Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1966 - Ray Nichels; the Legend Grows

 Nichels boys (l-r) - Joe Weatherly, Len Sutton, Marvin Panch, Rodger Ward, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts and Paul Goldsmith.

Hammond, Ind. (October 30, 1966) - It has been a long-standing joke with Ray Nichels that his home town is one of the few places in the country where he’s likely to have trouble cashing a personal check.

In the South, where the name Nichels and stock car racing go together like ham and eggs, the only things he’s apt to sign are autographs. In Monza, Italy, Mexico City and several spots in England and Canada it’s the same.

They know him at Indianapolis where the “500” is run every Memorial Day, at Darlington, S.C., the first of the South’s super speedways and at Langhorne, Pa., Daytona Beach, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., Milwaukee, Wis., Bristol, Tenn., Watkins Glen, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C., and wherever else man and machine run against the clock and each other.

For nearly 30 years, Nichels has been building, maintaining and racing automobiles. He started in 1937 when he was 15 years old with midget racers. The next step up was a big one, to the United States Auto Club championship circuit. Today, Nichels is the biggest in the country in the late model stock car field.

The Nichels racing stable operates out of a modern, sprawling building at 1111 East Main Street in Griffith, Indiana. From the out side, one would never know that inside welders, engine and chassis experts and painters are busy constructing hemi-powered Dodges and Plymouths.

That's the way Nichels likes it. No hoopla, fanfare or plaudits - just a winning operation. And if he seeks anonymity in the only place the - public will let him have it - in his own backyard – who’s to say he’s wrong?

Nichels is happiest at the racetrack but finds less and less time in which to get away from the paper laden desk on the second floor of his small empire. He works long hours, sleeps only when he has to and smokes half a dozen packs of cigarettes a day. It has become almost a reflex action that every time he answers the phone, Nichels fires up a cigarette. The secretary, out of curiosity, kept track one day of incoming calls only. She quit at 150.

There are some who say he can’t keep up the pace. But Nichels, who claims there are 21 work days in a week, appears to thrive on it. A year ago when Chrysler’s hemi engine was outlawed by NASCAR, things moved at a snail’s pace. Most of the time he was is jittery as a go-go dancer in church

Nichels is at his best when the work load mounts, when the pressure builds right up to race time. He must not only worry about his own entries but also those of some 50 car owners throughout the country for whom he vendors parts.

“You don’t make it if you don't work at it,” he says. “I don’t care what you do; be good at it. If you’re going to be a bum, be a good one. That's all I ask of anybody.”

Ray Nichels was born in Chicago on September 8, 1922. His parents, Rudy and Gladys Nichels moved the family to Griffith in 1929. By the time he was 12 Ray was pumping gas from midnight to 7 a.m. then running off to school. He slept in the afternoon.

In 1937 the Nichels family saw its first automobile race at the old Hammond Speedway. Ray’s dad bought a car at trackside when the race ended. “I was hooked right than and there,” he says “I worked on the car every chance I got, all the while dreaming of the day when I'd be a driver.”

By the time World War II came along and put automobile racing in mothballs for the duration, the Nichels fleet of midgets had grown to five. Ray enlisted in the Navy. In 1946 he returned home, hauled out his wrenches and got the wheels rolling again.

“I’d given up any ideas of driving by then,” he said. “I decided to leave that to the professionals. I knew I was more qualified as a mechanic.”

Midget racing was a big attraction in those days. Nichels, most any week of the season, was driving some 2,700 miles getting to and from as many as nine different race tracks He worked and competed with such drivers as Tony Bettenhausen, Paul Russo, Wally Zale, Ray Richards, Ted Duncan and Ronnie Householder.

Householder, whom Ray says was the “toughest driver I ever saw on a one-mile track”, today heads up Chryslers’ racing division.

In 1947, he and Eleanor Covert were married. The following year, be broke away from the family operation and set out for Indy. In 1949, he teamed with Russo in a car-building venture that is still one of the classic stories heard around race tracks.

Short on money and thin on experience; the two nevertheless built the car in the basement of Russo’s Hammond home. It was an innovation for Indy-type cars, its frame consisting of singular tubing and weighing about 15,000 pounds, some 500 pounds lighter than the other Speedway cars.

“Basement Bessie,” the car was called. Ray campaigned her successfully until 1952.

From then until 1955, he drove a fuel truck during the winter to pay off the bills accumulated during the racing season He worked for a dozen different people on a parade of race cars. One was a test car for the Firestone Rubber Company, in which Sam Hanks broke a proving grounds record at 182 miles per hour.

Pat O’Connor, Ray Nichels and Chapman Root became the first All-Hoosier race team ever to claim the pole for the world’s greatest race in 1956.

Next, he teamed with driver Pat O’Connor. At Indy in 1955, O'Connor was running second with eight laps to go when a fitting on the fuel pump broke. The car finished eighth. The following year O’Connor put the car in the front row during qualifying.

One of Nichels’ greatest moments came from February to May, 1957. In three months at three different tracks, he pulled off what amounted to the equal of golf’s “grand slam”.

In the Pontiac stock cars, which Ray took over in late 1956. Daytona Beach crumbled before a Nichels onslaught. First, Joe Littlejohn won the Flying Mile in record time. Next, Banjo Matthews set fast time in time trials for the Daytona Beach 500. And finally, Cotton Owens, in still a third Nichels Pontiac, won the Beach 500.

This done, Nichels and O’ Connor flew to Monza, where it was said no race tire could hold up under the speed and stress of that particular track. They shattered the track record the first day. By the end of 10 days, they had upped the record 10 miles per hour – from 162 to 172.

With two days in which to get their Speedway car set up for qualifying, Nichels and O’Connor hustled back to Indianapolis Not only did they get the job done but they did it better than anyone else O’Connor put the #12 Sumar Special on the pole with a qualifying speed of 143.948 mph.

It won for Nichels the Mechanic of the Year award Because of a split fuel tank, the car finished eighth in the race. The following year, O’ Connor was killed in the 21-car pileup at the start of the race. For Ray, it was the end of racing.

“I had no more interest in racing,” he says. “I wanted no part of it. Pat and I had become more than friends. We were like brothers.”

It was a year before he returned Pontiac worked on him and a skinny character with a wide smile, who still has a mark on his shoulder where a car went over the top of him in the crash that killed O’Connor, moved into the picture.

Ray Nichels and Paul Goldsmith accept their trophy after winning a USAC stock car race at the Milwaukee Mile in 1962. The Nichels-Goldsmith combination would win USAC national stock car titles in 1961 and '62.

For both Nichels and Paul Goldsmith it has proved a fruitful merger. They've done well at Indianapolis, finishing third and fifth, but even better in the stock cars, winning USAC titles in 1961 and 1962.

Chrysler entered the racing game in 1964 and Nichels and Goldsmith set out to see if the hemi could go. It did and still is.

A. J. Foyt and Bobby Isaac, driving Nichels’ Dodges, finished first and second, respectively, in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona Beach that first season. Last year, Goldsmith won four events in USAC and finished second to Norm Nelson for the driver’s title. Nelson has all but wrapped up a second consecutive championship in his ‘66 Plymouth. Parts for it and teammate Jim Hurtubise’s car come from Nichels

In NASCAR, Goldsmith has won three major events, Dodge Charger driver Sam McQuagg one and Don White, Nichels’ USAC driver, eight.

Ernie Derr has already clinched the IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) title in a Dodge with Ramo Stott, in a Plymouth, second. Iggy Katona, likewise, has wrapped up the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) crown in his Plymouth.

In November, Nichels’ 55-man work force will begin preparing for the 1967 season as stock car racing continues its climb to the top of spectator sports. Already number two behind horse racing, closed-circuit television of several major events should add to its appeal.

For Nichels it has been rewarding. He is holder of more records than any other car owner, for one. He and Goldsmith have expanded their business interests to include the Performance and Safety Center at Ridge Road and Cline Avenue in Highland and G&N Aircraft, Inc., just east of the racing plant in Griffith.

But so has he given of himself.

“We race first with safety in mind,” he says. “I would like to think that every time we take the track, we’re in some way improving the car driven on the nation’s streets and highways I know the advances made in tires, brakes and safety features have been a contribution.”

“And I thoroughly enjoy it,” he adds. “If I didn’t I would have gotten out of it a long time ago. Where else does a guy work for 10 cents an hour?”

Monday, October 29, 2012

1974 - Bidding for fifth USAC title - Hartman already eyes '75

Zanesville, Ohio (October 10, 1974) - There is no telling how many more times Butch Hartman will win the USAC stock car championship.

“We hope we can just keep right on going,” chuckles the 34-year-old South Zanesville driver, who has won the title for an unprecedented fifth consecutive season. Even now he is assisting his father and their crew in preparing cars for the 1975 campaign, assuring that a yellow and black Dodge with a red number 75 on the roof and on each door will be the car to beat next year.

“We plan on operating just about the same way that we have been,” he reasons. “Why risk losing a race by trying something radically different?”

The Hartman family enjoys competing and it enjoys winning. It is something that they have become extremely proficient at, winning almost 50 percent of all USAC stock car races entered the last two seasons.

“I've had some interesting offers,” he admits “but I've turned them all down. I even turned down a championship car offer two years ago because I didn't want to spoil what dad and I had going for us.”

The philosophy has paid off to the tune of something far in excess of $200,000 in prize money in the four years that Hartman has been champion. While not necessarily superstitious Butch does continue to carry number 75 on his car instead of the number “one” to which he is entitled, and a crew member faithfully wore the same pair of sneakers for a whole season believing them to be lucky. Even after being replaced with a fresh pair, the sneakers were carried in the cab of the truck that hauls the car to the races. “We went along with this even after somebody left the window down during a rain storm,” laughs Butch recalling the disagreeable aroma that arose from the exhausted footwear.

Hartman had to come from behind to win his fourth title. He staged a season-long struggle with veteran Norm Nelson of Racine, Wis. who was also striving to become the first man to win the title for a fourth time while Hartman's victories were punctuated with the occasional mechanical malfunction. Nelson finished every race. Nelson was fifth or better in all but two of the 19 races with a seventh and a 10th place accounting for his worst finishes. He scored only one victory, but was runner-up in five events, third in four more and fourth in another five. Hartman won eight races but missed the top five in six races and was still behind Nelson in the point standings with one race remaining.

Hartman and Nelson swapped the point lead back and forth six times before the matter was settled. Hartman was 110 points back with three races to go but pulled to within 30 points by winning the next with Nelson second both times. Butch then won the finale at Des Moines September 14 with Nelson fifth to clinch the title.

No man had succeeded in sweeping all four events at the Milwaukee Mile oval until Butch accomplished the feat in 1973 and he almost did it again this year He had to be content with a seventh place finish in the Thursday fair date event, but succeeded in winning the other three. His lack of a win at the Wisconsin track between 1966 and 1972 has been amended with victorious drives in seven of the last eight stock car events there.

Ramo Stott, Roger McCluskey, Nelson, Jack Bowsher, Irv Janey, Bay Darnell, and numerous others are planning all-out assaults on the USAC stock car title for 1975, but they know it won't be easy. Alternatively, Butch is not taking their challenges lightly. Spectators can look forward to some fine racing in the coming season.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

1964 - Turner Outlasts Pistone for Charlotte 200 Title

Charlotte, N.C. (October 25, 1964) - Old pro Curtis Turner, driving on a speedway he helped build six years ago, led most of the way Sunday to win the $16,000, 200-mile stock car race for Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA) drivers.

Turner, who last drove in a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1961 before being banished from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), jumped in front on the second lap and never was far out of the lead before taking it for good shortly after the midway point.

Driving a 1964 Ford, the 39-year-old Turner, who now lives in Greenville, S.C., drove the distance at an average of 125.296 miles per hour despite three caution flags that slowed the race for 23 laps. He won $3,375.

Tom Pistone of Chicago, driving another Ford, finished second, Jim Cushman of Columbus, Ohio, finished third in a Plymouth, Dick Freeman of Dayton, Ohio, was fourth in a Pontiac, and Allen Oscar of Saginaw, Mich., was fifth in a Ford.

Turner was banished from NASCAR in 1962 for attempting to organize race drivers for the Teamsters Union. He never has been reinstated.

The crowd of about 12,000 gave the wavy-haired local favorite an ovation as he crossed the finish line more than a lap ahead of Pistone, who also has driven races here under the NASCAR banner.

Turner drove a car owned by Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio. Bowsher, who started on the inside pole next to Turner, made a race of it and led for several laps after Turner made his only pit stop at the midway point. Bowsher went out on lap 103 when he burned a clutch, spun into the rail, and ended up on the apron.

The Midwest drivers, for the most part unfamiliar with high-banked speedways such as the Charlotte Speedway, apparently had trouble handling their cars in the 24-degree banked turns.

One caution flag went out on the fourth lap when Harold Smith, a Ford driver from Dayton, spun into the high guard rail and was hit broadside by Blaine Kaufman of Burton, Ohio. Both drivers walked away unhurt.

Smith hit the rail at almost the exact spot where Jim Pardue, a top NASCAR driver, lost his life during tire tests a month ago. Richard Petty, the NASCAR late model champ, hit the same spot a week ago while leading the National 400 with less than two laps to go.

Another caution flag went out Sunday when Oscar and Kenny See of Erie, Pa., tangled in the second turn. Oscar escaped damage and went on to finish fifth.

Results –

1. Curtis Turner
2. Tom Pistone
3. Jim Cushman
4. Dick Freeman
5. Allen Oscar
6. Junior Spencer
7. Mike Smith
8. Terry Blakely
9. Don Arnold
10. Paul Wensink
11. Kenny See
12. Butch Ballard
13. Jack Bowsher
14. Blaine Kaufman
15. Iggy Katona
16. Benny Parsons
17. Frank Wilson
18. Jack Shanklin
19. Don Humesy
20. Danny Byrd
21. Tony Lavati
22. Homer Newland
23. John Baker
24. Jim Robinson
25. Harold Smith
26. Bill Roberts

Monday, October 22, 2012

1969 - Ford to Back Two IMCA Drivers

Jacque Passino

Des Moines, Iowa (October 22, 1969) - Two International Motor Contest Association stock car drivers - still unselected - will get backing from Ford next season. But Ernie Derr shouldn’t worry too much about an eleventh championship - Ford isn't giving a full ride.

“We will provide technical assistance and parts to two people,” Jacque H. Passino, special vehicles manager for Ford’s Product Development Group (which means he’s in charge of the company’s United States racing activities and some in Canada), said here Tuesday.

Passino was en route to Ames, where he spoke to the Iowa State University Society of Automotive Engineers Tuesday night. Passino explained his job is to see that Fords win races, which sells cars.

He said Ford has 30 stock cars competing in three circuits - 20 in NASCAR, six in the United States Auto Club (USAC) and four in the Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA).

Ford has not had a car in IMCA since Dick Hutcherson of Keokuk won the championship in 1963 and ‘64, although the firm did loosen its purse strings somewhat this season, apparently for Ron Hutcherson, Dick’s brother, and Ole Brua of Albert Lea, Minn. Derr, also of Keokuk, has won the last five championships with Dodges.

Passino said he would like to find another driver like Dick Hutcherson, who went on to be a NASCAR star. Hutch is now crew chief for David Pearson, one of NASCAR’s top drivers.

“There just isn’t anyone like Dick around,” Passino said. “He was ideal. Not only was he a good driver, but he and his father worked as a team and they had a construction firm, so Dick could devote considerable time to racing.”

“He worked at it.”

“Worked at it” are the key words in finding someone in IMCA who can rise to challenge Derr and his Dodge, represent Ford off the track as well as on and go on to be a big-time star. Youth is another prime requirement.

Passino said Ford wouldn’t provide a fully backed factory team in IMCA (at least at first) because a driver wouldn’t “work at racing if he had everything provided.” So just how much Ford does kick into IMCA, particularly in the future, depends upon the drivers it selects.

The company definitely wants someone in his mid-20’s. This limits the field and definitely eliminates Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., who campaigned with Fords for several years and was among the top drivers each season. “Lenny is a good driver,” Passino said, “but he must be in his 40’s. That's too old.”

Passino apparently has a good scouting system. He was familiar with several drivers in IMCA. Although there are no Dick Hutcherson’s around, there are Ron Hutcherson, Fred Horn of Marion and perhaps Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids.

These were mentioned to him but he still was non-committal about Ford’s choices for help.

Ron made a bid in IMCA in the mid-sixties but wrecked his car then came back this year with a Dave Pearson car provided by Dick. Ron put up a good challenge to Derr but wrecked his car early in August and again was sidelined. Horn is presently second in IMCA standings. Janey turned in several creditable jobs this year.

Ernie’s son, Mike, who made his racing debut this year, probably would be a prospect except for his and Ernie’s ties to Chrysler- Plymouth.

Passino said Dick Hutcherson is doing a great job as a crew chief for Pearson. “He’s an elder statesman of racing now,” the Ford official said.

He added, “Dick has the ability to listen to a racing driver and look at a car and tell what’s wrong. He can communicate with drivers and that’s what is needed. Some people don't have that ability.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

1963 - Jim Cushman Winner at Centennial 400

Jim Cushman

Ona, W.Va. (October 20, 1963) - An estimated crowd of 8,500 watched as Jim Cushman of Columbus, Ohio, barreled his 1961 Plymouth to victory only three seconds ahead of Bobby Watson of Louisville, Ky., in a 1964 Ford.

Yesterday’s 400-lap, 150-mile race was sanctioned by MARC (Midwest Association for Race Cars), which becomes ARCA on November 1.

Cushman averaged about 62.7 miles per hour as the pace was slowed by wreck and a light rain in the late stages of the race. On lap 397, Wayne Kaufman's 1962 Pontiac careened off the wall, lost a manifold and spread oil on the turn leading into the main straightaway.

Cushman, a veteran driver, fought off a half-dozen challengers and a judges' decision when Watson protested the outcome.

Watson claimed he was leading Cushman by a fraction of a lap at the finish. But a recheck of scorecards showed Cushman the bona fide winner and Watson settled for second place. Cushman collected $1,500 for first place and Watson received $1,000.

A jam-packed field of 40 cars started the race but minor wrecks and mechanical troubles eliminated 24 of those 16 cars finished the race.

Jack Shanklin of Indianapolis was third driving a 1962 Mercury and Ken Reiter of Louisville finished fourth in a 1964 Ford. MARC champion Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio, was fifth in a 1962 Ford.

Results –

1. Jim Cushman, Columbus, Ohio
2. Bobby Watson, Louisville, Ky.
3. Jack Shanklin, Indianapolis, Ind.
4. Ken Reiter, Louisville, Ky.
5. Jack Bowsher, Springfield, Ohio
6. Virgil Barbee, Detroit, Mich.
7. Don Arnold, Paintsville, Ky.
8. Stu Shouse, Louisville, Ky.
9. Keith Ploughe, Indianapolis, Ind.
10. Clyde Parker, Detroit, Mich.
11. Elmer Davis, Jeffersonville, Ind.
12. Charlie Glotzbach, Louisville, Ky.
13. Doug Easton/John Russell, Louisville, Ky.
14. Andy Hampton, Louisville, Ky.
15. Em Ruebush, Dayton, Ohio
16. Dick Passwater, Indianapolis, Ind.
17. Ken Julian, Detroit, Mich.
18. Wayne Kaufman, Burton, Ohio
19. LeMarr Marshall, Louisville, Ky.
20. George Swope, Louisville, Ky.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

John Marcum

John Marcum of Toledo, Ohio, president of the Automobile Racing Club of America, Inc., is a quiet, neatly dressed, businessman type who doesn't look his 50-plus years. He's the kind you feel you can pass off with "pleased to meet you" and forget - until one of the men who race for him tells you with a straight face the drivers are afraid of him. Then you do a double take.

On second look; he does have a sort of steely glint in his eye and a firm jut to his jaw. And there's no question about who’s the boss of ARCA. He runs it with an iron hand. For instance, he hasn't hesitated to boot out a couple of very good young drivers who abused his strict rule against drinking in public.

Because he enjoys a reputation for fairness with his drivers and with the racing public, he expects his drivers to play just as fairly with him - and with the public. They do. A veteran of 36 years in the racing game as a driver and promoter, he puts real savvy into the ARCA's promotions. All his actions are geared to his motto: "Do your best to give 'em a good show."

Remarkable success has resulted from this creed…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1971 – Rollie, Gary Win at Winchester

Gary Bettenhausen (2), Bruce Walkup (36) and Rollie Beale (40) look for room at Winchester. - John Mahoney Photo

Winchester, Ind. (October 17, 1971) – Rollie Beale and Gary Bettenhausen shared top honors in the twin 50-lap features for United States Auto Club sprint cars at Winchester Speedway Sunday afternoon.

Johnnie Parsons Jr., moved into the lead from his pole position in the first feature followed by Bob Pratt, Sam Sessions, and Lee Kunzman. Larry Dickson and Beale moved in fifth and sixth positions. Parsons opened up a slight edge as the other cars ran nose to tail battling for position.

Dickson moved into the second spot and began to move up on Parsons, getting by on lap 26 when Parsons spun on the backstretch.

Beale, now second, set up what appeared to be Dickson-Beale one-two finish when the engine let go in the Leffler #6 which Dickson was driving, causing him to spin on lap 41. The red flag came out due to excessive oil on the track.

On the restart, it was Beale, Parson, Kunzman and Sessions leading the pack and that was the way they would finish.

Point leader Bettenhausen was forced out on lap 17 when he suffered mechanical issues on the Willie Davis four-cam Ford. In the second feature, however, he moved over to the Leyba #1 machine, which had been driven by Greg Weld and was forced to start last. Dickson moved into the Jones #33, which Parsons had driven in the first feature and he too started in the rear of the field.

Karl Busson moved into the lead at the start of the second 50-lapper followed by Bill Puterbaugh, Bob Pratt, Sessions, Kunzman and Beale. Beale took the lead on lap 9 and like Dickson in the first feature, appeared to have the race well in hand when Darl Harrison blew the engine his Maloy #45 bringing out the yellow flag due to his car catching fire.

As starter Ray Chaike prepared to throw the green, Beale pulled into the pits with engine problems and was out for the day. Busson assumed the point again and was off to the races when the green flag waved.

Sessions took the lead on lap 25 with Kunzman taking second and the two battled for the lead.

Excitement was high as the crowd watched Bettenhausen move up through the pack. He continued to pass car after car until he took command of the number three spot in the running order.

Sessions, Kunzman and Bettenhausen were running nose to tail as they approached the finish line and slower traffic right in front of them. Bettenhausen moved under Kunzman and as Sessions moved to the high groove, Bettenhausen nosed him out for the win.

Bettenhausen was awarded $50 for best move of the day by Sprint Car Pictorial by virtue of his 20th starting spot to a first place finish. Kunzman, with two third-place finishes and Sessions, with a second and fourth place finish, split the $500 prize posted by promoter Roger Holdeman for best overall finish.

Results –

Feature #1 - 

1. Rollie Beale
2. Johnnie Parsons Jr.
3. Lee Kunzman
4. Sam Sessions
5. Bob Pratt
6. Karl Busson
7. Bill Puterbaugh
8. Bill Koepfer
9. Al Smith
10. Darl Harrison
11. Dee Jones
12. Billy Thrasher
13. Tom Bigelow
14. Cy Fairchild
15. Larry Dickson
16. Don Nordhorn
17. Joe Saldana
18. Gary Bettenhausen
19. Greg Weld

Feature #2 - 

1. Gary Bettenhausen
2. Sam Sessions
3. Lee Kunzman
4. Karl Busson
5. Al Smith
6. Tom Bigelow
7. Joe Saldana
8. Cy Fairchild
9. Bill Koepfer
10. Larry Dickson
11. Bob Pratt
12. Jackie Howerton
13. Bruce Walkup
14. Jerry Poland
15. Bill Thrasher
16. Dee Jones
17. Duane Carter Jr.
18. Bill Puterbaugh
19. Rollie Beale
20. Darl Harrison

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1971 – Stott Wins His Third Salem 500

Ramo Stott takes the checkers at Salem Speedway - John Potts Collection

Salem, Ind. (October 16, 1971) – Ramo Stott captured his unprecedented third straight victory in the Salem 500 at the paved high-banked Southern Indiana track on Sunday afternoon, collecting $2,275 from a $14,500 purse and establishing an early lead in the 1972 ARCA point standings in which this race began.

Stott’s 1971 Plymouth outdistanced second place finisher Dave Dayton (with relief from Dave Sisco) by a 12-lap, six-mile margin, the 3 hour, 20 minute grind.

Conservative driving in the early stages of the race well may have assured victory for Stott as early leaders were eliminated by numerous accidents.

At the start, Jim Robinson gunned his ’70 Charger in front of Andy Hampton’s 1970 dodge to set a heated pace. Hampton’s bid to head Robinson ended on lap 62 when he blew a tire, spun and collected Leonard Blanchard’s ’71 Ford, necessitating lengthy pit stops for both cars. Les Snow, sharing fast qualifier honors with Robinson, later returned to the chase in relief of Hampton, but parked with further difficulties at lap 81.

With the Hampton/Snow challenge eliminated, Robinson continued to charge and succeeded in lapping the second place Stott on the 95th circuit, just before the yellow appeared as Ross Smith blew an engine on his ’69 Camaro and was tagged by Iggy Katona. Katona was able to continue.

As the green flag reappeared on lap 103, Robinson, leading Stott and Bill Clemons, lost the ex-Harry Hyde Charger flying into the first turn, leaving the right front end of the car under the guardrail and ending his afternoon.

In the shuffle to avoid the careening Robinson, Clemons nipped by Stott to take the lead and managed to build a small margin after the “all clear” signal from starter Johnny Potts.

Clemons, very much a threat in his ’71 AMC Hornet, led until spinning to avoid Iggy Katona, who blew an engine on lap 163. A long pit stop was required to replace four badly flat-spotted tires on the Clemons car, giving the lead back to Stott.

With Clemons facing a 10-lap deficit, as a result of the spin and stop, Stott drove with monotonous precision, relinquishing the lead to Al Arnold when he pitted, but four laps following his planned stop for fuel and right-side only tires, he was again back in front.

Clemons’ bid to make up for lost time provided some of the most spectacular driving of the race as the New Albany, Ind., driver consistently lapped near his qualifying speed, in dense traffic.

By the 300-lap mark, Clemons had overhauled Arnold, now experiencing handling problems, to take second and continue to charge on Stott’s immense lead. Reducing Stott’s margin to eight laps, Clemons’ excellent drive ended when a tie-rod snapped, ending his chances on lap 420.

The steadily driven Dayton/Sisco Camaro inherited second with Clemons’ retirement, following Stott to the checkered. Bill Nelson, driving a ’69 Dodge Charger, drove a beautiful race to finish third after struggling all afternoon long with a hard-steering car that was damaged the day before in practice, and hastily prepared with borrowed parts from Stott.

Results –
1. Ramo Stott
2. Dave Dayton/Dave Sisco
3. Bill Nelson
4. Jim Strube
5. Bob Phernetton
6. Tony Schiller
7. Freddy Holbert
8. Jerry Norris (with relief from Bobby Watson)
9. Grant Wilmot
10. Mickey Flora
11. Bob Blank
12. Bill Vincent
13. Dave Carey
14. Bill Clemons
15. Dave Kulmer
16. Wayne Trinkle
17. Bob McCoy
18. Kenny Black
19. Al Arnold
20. N.D. Copley
21. LaMarr Marshall
22. Keith Ploughe
23. Carl Summers
24. Gene Borelli
25. Kenny Reiter
26. Larry Moore
27. Leonard Blanchard
28. Iggy Katona
29. Ralph Young
30. Cliff Hamm
31. Jim Robinson
32. Bobby Watson
33. Ross Smith
34. Andy Hampton (with relief from Les Snow)
35. Ed Richardville
36. Hubert West
37. Charles Moore
38. Bill Kimmel
39. Al Straub
40. Walt Ragland

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1965 - Pit Stop wih Tony Dean

From the Cedar Rapids’ Citizen
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (October 11, 1965) - Darrell Dake drove his 1962 Ford convertible to another big win last Sunday night at Sterling, Ill.

Starting in the 15th position on the third-mile track, Dake worked his way to first place and finished a half-lap ahead of Don Bohlander of Peoria, the Illinois state champion.

No question about it…Dake has been almost unbeatable this year. Even Red Droste, who copped the Hawkeye Downs season championship in 1963 and ‘64, couldn’t turn the trick this year.

Dake’s plans for 1966 have been rather vague. He sold his 1962 Ford convertible to Jerry Mabie of Cedar Rapids, but hasn’t definitely decided what or where he'll drive in the upcoming season.

He reportedly was offered a pretty good deal by the local Ford dealer, and its common knowledge that the Ford Motor Company is very interested in seeing him compete on the IMCA late model circuit – even to the extent of providing factory help, I understand.

“Darrell has been doing too well on the short tracks,” said Bumps Willert of Tipton, a former late model driver who now spends his time driving on two wheels on the stunt circuit. “He doesn't have all the expenses he’d have on the late model circuit, so he'd probably come out ahead running modified cars.”

One of the best tracks in Iowa is the quarter-mile high bank at Marshalltown. Its banked 30 degrees on the turns, which means the drivers don't have to back off until they're well into the turn.

I announced a recent MARA race on this track, and I was very impressed with the action. It proved once again, that competition is more important than horsepower. The super stocks were turning the track at 17 to 19 seconds, which compares very favorably with the late model modifieds. I'm sure the late models would get around this track in less than 16 seconds.

The nice thing about the super stocks is that they are evenly matched. The races were close and very rugged. It's been a long time since I've seen five cars running abreast through a turn.

Walt Carney of West Branch bested Merrill Knapp of Atkins in the special 10-lap match race, and received the 1965 Chevrolet pace car for his efforts.

Cal Swanson of Reinbeck drove a super modified roadster to a feature win in the last race of the season last Sunday afternoon at Hawkeye Downs. Bob Hilmer of Dysart finished second, with third going to Lee Kunzman of Guttenberg. It was a dusty afternoon on a one-groove track.

Ernie Derr has a slight lead over Ramo Stott in IMCA late model racing and may win his sixth IMCA national crown. Ramo may move into the NASCAR ranks for the 1966 season.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

1973 - Howe Wins Heidelberg Pittsburgher 250

Ed Howe is interviewed in victory lane following his win in the 10th annual Pittsburgher 250 at Heidelberg Raceway.

Carnegie, Penn. (October 7, 1973) - A gamble by Columbus, Ohio’s Don Gregory spelled disaster for him as Ed Howe of Beavertown, Michigan, won the 10th annual Pittsburgher 250 Sunday afternoon at Heidelberg Raceway.

Howe, originator of the “Green Hornet” super team of late model racing, became the first two-time winner of the affair as he took the lead from Bob Senneker on the 180th lap and just out-powered the field to win the $4,000 awarded to first place by a 16-second margin.

Midland, Michigan’s, Tommy Maier - the other “Green Hornet” team member - led all qualifiers through Saturday’s time trials and just missed a sub-twenty second timing. Maier turned a 20.01 and earned the pole position.

From the pole position, Maier quickly assumed the lead with Ed Mitchell of Warren, Ohio, and Joy Fair of Pontiac, Michigan, in hot pursuit. By the 10th lap, Gregory, Howe, and Detroit’s Johnny Anderson joined the fracas for the top spot.

The crowd roared their approval as these three and Joy Fair had their fire-breathing, rumbling late models running bumper to bumper and wheel to wheel at speeds of over 100 miles per hour for nearly 20 laps. The duel was halted on the 33rd lap when Fair lost control down the backstretch and was bumped by Tom Colella and Kenny Hemphill.

This accident eliminated Hemphill as he was forced to pit and knocked Fair and Colella out of serious competition.

On the previous lap, Ed Mitchell made his move on Maier to take the lead. John Anderson while running fourth blew a head gasket and pitted on the 44th lap.

The race continued to hold true to form as the top drivers in the nation battled each other. Don Gregory moved to second on the 88th lap by passing Tom Maier, but Ed Mitchell continued to lead the pack.

The big shuffle began on the 93rd lap when Glenn Gault blew his engine and dumped oil in turn one causing the yellow flag to be displayed.

With this caution, the majority of the front runners pitted for fuel enabling Don Gregory to take the lead. Senneker was able to get out of the pits quickly to move into second followed by Tommy Maier.

Gregory, knowing he still had to pit, began to push his racer to its ultimate trying to gel a lead big enough to hold under a caution.

However, when Bob Cooke spun out in turn two and the caution flag was again brought out, Gregory pitted for fuel but could not get back in time and on the 149th lap, Bob Senneker took the lead with Maier and Howe closing fast. Howe moved to second on the 155th lap and following a caution, took the lead for good on the 180th lap.

Meanwhile, Gregory began to move back up into contention and was third after the 193rd lap. However, Gregory met his match in Bob Senneker as they battled right to the checkered flag with Senneker able to hold onto second behind Ed Howe.

A few sidelights to the tremendous action . . . Ed Mitchell, who finished fourth, blew his engine during time trials after turning 20.17 seconds on the half-mile. Marvin Smith of Pataskala, Ohio, has one of the few unique sponsor arrangements in racing. Seventy-five people of Fort Laramie, Ohio, formed a group to back Smith. Two of the best drivers in attendance failed to qualify as both Norm Lelliott of Toronto, Ontario, and Ohio’s Dick Freeman blew engines during practice on Friday. A big disappointment to the fans was the absence of the top late model drivers in the country, Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Trickle, who rarely runs good at Heidelberg Raceway, went to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the NASCAR National 500 and drove a Chevrolet to a fifth place finish behind Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons.

Results –
1. Ed Howe
2. Bob Senneker
3. Don Gregory
4. Ed Mitchell
5. Bill McCracken
6. Tom Maier
7. Marvin Smith
8. Tony DeLillo
9. William Watson
10. Junior Redder

Thursday, October 4, 2012

1975 - Hansen edges Sanger for win at Sunset

Omaha, Neb. (October 4, 1975) - A pair of drivers gave the state of Nebraska a sample of late model stock car racing Iowa style by running away with the fourth annual Cornhusker – Hawkeye Challenge on Saturday night at Sunset Speedway.

A near-capacity crowd watched as Curt Hansen of Dike and Waterloo's Ed Sanger raced away from the pack and staged their own personal dual for nearly the entire distance on the rough, wind-swept Omaha clay, with Hansen scoring the victory by a car length after the hub-to-hub battle.

Hansen started fourth and Sanger ninth in the 22-car feature field that qualified from a total of 71 cars.

Hansen’s low groove provided better traction than Sanger's high road, and that proved the difference in the see-saw 100-lap chase.

The Dike veteran ended the 1975 season by bringing $1,535 back to Iowa; $275 of that in lap money. Sanger banked a total of $955.

Waterloo's Bill Zwanziger was running a strong third until dropping out on the final lap with rear end problems.

A freak accident killed driver Rich Lyons. Ted Yocum of Omaha lost control of his car during the fourth heat. It careened off the track into the pits and hit Lyons. The 34-year-old Lyons died later in an Omaha hospital.

Results -
Heat #1 - Dan Dickey, Packwood, Iowa
Heat #2 - Kent Tucker, Aurora, Neb.
Heat #3 - Red Dralle, Waterloo, Iowa
Heat #4 - Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
Heat #5 - Don Hoffman, Des Moines, Iowa
Heat #6 - Jerry Wancewicz, Omaha, Neb.
Consolation #1 - Em Fretheim, Decorah, Iowa
Consolation #2 - Joe Merryfield, Des Moines, Iowa

Feature -
1. Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
2. Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
3. Duane Steffe, Colona, Ill.
4. Bob Kosiski, Omaha, Neb.
5. Stan Stover, Reinbeck, Iowa

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1971 - Horn takes Iowa State Fairgrounds finale

Fred Horn

Des Moines, Iowa (October 2, 1971) - Fred Horn of Marion, Iowa had some luck on his side Saturday night, winning the 50-lap late model stock car feature at the Iowa State Fairgrounds over Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa.

Actually, all three could count their blessings in the wild affair in which 33 cars started three abreast. A crowd of 6,019 watched the season finale.

Horn, who was the season point champion at Farley, didn't take the lead until the 39th lap. Then the former International Motor Contest Association star had to hold off two present IMCA standouts, Janey and Derr, to capture the $600 first prize.

“I got a break coining out of the fourth turn when I took the lead,” Horn said. The leader at that point, Jim Wyman of Oakland, Iowa got caught in traffic and Horn, with Janey right behind, went to the inside.

Horn, in a 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner, then managed to hold off Janey's '70 Roadrunner. Derr, the12-time IMCA national champ driving a 1970 Dodge Charger, didn't get into third spot until the 48th lap, when he went around Wyman. Janey received $400 and Derr $300.

“It was just luck that I won,” Horn said. “I could have been hit by one of those lapped cars.”

Horn had started on the outside of the ninth row. Derr, in the middle of the seventh row at the start, was caught in a jam and dropped to the rear of the pack before the first lap was completed. Wyman, driving a 1971 Mustang, had qualified for the pole position with a 26.50 second clocking in time trials. He took the initial lead.

Stan Stover of Reinbeck, Iowa, the season late model champ at the Fairgrounds, passed Wyman on the lap 15 and quickly pulled away. It appeared he would be the winner, but he was involved in a collision with Wayne Meyer of Algona on lap 27 and was sidelined with tire and front end problems.

“I got careless,” Stover said about the accident. “He (Meyer) apparently didn't see me and ran into my right side. I should have been watching those lapped cars more closely, and I shouldn't have been as aggressive as I was at that point. But, that's what happens.”

Wyman was back in the lead then and before the cars could be given a restart, second-place Joe Merryfield also was sidelined when he and Bill Carter of Des Moines collided.

That mishap was caused when cars in front of them slowed - Merryfield and Carter was unable to stop in time. Fans felt flagman Johnny Beauchamp may have been partly to blame.

Wyman led until Horn assumed command.

Results –

Fast Qualifier: Jim Wyman, Oakland, Iowa – 26.50
First Heat: Larry Wasserfort, Waterloo, Iowa
Second Heat: Fred Horn, Marion, Iowa
Third Heat: Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
Fourth Heat: Don Hoffman, Des Moines
Consolation: Larry Wasserfort


1. Fred Horn
2. Irv Janey, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
3. Ernie Derr
4. Jim Wyman
5. Phil Reeves, Omaha
6. Bob Shryock, Estherville, Iowa
7. Joe Schaefer, Waterloo, Iowa
8. Tom Hughes, Monticello, Iowa
9. Red Dralle, Evansdale, Iowa
10. Chris Maher, Colfax, Iowa
11. Paul Zdan, Omaha
12. Bill Carter, Des Moines
13. Bob Kosiski, Omaha
14. Gary Jones, Des Moines
15. Marvin Korns, Brooklyn, Iowa
16. Rodger Bruce, Des Moines
17. Carl Vander Wal, Ames, Iowa
18. Bill Holder, Ames, Iowa
19. Bill Rice, Des Moines
20. Phil Reece, Des Moines