - most of them supplied by the factories.

Hutch says his Ford will weigh about 3,900 pounds, which is approximately what a Ford of that class will weigh when it comes from the factory. The difference is Hutch and his crew will add things like a roll bar and exchange some parts for heavy-duty equipment. Then they’ll remove items like headlights (the holes are covered-with sheet metal), seats, heater, window glass and mechanisms (except windshield and rear window), right-side windshield wiper, bumper braces, door handles - a lot of little things that add up to excess weight.

Hutcherson began racing in 1956 after completing a four-year hitch as an Air Force radar man. He raced modifieds in the Keokuk area, finishing second in his circuit in 1956 and winning in 1957 and ‘58. He bought Derr’s ‘57 Pontiac that won the IMCA national title in 1958 and began driving in the IMCA circuit in 1959. He was second to Derr for the 1959 season championship, third in 1960 and second in both 1961 and ‘62 before winning his first title last year. Hutch’s season record in 1964 showed 31 first places, nine seconds, one third and two fifths. He scored 3,204 points to 2,846 for second-place Ramo Stott.

Hutch likes carrying his racing car around on the back of his truck. “No matter how badly you get smashed up,” he says, “you can always load it on the truck and drive it home to work on it. My truck has an air-conditioned cab. We can take four of us, three in the seat and one lying in the sleeper behind the seat. I got six tickets for speeding last year driving to the races. I want to tell you driving on the roads scares me a lot more than driving on a track, the way some of these motorists drive!”

Hutcherson holds the IMCA world record for one lap of a half-mile dirt track, and he set it at Hawkeye Downs. It is 25.25 seconds. “This Cedar Rapids track is real fast, and one I really like to drive,” says Hutch.

We asked Hutch the most important factor in stock car driving. “Probably experience,” he replies.

“You’ve got to learn to have confidence in your car. Right now, for example, I'm convinced I’ve got the best handling car on the track. If nothing happens, I expect to finish in the top three every time out.”