Tuesday, August 27, 2013

1952 - Huron Track Has a Colorful Record

Huron, S.D. (August 27, 1952) - Few auto racing tracks have a more colorful history than the half-mile dirt oval at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds.

The roll call of drivers who have competed here reads like a page from “Who’s Who in Auto Racing” - Eddie Hearne, Cliff Woodbury, Barney Oldfield, Sig Haugdahl, Emory Collins, Gus Schrader, Dave Champeau, Bayliss Levrett, Deb Snyder, Joey James, Bobby Grim, Frankie Luptow and Bill Holland, just to pick out a few.

Holland, who made his first appearance last year, is the only winner of the Indianapolis 500-mile classic, ever to race here. Holland led the pack at the “brickyard” in 1949.

Motorcycle races were the craze in pre-World War I days and Rex Edmunds was the big winner at the Fair in 1913. It wasn’t until 1916 that the auto races took over.

Eddie Hearne, later a great “name” at Indianapolis and AAA champion in 1923, was the feature attraction in ‘16. Eddie, driving one of the popular Briscoes of that era, won the 25-mile feature in just over 32 minutes.

Colorful Louis LeCocq of France was second in a Briscoe and Dave Koetzla placed third driving a Case. Among the also-rans were the immortal Cliff Woodbury, Fred Horey and “Wild Bill” Endicott.

Horey, a St. Paul youth, oddly enough, learned to drive a racer before he could drive a highway automobile.

Also competing at Huron in 1916 was Johnny Ralmey of Cincinnati, who held the world’s half-mile record of 32 seconds, flat which he had set at Jackson, Miss., at the wheel of a Briscoe in 1915.

And who can forget the thrilling exhibition given by Miss Elfreida Mais, women’s champion driver of the world? Miss Mais held the women’s national record of 58.3 miles an hour. She later was killed on another track while crashing a board wall in an exhibition.

It was just ten years later - in 1926 - that Emory “Spunk” Collins of Regina, Saksatewan, Canada, made his maiden appearance in Huron. Later a resident of LeMars, Iowa, Collins was said to be “to Canada what Red Grange is to America in football”. The young ex-hockey star took the feature as some 6,000 race fans shivered in 50-degree temperatures.

Second went to Bert Ficken, South Dakota’s champ. Ficken, a farmer near Gayville, S. D., had earned his title by winning the championship race at Ruskin Park near Forestburg in his Dodge Special.

Others here in ‘20 included Sam Hoffman of Sioux City, piloting a Fronty, Larry Stone of Detroit, Glen Hiatt of Kansas City, Jack Logan of Los Angeles and Clyde Kelly of Chicago.

Gus Schrader, perhaps the greatest of all the dirt track drivers, broke the mile record here in 1929 when he toured the distance in one minute, 2 4/5 seconds. Glen Long of Aberdeen drove a Bagley Special built and owned by Kenny Larsen of Huron. He took second in a heat race.

Featured star in 1931 was Sig Haugdahl, seven times world’s champion of the dirt tracks. The pudgy little Norwegian-daredevil who came out of Minnesota in 1921 to drive a car for the first time in history over three miles a minute, guided a Miller straight eight with four downdraft carburetors.

Sig, who had done 30 seconds flat here in 1924, skirted the oval in 29.7 second for a new record. He also captured the feature with South Dakota’s champ, Fred Dresselhuys of Wagner, second and Frank Sands of Minnesota third. Other entries included Swan Peterson of Galesburg, Ill., in a Duesenberg, Putty Hoffman of Racine, in a Fronty, Leo Young of Dallas, Tex., Jack Murray of Kansas City, Larry Callaway of Macon, Ga., in a Chevy, Kenny Larsen of Huron, Buddy Callaway of Macon, Ill., in a Victory 6, Wesley Argoe of Atlanta, Ga., Rex Edmunds of Holliston in a Miller, Shirley “Speedy” Goff of Birmingham, Ala., in a Fronty, Shano Fitzgerald of Chicago and Jack Peddicord of Los Angeles.

The starter was James Malone of Tampa, Fla. South Dakota’s representative for IMCA, which still sponsors the races here, was John White, present Fair Board vice-president. He is the father of Gaylord “Lefty” White, a Huron product who, with Al Sweeney of Chicago, heads National Speedways, Inc., today.

There was more concentration in those days. Three hundred dollars was offered for a new world’s record, $100 for a state record and $50 for a track record.

Clarence “Norske” Larson was to have driven here in ‘31 but was killed a few days earlier in the East, driving a supercharged Duesenberg for Tommy Milton. Larson had qualified at Indianapolis in 1930.

Gus Schrader won every race he started here in 1932, driving his little red Miller, Dave Champeau of Grand Forks, N. D., followed him to the checkered flag in the 4-mile feature. J. Alex Sloan, the “grand old man of IMCA racing”, was honorary referee, Entries included Ray LaPlante of Newark, N. J., and Bill Rupp of Erie, Pa., in an undersized bucket seat Fronty.

Schrader won the 1934 feature by a car length in a thrilling race with Collins. The time was 6:47 for 15 laps. Both Schrader and Collins had timed at 29.2 seconds.

Collins beat Schrader in a heat race but was disqualified for “cutting” in front of Schrader on the home stretch. Among the entries were Larry Beckett of Tampa, Fla., in a Shepard Special; Eddie Wagner of Aberdeen and Leo Young of Chicago, a Roby Speedway ace.

The races in 1935 were held on Friday the 13th of September. Thirteen cars were entered. Schrader was the 13th man to qualify but the combination of jinxes failed to perturb the flying Iowan as he pushed his trim Miller around the track in 27 second flat.

He then made an assault on the world’s record for a half but succeeded only in breaking the track mark with a 20.9 performance. Lou Brown of Chicago had second best time with 29.5 in his Dreyer.

Collins won the 1.5 mile dash over Schrader by a car length in 1:24.5 and finished second in the final. Eddie Forshay of Indianapolis won the second heat.

Schrader was the star of the show before 12,000 race fans in 1936 when he turned the oval 28.3 seconds in his trial and then stood off challenges by Gordon Chard, Fritz Tegtmeier and Cotton Grable to win “the sweepstakes” race.

Schrader in 1937 set a new track record with a scorching 26.2 after Snyder, Cliff Griffith and Joey James in that order. Also here were Red Redmond and Buzz Barton. Collins had tied the previous mark of 26.9 seconds, which Gus had established in ‘35.  “Galloping Gus” won the five-mile feature in 5:03.8 in his Riverside Special, breaking the track mark.

1938 saw some more new faces. Among them were Herb Manges of Detroit, “Wild Bill” Morris of Dallas, “Big Ben” Shaw in his Curtiss and Johnny Holmes of Los Angeles.

Collins ousted Schrader's 1937 mark with a sensational 25.6 time trial. Harold Shaw won the feature after Collins'’ car tossed a rod. Emory again showed his tail to Schrader in the 1939 feature even after the Cedar Rapids pilot had won the first heat and turned a 27 flat time compared to Emory’s 27.86.

Twelve thousand fans crammed the stands in 1940 on the second day of the race meet to see Schrader win the 10-lap feature from Collins in a hub-to-hub thriller. Collins had bettered the two-lap record earlier by doing 53.4. Low time was Collins’ 26.2 compared to Gus’ 26.3.

On the first day of racing in ’40 the feature win had gone to Buddy Callaway who edged Milwaukee’s Lyle Christie. Neither Collins nor Schrader were on hand.

In ‘41 Collins swept both days of racing with Eddie Zaluck of Detroit pushing him. Al Speth of Davenport, Iowa, provided the 14,000 fans at the second day’s meet with a thrill when he flipped his heavy Duesenberg and was pinned underneath it. Luckily he escaped unhurt.

Racing was suspended after 1941 until 1946.

Racing was resumed in 1946 and Collins proved that the war-time lull hadn’t rusted his racing aplomb as he won the feature with Tegtmeier and Billy Snyder kicking up dust behind him. Slim Rutherford of Gary, Ind., was a competitor and Barney Oldfield was referee.

Collins again shattered the track record in 1947 when he clipped off in 25.4 spin.

Collins won the feature race with Deb Snyder second and Bayliss Levrett third. On the second day of the Fair races Collins again took home the feature bacon in his number 7 red and chrome job.

Deb Snyder won the final race on both days of the 1948 show. Carl Scarborough of Detroit had his red number 15 Offy in second place the first day and Bobby Grim was second the next day. Newcomers included Al Fleming, Milt Fvankhouser, Dick Van Emerick, Chuck Frame and one Frank Luptow.
back for another look in 1949 and pushed the track record down to 25.1, Opening day was rained out after three heat races but the second day saw a classy field. Finishing behind Luptow in the finale were Gene Aldrich, Deb Snyder, Cliff Griffith and Joey James in that order. Also here were Red Redmond and Buzz Barton.

Today's present track record of 24.85 was posted in 1950 by Deb Snyder, the Kent, Ohio racing veteran. Luptow, however, took the feature both days of the meet. Snyder became embroiled after getting snagged in slow traffic and exchanged bitter words with Starter Jerry Marlatt. It was the beginning of the end of associations for Snyder and National Speedways. Today he competes on another circuit.

Last year Luptow took the feature both days. Bill Holland was second the first day and young Bob Slater got the flag in the runner-up spot the second day.

Luptow has forsaken IMCA racing this year for the AAA circuit. Fans here undoubtedly will miss his belching speedster but the list of auto racing’s illustrious names is expected to keep growing at the Huron track with word that many new faces will get the green flag here on opening race day, September 1.

1 comment:

  1. The first race at Huron was on August 14, 1914, won by Sig Haugdahl, it was a still date. A month later, at the fair, Louis Disbrow won the feature win Tommy Milton setting fast time.