Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013 Hawkeye Downs "Wall of Fame"

Photos Courtesy of Kyle Ealy

Al Miller - 2013 Wall of Fame

Bill Barthelmes - 2013 Wall of Fame

Bill Stepanek - 2013 Wall of Fame

Ed Otten - 2013 Wall of Fame

Merle & Evy Gardemann - 2013 Wall of Fame

John Schlemmer - 2013 Wall of Fame

Keith Siefken - 2013 Wall of Fame

Walt & Judy Hickey - 2013 Wall of Fame

Wall of Famers Bill Beckman & Benny Jamison

Wall of Famer Curt Hansen

Wall of Famer Jerry Emerson

Wall of Famer Johnny Hobel

Johnny Hobel (95 years young) takes his Rodger Ward replica Indy Roadster around the half-mile at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.

1974 - Knoxville Race Boss Resigns

Knoxville, Iowa (May 31, 1974) – Marion Robinson, the 20-year veteran promoter at the Marion County Fairgrounds here, resigned Wednesday in a dispute with the board of directors about money losses.

Robinson, 67, reported he had an argument with Fair Board president Ellis Metcalf, prior to Saturday night races and then Ellis began spreading the rumor that he had been fired.

Robinson, who could only be dismissed by the board, voluntarily resigned before the board's meeting Wednesday night.

P. Ray Grimes, 42, of Des Moines, was hired as director of racing to replace Robinson by the 24-member board. Fair Board Secretary Ralph Capitani said Robinson's resignation was prompted by continuing losses over the past three years. He said the board felt Robinson had not done enough to generate a profit and funds were needed for improvements on the track.

Capitani said attendance at the races have been worse this year, averaging only 1,800 to 2,000 instead of the 2,200 customers needed weekly to break even on the races.

He said the only profit making cut in recent years has been the three-day national race, which was begun by Robinson and placed Knoxville on the map as “the super modified capital of the world”.

Robinson fell out of favor, according to Capitani last Friday night after adding two supermodified races to a United States Auto Club stock car program which the board had not approved and cost $1,000 in extra purse money.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1970 - Morris sweeps Knoxville races

Knoxville, Iowa (May 29, 1970) - Mel Morris made a clean sweep of the late model super stock car races Friday night at the Marion County Fairgrounds track in Knoxville.

Morris of West Liberty won the trophy dash, third heat, Australian pursuit and the feature event. Mel led from the second lap on to capture the 20-lap feature.

Len Blankenship of Keokuk was challenging hard, but couldn't quite overtake Morris and had to settle for second place.

Morris took the lead from Don Hoffman on the white flag lap to take home the trophy dash win.

Don Hoffman led all the way to take the checkers for the first 10-lap heat. Don Davidson of Des Moines won the second heat and Morris the third heat.

The only other car on the track besides winner Morris at the end of the Australian pursuit was Lem Blankenship. Blankenship was closing the gap on Morris, but run out of time when the finish came.

Because of the large field of cars, two semi-mains were run. Dan Dickey of Packwood won the first semi-main by a wide margin over second place Shorty Selsor of Des Moines. Paul Uhlenberg of Garwin was third and Marvin Korns of Brooklyn was fourth. Ed Pilcher of Ottumwa finished fifth.

Ron Perdock of Washington was the victor of the second semi-main event in a very close finish over Joel Rasmussen of Ames. Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids was third and Earl Wagner of Pleasantville finished, fourth.

Results -

Trophy Dash – Mel Morris, West Liberty
First Heat – Don Hoffman, Des Moines
Second Heat – Don Davidson, Des Moines
Third Heat – Mel Morris
Australian Pursuit – Mel Morris
Semi-Main #1 – Dan Dickey, Packwood
Semi-Main #2 – Ron Perdock, Washington
Feature –
1. Mel Morris
2. Lem Blankenship, Keokuk
3. George Barton, Ankeny
4. Don Hoffman
5. Phil Reese, Des Moines
6. Arnie Braland, Boone
7. Dan Clement, Rhodes
8. Ron Perdock
9. Shorty Selsor, Des Moines
10. Joel Rasmussen, Ames
11. Arlo Dorenbusch
12. Ed Pilcher, Ottumwa

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This Week in Racing History – 1973

May 23 – Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, became the third super stock winner of the season at the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds in Oskaloosa on Wednesday night. Sanger showed his championship form by taking the top spot on the first lap and leading all 25 laps for the victory. Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, chased the yellow #95 but was never able to catch the speedster.  John Moss of Iowa City, Iowa, would finish a distant third followed by Bob Bonzer of Liscomb, Iowa, and George Barton of Ankeny, Iowa. Jim Brown of Martinsburg, Iowa, scored his third straight feature victory in the sportsman division.

May 25 – Larry Phillips held off repeated challenges from veteran Willie Crane and narrowly won the “Commerce 125” late model stock car race at Fairgrounds Speedway in Springfield, Mo., on Friday night. Phillips powered his 1969 Chevelle to the lead on lap 25 with Crane following right behind. Phillips’ car proved strong in the straight-aways but Crane’s 1972 Pontiac handled better through the turns. Crane caught Phillips on several occasions and would pull even with him but could never muster a pass. Phillips would take the checkers only a couple of car lengths ahead of Crane. Frankie Davis took third, with Dean Roper in fourth and Fred Tiede in fifth.
May 25 – Del McDowell of Ames, Iowa, took the lead on the second lap and went on to win the 20-lap super stock feature at Boone (Iowa) Speedway on Friday night. Arnie Braland of Boone, Iowa, winner of the last two features, developed clutch problems early in the main event and was never a factor. Arlo Dorenbush of Boone would finish second behind McDowell followed by Mike Majors, also of Boone. Dale DeFrance of Marshalltown, Iowa, would end up in fourth and Larry Jackson of Des Moines, Iowa, was fifth.
May 25 – Jim Wyman of Griswold, Iowa, showed the crowd at Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa, why he was the defending late model track champion as he took the early lead in the “A” feature and ran away from the rest of the pack in an easy victory. Wyman was never seriously challenged by the strong field of contestants that included second place finisher Jack Golder of Hooper, Neb., Paul Zdan and Don Schlondorf, and Ed Janisch, all of Omaha, Neb.
May 25 – Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, swept the late model program at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. Dake’s victories came in the 25-lap feature, Australian Pursuit, and first heat. Dake was also the fast qualifier on the evening, touring the half-mile in 24.84 seconds. Pokey West of West Chester, Iowa, won the consolation event and other heat wins went to Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids and Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa.
May 25 – Wayne Huntley of Hastings, Neb., powered his newly built 1969 Camaro to a feature victory at the Speed Bowl in Red Cloud, Neb., on Friday night. Huntley swapped the lead with Craig Lockhart of Red Cloud several times before finally securing the top spot with only a few circuits left. Lockhart would spin in the final lap allowing Kent Tucker of Aurora, Neb., and Al Humphrey of Giltner, Neb., to scoot by for second and third place respectively.
May 25 – Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., took the 25-lap late model feature on a slick and chilly evening at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa would take runner-up honors while Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Duane Steffe of Colona, Ill., would round out the top five. 
May 25 – Denny Hovinga, the popular driver from Laurens, Iowa, almost made a clean sweep of the late model program at the Kossuth Speedway in Algona, Iowa, on Friday night.  Hovinga won the trophy dash, first heat and 25-lap feature. Bob Lewerke of Britt, Iowa, was fast qualifier on the evening, clocking in 19.27 seconds. Bob Shryock of Estherville, Iowa, would finish second to Hovinga in the main event followed by Russ Trulson of Britt, Bruce Sommerfeld of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Jack Piper of Mason City, Iowa.
May 26 – Dick Gaines of Floyd Knobs, Ind., would win the rain-shortened “Little 500” at Sun Valley Speedway in Anderson, Ind., on Saturday night. Gaines would take the back seat to Jerry Richer of Forest Lake, Minn., in the beginning stages of the long-distance contest but would grab the lead on lap 11 and never relinquish for the remainder of the race, which was halted on lap 282 due to heavy rains. Bobby Black, who finished second, was four laps behind the winner. Gaines’ earnings were approximately $6,000 including the first place money of $4,000 in silver dollars and lap money.
May 26 – Lyle Nabbefeldt of Nekoosa, Wis., was killed Saturday evening during time trials at Dell Motor Speedway in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Nabbefeldt was the 22nd car to qualify and was his first run for the night. He hit the wall head on in turn one, with the car climbing the wall and taking out the fence. Jim Back of Vesper, Wis., would set a new track record of 14.411 seconds and Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., would win the feature later that evening.
May 26 – The Bureau County Fairgrounds in Princeton, Ill., opened their gates to the UARA midgets for the first “full-sized” midget show to be seen on the half-mile flat dirt circuit. Newt White of Lockport Ill., driving the George Holterman Chevy, would win the 25-lap feature after battling John Tenney of Battle Creek, Mich., for much of the race. Danny Frye Jr. of St. Louis, Mo., would take third followed by fast qualifier Rich Vogler of Glen Ellyn, Ill., and Elton Porter of Houston, Tex.
May 28 – Ron Carlson of Duluth, Minn., captured the 20-lap sprint car main event, edging out Cliff Kwadahl, also of Duluth, by only a few feet in Midwest Sprintcar Association (MSA) action in Brainerd, Minn., on Monday night. Bill Dollansky of Princeton, Minn., led the first 16 laps before spinning out and having to restart at the rear of the pack. Dick Kelly of St. Paul would claim third followed by Dennis Olson of Graham Minn., and Don Mack of East Grand Forks, Minn. Polesitter John Stevenson of St. Paul, Minn., flipped his racer on the first lap but escaped unharmed.
May 28 – Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill., made it three wins in a row, as he drove his ’73 Camaro to the Memorial Day 50-lap championship at Rockford (Ill.) Speedway. Shear, who started 18th in the 28-car field, methodically made his way to the front of the field, finally getting around race leader Dave Watson of Beloit, Wis., on backstretch of the final lap. Watson would settle for second while Lee Schuler of Lockport, Ill., would finish third. Bob Anzinger of McHenry, Ill., would take fourth and Vaughn Gerke of South Beloit, Ill., grabbed fifth. 
May 28 – The North Iowa Speedway in Mason City, Iowa, was the only track in the area not postponed by rain so all of the top drivers from northern Iowa and southern Minnesota showed up to do battle for the Memorial Day special. When the dust cleared, it was Tom Bartholomew, a 22-year-old upstart from Waterloo, Iowa, who took home the first place money. It was Bartholomew’s first trip to the North Iowa facility and only his second career late model victory. He took the lead from Wendell Kuehn of Rochester, Minn., on lap 3 of the main event and then fought off the challenges of Dave Bjorge of Austin, Minn., and Willie Richardson of Hayfield, Minn., for the remainder of the 25-lap contest.
May 29 – Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, bested his brother Ed Sanger, also of Waterloo, in the late model feature and trophy dash on Tuesday night. Jack Mitchell of Cedar Falls, Iowa, would finish third in the feature after winning the second heat. Bill Barthelmes of Troy Mills, Iowa, the third heat winner, would finish fourth in the feature followed by Red Dralle of Evansdale, Iowa.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hawkeye Downs to honor ‘Wall of Fame’ class of 2013

Cedar Rapids, IA – Hawkeye Downs Speedway will honor the “Wall of Fame” class of 2013 this Friday, May 24.

This year’s inductees include Bill Barthelmes, Merle and Evy Gardemann, Walt and Judy Hickey, Al Miller, Ed Otten, John Schlemmer, Keith Siefken and Bill Stepanek.
Bill Barthelmes, from Central City, was a successful driver who competed in the Late Model division at Hawkeye Downs from 1968 to 1981. Always a top-10 competitor, he raced weekly against Wall of Fame inductees that include Ed Sanger, Curt Hansen and Bill Zwanziger.
The late Merle and Evy Gardemann of Shellsburg will be honored as the first race fans inducted into the “Wall”. They were lifetime race fans at Hawkeye Downs and could be seen weekly during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Walt Hickey raced in the Novice division at Hawkeye Downs in 1963 and continued to compete in Modifieds well into the late 1970’s. Judy competed in demolition derbies in the late 60’s and was one of the first women to take part in the Women on Wheels division in the early 70’s.
Al Miller, now living in Flushing, MI. covered Hawkeye Downs Speedway and area racing for the Cedar Rapids Gazette starting in 1963. His racing column, “Al Miller on Racing” would be a weekly staple in the paper until 1975.
Ed Otten of Coralville became a race official at Hawkeye Downs in 1974 and became the full-time flagman in 1979 when Hawkeye Downs became the first official NASCAR-sanctioned track in the Midwest. In 1983 he became the chief pit steward.  
John Schlemmer of Grundy Center started his career at Hawkeye Downs in the Modified class in 1956 and would graduate to the IMCA Stock Car division in 1960 racing weekly against Wall of Fame inductees such as Verlin Eaker, Darrell Dake and Red Droste until 1971.
Keith Siefken of Cedar Rapids started racing at Hawkeye Downs in the Modified division in 1991. He would later compete in the Late Model class with great success, ending his career back in the Modifieds in 2005. He would also promote the “Modified Challenge” in 1992 and 1993.
Bill Stepanek started at Hawkeye Downs as a sponsor (Northtowne Fitness and Cycling) of Gerald Seger-built race cars in 1989 and eventually got behind the wheel of a Modified in 1990, competing until 1994 with great success. Continuing to sponsor race cars after hanging up the helmet, he would sponsor Dave Naylor’s championship season in the Modified division in 1997.
The gates open at 6 pm, with hot laps at 6:35 pm and racing to follow at 7:30 pm. Wall of Fame Inductions will be made during intermission.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

1963 – Record Illiana Sprint Car Drive by McCune

Jim McCune receives congratulations after his feature win. 

Schererville, Ind. (May 19, 1963) – The hot-running chauffeurs of IMCA went on another record-busting run on Sunday afternoon and this time it was a youthful Jim McCune of Toledo, Ohio, in the Bob Price Chevy who walked away with the lion’s share of honors at Illiana Motor Speedway.

McCune started the day by rewriting the one-lap qualifying mark when he turned the half-mile oval in 22.02 seconds. That erased from the books the mark of 22.22 seconds set by Mickey Shaw in May 13, 1962.

The Ohio driver didn’t get that honor all by himself as Jerry “Scratch” Daniels of St. Paul, Minn., later duplicated the feat to share the record with McCune.

Five other drivers bettered the old mark and another tied it as Gene Van Winkle and the National Speedways’ gang conducted their third straight program in which the record book took a terrific beating. 

Gordon Woolley, Johnny White, and Arnie Knepper all turned in one-lap times of 22.04 seconds and Ray Duckworth drove 880 yards in 22.12 seconds. Hard-charging Bob Coulter equaled Shaw’s old time. 

In the feature, McCune jumped into the lead at the start and then out-dueled Johnny White in a wheel to wheel battle for 25 laps to set the second record of the day. 

McCune’s time for the 12.5-mile jaunt was 9 minutes and 25.79 seconds as compared to the track record of 10 minutes and 27.43 seconds set last season by Johnny Rutherford. 

As hot as the McCune-White duel was for top money, Woolley and Pete Folse stage one just as warm for the show spot with Woolley nipping the three-time IMCA national champion at the wire. 

Daniels, running a close fifth at the time, spun completely around in turn four on the 21st lap, but recovered beautifully and closed fast to nab eighth place money. 

Johnny White won the trophy dash while McCune, Jerry Blundy and Buzz Gregory were heat winners. McCune’s time of 3 minutes and 1.07 seconds in the first heat was a new IMCA record for an eight-lap heat on a paved half-mile. Arnie Knepper won the 10-lap semi-main over Woolley and Dick Atkins.

Results – 

1. Jim McCune
2. Johnny White
3. Gordon Woolley
4. Pete Folse
5. Steve Stapp
6. Jerry Blundy
7. Bill Horstmeyer
8. Jerry Daniels
9. Jim Nelson
10. Jigger Sirois
11. Don O’Riley
12. Buzz Gregory

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

1949 - Accident Mars Midget Inaugural Before 8,846 Fans

Davenport, Iowa (May 15, 1949) - A serious accident marred the opening midget auto race Sunday at the Mississippi Valley Amusement Park track, as 8,846 race fans watched the Midwest Association drivers shatter four track records.

Paul Allen of Matteson, Ill., suffered serious injuries when he lost control of his car on the east curve and plunged over the embankment His car rolled over several times.

Attendants at Mercy Hospital give Allen’s condition as “critical”. He reportedly suffered a skull fracture, a fractured back and multiple facial lacerations.
Allen was driving the entry owned by D. W. Doty of Davenport. The accident occurred during the second qualifying heat. Allen is 23-years-old, married and the father of a two-year-old daughter. 

The records at the Valley track took an awful drubbing, with three drivers shattering the former time trial mark and records in the first heat, handicap and semi-main event falling by the wayside. 

Dick Ritchie of Cedar Rapids driving the Ernest Frederickson entry from Kenosha, Wisconsin won the feature event of the day after a stiff duel with Ray Hall. 

Hall got off to an early lead, but Ritchie caught him on the 12th lap and managed to stay out in front until the finish. Ray Hall and Clyde “Cowboy” Young staged a vicious duel for second place, with Hall getting the decision. Time for the event was 5 minutes and 36.81 seconds. 

Tony Russo clipped a full 10 seconds off the former record in winning the semi-main. Russo grabbed ah early lead and outdistanced Walt Raines to the finish line. Art Wheeler finished in third place. Time for the race was 4 minutes and 10.72 seconds. 

Russo also set a new mark in the handicap, turning the 14-lap event in 3 minutes and 49.41 seconds. He again grabbed an early lead and outstripped the pack. Lloyd Thurston, driving the #56 Mensing entry, finished second, a nose ahead of Johnny Hobel, driving the Al Willey #12 car. 

Ray Hall piloting the #11 Kaminky Special, opened the competition of the day with a win in the first qualifying heat. His time of 2 minutes and 45.41 seconds set a new track record for the event, shattering the old one held by Danny Kladis. Hall, driving in the pole position, took an early lead and beat Dick Ritchie to the finish. Johnny Hobel grabbed third money. 

Lloyd Thurston won the second heat, driving the #56 Mensing car, but only after a terrific struggle with Clyde Young, driving Eric Lund's famous #39. George Miller finished third. Time for the event was 2 minutes and 48.35 seconds. 

Bud Koehler, driving his own #71, was the winner in the third heat but only after a great battle with Paul Newkirk and Red Hoyle. 

The time trials gave an indication of the speed to come, when three drivers shattered the old time trial record of 16.55 seconds, held by Danny Kladis. Fastest time turned was by Dick Ritchie, who now holds the record with 16.27. Paul Allen also shattered the old record with 16.30, while Red Hoyle also bettered the old mark with 16.52. Eight of the drivers in the field turned time trials in the 16 seconds bracket. 

One oddity occurred in the time trials, when Tony Russo turned three laps in identical times of 16.81 seconds. Officials at the track said that this was the first time such a coincidence has occurred on the oval.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1977 - Slow track can’t stop Rice at Fairgrounds

Bill Rice 

Des Moines, Iowa (May 14, 1977) - Bill Rice of Des Moines learned Saturday night that a race driver does not depend altogether on a fast track for a victory.

All Rice did was come from behind to claim the 25-lap late model feature before a crowd of 7,000 at the State Fairgrounds, then take time out to belittle the condition of the track.

“Boy, was that track slow and terrible,” said Rice, owner of a wholesale tire store. “It was like running in a Sunday afternoon race.”

Above-normal temperatures at this time of year played a big part in the rough condition of the track, said promoter George Barton.

“They would make a better show if they watered down the track early in the day and then once more before starting time,” answered Rice, who drove a 1977 Camaro.

Rice, who started inside on the second row after winning the third heat, went high on the fourth turn lap 20 to overtake leaders Curt Hansen of Dike and Ed Sanger of Waterloo and seemed to gain momentum.

“I was staying inside on the turns and the only way anybody was going to pass me was if they went to the outside,” said Hansen, who won last week’s feature race. “My tires got hot and lost some weight on the turns.” 

“But, hey, once Rice got by me there wasn’t anyone going to get him,” added Hansen, who captured the first heat.

Sanger, wheeling a 1977 Camaro, also passed Hansen on the twentieth lap and finished second. Hansen, in a 1972 Camaro, settled for third followed by Joe Merryfield, defending late model season point champion here.

Bill Davis of Des Moines continued his winning ways in the sportsman feature, taking his third victory in as many attempts. Davis led from start to finish in the race delayed by six caution flags. He also had some unkind words about the track.

“It was a real dry and slick but my car ran good,” explained Davis, who, in his 1972 Camaro, also took the first heat.

Bill Carter of Des Moines was second, Rocky Hodges of Des Moines third and Denny Rosenberg of Grimes made a flashy comeback to finish fourth.

Rosenberg started in the sixth row of the fourth heat but had to pull out after three laps when his 1971 Camaro overheated.

He then was declared the winner of the 10-lap consolation when he was the first driver to cross the white flag before a red flag was waved.

Three cars collided in the late-model consolation, resulting in the one-week suspension of Lefty Robinson for what Barton termed “intentional roughness involving the chance of personal injury.”

Robinson’s 1977 Camaro clipped Roger Tapper’s 1977 Camaro on the fourth turn of the tenth lap. Robinson lost control, bounced off the retaining fence along the straightaway and hit the incoming Arnie Braland of Boone.

Wayne Workman of Ames, coming in full force, collided with Braland and Workman’s 1976 Monte Carlo went spinning 50 yards. Tapper, a full lap behind the leaders, won the race.

Sanger won the 6-lap trophy dash, involving the top six drivers in the late model standings. Don Hoffman of Des Moines was second.

Feature Results –

1. Bill Rice, Des Moines
2. Ed Sanger, Waterloo
3. Curt Hansen, Dike
4. Joe Merryfield, Des Moines
5. Karl Sanger, Waterloo
6. Stan Stover, Reinbeck
7. Verlin Eaker, Cedar Rapids
8. Fred Knapp, Des Moines
9. Don Hoffman, Des Moines
10. Arnie Braland, Boone
11. Bill Wrich, Kennard, Neb.
12. Jack Mitchell, Cedar Falls
13. Al Druesdow, Omaha, Neb.
14. Roger Tapper, Webster City
15. Duane Errett, Harlan

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This Week in Racing History – 1967

May 12 – Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wheeled his red 1964 Plymouth hemi to a feature victory in the late model modified feature at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday night. Eaker flashed across the finish line ahead of Darrell Dake, also of Cedar Rapids. A couple of other Cedar Rapids chauffeurs, Bill McDonough and John Schlemmer, grabbed the third and fourth respectively. Ray Cox of Davenport continued his mastery of the novice division as he copped his third feature win of the young season.
May 12 – Super stock racing opened at the Central Iowa Fairgrounds in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Friday night with Darrell Devries of Charles City, Iowa, picking up the feature win. Devries made it a clean sweep as he won the first heat and then came from dead last to win the “A” semi-main. Joel Rasmussen of Ames, Iowa, was a close second in the feature after winning the “B” semi-main.
May 13 – Chuck Cox of Boone, Iowa, captured the super stock win at Dayton (Iowa) Speedway on Saturday evening, beating back challenges from Wes Smith of Story City, Iowa, and Butch Householder of Algona, Iowa to take the first prize money. George Barton of Ankeny, Iowa, set a new track record in time trials, touring the quarter-mile in 17.16 seconds.
May 13 – Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa, and Kenny Ellis of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, captured feature vents Saturday night at 34 Raceways Park before more than 3,600 spectators. Jackson won the “A” feature in semi super modified competition and Ellis grabbed the checkered in the “B” feature. Jack Alter and Ron Lekander, both of Burlington, picked up most of the marbles in the cadet class. Lekander, the 1966 cadet champion, grabbed the “A” feature while Alter won the “B”. Duane Stoneking of Oquawka, Ill., set a new track record in qualifying for modifieds, when he clocked in at 18.73 seconds.
May 13 – Red Droste of Waterloo, Iowa, held off Chub Liebe of Oelwein, Iowa, to claim victory in the super stock feature at the Buchanan County Fairgrounds in Independence, Iowa, on Saturday night. Droste and Liebe ran side-to-side and nose to tail for the entire 20 laps before Liebe spun slightly on the last lap, allowing Droste to roar across the finish line first. Cal Swanson of Reinbeck, Iowa, took third, followed by Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Paul Fitzpatrick of Rochester, Minn.
May 13 – Shorty Selsor of Des Moines, Iowa, regained his winning form at Stuart (Iowa) Speedway on Saturday night, capturing the 20-lap super stock feature after yielding the main event to Matt Moro, also of Des Moines, last week. In what was a tight duel from start to finish, Selsor took the lead from Moro on the final lap when Moro blew an oil line on the back stretch. A large crowd, estimated at 1,320, attended the program with 29 cars checked into the pits.
May 13 –Mark Mosier of Washington, Iowa, driving a newly built 1957 Pontiac, took top honors in Mississippi Valley Speed Club action at the Louisa County Fairgrounds in Columbus Junction, Iowa, before a crowd of 3,100. Mosier held off a stubborn John Moss of Iowa City, Iowa, who finished a close second in his 1965 Chevy convertible. Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree, Iowa, took third followed by John Mullink of Iowa City and Tom Stewart of Washington.
May 14 – Tunis Speedway in Waterloo, Iowa, opened the racing season under threatening skies as it rained briefly on both drivers and fans. The rain failed to dampen Chub Liebe of Oelwein, Iowa, as he took the 20-lap feature race over Cal Swanson of Reinbeck, Iowa, and Red Droste of Waterloo. Bob Hilmer of Dysart, Iowa took fourth while Glen Martin of Independence, Iowa, rounded out the top five.
May 14 –Despite cold, damp weather, Peoria Speedway opened to a capacity crowd of 6,000, as Johnny Beauchamp of Atlantic, Iowa, driving the 1967 “Kartsville” #55 Plymouth, completely dominated the field of 21 drivers. He won the feature, semi-main and second heat. Beauchamp outclassed a field that included Don Bohlander of Glasford, Ill., Jim Baker of East Peoria, Ill., Don Bitner of Bellevue, Ill., and Ed Bolen of Peoria.

Friday, May 10, 2013

1972 - Capacity crowd watches Moss win

John Moss

by Ida May Vangendren
Oskaloosa, Iowa (May 10, 1972) - Anyone who missed last night’s races out at the Southern Iowa Speedway here in Oskaloosa really missed seeing some hard, fast driving. Such a field of race cars has not been to the Oskaloosa track in a mighty long time.

A total of 72 cars participated in the evening's events before a capacity crowd of enthusiastic fans. The driver payoff passed the $3,500 mark.

Big John Moss grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag and held on for the super stock feature win. Moss, of Iowa City, had a fair sized lead on the rest of the 20-car field when the chickens came out.

At the initial start John did not have the lead as newcomer Jim Gerber of Long Grove jumped around that front row and had taken the lead only to have a red flag come out when four cars had a mix-up on the west turns. Going back to the original start gave Moss the chance he needed and he was on his toes when the green fell that time.

Ramo Stott of Keokuk just couldn’t quite catch Moss, but came in second with both drivers piloting Plymouths. Holding down third spot was last week’s winner, Don Hoffman. Hoffman, of Des Moines, held off Stott until near the end of the race when Stott managed to pass him.

Following Hoffman was Ed Sanger of Waterloo (both in Monte Carlos). Jim Gerber finished fifth with Ron Prymek of Iowa City, Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Curt Hansen of Dike, Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo and Pokey West of West Chester following.

Joe Merryfield of Des Moines was holding fourth place before having to pull out of the race when he almost lost his hood in the last third of the race.

Don Hoffman topped the first 10-lap heat race ahead of Bill Newman of Burlington and Ron Prymek. Roger Dolan of Lisbon led laps four thru eight when a large puff of smoke came pouring from his car. Dolan slowed and came in fourth.

Moss took the lead on the last lap to win the second heat. Joe Merryfield led the first nine laps only to make a bobble and that let Moss passed. Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree and Bill Martin were third and fourth respectively.

It was a two-car battle for the first spot in the third heat. Jim Gerber and Ed Sanger were really fighting it out with side by side and bumper to bumper driving throughout the race. Gerber led the first three laps then Sanger took over for three-quarters of a lap, when Gerber took it for keeps. Sanger finished second, Zwanziger, third and Mike Keen of Marshalltown in fourth.

Ramo Stott, in his first appearance here at Oskaloosa, captured the fourth heat. Pokey West was second. Earl Tice of Ames nipped Kurt Hansen by a bumper at the finish line for third.

Because of the large number of cars it was decided to run two 16-car consolation races.

Winner of the first race was Bob Hilmer of Dysart followed by Phil Reece of Des Moines and Tim McDonough of Cedar Rapids. Dan Clement of Rhodes won the second 10-lap race. Bob Bonzer of Lisbon and Larry Wasserfort of Cedar Falls were second and third.

The lead in the first 10-lap Sportsman race changed seven times with four different cars up front. At the checkered flag it was Mike McClure of Eldon in the winners place. Following were Don Benge of Selma, Skip Gray of Ottumwa and Tom Johnson of Agency.

Ed Baker of Norwalk copped the second Sportsman race by a very narrow margin. In the thru car bumper to bumper finish were Kenny Grimm of Cedar Rapids and Cliff Van Zandt of Des Moines.

Richard Evans of Wellman, last year’s champion, led the first two laps. Van Zandt then took over the next seven laps. McClure took the lead on the last and most important lap to take the victory.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1972 – Derr cops Sedalia USAC race

Sedalia, Mo. (May 7, 1972) – Ernie Derr, the 46-year-old driving veteran from Keokuk, Iowa, drove to victory Sunday in the 100-lap United States Auto Club late model stock car before a rain-threatened crowd of 4,220.

It was a struggle of 73 laps for Derr, the 12-time champion of the International Motor Contest Association circuit, who started on the front row and was never worse than third place throughout.

A three-car tangle on lap 73 – one of the cars driven by Lem Blankenship, also of Keokuk, who was in the lead at the time – and a spin out by Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio, who was in second place, allowed Derr to retake the lead.

It was easy sailing the remaining quarter of the race for Derr, driving a 1970 Dodge Charger.

Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, another IMCA veteran, finished second in a ’71 Plymouth Roadrunner, while Bowsher stormed back to take third in a ’71 Ford Torino. The first three were the only drivers on the lead lap after 50 miles of racing.

Bowsher, who posted quick time during qualifying with a time of 25.64 seconds, and Derr, who timed in at 25.70, started in the front row. Both drivers bettered Derr’s old mark of 25.71 seconds, set last August.

Derr made a daring move on the fourth turn of the first lap to pass Bowsher and the Iowan then led for four more. Bowsher, showing great driving skill, regained the lead on lap 6 and led through lap 68. Blankenship, who charged the entire time he was in the race, attempted to slip past Bowsher on the low side coming out of turn four, but hit the Ohioan on the left front quarter panel and sending him into the cement retaining wall. Bowsher recovered, however to maintain second place.

On lap 73, two slower cars that had already been lapped several times – Roland Earley and Bud Schroyer, both of Toledo, Ohio – tangled in turn three, right in front of Blankenship. Blankenship had to room to maneuver, crashing into both cars and then the outside fence.

Bowsher, in close pursuit, deliberately spun his car to avoid all three, which he did. Derr, watching the whole melee develop, slipped by all four cars on the low side and won going away. Janey also eased past Bowsher to claim runner-up honors.

Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, the reigning ARCA champion, had fifth fastest qualifying time but blew an engine midway through the contest after holding fourth place the whole distance. Butch Hartman, third fastest qualifier, suffered a broken axle rear axle and limped towards the finish.

Because of the overcast conditions, the entire field of 27 cars was placed in the feature. The drivers competed for an $8,500 purse of which Derr received $1,700. He declined to drive in the trophy dash, which was won by Hartman.

There were three yellow flags during the race, which took 50 minutes and 46 seconds to complete. Derr’s official speed was 60.934 miles per hour. Only 12 cars were running at the finish.

“I want to win them all,” Derr said after the race. “This one doesn’t mean any more than the others. I do think about some of the guys out there running a little over their heads and trying to make it a 100-lap trophy dash.”

“I blew a hole in the radiator with 5 laps to go and had to ease up a bit,” he continued. “I noticed the temperature gauge went sky-high.”

Results –

  1. Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
  2. Irv Janey, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  3. Jack Bowsher, Springfield, Ohio
  4. Terry Ryan, Davenport, Iowa
  5. Ken Reiter, Louisville, Ky.
  6. Dan Dickey, Packwood, Iowa
  7. Paul Feldner, Richfield, Wis.
  8. Bay Darnell, Deerfield, Ill.
  9. Jim Tobin, Bloomington, Ill.
  10. Butch Hartman, South Zanesville, Ohio

Monday, May 6, 2013

1976 – Sam Bartus is a quiet man; exploding with ideas

Madison, Wis. (May 6, 1976) - Sam Bartus is not the sort of person to go unnoticed in a crowd.
He wears silver brocade and gold lame suits trimmed with sequins and rhinestones in the manner of Liberace. He drives flashy sports cars or unusual limousines, such as his gleaming black six-door Mercedes.
He's not one to skimp on money. When he has it (and he has it) he goes first class. “I like to stay in nice places and eat good food,” he says. “Money is for spending.”
He has a large five-bedroom home in Madison and an apartment in Wausau and he spends part of each week at each place when he's not traveling. “But I travel a lot,” he says.
He takes chances, jumping into new ventures with an abandon that might terrify lesser souls. “I like the challenge,” he notes. “The harder it is, the better”
Yet despite his wardrobe (not a gray flannel suit in the lot) and his Cadillac’s (he buys two convertibles every year) and his Mercedes with its refrigerator, television set, bar, real leather and mahogany interior, Sam Bartus does not have a flamboyant personality.
This stocky, hard working sensitive man is rather quiet, soft spoken and private.
He was born 54 years ago in Mosinee, saw service with the army in World War II, earned the Purple Heart and collected a few other medals, and wound up in Japan with the occupational forces.
Back in the United States, he started selling farm machinery and cars in Mosinee, later in Wausau, and got bitten by the stock car racing bug. He entered his first race in 1951 and came away a winner, which is some sort of a record, he says.
With just his interest in stock car racing to spur him on, he built his first of several dirt tracks near Wausau the following year. The track wasn't too successful, so he opened a gravel pit on the same site with his brother Ed, who still owns and runs it.
More interested in cars than gravel, Sam cut loose from the gravel pit and opened a used car garage in Wausau, where he keeps his ever-changing collection of antique or unusual cars. Right now he has a 1924 Cadillac limousine, a ‘49 Desoto, several other ancient Cadillac’s and of course the Mercedes. “When I see a car I like, I buy it,” Sam says.
The used car business flourished and is still going strong, but Sam couldn't get stock car racing out of his mind. He built several tracks around the state before he tackled the Capital Super Speedway, a quarter million dollar venture near Oregon, which he jumped into when his bank balance was only $10,000.
He started building the track in the fall of 1968, was grounded for the winter, and went back to work in April. “It was mission impossible,” he recalls. “The place was a mess, but I told people we’d be open for business in May and we did.”
In order to get the speedway on the road, he worked as much as 40 hours straight without resting. “I hauled pipes and lumber and other materials from all over the state,” he says.
That must have been a picture to give passersby pause: Sam in his flashy brocade suits) hauling rough materials on a two-wheeler behind his streamlined Eldorado Cadillac convertible.
Now Sam's hatched another idea. He's planning to hold rock festivals on a 500-acre plot of land 75 miles north of Los Angeles. He's never put on a rock festival before, but that's the challenge.
“I've observed how other rock festivals were held,” he says. “And I didn't think they were doing a good job.”
“A rock festival was never held more than once in the same place. I plan to hold a successful one and repeat it every so often in the same location.’
He tried to get a place in Wisconsin for the rock festival but permits “are hard to come by mostly because of the past bad records of other rock festivals,” he says.
The prospect of risking his current financial stability on a rock festival doesn’t seem to faze Sam.
“I figured if I can build a track without much money, I can go into rock too," he says confidently.
His first rock festival is scheduled for the Labor Day weekend, but all plans wait the granting of the permit, which he expects this week. Then everything will fall into place, Sam is confident.
In the meantime, he's learning how to fly an airplane, spending two to three hours a week up in the air with an instructor. He expects to have his license any day now.
Then, if anyone wants to swap an airplane for his Mercedes, he's willing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

1986 – Shear still winning; takes ARTGO Spring Classic

Rich Bickle (45) leads Joe Shear (36) during the ARTGO Spring Classic at Rockford.  Shear would on to win the 86-lap feature. - Stan Kalwasinski Photo

Rockford, Ill. (May 4, 1986) – Joe Shear continued his domination the ARTGO Challenge Series slicing through the field from his 12th starting position to win the ninth annual Spring Classic at Rockford Speedway on Sunday.

Shear, who won the ARTGO opener at Grundy County two weeks earlier, recorded a rare ARTGO clean sweep, setting fast time, winning his 12-lap heat race and then taking the feature win.

Rich Bickle Jr. edged into the lead on the first lap from his front row starting position with Dave Weltmeyer second and Don Leach in third. With 10 laps complete, Shear started slicing his way through the field, using the tough inside lane with Dick Trickle trying to keep up in his V-6 powered Chevrolet Celebrity. 

The yellow flew for the first time on lap 32 and again on lap 34, which sent Jim Weber to the sidelines. Those would be the only two cautions of the main event.

With the green flag out again, Bickle and Shear were at the front with Weltmeyer running third. For the next 20 laps, these two Wisconsin hot shoes kept the fans on the edge of their seats as Shear tried every line to gain the top spot.

On lap 55, the top six – Bickle, Shear, Weltmeyer, Terry Baldry, Bobby Dotter and Trickle – were nose to tail. Finally, on lap 57, Shear ducked to the inside, shared some paint with Bickle, and took the lead coming out of turn four. He would hold the lead from there beating Bickle to the checkers by a quarter of a lap.

Meanwhile, Trickle’s V-6 came to life under the long green period and he proceeded to pick off Dotter, Baldry, and Weltmeyer to finish third.

After the win, Shear was asked what his secrets were to running the tough groove in the first tow ARTGO dates. “It’s the chassis,” explained the six-time National Short Track Champion. “We only ran this car four times in ’85, but we knew it was just what we needed to make a run at the ARTGO title this season.”

Results –

1. Joe Shear
2. Rich Bickle Jr.
3. Dick Trickle
4. Bobby Dotter
5. Terry Baldry
6. Dave Weltmeyer
7. Al Schill
8. Tony Strupp
9. Steve Holzhausen
10. Don Leach
11. George Prziborowski
12. Bobby McDonald
13. Scott Hansen
14. Lee Sohns
15. Doug Herbst
16. Dave Anspaugh
17. Roger Lund
18. Jim Weber
19. Conrad Morgan
20. Randy Merriman
21. Randy Sargent
22. Axel Dahlberg

Thursday, May 2, 2013

1973 - Joe's bitter. . . Frasson loves racing, but Winston 500 may be his last

Talladega, Ala. (May 2, 1973)  Because he loves racing, Joe Frasson comes all the way from Golden Valley, Minn., to the speedways of the southeast.

Because he loves his family and has responsibilities away from Southern speedways, Joe Frasson might quit racing after Sunday's Winston 500.

Any stock car fan knows Frasson. He's the one who wears the floppy black hat, weighs 230 pounds, has the crooked nose and grins like a Cheshire at anybody in sight. Get a good look at him this week. It might be your last.

Frasson is bitter. Bitter enough to quit.

"I’m bitter because as long as I've been down here (South) purses haven't increased," says Frasson. "Yet the expense of racing is shooting up all the time. I don't see why a car that wins a race gets twice as much money as the second-place car, and the second place finisher gets twice as much as the third.

"I guarantee you if you don't finish at least fifth, you can't pay your motel and tire bill."

While drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Isaac and Bobby Allison - drivers Frasson calls "hot dogs" - normally finish among the top five in a race, it is fellows like Frasson who bring up the middle of the pack. Some cars have to be in front, some in the middle, and some at the end. But Frasson contends that only the "hot dogs" make the profits.

"I think a lot of drivers feel the same as I do," he says. "I'm not racing to get rich. I love to race, but I'm not gonna stay down here and put my business in danger."

The business is Joe Frasson Cement Company in Golden Valley, formerly Mario Frasson Cement Company. Joe was half-owner until he bought his dad out about a week ago.

"I’ve lost over $39,000 in racing just this year - $39,441 to be exact," said Frasson loudly. "Shoot. Guys like me can't make a dollar in racing. At least not the way (Bill) France has the purse so top-heavy."

Frasson also sounds off about Talladega's 60-car starting field for Sunday's race, the largest field in modern NASCAR history.

"For one thing, there's no money in it," he says. "They've increased the field but haven't hiked up the purse. And those cars starting 40 and on back are not gonna be competitive by any means. They'll be from 40 to 50 miles per hour difference in the first ear and the 40th, at minimum.

"And all 60 cars will do is give up more caution flags. NASCAR was talking earlier about cutting the field to 40 cars so there wouldn't be so many cautions. It looks like they've eliminated that idea."

Frasson admits there is one thing that could definitely prolong his career in racing, and that is to win here Sunday. He is confident.

"We’ve got all our eggs in the basket for this one," he says, grinning again. "I feel like we're capable of winning it. My crew's got lots more experience now. They've been giving me some real good stops. I think they're as fast as anybody out here.

"We're hoping for 194 (mph). Last year 191 was the top speed, and from all indications everybody's quicker than last year.

"I’ve always said some people come to race and some come to be in a race," said Frasson, aiming a stopwatch at Buddy Baker's Dodge circling Alabama International's tri-oval. "I don't come two-thirds of the way across the United States just to be in a race. I come to run all-out, all the way."

And that's just what the jolly Italian is getting ready to do. At least one more time…

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Week in Racing History – 1980

May 2 – The second week of action at the Scotland County Fairgrounds in Memphis, Mo., proved much better for Steve Fraise of Montrose, Iowa, than the first week. Having blown a motor in the season opener while leading the late model feature race, Fraise led flag to flag for his first victory of the season on Friday night. After taking the lead from his outside pole position, Fraise would eventually widen the gap on second place finisher Lem Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa. Holding down the third spot was Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun, Iowa. Kenny Fenn of Washington, Iowa, would slip by Jim Swank of Hamilton, Ill., on the final lap to nail down fourth.

May 2 – Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, won the NASAR late model feature at Hawkeye Downs Speedway season opener in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday night. Hearst held off defending NASCAR point champion Gary Crawford of Independence, Iowa, for the win. Crawford held an early lead in the race but relinquished that lead to Hearst on the 17th circuit. It was Hearst’s first-ever feature win at Hawkeye Downs. Following the pair were veterans Mel Morris of West Liberty, Iowa, Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, and Ken Walton of Viola, Iowa, who made an outstanding run during the 25-lap event, after starting dead last in the 21-car field.

May 2 –Ferris Collier made a surprise visit to Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., on Friday night and went back home to Lampe, Mo., with the lion’s share of the $3,000 purse. The seventh-starting Collier waged a brilliant battle with Rick Beebe of Overland Park, Kan., and Gene Claxton of Kansas City, Mo., before taking over the top spot on lap 16 and then winning comfortably. Claxton finished second; Beebe took third, Tim Trimble of Slater Mo., and Andy Claiborne of Shawnee Mission, Kan., earned fifth.

May 3 – Mike Brooks of Knoxville, Iowa, broke a four-year-old track record in qualifying and then won the 20-lap feature in sprint car action at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, Iowa, on Saturday night. Brooks toured the half-mile in 20.22 seconds, bettering Joe Saldana’s one-lap mark by .27 seconds. In the feature, Brooks would start sixth but inch his way to the front, eventually passing Randy Smith of Norwalk, Iowa, on lap 15 for the lead and the win in the season opener. Smith would hang on to second with Tom Corbin of Carrollton, Mo., in third, John Stevenson of St. Paul, Minn., in fourth and Shane Carson of Oklahoma City rounding out the top five.

May 3 – Dan Nesteby of Waterloo, Iowa, made a clean sweep of late model action at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City, Iowa, on Saturday night before a near sellout crowd. Nesteby won the trophy dash, first heat and then led start to finish in the feature. Jerry Holtkamp of Williams, Iowa, would take second in the 25-lap event but never got close enough to the winner to apply any pressure. Bob Hill of Randall, Iowa, finished third followed by Kenny Farrell of New Hampton, Iowa. In sportsman action, Ray Kinnetz of Webster City also made a clean sweep, scoring the victory in his heat and then winning convincingly in the 15-lap feature.

May 3 – Kenny Fenn of Washington, Iowa, put his Chevy out front at the drop of the green and led green to checker in the late model contest at Wapello County Fairgrounds in Eldon, Iowa, on Saturday night. Another pair of Washington, Iowa, pilots, Denny Banks and Tony Stewart, put on a tremendous battle for the runner-up position for most of the race until they tangled with 4 laps to go, sending Stewart to the pit area, and allowing Randy Harrison of Memphis, Mo., to pass Banks for second. Banks would hold on for third spot.

May 4 – Lenard McCarl of Des Moines won the sprint car feature and Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa scored the late model victory to highlight the three-day “Iowa Spring Spectacular” at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Sunday evening. McCarl, a veteran sprint car builder, sat on the pole position and led the entire 20 laps to collect the $600 first prize. Another pair of veterans, Bill Utz of Sedalia, Mo., and Sonny Smyser of Lancaster, Mo., finished second and third respectively. Niffenegger held off a stubborn Verlin Eaker of Mechanicsville, Iowa, to win the 25-lap late model main event and collected $750 for his efforts. Pete Parker of Kaukauna, Wis., took third, followed by Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, and Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa.