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.

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