Thursday, September 20, 2012

1981 – Canadian Invader Hanley Scores in Rockford 200

Junior Hanley is joined by Hugh and Jody Deery after winning the NSTC 200-lapper. - Mark Vanveghel Photo/Courtesy of Kim Kemperman

Loves Park, Ill. (September 20, 1981) – He came, he saw, he conquered.

That was the story of Junior Hanley, the top driver in the history of Canadian short track stock car history, as he paid his first visit to the Rockford Speedway quarter-mile oval to compete in the 16th annual National Short Track Championships.

Hanley led the last half of the 200-lap race taking the front spot as leader Randy Slack, a fellow Canadian, left the track with a split cylinder wall just as the yellow came out for the 101st lap mandatory pit stop.

Hanley never relinquished the lead once he got out front, but the victory was not an easy one. A determined Joe Shear moved into second place when Hanley inherited the lead. But there were a large number of lapped cars separating the top-notch pilots and 30 laps went by before Shear could ease his Camaro through the heavy traffic and stick the front end of his car under the rear spoiler of Hanley’s Camaro.

And that was just exactly how they ran for the next 70 circuits. Time and time again Shear would look for a hole and wait for a Hanley mistake that never came. Shear was still waiting when the checkered flag fell to end the 200-lap classic.

It had to be a disappointing afternoon for Shear. On two different occasions he was running second, only to be involved in mishaps that sent him to the back of the field for restarts. In the 27th go-round, a four-car pileup involving Shear, Steve Murgic, Fran Prestay and 1980 NSTC champion Jim Sauter sent Shear first to the pits and then to the rear of the lineup. That particular mishap sent Sauter to the pit area for the rest of the afternoon.

By lap 75 Shear had worked his way back up to the number two slot and on lap 89 disaster struck again. The Shear Camaro and Jimmy Pierson’s Camaro got together in front of the main grandstand. This crash sent Shear to the pits for a new tire and the removal of the rear quarter panel. Pierson was finished for the day, but once again, Shear had to start from scratch.

Dave Watson led the first two laps of the marathon only to retire later with a sour engine. Fred Campbell led until lap 18 when Randy Slack moved out front. Campbell soon retired with electrical problems and Slack with engine woes.

Three last chance qualifiers were run earlier in the day and the two super late model 30-lappers saw Al Schill and Mel Walen take the checkers. The 25-lap “Rockford Rules” qualifier saw Dave Ward in the winner’s circle.

Results –
1. Junior Hanley
2. Joe Shear
3. Steve Moll
4. Larry Middleton
5. Tony Hertko
6. Mel Walen
7. Doug Lane
8. Bill Berkheimer
9. Wayne Lensing
10. Steve Murgic
11. Al Schill
12. Dennis Vogel
13. Jim Weber
14. Greg Guzzo
15. Dave Watson
16. Larry Schuler
17. Randy Slack
18. Jim Pierson
19. Conrad Morgan
20. Fred Campbell
21. Frank Gawlinski
22. Don James
23. Bobby Dotter
24. Fran Prestay
25. Jim Sauter
26. Dave Tomczak
27. Dave Hoffman
28. John Ziegler

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