Friday, July 20, 2012

1969 - Big league stock car racing complexion changing

Detroit, Mich. (July 20, 1969) – The complexion of big-league stock car racing is changing.

NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Racing) Grand National racing may soon be restricted to the superspeedways, or at least tracks one mile or longer, while the newer and now successful Grand Touring circuit will replace the big stockers on the half-mile ovals.

The problem is supply and demand. There just are not enough available weekends in the year to take care of the major events, which now exist on the schedule, plus those which will be coming up.

Grand National features the standard issue Detroit cars, while the intermediates race under the Grand Touring banner.

It has also been noticed that Johnny Marcum’s ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) has been getting an increasing number of race dates on NASCAR tracks.

Within the ranks of the Midwest state fair circuit, IMCA (International Motor Contest Association), there are also two circuits with occasional conflicting dates, but they resolve the problem numbers by permitting the smaller cars, such as Mustang, Cougar and Javelin, to race alongside the Torino and Charger, in direct competition.

The USAC (United States Auto Club) stock car circuit has really come to life this year, under the direction of former Californian Bill Taylor, who boasted 69 entries a week before last Sunday’s Milwaukee, (Wis.) 200-mile race, with “no less than 29 of them 1969 models”.

Also, of course, Taylor has the advantage of Indianapolis winners A. J. Foyt and Bobby Unser driving stockers along with other Indianapolis heroes like Roger McCluskey and Al Unser.

IMCA’s AI Sweeney enthusiastically pointed out “more than half of the entries are driving 1969 cars”. The once liberal used car market in the auto racing industry has, for some reason, disappeared. Everything from Javelin and Mustang to Charger and Torino are showroom fresh. The new cars are probably the result of a loot economy, or the result of past racing experiences.

“Today’s stock car driver is going first class,” Sweeney continued. “Not only is there new Detroit iron, but they are towed to and from the race in mobile trailer, which could house a family of four, plus a workshop and the race car.”

Also on the IMCA professional tour, Keokuk, Iowa has sent two more of its sons to the stock car wars, a youngster named Gordon Blankenship and the icon of the nine-time IMCA national champion, 21-year-old Mike Derr, a student at Northeast Missouri State College. “I know Mike has the sense and ability to be a good one,” said his father, Ernie Derr.

This makes a total of 18 drivers to come out of the Iowa town, which doesn’t even have a racetrack of its own. Keokuk greats include the perennial champion Ernie Derr, IMCA and USAC stock car champ Don White, IMCA and NASCAR great Dick Hutcherson, his younger brother Ron Hutcherson, IMCA and ARCA star Ramo Stott, and IMCA’s Jerry McCredie.

“In the past 15 years, this city has produced more champions and near chaimpions than any other city in America,” commented IMCA and National Speedways’ Gene Van Winkle. Salute Keokuk!

Bill Benton, a man who was most involved with Ford’s original stock car racing program, when he was in the Charlotte (N. C.) and Southeastern sales offices, has been prompted again, this time to executive assistant, sales group, North American automotive operations of the Ford Motor Co., moving upward out of Ford Division.

Benton’s involvement in racing was in the heyday of the famed “purple hogs” driven by rough rider Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly in the late 1950s when Darlington (S. C.) was the biggest track and the word ‘superspeedway’ had not even been coined.

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