Friday, August 16, 2013

1981 - Gregg Wins Coors Nationals

Belleville, Kan. (August 16, 1981) - Mike Gregg of Fort Collins, Colo., held off strong bids from Sleepy Tripp of Indianapolis, Ind. and defending champion Stan Fox of Janesville, Wise, to win the Fourth Annual Coors Midget Nationals this weekend in Belleville.
The race is the largest purse event annually for midget race cars and was held in conjunction with the North Central Kansas Free Fair.
Gregg has always been considered a contender for the championship, but has been plagued with problems in his first three nationals. Car problems held him back for two years and last year he rolled during a heat race of the finals.
This year he had to hold off Tripp and later Fox who had come from their fifth row starts in the inverted starting field. Tripp caught Gregg about halfway through the 30 lap race, and Fox caught the front runners shortly after a yellow flag restart, but neither could get around Gregg.
It appeared on the final lap that Tripp might finally get the job done. The three had caught up with a large group of cars and Gregg appeared to get caught behind a slower car high on the track. Tripp went under Gregg, but as they came across the finish the cars higher on the track were running faster, and Gregg edged Tripp by a half of car length.
The championship race capped a three day race program which included an excellent field of 59 cars.
There were quite a number of drivers who looked good various times during the weekend. Tripp set fast time for the Thursday night field with a 19.92 clocking, followed by Gene Brown of Phoenix, Ariz., at 19.98.
Gregg came back to win the trophy dash. Heat race winners were Gary Byers of Logansport, Ind., Gene Gennetten of Parkville, Mo., Charlie Ford, Jr. of Waldo, Wise, and Tripp.
In the main event it was Brian Renshaw who held off Tripp for a third of the race to win. The next night Renshaw scratched that car's sure entry at the front of the championship race so he could drive for his regular car owner. He had won the Thursday feature in a car he owned himself.
Following Renshaw and Tripp in the Thursday night main were Gennetten, Steve Troxell of Denver, Gregg, Jon Rahe of Mission Viejo, Cal., Gary Staggers of Arvada, Colo. Byers, John Zerbe of Chandler, Ariz., and Brown.
Fox dominated the Friday night preliminary, setting quick time of 19.61seconds, fast for the entire field. Others under 20 seconds were Bruce Field of Lockport, Ill., at 19.898 and Casey Slocum of Denver, Colo., at 19.900. Kid Strickland of Denver, Colo., won the trophy dash and came right back on the track to win the first heat. Other heat race winners were Gary Hayes of Kansas City, Field and Fox.
Fox dominated the main event coming from the fifth row to win. He was followed by Hayes, Slocum, Field, Mark Passerrelli of Phoenix, Ariz., Renshaw in his new car, Bobby Fix of Englewood, Colo., Randy Roberts of Broomfield, Colo., Jon Backlund of Kansas City and Steve Newman of Denver, Colo.
As the Saturday night finals began only six spots had been filled for the championship race. From Thursday night came Tripp, Gennetten and Toxell, by virtue of Brian Renshaw scratching his first place car. From Friday night came Fox, Hayes and Slocum.
The other 16 cars, including Gregg, had to qualify from the heat races of semi-main event. In the trophy dash among the fastest six from the first two nights Slocum held off the potent field. Then heat-race winners were Rod Ullery of Englewood, Colo., Garry Bell of Memphis, Tenn., Strickland, and finally Gregg to qualify for the championship race. The consolation race went to Jack Yeley of Brownsburg, Ind., while Zerbe captured the semi-main event.
The front ten cars were inverted for the main event championship race which put Hayes and Zerbe on the front row, Strickland and Gregg on the second row, Slocum and Toxell on row three, Field and Gennetten on row four and Tripp and Fox on row five.
The main started without accident for the first time in years, and the cars began exchanging positions. A yellow flag dropped only once during the race when Slocum spun on the backstretch and went down to the bottom of the track. About the same time Field had a fire in his car and pulled into the pit.
The ensuing restart closed up the spaces in the field leading to the exciting finish as Gregg held off the challenges of Tripp and Fox, the 1979 and 1980 champion.

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