Wednesday, March 27, 2013

1966 – Houston Breaks Iggy’s Way; Michigan Ace Takes 200

Houston, Tex. (March 27, 1966) – Iggy Katona has been around stock car racing long enough to know you have to take advantage of any and every break.

And that’s exactly what the Willis, Mich., racing veteran did Sunday afternoon at Meyer Speedway. As a result, he won the 5th annual Houston 200.

Katona’s “break” came on lap 144 of the 100-mile race when a wreck took out the front-running Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa. That was all Katona needed as he poked his 1965 Plymouth hemi out in front of the pack and went untouched to an easy victory.

Derr had led most of the way in his #1 car, 1966 Dodge, with Ramo Stott, also of Keokuk, Iowa, right behind in a ’65 Plymouth.

Derr went for a pit stop on lap 35 and Stott briefly took the lead. But Stott had to come in on lap 138 for gas and a right front tire sending Derr in front while Stott was in the pits for two laps.

The two quickly lined up behind each other again, running one-two when the afternoon’s most serious accident took place.

Tom King got his 1964 Studebaker sideways on the south bank when Derr was trying to get around. Derr hit King’s car and Stott slammed into the back of Derr’s Dodge.

When the smoke and dust cleared, both King and Derr were eliminated for the afternoon. Despite some hasty repairs by Stott’s crew, his car was so badly damaged he brought his car back in the pit area on lap 162 and was finished as well.

But Katona had his Plymouth at the right place and the right time. He jumped into the lead and was never pushed, covering the 100 miles in 1 hour, 26 minutes and 38 seconds.

Charlie Glotzbach, driving a 1964 Ford, finished second and Bobby Watson in another ’64 Ford took third. Twenty-five stock cars started the feature but only 10 cars were on the speedway when the checkers waved.

Results –

  1. Iggy Katona, Willis, Mich.
  2. Charlie Glotzbach, Deshler, Ohio
  3. Bobby Watson, Louisville, Ky.
  4. Paul Wensink, Deshler, Ohio
  5. Walter Ballard, Houston, Tex.
  6. Keith Ploughe, Indianapolis
  7. Jim Scott, Jamestown, N.Y.
  8. Shad Wheeler, Frederstown, Ohio
  9. Ramo Stott, Keokuk, Iowa
  10. Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1977 - Ruttman snares I-70 season opener

Odessa, Mo. (March 20, 1977) – Joe Ruttman of Westland, Mich., led from start to finish in the 100-lap main at I-70 Speedway on Sunday, March 20 to take the top prize in the first annual “Clear Skies 250”, which served as the track’s season opening event as well as the first race on the American Speed Association’s Circuit of Champions late model series.

Ruttman also won one of the 75-lap qualifying events, which helped give the event a total of 250 laps. He took home $2,275 for the afternoon of work.

In the first 75-lapper, Ruttman jumped from the outside pole into the lead but was over hauled by polesitter Tom Reffner on the second round.

Reffner, of Rudolph, Wis., had earned the pole with a 17.74 second clocking around the high-banked half-mile, identical to that of Tom Maier of Brea, Calif. Maier earned the pole position for the second 75-lap segment.

Reffner led the first 37 laps until his AMC Hornet experienced handling problems, which the pit crew traced to tire compounds, and he retired from the race after six more laps.

On the same lap, Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., took over the lead in his Camaro, but held on for only two laps before Ruttman pushed his own Camaro to the front, this time for good. Phillips would also develop problems and would fall out of the running.

Ruttman raced on to a comfortable win in the preliminary, with Don Gregory of Columbus, Ohio, placing second and Ed Hoffman of Niles, Ill., taking fourth. Both drove Camaros.

In the second 75-lap qualifier, Maier took the lead at the drop of the green but problems with soft tire compound forced him to slow his pace after only 14 laps. Mike Eddy of Kawkawlin, Mich., would then inherit the top spot.

Eddy would go on to win handily, beating Maier to the checkered flag by seven seconds. Despite tire problems, Maier was able to hold off Dick Trickle of Wausau, Wis., who finished third driving a Mustang.

Although Ruttman led every lap of the 100-lap main event and won by almost half a lap, he had far from an easy time of it.

For two-thirds of the race, it was hard-charging Mike Eddy that kept the 3,000 plus fans on the edge of their seats as he tried inside and then outside in repeated attempts to get around Ruttman.

On lap 64, however, Eddy slowed visibly as the two front runners raced down the front stretch and on the next lap he was in the pits with a blown engine.

As the twosome had been nearly half a lap ahead of the rest of the field, Ruttman was left with a sizeable margin. Ed Hoffman took over second spot until he retired with engine failure on lap 84.

Don Gregory took over Hoffman’s position but was too far back to mount any sort of challenge to Ruttman. Trickle would finish third, nearly half a lap behind the winner and the last car on the lead lap.

Junior Hanley of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, took fourth, a lap back, and Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., finished fifth, being credited with 98 laps.

Results –

  1. Joe Ruttman, Westland, Mich.
  2. Don Gregory, Columbus, Ohio
  3. Dick Trickle, Wausau, Wis.
  4. Junior Hanley, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
  5. Dave Watson, Milton, Wis.
  6. Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Mo.
  7. Wayne Woody, Marionville, Mo.
  8. Harold Scott, New Castle, Ind.
  9. Jim Behee, Independence, Mo.
  10. Tom Maier, Brea, California

Monday, March 18, 2013

Baltes, Carter & White lead 2013 USAC Hall of Fame

Speedway, Ind. - Eight additional inductees into the USAC Hall of Fame have been announced, joining the 12 inaugural inductees announced in 2012. The new class includes four drivers, one car owner, one mechanic, one official and one race organizer. An additional four inductees will be selected by popular vote from a list of 16 eligibles released this week through social mediums.

The second annual USAC Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held May 18 at Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind. in conjunction with the annual USAC “Hall of Fame Classic” Traxxas Silver Crown Championship race.

The eight-member class of inductees announced today include (alphabetically) Earl Baltes, Henry Banks, Pancho Carter, Al and Bobby Unser, A.J. Watson, Don White and Bob Wilke.

Earl Baltes built the famed Eldora Speedway in 1954 and in 2003 hosted the richest Sprint car race in the world – the “Mopar Million” – the USAC event which offered a total purse of one million dollars. Serving as a race organizer at seven different racetracks in Ohio and Indiana, Baltes presented a remarkable 287 USAC races and was twice honored as the USAC “Race Organizer of the Year.”

Henry Banks, who passed away in 1994, left a significant legacy with the United States Auto Club. He served as USAC’s Competition Director during the formative years between 1959 and 1969. His driving career began in 1932 and he earned the 1941 ARDC Midget title before winning the 1950 AAA National Driving Championships. He was a six-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 and the 1962 winner of the prestigious Eddie Edenburn Award made a cameo appearance in the racing classic Roar of the Crowd. He is also a member of the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

Pancho Carter

Pancho Carter, the son of 2012 USAC Hall of Fame inductee Duane Carter, earned 70 USAC National feature victories in various series and became USAC’s inaugural Triple Crown Champion, winning the 1972 Midget, 1974 and 1976 Sprint Car and 1978 Silver Crown titles. The 1974 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year posted 17 Indianapolis 500 starts, winning the pole in 1985 and finishing third in 1982. A member of both the National Sprint Car and Midget Halls of Fame, he won the 1981 Michigan 500 at Michigan International Speedway.

Al Unser, one of only three four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500 (1970-71-78-87), posted a total of 48 wins in USAC National competition. A three-time USAC National Driving Champion, he also won the 1973 Silver Crown title and strung together a remarkable four consecutive Hoosier Hundred wins between 1970 and 1973. The 1978 International Race of Champions king, Al continues to lead all drivers in terms of Indianapolis 500 laps led at 612. He also won races in the USAC Stock Car and Formula 5000 Championship.

Bobby Unser is the only driver to win USAC feature events in five different decades! He capped his career with the 1993 title in the USAC Fast Masters after scoring three wins in the Indianapolis 500 (1968, 1975 and 1981). A two-time USAC National Driving Champ, he also won the 1975 IROC title and totaled 43 USAC feature wins in a variety of categories during his career. Part of his legend includes a sensational 13 victories in the prestigious Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado.

A.J. Watson’s expertise as a car builder and mechanic earned his cars seven victories at the Indianapolis 500. Drivers Bob Sweikert, Pat Flaherty, Rodger Ward, Jim Rathmann, Parnelli Jones and A.J. Foyt all piloted Watson creations to victory lane. A member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Watson scored 27 wins as a USAC Sprint Car owner and is also a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. In 1958 Rathmann piloted a Watson-built car to victory in the “Race of Two Worlds” 500-mile event at Monza, Italy. A.J. was awarded USAC’s Eddie Edenburn Award in 1983 and Lincoln Electric Mechanical Achievement Award in 2006. Between 1961 and 1969 A.J. participated as a member of the USAC Board of Directors.

Don White

Don White is the winningest USAC Stock Car driver of all time. Known as the “Richard Petty of the North,” White earned 53 victories in the USAC ranks and posted a remarkable 14 wins at the famed Milwaukee Mile. The iconic leader of the Keokuk, Iowa racing clan, he competed in NASCAR races between 1950 and 1972 and in 1966 finished third in a 100-miler behind Paul Goldsmith and Richard Petty at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Patriarch of the famed Wilke Racing family, Bob was Rodger Ward’s car owner at the 1959 Indianapolis 500 and returned with Ward to win in 1962. He also added a 1968 victory at Indy with Bobby Unser. The Wilke family holds the all-time lead in terms of USAC feature race wins – 145 – with 31 different drivers earning National wins in their cars, which also earned numerous USAC car owner championships. In 2003 the family was awarded USAC’s Jim Blunk Award in recognition of their contributions to Midget auto racing.

The inaugural 12 inductees announced in 2012 included (alphabetically) J.C. Agajanian, Mario Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen, Tom Binford, Jimmy Bryan, Duane Carter, A.J. Foyt, Tony Hulman, Parnelli Jones, Mel Kenyon, Roger McCluskey and Rich Vogler.

Friday, March 15, 2013

1970 - Lund Wins Battle of Pits at South Boston Speedway

Dewayne "Tiny" Lund

South Boston, Va. (March 15, 1970) - South Carolina stock car driver Dewayne “Tiny” Lund has driven to victory at South Boston Speedway in the NASCAR Grand American race that became as much a battle of the pit crews as of the drivers.

Lund pushed his 1969 Camaro to victory in the $8,350 event after overcoming difficulty with a faulty ignition system while early leader Jim Paschal of High Point, N.C., sat it out in a 1970 Javelin that wouldn't start after running out of gas.

Lund, 40, a racing veteran from Cross, S.C., drove the 231-lap, 100-mile contest over the 3/8-mile track where he had set a new qualifying record of 83.671 miles per hour, leading only twice for a total 12 laps.

Wayne Andrews of Silver City, N.C., who also led part of the way, finished third behind T.C. Hunt of Atlanta after dropping his lead with a series of pit stops around the 85-mile mark.

In order of finish behind Andrews were: Charlie Blanton, Gaffney, S.C.; Frank Sessoms, Darlington, S.C.; Stan Starr Jr., Madison, Tenn.; Phil Wills, Nashville, Tenn.; Ernie Shaw, Winston Salem, N.C.; Richard Childress, Winston-Salem; and Buck Baker, Charlotte, N.C.

Lund started on the pole but lost the lead to Paschal on the first lap and appeared 'headed for a third place finish before the unexpected happened.

The former Daytona 500 winner led two laps early in the race and didn't see the front again until the final 10 laps when Andrews ran out of gas.

The same fate sidelined Paschal who apparently had the race won until running out of gas on lap 246.

Paschal, after taking the lead from Lund on the first lap, stayed out front for 82 laps before going into the pits on lap 82.

Lund took the lead for two laps but gave way to Andrews on lap 85 and Andrews held the lead for 28 laps. Paschal then went back in the lead for 132 laps until he ran out of gas and coasted into the pits on lap 246.

Gas was taken on in what was to be a hasty stop but Paschal was unable to get the car restarted and he finally climbed out, through for the day, finishing 11th.

Andrews, in the driver's seat after the sudden turn of events, appeared headed for his first GT win until running out of gas with just 10 laps remaining. Andrews, like Paschal, was unable to restart and was forced to settle for third place as Lund coasted home followed by Hunt.

The victory for Lund eased a day of frustration for the big man from Cross, S.C.

"We guessed wrong on tires and then I had engine problem and finished the race on six cylinders," commented Lund after the race. "I think the problem was in the ignition system but we still don't know.”

"They had tough luck out there but that's racing. You never know what's going to happen on the track and I never gave up hope of winning it. This makes up for the one I lost recently at Daytona,"

Andrews revealed after the race that it was his first pit stop that was his downfall. "We put in just five gallons of gas where we normally put in about eight and that extra three gallons would have carried me the distance."

Danville entries Pee Wee Wentz and Bobby Fleming were both sidelined in a four-car pileup on the 80th lap, and both were victims of circumstances.

Terry Flynn's 1968 Mustang got out of shape coming into the third turn and was struck by the 1969 Camaro being driven by national champion Ken Rush of High Point. Fleming was unable to avoid Rush and Wentz was hit by Flynn's car after bounced back off the wall.

The Flynn and Rush cars were virtually demolished while Fleming and Wentz suffered only minor damage but all were finished for the day.

The race was completed in one hour, 30 minutes and 29 seconds at an average speed of 58.413 mph. Cold weather limited the crowd to an estimated 1,200.

Results –

1.Tiny Lund
2.T.C. Hunt
3.Wayne Andrews
4.Charlie Blanton
5.Frank Sessoms
6.Stan Starr, Jr.
7.Phil Wills
8.Ernie Shaw
9.Richard Childress
10.Buck Baker
11.Jim Paschal
12.Jimmy Lee Capps
13.David Boggs
14.Stan Starr, Jr.
15.Earl Briggs
16.Ed Conner
17.Jim Vaughn
18.Ken Rush
19.Terry Flynn
20.Pee Wee Wentz
21.Bobby Fleming
22.Joe Dean Huss
23.Phil Kendrick
24.Randy Hutchison
25.Bobby Wilson
26.Jerry Hufflin

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1983: Remembering the NSCA Sprint Car Series

by Lee Ackerman 
Omaha, Neb. - In 1978 with the demise of the old International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), a new organization came into being to fill the void for promoting races in the Midwest. It was called the National Speedways Contest Association (NSCA) and its promoting arm was called National Speedways, Inc., which had been a long-time promoting arm of IMCA. The race directors of National Speedways, Inc. would be two Des Moines residents, Dave Van Patten and Robert (Lawty) Lawton. Van Patton would serve as President of NSCA and Lawton as Vice President.

NSCA promoted sprint car races and later late model races throughout the Midwest from 1978 thru 1984. In 1985 the NSCA Sprint Car series became the regional arm of the World of Outlaws. One of the concepts of the NSCA was to have an eight member board of directors for each division. These boards were made up of four drivers and four car owners. These groups established the rules for racing within each division.

The series scheduled several races in the later part of June 1983 and those are the focus of this story simply because this writer was able to attend the last two of these. The race scheduled for June 26 in Marshall, Mo., was rained out.

Steve Kinser - Photo courtesy of Lee Johnson/

Things started off with the Annual Casey’s General Stores Missouri Sprint Car Nationals at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. The King of the Outlaws Steve Kinser would set fast time of 19.883 seconds aboard the C.K. Spurlock Gambler House Car normally driven by Doug Wolfgang.

Scott Ritchhart, Junior Parkinson, Wolfgang and Kinser would claim Friday night heat race wins. Australian Brett Lacey would take the B-main over Ricky Hood. In the preliminary feature on Friday night it would be Kinser followed by Larry Gates, Ritchhart, John Sernett and Cliff (Woody) Woodward.

Saturday night ended up being a very interesting night. First off, Bob Lawton was hit by a sprint car during the packing of the track sending him to the local hospital with a broken leg. Then rain delayed the start of the show till 10 pm. In heat race action it was Randy Smith, Bobby Layne, David Dwyer and Ricky Hood picking up wins. Gates would claim the B feature over Sonny Smyser.

The 25-lap feature once again saw “the King” Steve Kinser come out on top of a race that saw Layne take a wild flip that brought out the red. At the end of the event it was Kinser besting Wolfgang, Hood, Smith and Sernett.

The next night the action moved to Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas and a race that yours truly fondly remembers because it took only 1 hour and 50 minutes to run the program from start to finish. Thirty cars were on hand for the event that saw John Sernett set fast time at 19.389 seconds

Heat action saw plenty of passing as Larry Gates won heat one from the fourth starting position, Tim Baker heat two from seventh and last starting spot, Randy Smith from position number four to win heat three and Brett Lacey from the outside front run on the fourth heat. Sixth starting Jr. Parkinson won the 10 lap B feature.

T.J. Giddings - Photo courtesy of Lee Johnson


The A feature would see a local driver hold off the big names to take home the $2,000 first prize. Kansas City’s T. J. Giddings driving the #81 Marty Johnson/Shady Oaks Steakhouse car would start on the pole and hold both Steve Kinser in the Gambler House car and Doug Wolfgang in the Nance Speed Shop House car for the win. Finishing behind Giddings, Kinser and Wolfgang were Ricky Hood and fast qualifier John Sernett.

The following Friday night before a near capacity crowd the NSCA Sprinters would test out the 1/3-mile high banks of Eagle Raceway just east of Lincoln, Nebraska. Just 18 Sprinters showed up for the event which saw Randy Smith of Mt. Ayr, Iowa driving the #55 Jensen Construction Sprinter set fast time at 14.057 seconds with Jr. Parkinson and Bob Thoman second and third in time trials.

Bob Thoman driving the #87 car would win the dash over Rocky Hodges in the Casey’s General Store #47. Joe Wade driving the #12 sprinter would use the pole position to good advantage in taking the first heat. Woody Woodard would take the second heat from his fourth starting position and Jr. Parkinson was never headed in winning the third heat from the pole.

Sixteen cars would take the green flag in the A feature with Dan Shorney and late arriving T. J. Giddings scratching. Woody Woodward would take command of the feature from his outside front row starting position and would hold off the challenges of Bob Thoman for the first half of the race and appeared to have things well in hand until a lap 20 red flag thrown for a turn one altercations between Hodges, Parkinson and Gene Brudigan.

On the restart Woodward again seemed to have things in hand when he experienced mechanical problems on the next to last lap and Randy Smith inherited the lead and took the win. Seventh starting Mike Pinkney would finish second followed by Thoman, and Brett Lacey who started in the final row.

Randy Smith would go on to win the 1983 NSCA Sprint Car Championship, but the series was in its final stages and would fade from the scene after running as the World of Outlaw Regional Series in 1985. During its day however, the NSCA provided Midwest race fans with some great racing action.