Tuesday, July 16, 2013

1977 - Wolfgang cops Missouri National crown

Sedalia, Mo. (July 16, 1977) - Doug Wolfgang threw back the challenges from the best sprint car drivers in the nation over the weekend to capture the Third Annual Missouri Sprint National title at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia.

The 24-year-old Wolfgang, from Des Moines, Iowa, finished first in Saturday's 30-lap main event and took third in Friday's 30-lap feature to earn $3,650 for the weekend.

Young Sammy Swindell of Memphis, Tenn., finished second Saturday and was the overall runner-up with $2,525 and Hanover, Pa., racer Dub May took third Saturday and third overall with $1,640.

Friday night's feature left race fans buzzing as Ralph Blackett and Ralph Parkinson, Jr., both slipped past Wolfgang on the last lap as less than a car length separated the trio at the finish line.

Blackett didn't stay in town for Saturday's program and Parkinson turned his ride over to Lynn Huff of Wichita Falls, Tex., because of a conflict with the USAC sprint schedule.

Rick Ferkel of Tiffin, Ohio, the defending Sprint National champ, led Friday's feature for 11 laps before a drive train problem forced him to drop out. Saturday night Ferke1 was again solidly in first when the rear end broke on his racer.

The format, two complete programs with one point awarded for each dollar earned, featured the powerful sprinters running without wings on Friday and with the airfoils on Saturday.

Friday's fast time was a 22.77 lap by Wolfgang while Bobby Allen of Hanover, Pa., circled the track in 20.80 with the airfoils on Saturday.

Fifty-eight cars were on hand for the Friday program as the field was split into five 10-lap heats races with the top four from each heat moving to the 30-lap feature and the second four going to the 20-lap B Feature.

Jacksonville, Ill., driver Ron Milton led both Parkinson and Wolfgang to the checkered flag in the first heat, Sammy Swindell cruised to a win in the second heat while Blackett grabbed the third, Sedalia racer Bill Utz pulled away from Ferkel for the win in the fourth heat and Ricky Hood of Memphis copped the fifth heat.

The 20-lap B Feature, with the first four cars moving to the rear of the 30-lap A Main, was taken by Dub May.

In fourth spot in Friday's feature was Chuck Amati of Freeman Spur, Ill., with Bobby Allen fifth, Utz sixth and Lee Osborne of Jamestown, Ind., seventh.

Saturday night just as Allen hit the third turn after his record-shattering time trial, a connecting rod let go on his car, seemingly knocking the machine out of competition. But his crew quickly changed engines, readying the driver for a starting spot on the rear end of the 20-car B Feature field. Allen finished second to Paul Pitzer of York, Pa., in the race.

Jimmy Boyd of Dixon, Calif., took the first of five heat races, Wolfgang won the second, Ferkel edged Gary Patterson of Sacramento, Calif., in the third heat, Swindell took the fourth and May won the fifth.

Swindell was steadily moving up behind Wolfgang during the closing portion of the 30-lap race, May was solidly in third with Allen moving from 22nd spot to fourth. Patterson was fifth followed by Amati, Pitzer, 1975 Missouri Sprint Nationals champ Gary Scott of Holts Summit, Mo., Huff and Milton.

The only serious crash in the two-day program came in the second heat Friday as Cliff Powell of Hannibal sailed over the third turn rail and suffered a minor oil burn on his left hand.

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