2017 Silver Dollar Nationals

Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Week in Racing History

1984 – Al Schill took command of the lead on lap 25 and went on to capture the Firecracker 75 late model event at Slinger (Wis.) Speedway on Sunday night, July 1. Defending winner Fred Winn took the early lead followed by Gerry Wood and Lowell Bennett. By lap 15, the top qualifiers were near the front of the pack as John Ziegler, Conrad Morgan and Schill were in the top five. Schill and Ziegler moved into second and third respectively on lap 20 and immediately began to close in on Winn. Five laps later Schill overpowered the leader and began to pull away from the rest of the pack. Morgan would close the gap on Schill with 10 laps to go, but Schill would win by three car lengths at the checkers. Morgan, J.J. Smith, Willie Goeden and Tony Strupp would round out the top five.

1979 – Dick Schiltz of Waterloo, Iowa, earned a hard-fought victory over a stellar field of late models to win the Pepsi-Mountain Dew Special at Eldon (Iowa) Raceway on Saturday, June 30. Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, would set a blistering pace for the first 5 circuits of the 35-lap contest until he lost power, shuffling back to third place. At that point, Lem Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, took over followed by Schiltz. Just before the halfway point, Blankenship, with a straightaway lead, lost power as well and was forced to pull into the infield. This gave the top spot to Schiltz, who then had to fight off a persistent Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, for the remaining laps. Schiltz would cross the finish line by no more than half a car length. Dolan would wind up second followed by Dan Dickey of Packwood, Iowa, Niffenegger, and Denny Banks of Washington, Iowa.

1974 – Lonnie Jensen got by Jerry Richert Jr. on lap 16 of the 20-lap main event to win the Midwestern Sprintcar Association (MSA) feature at North Starr Speedway near Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday. June 30. It was the first MSA victory for the Lincoln, Neb., chauffeur and it paid $500. Richert took off from the outside front row at the drop of the green and held off all comers until Jensen moved within striking position on lap 12. Barry Kettering, who started ninth, joined the two pace-setters by lap 14 and all three drivers sliced and diced until Jensen was able to secure the top spot for the win. Richert, Kettering, Don Mack, and Bob Hop would round out the top five.

1968 – George Barton of Ankeny, Iowa, won the 30-lap mid-season championship for the super stock division on Sunday, June 30. Even though he led every circuit, Barton’s win was hard fought all the way as he had to fend off two Ames, Iowa drivers, Curt Houge and Bill Holder for the victory. A crowd announced at 2,400 turned out to watch a fine field of 45 super stocks put on an entertaining show on the high-banked quarter-mile dirt oval. Rich Green of Webster City, Iowa, Paul Uhlenberg of Garwin, Iowa, Dan Clement of Rhodes, Iowa, and Buggy Vincent of Nevada, Iowa, were heat winners while Uhlenberg won the B-main.

Friday, June 29, 2012

1976 - Harkness Memorial race this weekend


Jim Harkness is shown here seated in Les Steinert’s Chevy at the 1973 Hutchinson National Modified Championships - Leroy Byers Photo/Bob Mays Collection


Hutchinson, Kan. (June 30, 1976) - Jimmy Harkness was on the top of the world. In 1973, he was a local, state, five-state and national champion.

Saturday night race drivers from at least three states will be in Dodge City to run in a race to honor the man, who in 1973 won everything there was to win in Kansas. Merrick Auto Racing is sponsoring the Jim Harkness Memorial Race this weekend in honor of the Ness City man who lost his life in a traffic accident near his home last February.

“I don't know who all are planning to be here,” Merrick said. “But a lot of drivers have indicated they will be here for the race. Drivers from around Dodge City, Oklahoma and some of our boys from Nebraska will be down here.”

Among the drivers who will be attending the race is two of Harkness' friends from Ness City, Fred Hembry and Terry Uehling. They are the two leading point winners on the Merrick Circuit that Harkness won in 1973. Other leaders on the circuit are Jon Johnson of Utica, Herb Copeland of Dodge City and Arnold Horner of Jetmore. The top five drivers are all relatively speaking Harkness neighbors.

“Jimmy was a wonderful guy,” Merrick said. “He started running for me 11 years ago in the old hobby cars. He was real well thought of I'll tell you. If he had been killed in a race car that would have been different because we all kind of expected that the way he loved cars.”

“In 1973 he won just about everything there was to be won in Kansas. He won the National Championship in Hutchinson, the Kansas State championship in Hutchinson, the Five State Championship at Liberal, the Merrick Circuit championship and was the season high point trophy winner,” Merrick said.

The races begin at 8 p.m. Saturday night at the McCarty Speedway and there will be two classes of cars competing, the super-modifieds and the late model stock cars. Racing will continue Sunday evening at 8 p.m. with the late model stocks Mid-season Championships.

“There is a special trophy to the winner being provided by Ronnie Burns of Ness City,” Merrick said. It will be a traveling trophy that will have the name of the driver who wins the race engraved on it. Burns is going to let the drivers who win the event for the first six years keep the trophy and then plans to present it to Jim's son T. J. after the first six years of the race.”

Harkness had driven cars for 11 years when he was killed and according to Merrick had run everything from the hobbies to the super-modifieds and sprint cars. He was a farmer in Ness City whose hobbies included welding, metal sculpturing and skiing.

Betty Harkness and Jim's son T. J. still live in Ness City, but Merrick said that they were selling the farm where they live and were going to move to Hays sometime in the near future.

In addition to the races in Dodge City Saturday and Sunday there is a Bicentennial Parade in his honor. “All our area race drivers are going to be in the parade pulling their cars," Merrick said.

“He was a perfect little gentleman,” Merrick said. “He didn't drink or smoke. He was the kind of guy you wouldn't notice. He was real well thought of.”

They will notice the absence of Jim Harkness Saturday night, but the spirit he brought to racing will be there intact.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

1974 - Twin 100 Stock Car Race July 3

Des Moines, Iowa (June 27, 1974) - The Firecracker Twin “100”, the IMCA sanctioned new-model stock car race at the Iowa State Fair grounds, Wednesday night, July 3rd, is an important race to all drivers with aspirations for finishing in the top ten of the official IMCA point standings.

While it is still early in the season, the Firecracker Twin “100” being the third race, point battles are shaping up, competition is aligning itself, and the importance of this dual racing feature with a possibility of amassing over 200 valuable IMCA points, grows in stature.

Gordon Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, the 1973 defending stock car champion is currently in second place in the official point totals.

Gerry Harrison, the Jayhawk speedster from Topeka, Kan., is currently number one and “the man to beat.” Harrison has been in first place before and even held that distinction just prior to the old Iowa “300” in 1972. A blown tire, with less than 10 laps to go, cost Harrison both his first place ranking and the race.

Harrison though, is a capable competitor and a feature threat in every race he enters. He is a stock car circuit. In 1971, Harrison completed that year's campaign with a fifth place finish and had one feature win to his credit. In 1972, he moved up in the standings to a second place season’s finish with three feature victories in his credentials. 1973 brought some tough luck and a fourth place ranking at the season’s end, with one feature win to his credit.

Harrison has been denied the championship for some years now. He could feel that 1974 is the year to “bring it all back home.” Harrison chauffeurs a 1972 Monte Carlo.

National Speedways Inc., will promote the Firecracker Twin “100” and a gigantic fireworks display will immediately follow the racing action. Ticket prices are $3.50 for box and reserved seats, $2.50 for general admission, and children under 12, $1.

Tickets may be purchased at the National Speedways office on the Iowa State Fairground, Foreman and Clark, and the Park Fair Sports Center in Des Moines, or by sending your ticket request, check and self-addressed, stamped envelope to Firecracker Twin “100”, Box 209, Des Moines, Iowa, 50301.

Monday, June 25, 2012

1971 - Bjorge masters field at Fairmont

Fairmont, Minn. (June 25, 1971) - Dave Bjorge of Austin mastered a starting field of 24 cars to win the feature race of the First Annual Minnesota - Iowa Dirt Track Late Model stock car championship at the Fairmont Speedways here Friday night

Bjorge went into second place on the sixth lap after Phil Prusak of Eau Claire led during the earlier laps. There was no change in the top four from the sixth to the 18th lap. On the 18th lap Bjorge went around Bob Shryock of Estherville who led from the start of the race. Then on the 27th lap Butch Householder of Algona moved ahead of Shryock for second.

Here’s a wrap up of the other five races plus the time trials; A total of nine drivers broke the 25-second barrier over the half-mile oval. Pace setter was Mert Williams of Rochester who turned in a time of 24 seconds flat. Butch Householder of Algona was next in 24:03 with Phil Prusak of Eau Claire, Wis., 24:06, Joe Salner of St. Cloud, 24:50, and Dave Bjorge of Austin, 24:61, rounding out the top five.

Jim Edgington of Fairmont was declared the winner of the first even though he did not complete the final lap. Edgington took the lead on the ninth lap from Jack Piper of Mason City, but spun out in the third corner of the last lap when Piper hooked him. Piper went on to finish ahead of the 12-car pack but was disqualified. Jim Calverley of Albert Lea, the early pace setter finished second with Phil Prusak of Eau Claire third. Edgington started on fourth row outside wheel.

Dave Bjorge of Austin, taking the lead on the sixth lap from Lloyd Matter of Lyle, won by several car lengths in the second heat. Bjorge started on the sixth row inside and finished the 10 laps in 4:10, the time trial clocking. Matter finished second and Gerhard Wollenburg of Austin third.

Starting from the back of the pack, time trial winner Mert Williams of Rochester skillfully worked his way into the lead on the ninth lap to win the third and final heat race. Paul Fitzpatrick of Rochester, who took the lead temporarily on the fifth lap, finished second with Bob Soma of Winnebago third.

Gerhard Wollenburg of Austin, jumping off to a quick start, won the trophy dash by a quarter lap of his nearest rival, Dave Bjorge, also of Austin. Wollenburg started on the first row outside wheel. Bjorge had to battle toward the front from fourth row outside. Third in the fierce driving was Bill Oas of Minneapolis.

With only nine of 20 starters finishing the race, Al Metcalf of Minneapolis won the consolation event after starting on the fourth row outside. Metcalf took the lead on the sixth lap with Jack Piper of Mason City, who led during the early laps, second and Chuck Knutzman of New Richland, third.

There were two restarts because of accidents, on the second and 12th lap with no personal injuries.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

1973 - She’s No Woman Driver, She’s a Woman Driving


Des Moines, Iowa (June 24, 1973) – Martha Widman says she’s scared to death about racing in the Firecracker 300 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds the night of July 4, but she’s happy about one thing – she no longer has to sneak into races in which men compete.

“Man, that’s going to be along race,” she drawled into the phone Saturday from her office at the Lufkin, Tex., Yellow Cab headquarters.

“But I reckon I can handle it. I've been scared before, and I came through all right. I know what I have to do to finish.”

Martha Widman is 33 years old, 4 foot 11 inches, 120 pounds (and losing), and the blonde mother of two children - David 13, and Denise, 11.

She also is the known woman driver to run the International Motor Contest Association circuit and may become the first woman to compete at the Daytona International Speedway in a NASCAR race. She hopes to race there next year.

She already holds a NASCAR license, but they won’t let her race at Houston, Tex., where some NASCAR-sanctioned events are held.

The Firecracker 300 is a continuation of the annual Iowa 300’s. The name was changed when the race – number 17 in the series – was switched to July 4 for this year. The distance is 150 miles around Fairgrounds’ half-mile dirt track.

“I started racing on a one eighth-mile track,’ she said, and I don’t really like half-mile tracks. And, I do better on asphalt tracks than I do on dirt. But, I'll be there. Ya'll can count on that.”

Martha said she started racing in 1964 when her husband, Glenn, “dared me” to race in a powder puff derby.

“He borrowed a car for me and I tore it up. But, I liked racing so well, I went back the next Saturday night and finished second.

“After the third race, I bought a pink Mercury and I won every race (12) that I ran the rest of the season.”

She started “sneaking” into men’s races four years ago. “My husband had his own car by then, so one night I thought I would race it in the feature,” she said. “I finished second and the men didn’t like that. They hated that. They wouldn’t let me run, unless I sneaked in.”

“I set the track record for qualifying one night. Until the track was changed to a quarter-mile, the men were reminded of that every race night. They didn’t much care about that either.”

Martha said she won eight championships, all against women. But, it reached a point where the women of Lufkin, as well as the men, would not compete if Martha ran.

“The men didn’t want to get beat by me,” she said, “and the women just couldn't compete with me any more.”

Last October, Martha entered the Beaumont 100, her first big race against men. “I wrote in and asked for some rules,” she said. “The promoter sent them and they did not say women were excluded. I called him and asked if those were the only rules. He said they were, and I told him I would be there. He’d like to have died, but he let me run.”

“The track was so rough the clutch linkage vibrated off and then the brakes went out. I was scared silly, and I prayed a lot. I guess I finished nineteenth.”

Last spring, Glenn, who with his wife operates the taxi service and serves as the Lufkin agent for Western Union, decided she was going to run in IMCA’s Pelican 100 at Shreveport, La.

“When NASCAR wouldn’t let me ran at Houston, Glenn said maybe IMCA would give me a license,” Martha said. “We called Mr. Hitz (Bill Hitz, secretary of IMCA) and he said IMCA did not have rules prohibiting women from competition. Of course, they had to be good drivers.”

‘I took over Glenn’s car (a 1972 Monte Carlo) and we went to Shreveport. The steering arm broke on the fourteenth lap (200-lap race), so I was sidelined.”

Martha came to Iowa for the Illowa 101 at Davenport on June 12 and finished eighth.

She also competed at Oskaloosa June 13 and said she was the fastest qualifier. She finished last in her heat race and “didn’t do any good in the consolation. But they sure drive fast down there.” She completed her Iowa trip at Boone on June 15. “Some nut spun out in front of me, there,” she said, “and I ran over him. I cracked the car up pretty good.”

Now comes the “300.”

“There is no way I’ll run wide open,” she said. “I want to go as good as I can, but the important thing is to finish and that’s what I aim to do.”

The men will be happy to hear she isn’t going to go flat out. Undoubtedly, they would be happier if she would stay in Lufkin.

Editor’s note: Martha Wideman would make the 26-car field for the Firecracker 300, however, she would complete only one lap before pulling in with mechanical issues.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Week in Racing History

1984 – Dean Chadd of Lincoln, Neb., was able to take advantage of his competitor’s bad luck and take his sprinter to the A-feature victory at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway on June 22. Ray Lipsey was leading the event with Don Droud Jr. and J.J. Riggins close behind. When Droud and Riggins decided to make their moves for the lead, all three made contact, causing them all to spin out. Chadd would inherit the lead on lap 17 and was never challenged for the remaining 8 laps. Dave Hollaman of Martell, Neb., finished second while Ed Bowes of Lincoln took third.
1979 – Rusty Wallace and Terry Ryan each won a 75-lap feature to highlight the USAC stock car program at Illiana Speedway in Schererville, Ind., on June 23. On what was an unseasonably cold summer night, Wallace would grab the victory in the first 75-lapper after passing Ryan early in the contest and then fending off Dave Watson during the middle stages. Ryan would mount a late charge but it was no avail. Wallace and Ryan were followed by Ramo Stott, Bill Venturini and Chuck Gurney. In the second 75-lapper, Wallace would grab the top spot at the beginning and lead the first 55 laps before an oil pump would send him to the sidelines. Ryan took over and never relinquished the lead after that. Chuck Gurney, Ricci Ware Jr., Bill Venturini and Bay Darnell rounded out the top five.

1978 – Bruce Sparrman of Bloomington, Minn., started on the inside of row one, survived three cautions, and staved off Greg Arenson of Eden Prairie, Minn., to score his first late model win of the season. Sparrman, driving the Como-Snelling Camaro, drove a smooth race and ignored all of the chaos the 17-car field was offering behind him. Dick Stang of Prior Lake, Minn., was involved in two crashes, left the track on the back of a wrecker, but managed to return to finish with the eight other cars that survived the 30-lap event.
1973 – Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., got back in the thick of the season point race at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds with a convincing late model modified victory on Friday, June 22. Guss, who started the evening third in the point standings, roared past Al Terrill on lap 6 of the 25-lap feature and was never headed for the rest of the event. John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa chased Guss across the finish line with Bill McCardle of Shullsburg, Wis., taking third, Duane Steffe of East Moline, Ill., in fourth and Jerry Reinhart of Moline, Ill, rounding out the top five.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1954 - White Wins Mower County Stock Car Feature

Austin, Minn. (June 20, 1954) – Don White of Fort Madison, Iowa, added the championship of the Mower County Fair races and $400 to his pockets on Sunday afternoon.

Driving a brand-new 1954 Oldsmobile, White won the 100-lap feature when Pete Peterson of Chicago, Ill., cracked his 1952 Hudson into the west fence. Peterson, who had been leading the field of 13 cars, was taken to St. Olaf Hospital for examination.

Ernie Derr of Fort Madison, Iowa, and the defending national champion of the International Motor Contest Association, took second in the feature, also driving an Olds.

White and Derr were followed by Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., and Bill Harrison of Topeka, Kan. Harrison finished third in the national rankings last season.

The 100-lap test was the climax of the racing program that had the estimated 3,500 fans jumping to their feet throughout the afternoon. Peterson was the only driver involved in an accident but there were many times when drivers would skid on the loose wet mud going through the curves.

A grader was used to clear the mud from the half-mile track and the straight-aways were dry and packed after the first event.

Because of a delay in starting, positions were determined by a draw. Peterson won the first heat in the time of 5 minutes and 53 seconds while Les Snow grabbed top honors in the second heat in a time of 5 minutes and 48 seconds. There was no time for the feature because of the red flag thrown for Peterson’s accident.

Sunday’s race counts towards the International Motor Contest Association point standings. The $2,000 purse was split among the 13 drivers competing.

The drivers found the track rough going. The high turns were soft near the fences and mud splattered the cars’ radiators. Three cars had to make pit stops for water and two others had to pit for tires.

The races were staged by Auto Racing, Inc., out of Minneapolis, and sponsored by the Mower County Fair. Frank Winkley managed the show while his wife, Verna, was the scorer. Nick Nachias of Minneapolis was the announcer while Jake Bozony of Cleveland, Ohio was the official starter.

Results –
1. Don White, Fort Madison, Iowa
2. Ernie Derr, Fort Madison, Iowa
3. Les Snow, Bloomington, Ill.
4. Bill Harrison, Topeka, Kan.
5. Art Schmidt, Somerset, Wis.
6. Doc Narber, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
7. Ray Springer, Chicago, Ill.
8. Roy Larson, Chicago, Ill.
9. Whitey Traeder, Green Bay, Wis.
10. Milt Schave, Wausau, Wis.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

1973 - Train’s yellow light gives Eaker a scare at Challenge Cup

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (June 19, 1973) - Verlin Eaker couldn’t believe what he saw with two laps to go in the 3rd annual Iowa Challenge Cup dirt track championship race at Hawkeye Downs Tuesday night.

“There was a yellow light on the backstretch and my first thought was, ‘What the hell, I thought the yellow light was banned for this race this year.’”

“But I stuck my arm out to warn the cars behind me. Then, when I came out of turn four I could see the green was still on, so I got back on it.”

Eaker was not seeing things. There was a yellow light, but it belonged to a train that was parked adjacent to the Downs 1/2-mile dirt oval. That was only one of the two scares Eaker got en route to his second straight Challenge Cup title before a crowd estimated at 7,000.

“My oil pressure was good, but I was losing some oil and it, was spraying my goggles,” explained the veteran Cedar Rapids driver. “I had a rag to wipe the oil off, but then I lost the rag. I would have been in serious trouble if I had to run 10 more laps.”

As it was, the spanking new engine in Eaker’s 1971 Nova held up and he set the pace for the final 42 tours in the 50-lap feature. That gave him $840 in lap money. Coupled with the $1,000 top prize offered by the sponsoring Cedar Rapids Jaycees, Eaker’s take home pay was $1,840.

There were two other leaders; Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, who earned $100 for his fast time of 25.07, led the first five laps before going out with a broken axle. Mike Niffenegger took over for the next three laps before he and Eaker tangled coming out of turn four. Eaker said contact couldn't be avoided.

“Mike went into turn three too hard and got up too high,” explained Eaker. “I went underneath him and he came down into me. We hit each other pretty hard.”

“I was in a position that we’d hit, no matter what, so I stayed on the gas.”

There were five restarts in the feature and they followed a delay of one hour, 55 minutes due lo intermittent showers. In fact, the trophy dash and consolation had to be canceled because of an insurance clause that will not permit racing after midnight.

The feature was completed at 12:08 a.m., which was within the contract because the race started well before the curfew. Eaker said the track “was not in good shape” when the feature started. "If it hadn’t been for the red flags (restarts) where drivers could bring their cars into the pits to cool them down, there would have been a big loss in equipment.”

The track was hard and slick - and fast - at the finish, which surprised Eaker.

“The groove kept moving higher and higher and the track didn’t stay tacky. I didn’t use rain tires, but halfway through the race I wished I had.”

Stan Stover of Reinbeck (1972 Chevelle) chased Eaker from the 10th lap on and finished second, about four lengths back. Curt Hansen of Dike (1971 Torino) was right on Stover's bumper in third place. Ed Sanger of Waterloo (1972 Chevelle) was fourth and Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids (1971 Plymouth) was fifth. The 1971 Challenge Cup champion, Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids (1965 Chevy) was eighth.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

This Week in Racing History

2000 – ASA veteran Mike Garvey had the car to beat at Hawkeye Downs Speedway during the running of the WorldBestBuy.com 250 on Sunday, June 17. Garvey led 237 of 250 laps on the half-mile, collecting his ninth career victory and first of 2000. After leading the first 90 laps, Garvey briefly fell back while pitting under caution, but quickly made his way back to the front, taking the lead from Gary St. Amant on the 104th circuit and pacing the field the rest of the way. Rookie Joey Clanton took runner-up honors and second-year pilot Tristan Dupuis took third. Jack Landis and Mike Miller rounded out the top five.

1990 – Tom Rients captured the 25-lap UMP late model main at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway on Friday night, June 15, pocketing $1,500 for his efforts. Jim Leka grabbed the lead but was soon challenged by Brian Ater as the pair battled back and forth for several laps. After a lap 9 caution, Ater flew by Leka coming out of turn two on the inside taking over the top spot. Rients, running in third place at the time, must have taken some notes from Ater as he passed Leka as well coming out of turn two and then proceeded to muscle inside of Ater in turns three and four and take the top spot as they crossed the start/finish line. Rients stretched his lead from there and won by nearly a full straightaway advantage. Leka would get by Ater to finish second while Ater settled for third. Fast qualifier (13.218 seconds) Jim Rarick took fourth and Ed Bauman grabbed fifth.

1984 – Gary Gillett of Kansas City, Kan., thrilled his hometown fans when he scored NASCAR Winston Racing Series late model feature win at Lakeside Speedway on Saturday, June 16. It was the first-ever late model victory for the 35-year-old former sprint car driver. Gillett, who owns his own trucking business, credited his sprint car experience with pulling out the last-lap victory. On the final lap, Billy Deckman of Kansas City, Mo., who had trailed Gillett for the final 19 laps, made a daring move on the front stretch and shot past Gillett on the inside. Deckman then lost control going into the first turn, skidding into the fence as Gillett, still on the outside groove, checked up, shot down to the low groove, steering clear of a spinning Deckman and driving the remaining final lap to victory. Ronnie Hoover of Fulton, Mo., inherited the second spot while Jamie Hager of Kansas City, Mo., took third in only his third time behind the wheel of a late model.
1979 – Michigan’s John Anderson won all three legs of the 13th annual “Sterling-Bluegrass 300” at the Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, Ky., on June 16. Anderson became the sixth different winner in seven ASA Circuit of Champions events held this season. Anderson became only the second driver to win all three segments of the triple 100-lap grind, equaling Jesse Baird’s accomplishment. Anderson, who made a shambles of the competition, led 156 of the 300 total laps. Anderson would pass Don Gregory on lap 94 to take the win in the first century race. In the second segment, Anderson would start at the tail after the field was inverted, but quickly made his way to the lead pack and on lap 38, passed race leader Bob Strait for the top spot and then held off a relentless Mike Eddy for the remaining 62 laps. The third and final segment started with Anderson and Eddy on the front row and Eddy out to the quick lead. That lead wouldn’t last long though, as Eddy would bobble a bit on lap 15 and Anderson was there to take advantage. Anderson was able to grow a comfortable lead and won the final 100-lapper by five car lengths over Mark Martin and Don Gregory.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

1976 - Schuler wins ‘Red Race’

Kaukauna, Wis. (June 13, 1976) - Larry Schuler, a 23-year-old fireball from Lockport, Ill., swept to victory in convincing style Sunday afternoon at the Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna as he wheeled his low-slung 1976 Camaro to victory in the first race of the “Red, White and Blue” state championship series.

A crowd of nearly 7,000 persons, the largest at the Kaukauna raceway since 1968, watched in amazement as Schuler picked off the Midwest’s best short track stock car pilots in his surge to the front.

Schuler, the afternoon’s second fastest qualifier, battled with Tom Reffner of Rudolph in the early stages of the race as the pair moved to the front. Reffner earlier had topped the 46-car field in time trials with a 20.88 lap around the half-mile paved oval.

However, minor mechanical problems slowed Reffner after 10 laps in the 50-lap event, and he finished a distant ninth, a full lap behind the streaking Schuler.

Gary Hemmerling of Beloit punched his 1973 Camaro into the lead and stayed out front until the 15th round when former state champion Rich Somers of Stevens Point gunned his Copp’s Discount Food Stores Mustang into the lead.

Schuler, meanwhile, had worked his way up to third position and in two laps whizzed past both Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids and Somers.

“The car ran good last Thursday night here, but today we changed tires and it went even faster,” Schuler said after the victory, the biggest of his four-year driving career.

“I had to add 500 pounds to my car,” he noted. Schuler was required by Wisconsin rules to add the weight to meet the minimum weight rule in the state. When he races in Illinois the car weighs 2,750 pounds, much under the rules in Wisconsin.

The added weight didn’t affect his performance at all as Trickle, the 1972 state champion, chased him the final 33 laps, but finished four car lengths off the winning pace.

Mike Miller of Wisconsin Rapids wrestled third spot away from Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill., with the 1975 state champion, John Ziegler, fifth in a 1976 Camaro and Somers sixth. Ziegler was not driving the 1976 Firebird he won the “Spring Opener 50” with at WIR in May after a disagreement with his former car owners.

The feature event was free of any accidents and yellow flags, however, Ken Carter - the “Mad Canadian” - ended the tranquility abruptly when his world record auto leap of 19 cars fell short and he piled into the 16th, 17th and 18th cars in the line-up, flattening all three with a loud crash as parts flew off the deflated cars in all directions.

Carter was not injured and told the large crowd that the transmission on his jump vehicle was not working properly and his speed was not right for the jump.

The 20-lap semi-feature was a three car tussle between Dennis Paasch of Marshfield, Greenville’s Bob Bennett and Mike Mattson of Marquette, Mich. Mattson throttled his 1973 Mustang into the early lead with Paasch overtaking him on the seventh lap when

Mattson drifted a bit wide in the second turn. Mattson continued to pressure Paasch throughout the race with Bennett finishing a close third followed by Lenard Reimer of .Janesville, Rio’s Ray Kreyer and Wayne Weckworth of Appleton.

Trickle won the “Dash for Cash” with his 1976 Ford Granada, edging out Reffner by less than a car length.

Freedom’s Bob Abitz led the first 20-lap qualifying race for three laps before surrendering the lead to Al Schill of Franklin. Schill was overtaken by hard-charging Jim Back of Vesper on the seventh lap and Back went on to win the race ahead of Tom Musgrave of Arlington Heights, Ill., and Schill.

In the second 20-lap qualifier, Bill Oas of Bloomington, Minn., held off Somers for the win with Doug Strasburg of Johnson Creek third.

Ed Howe, the highly regarded race car builder from Beaverton, Mich., did not race after he refused to allow track officials to weigh his car and check it for cubic inch displacement. All the other cars in the races were checked according to the rules.

Results –
1. Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill.
2. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids
3. Mike Miller, Wisconsin Rapids
4. Joe Shear, Beloit, Ill.
5. John Ziegler, Madison
6. Rich Somers, Stevens Point
7. Gary Hemmerling, Beloit
8. Tom Musgrave, Arlington Heights, Ill.
9. Tom Reffner, Rudolph
10. Doug Strasburg, Johnson Creek
11. Al Schill, Franklin
12. Tom Jones, Northbrook, Ill.
13. Bill Oas, Bloomington, Minn.
14. Jerry Eckhardt, Lake Mills
15. Larry Nipple, Albany
16. John Speer, Beloit, Ill.
17. Axel Dahlberg, Mauston
18. Jim Back, Vesper
19. Pete Parker, Kaukauna
20. Steve Arndt, Janesville
21. Pat Griffin, Galesville
22. Larry Detjens, Wausau
23. Tony Strupp, Slinger
24. Dave Watson, Beloit

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1966 - 26,200 See Andretti Win ‘Horne 100’

Langhorne, Pa. (June 12, 1966) - Langhorne Speedway is once again the home of the world record for one-mile on a mile track.

Mario Andretti, the Nazareth Pa., speedster, batted 1,000 at the “Horne” yesterday afternoon as 26,200 fans watched him establish a world record in the time trials and then go out and win the 100-mile National Championship Car race, leading all the way.

Andretti is a young man in a hurry. In fact, in five championship car races this year, Mario has not only won the pole position in each one, hut has broken the time trial record at Phoenix, Trenton, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and now Langhorne.

In the Phoenix trials in March, he was clocked in 29.41 seconds. (122.407 mph) which stood as the world mark until yesterday when he lowered it to 29.36 seconds (122.615 mp) on the ‘Home’s D-shaped asphalt surface.

Andretti, driving the Dean Van Lines Special, a rear engine Ford owned by Dean Racing Enterprises, covered the 100 miles in one hour and 47.78 seconds for an average speed of 98.690 miles per hour. This was excellent time when you consider that caution flags came out four different times for a total of 30 laps.

The race actually finished under the yellow. Sam Sessions took a spin on the third turn in the 90th lap, losing control because of some oil on the track. It was discovered later that the oil had been leaking from the car of Bobby Unser and the stewards decided it best to complete the race under caution.

Winner Andretti thought the race officials acted wisely as the track was very slick between the third and fourth turns. Even runner-up Jim McElreath, who won both championship car races at Langhorne last year, agreed with the decision.

McElreath had closed in right behind Andretti when the final caution flags were displayed, but was honest enough to admit that he didn’t think he could have overtaken Mario, unless the latter ran into mechanical difficulties.

The time for the 100-miles establishes a record for the distance on the paved track as no official time was available last year because the race had to be stopped and restarted.

Joe Leonard, Don Branson, Billy Foster and Roger McCluskey rounded out the first six to cross the finish line and all completed the full 100 laps.

After the race was over, Andretti said “This is a demanding race track. You have to be on the ball.”

Mario’s victory earned him about $8,000 of the total purse of $27,300.

Henry Banks, director of competition for the United States Auto Club, said this was the first championship car race to finish under the caution flags in a long, long time. Twenty-two cars started and 13 were still running at the finish.

The yellow flags first came out on the 28th lap when Art Pollard and George Snider spun out on the first turn. It took six laps to tow the cars, off and racing resumed. The caution flags weren’t seen again until the 73rd mile when Jim Hurtubise took a spin on the backstretch.

After six more laps under the yellow the race resumed and just one lap later, Ron Duman and Bob Hurt took spins and seven more laps were required to get the track ready again. Then on the 90th lap, Sessions and Al Unser took spins and the race was completed under caution.

Andretti now owns the time trial record on every major paved track in the country with the exception of Atlanta.

The Italian-born racer collected his first victory at Langhorne as his wife and two year-old son looked on.

Results –
1. Mario Andretti, Nazareth, Pa.
2. Jim McElreath, Arlington, Tex.
3. Joe Leonard, San Jose, Calif.
4. Don Branson, Champaign, Ill.
5. Billy Foster, Victoria, B.C.
6. Roger McCluskey, Tucson, Ariz.
7. Bob Harkey, Indianapolis, Ind.
8. Arnie Knepper, Belleville, Ill.
9. Al Unser, Albuquerque, N.M
10. Carl Williams, Grandview, Mo.
11. Larry Dickson, Marietta, Ohio
12. Chuck Hulse, Downey, Calif.
13. Ronnie Duman, Speedway, Ind.
14. Bobby Unser, Albuquerque, N.M
15. Sam Sessions, Nashville, Tenn.
16. Bob Hurt, Potomac, Md.
17. Jim Hurtubise, North Tonawanda, N.Y.
18. Bud Tinglestad, Speedway, Ind.
19. Gordon Johncock, Hastings, Mich.
20. Gary Congdon, Garden Grove, Calif.
21. George Snider, Torrance, Calif.
22. Art Pollard, Indianapolis, Ind.

Monday, June 11, 2012

1961 - Hurtubise win Terre Haute 30-lapper


Terre Haute, Ind. (Jun 11, 1961) - Jim “Hercules” Hurtubise, the 1960 rookie of the year in the Indianapolis 500, jumped into the lead early from his second place starting position and went on to win the 30-lap USAC-sanctioned sprint car race at the Vigo County Fair Ground track yesterday afternoon.

The Lenox, Cal., driver accelerated his Chevy-powered roadster around the 15-mile dirt course in 13 minutes and 13 seconds. He won the same event last year with a time of 13 minutes and 26 seconds, and holds the second fastest qualification time here to date.

The day of racing was marred by an accident involving Wayne Weiler of Phoenix, Ariz., on the third lap of the first heat race. Weiler’s new A. J. Watson-built car, in its first race, ran its left front tire over the right rear tire of the Hurtubise car, overturning the car twice and injuring the driver seriously. No other drivers or cars were impaired by the accident.

Weiler was rushed to St. Anthony Hospital where he is in serious condition. Hospitals officials last night reported that Weiler, still unconscious, had sustained a fractured jaw and head injuries.

Leon Clum, who started on the pole, followed closely behind Hurtubise the entire race to take second place. Parnelli Jones of Gardena, Cal., piloted his Fike Plumbing Special Chevy to the third spot.

Speedway, Indiana’s Elmer George moved up from seventh place in the feature to pick up fourth. Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., also moved up rapidly in the field coming from ninth spot to fifth. A. J. Foyt was battling for third place in the feature until a spin out in the twelfth lap.

A. J., behind the wheel of an Offy, directed the machine to fifth placed in a field dominated by larger displacement Chevy V-8’s. He was followed by Cecil Beavers and Roger McCluskey respectively.

The first eight-lap was won by Clum, the fastest qualifier of the day. Hurtubise and Parnelli Jones took second and third, due to the accident and the replaces in the heat, respectively was taken.

A. J. Foyt won the second heat, starting at the pole. He was timed at 3.22.60 over the four-mile course. Leroy Neumeyer of Compton, Cal., placed second and Roger McCluskey moved up from fourth place to third spot.

1957 sprint car champion Elmer George piloted the “Tony’s Special Chevy” from fifth place to the top spot in the third heat with a 3:30.31 time. Bud Tinglestad and Don Branson retained their second and third starting spots, respectively.

Danny “Termite” Jones gave the fans a thrill as he directed his sprinter from eighth place to win the 15-lap semi-feature. The “Termite” chewed his way through the first turn traffic, passing four cars in the contested arena. Cecil Beavers also moved up in the field from fifth to second, while Calvin Gilstrap of Salem dropped from second to third place.

Leon Clum led off in the qualification trials and turned the fastest time of the day. His fastest lap was 24.06 seconds. The track record stands at 23.70 as set by Van Johnson in 1959.

The qualifications were slowed up considerably by a power failure and for a short time the electric timer wasn't in use. USAC officials quickly set back the clock to the days of the stop watch and qualifications were resumed.

Other qualifiers under 25 seconds included Hugh Randall, Weiler, Neumeyer, McCluskey, Jones and Foyt. Neumeyer, on the Terre Haute track for the first time, spun out in the first lap of his qualification, and went out on his remaining lap after a pit stop to collect one of his better times of the day, a 25.30 bid.

A sellout crowd of more than 8,000 was on hand to watch the events. Due to the large attendance the $5,000 purse was upped to $6,450 of which Hurtubise collected $1,160.

In attendance was Anton Hulman Jr., president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, who rode in the pace car driven by racing great, Rodger Ward.

Results –
1. Jim Hurtubise
2. Leon Clum
3. Parnelli Jones
4. Elmer George
5. Don Branson
6. A.J. Foyt
7. Cecil Beavers
8. Roger McCluskey
9. Bud Tinglestad
10. Danny Jones
11. Rex Easton
12. Bob Cleburg
13. Calvin Gilstrap
14. Leroy Neumeyer

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hawkeye Downs’ Wall of Fame: 2002 - 2012

2002 –
Emory Collins - Driver
Darrell Dake - Driver
Ed Emerson - Official
Johnny Hobel - Driver
Doc Hunter - Official
George Miller - Driver
Charlie Moffitt - Driver
Gus Schrader - Driver
Ramo Stott - Driver
Red Droste - Driver


2003 –
Keith Fleck – Promoter/Supporter
Keith Knaack - Media
Al Frieden - Promoter
Ernie Derr - Driver
Lee Kunzman - Driver
Curt Hansen - Driver
Verlin Eaker - Driver
Roger Dolan - Driver
Jerry Blundy – Driver
Irv Janey - Driver


2004 –
Paul Draper - Promoter
Fred Horn - Driver
Bill Zwanziger - Driver
Tom Hearst - Driver
Roger Bear - Announcer
Willard Yates - Driver
Danny Kladis - Driver
Buzz Rose - Driver
Dick Benken - Supporter
Tom Hughes - Driver

2005 –
Bill McDonough - Driver
Ken Walton - Driver
Mert Williams - Driver
Ray Guss Sr. - Driver
Bob Hilmer - Driver
Doug Wolfgang - Driver
Larry Ryan – Car Owner
Bob Trostle – Car Builder
John Tibben – Motorcycle Racer
Howard Langdon – Car Owner

2006 –
Larry & Kathleen Kemp - Promoter
Jim Hereen - Supporter
Ed Sanger - Driver
Rex & Becky Robbins - Promoter
Arlo Becker - Driver
Jim McElreath - Driver
Johnny Rutherford – Driver
John Connolly – Driver
Lauren “Bump” Willerts – Stunt Driver
Jimmy Canton – Stunt Driver

2007 –
Dale Fischlein - Driver
Dale Snyder – Car Builder
John Moss - Driver
Glen Martin - Driver
Bill Beckman - Driver
Mike Frieden - Driver
Mel Kenyon - Driver
Engel DeKock – Official
Emil Merta – Tractor Puller
Mike Neilly – Announcer

2008 –
Steve Kosiski - Driver
Johnny Beauchamp - Driver
Chris Economaki - Announcer
Leo Pfeiffer - Supporter
Cliff Blundy - Driver
Gary “Grumpy” Gramblin - Supporter
Lou Holland - Driver
Mike Schulte - Driver
Larry Kelley - Driver
Dale Gegner - Promoter

2009 –
Dick Ritchie - Driver
Johnny Spaw - Driver
Erik Spaw - Driver
Ray Spaw – Crew Chief
Gary Crawford - Driver
Frank Winkley - Promoter
Jim Patton – Car Builder
Cal Swanson - Driver
Chub Liebe - Driver
Jeff Dahn – Media


2010 –
Roy Wilson – Tow Truck
Kevin Korsmo - Driver
Brad Loney - Driver
Mike Niffenegger - Driver
John Gerber – Driver/Promoter
Dick Hobel - Driver
Dwayne Schneider – Car Owner/Builder
Don White - Driver

2011 –
Paul Newkirk – Driver/Mechanic
Ron Hochstetler – Tow Truck
Benny Jamison – Car Builder/Owner
Les Burianek – Media
Johnny Mudd - Driver
Jim Gerber - Driver
Charles “Chopper” Safely - Driver
Karl Sanger - Driver
Dave Mitchell – Supporter

2012 -
Sonny Crow – Tow Truck/Car Owner
Russ Lyman – Car Builder/Owner
Vince Fiala – Car Owner
Jerry Epperson - Driver
Gordon Blankenship - Driver
Lem Blankenship - Driver
Eddie Leavitt - Driver
Bill Bennett Jr. – Driver

Saturday, June 9, 2012

This Week in Racing History


2000 – Terry Reilly of Watertown, S.D., picked up the feature win in the Jackpot Junction Midwest IMCA Sprint Tour at Hancock County Speedway in Britt, Iowa, on June 9. Reilly, who was the defending race winner at the 4/10-mile dirt oval, led all 25 laps, but had to hold off a pair of hard chargers in Kent Winters of Butterfield, Minn., and Sidney Denzer of LeSeuer, Minn., to secure the win. The feature got off to a horrific start as Ron Smith and Dwain Wilmes tangled on the first lap, sending both cars over the edge of turn three. Neither driver was injured but unable to continue in the race.


1990 – Bob Senneker extended his all-time career record to 62 American Speed Association wins by capturing the AC-Delco Challenge Series Raider 300 at Salem (Ind.) Speedway on June 10. Senneker, a 17-year ASA veteran, snapped the previous ASA 300 record at Salem Speedway by more than 3 minutes covering the 162-mile distance in 1 hour, 51 minutes and 7 seconds and edging pole winner Harold Fair by 3.7 seconds at the finish. Senneker led the first 97 laps and the last 43 for his fourth career ASA win on the high-banked paved oval to collect $7,715 in prize money from the $74,220 purse. Senneker and Fair were followed by Johnny Benson Jr., Junior Hanley and Scott Hansen.

1984 – Dick Colburn captured both the 25-lap sprint car feature and the 20-lap modified main to dominate the racing action at Wilmot (Wis.) Speedway on June 9. The sprint main saw Colburn fly into the lead and build a comfortable cushion until a multi-car accident on lap 14 bunched the field. Colburn was able to maintain the lead on the restart and managed to hold off Darrell Dodd in the closing laps to score the win. In the modified A-main, Bruce Young paced the field through the opening 7 laps and three cautions before a fourth caution appeared on lap 8. When the green reappeared, Colburn worked his way even with Young and grabbed the lead coming down the main straight. He went on to build a comfortable lead and never looked back in making it two for two on the evening.

1979 – Rainouts at some tracks on Friday, June 8, added some new late models to the regulars at Fairmont (Minn.) Speedway, but the results were the same – Denny Hovinga and Bob Shryock in a bumper-to-bumper duel. Hovinga, Shryock and visitor Ed Sanger ran nose to tail for all 25 laps of the feature with Shryock using every bit of the track to get around Hovinga, but it was to no avail as Hovinga scored his third straight feature victory. Shryock, Sanger, Bob Weber and Em Fretheim rounded out the top five. Right after the evening’s program, the promoter announced a $100 bounty for anyone who could beat Hovinga in next week’s race.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

1971 - Marion ‘Dresses Up’ Iowa Racing


By Ron Maly – Des Moines Register
Knoxville, Iowa (June 6, 1971) - Marion Robinson was talking about racetracks and race cars while sitting at his usual spot - the floor.

He wore a two-tone shirt: Dirt-on-blue. He had almost enough grease on his hands to lubricate his pickup truck. He had red spots on shoes that were coming apart at the seams.

“Your feet bleeding?” someone asked. “That's red paint,” Robinson explained. “I've been painting the bleachers at the Newton track. I rebuilt the same bleachers, rewired the place and I even do the grading on the track.”

Robinson, 64, doesn't know if he should be called a racing promoter or a racing manager. Whatever it is, alligator shoes, $18 striped shirts and double-knit coats are not his bag.

He nearly always looks like he just stepped out from under the hood of a car – and he probably has. He can do it all at the track, including drive the car.

Robinson once had races going at Bloomfield, Iowa; Newton, Iowa; Knoxville, Iowa; Des Moines, Iowa; Webster City, Iowa; and Dayton, Iowa. Now, white-haired and at an age when a lot of men have retirement on their minds, he handles weekly racing shows at Knoxville and Newton. Knoxville is his showcase.

It is impossible for him to talk modestly about the Saturday night - any Saturday night - super-modified races there.

“Knoxville is the number one track in the Midwest,” Robinson said. “Any driver will tell you that. It's a track that is built for automobile racing.”

Robinson is a junior high school dropout with six children and 25 grandchildren. He has seen a half -dozen men die in auto race crashes and he once had to go to Beaver Dam, Wis., to bring a brother- in-law home from a race.

The trip was made in a pickup truck. The brother-in-law was in a casket. He had died at a track.

“I love racing,” said Robinson. “As far as I'm concerned, it's the top spectator sport in America, and it's going to get bigger.”

“There is a car for everyone to get excited about, whether it's an Indianapolis type, a late model, a super modified, a midget or a mini-stock.”

Robinson said there are 62 tracks operating in Iowa now. Races are held somewhere in the state seven nights a week.

Marion drove in his last race - a midget event in Marengo, Iowa - 12 years ago.

“And that night,’ he said, “I got into an argument with my wife, Nadine, over who was actually going to do the driving. The old lady is a better driver than I ever thought of being and wanted to drive that night, but I wouldn’t let her.”

When Robinson isn't hanging around a track somewhere, he’s probably rebuilding a motor or tearing the transmission out of someone's passenger car at his repair shop.

“I've been putting a clutch in a 1965 Ford,” Robinson said Thursday. “That's why I'm so dirty.”

Marion said be owns some suits - including a 25-year-old double-breasted job that is suddenly back in style - but usually wears them only to funerals and weddings.

“People will always take your money,” he said, “no matter how you're dressed."

How is it with Robinson and the green, stuff?

“I could show a financial statement that shows I'm worth $100,000 - and that's a conservative figure,” he said. “But I had to borrow to pay my income tax. You explain that one.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hawkeye Downs’ Wall of Fame Honors Class of 2012


Cedar Rapids, IA – The “Wall of Fame” class of 2012 will be inducted at intermission during Keith Fleck Memorial Wall of Fame Night at Hawkeye Downs Speedway this Friday, June 8.

This year’s group of honorees includes brothers Lem and Gordon Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, Bill Bennett Jr., Vince Fiala, Jerry Epperson, Russ Lyman, all of Cedar Rapids, Sonny Crow of Marion, Iowa, and the late Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo.

The Blankenship’s were part of the famous “Keokuk Komets” that included previous Wall of Fame inductees Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott and Don White.

Lem Blankenship - Kyle Ealy Collection

Lem was the 1966 Mid-Continent Racing Association Rookie of the Year as well as the MCRA champion in 1969. He competed successfully in both the IMCA and USAC stock car divisions.

Gordon Blankenship - John Vass Photo

His brother Gordon also competed in the IMCA and USAC stock car divisions, winning the 1973 IMCA stock car national championship. He competed in ARCA as well, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1981.

Bill Bennett Jr. won three consecutive Sportsman championships at Hawkeye Downs, earning titles in 1996, ’97 and ’98. Bennett moved on to experience great success in the Late Model ranks as well.

Vince Fiala was a very successful car owner who had the likes of Curt Hansen, Mike Niffenegger and Duane Steffe behind the wheel of his late models. Fiala also owned 1991 Hawkeye Downs’ track champion Steve Stinger’s modified.

Jerry Epperson competed against some of the very best drivers ever to race at The Downs in the 60’s and early 70’s. Epperson raced against former Wall of Fame inductees Red Droste, Darrell Dake and Bob Hilmer and more than held his own on a weekly basis.

Russ Lyman was an accomplished car owner as well, with former Downs’ greats Bill Beckman, Buzz McCann, Steve Keppler, Verlin Eaker and Bill Zwanziger all behind the wheel of Lyman-owned racecars. Lyman was also a championship crew chief for John Henecke (1986 and 2000) and Brad Loney (1990 – ’91).

Sonny Crow supplied tow trucks to The Downs’ for many years and has been a huge behind the scenes supporter to drivers, pit crews and officials.

Eddie Leavitt - Bob Mays Photo

Eddie Leavitt was a very successful sprint car driver who experienced great success at The Downs during the old IMCA sprint car days in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Leavitt would go on to win the Knoxville Nationals in 1975 and ’76 and was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2001.

There will be a “meet and greet” with new Wall of Fame inductees underneath the grandstands before the races. Many former inductees are expected to be in attendance as well.

Gates open at 6:00 with hot laps slated for 6:35. Pre-race ceremonies begin at 7:15 with the first race at 7:30.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

1979 - Racing champ Hansen had rocky start

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (June 3, 1979) - Auto racing hasn’t always been a bowl of cherries for Curt Hansen. At first, it was the pits…

“I started racing right out of high school in the sportsman class at Nashua and Charles City,” recalls Hansen, a 34-year-old Dike native who looks about 10 years younger.

“My whole family always traveled around watching IMCA races in Iowa and Missouri, and I always said I’d drive stock cars someday. But when I really did get started my mom and grandma about went into hysterics. They were upset that I went into racing instead of going to college.”

“And the first night I raced I started to wonder if maybe they weren’t right. The guy right in front of me flipped his car and all I could see were his arms and legs and head flopping around. He must have been knocked out.”

“I thought right then about driving right into the pits and calling it quits, but I kept going, and I finished fourth in that race.”

And today, 16 years later, Curt Hansen may be the hottest late model stock car driver in Iowa. On the weekend of May 25-27, for example, he won three straight feature races, at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, at West Liberty and at Waterloo.

Overall, Curt has won eight of the 18 features he’s entered this season. And Hansen will be one of the favorites in Tuesday night’s 7th annual Miller 100 at Hawkeye Downs, as he's the only driver to win the 100-lap classic two times, in 1976 and ‘78.

Auto racing has been good to Hansen’s wallet. He won $41,000 racing last year and $51,000 the year before. He has been the Downs’ point champion the past two seasons as well as in 1975. And he’s leading again this season.

Not that Hansen limits his time to auto racing. The 1962 Dike High School graduate also works for Clay Equipment in Cedar Falls and is one-fourth owner of a small farm equipment manufacturing firm and owns a machine shop.

Small wonder he says, “I don’t have much time to waste. Sundays are especially bad because I don’t get home from racing until 2 in the morning and I have to go to work at 6 Monday morning.

“In July and August, I race five to six nights a week. During the rest of the summer I race four nights a week. At one time last summer we had 16 straight nights of racing scheduled, but the 11th and 12th nights were rained out. That's the only thing that saved me.”

“I’d say we travel close to 30,000 miles hauling the cars every summer.”

Hansen has entered two cars for the Miller 100, a Chevrolet Camaro and an Oldsmobile Cutlass, both brand new and owned by Vince Fiala of Cedar Rapids. “We’ll try them both out and see which one seems to be working the best,” says Hansen.

Late model drivers hit up to 100 miles per hour on the straightaway of the Downs' half-mile dirt track, so safety and fear play a role.

“Sometimes you think about being afraid,” says Hansen, “but only after the race. Sometimes after a race I’ll lay in bed and think about what might have happened. But it's not in my mind during the race. You’ve just got to be on your toes to make sure you don’t get into a scary situation.”

Hansen, who along with his wife, Alice, has a son, Bobby, 14, and a daughter, Alicia, 5, doesn’t have any illusions of grandeur. Driving in the Indianapolis 500 isn't one of his goals.

“Racing at Indy is like racing sprint cars,” says Hansen. “You’re gonna get hurt; it’s almost guaranteed. And I enjoy racing too much for that. I might be going slower than the Indy drivers, but I’m having as much fun.”

There’s no doubt about that.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

This Week in Racing History

1990 – Steve Fraise and Sonny Smyser were winners at Capital Speedway in Holts Summit, Mo., on Saturday, June 2. Fraise, the “Flyin Iowan” from Montrose, started the 25-lap NASCAR Grand American late model feature on the outside of row six, but made his way steadily through the field and caught Mark Burgtorf of Quincy, Ill., on lap 23 for the lead, then sailed to the win. Smyser, out of Lancaster, Mo., returned to Capital for the first time this season and won the A-modified feature handily, leading all 20 circuits. Racing fans got to see their first racing action at Capital since May 5, after three consecutive washouts.
1984 – Despite five challengers gathering at his back bumper during late-race cautions, Bob Senneker won the Silver Creek Series 250 at Ozark Empire Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 2, by less than one second over Dick Trickle. Following the lead duo under a blanket after 250 laps was Mike Eddy, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin and Jim Sauter. Senneker credited his victory to making only a single pit stop and tire change while all of his lead-lap pursuers elected to make a second tire changed during a caution with 50 laps remaining in the race.

1979 – Dub May made shambles of the World of Outlaws’ debut at the Sunshine State Expo Grounds in Topeka, Kan., on June 2, as he led all 40 laps in making a near-clean sweep of the program. May shattered the old track record in qualifying, eclipsing Sane Carson’s mark of 20.83 seconds. He would finish second in his heat and win the trophy dash. Although May made it look easy in winning the feature, he had to hold off persistent challenges from both Steve Kinser and Leland McSpadden in the early going and then Bobby Marshall in the closing stages. Marshall would settle for second followed by Kinser, Bobby Layne and McSpadden.

1972 - Nashville, Michigan’s Sam Sessions jumped from Indianapolis and the 500 to the half-mile oval of Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa, and won the 40-lap United States Auto Club championship sprint car race on June 3. Sessions, driving the Maury Amerling Chevrolet, set a new USAC record, with a time of 16 minutes and 23 seconds for the 20-mile distance. Sessions recorded fifth fastest time, which placed him on the outside of the front row with the inverted top six qualifiers. Sessions set the pace throughout the contest but was slowed for heavy lap traffic at times allowing Don Nordhorn, Greg Weld, and Tom Bigelow to stay within striking distance. Sessions maneuvered his way through, though, and won by a quarter of a lap at the finish. Nordhorn, Weld, Bigelow and Bill Thrasher rounded out the top five.