Sunday, September 15, 2013

1934 - Emory Collins Wins 25-Lap Auto Race from Gus Schrader

Spencer, Iowa (September 15, 1934) - Before the largest crowd ever to see an auto racing program at the Clay County Fair and one of the largest throngs ever to gather for a sport event in this section of the country, Emory “Spunk” Collins of LeMars carried away the honors in the 25-lap final of the Western Sweepstakes at Spencer Saturday afternoon, beating the national champion, Gus Schrader of Cedar Rapids, across the finish line by two lengths of his car.

It is conservatively estimated that between 21,000 and 22,000 persons saw the racing on the Clay County Fair oval as the grand windup to a week of thrilling track events. The grandstand and bleachers were packed and temporary seats along the rail in the grandstand paddock were jammed to capacity. It is estimated that the grandstand-bleacher crowd totaled approximately 9,000 people, including those jammed into the paddock.

Then, atop every nearby building or barn, on the sides of trucks and cars, and crammed along the concrete retaining wall for the entire distance around the track were thousands more. The fair association opened the gates to the infield just before the start of the racing and the inner fence was crowded three to six deep with people. It is not far wrong to estimate that the crowds along the outside and inside fences or perched in barns and buildings totaled at least 12,000 people. Never had such a crowd attended an event at Spencer or the Clay county fair before.

The attraction, of course, was the 25-lap championship race with its two preliminary 5-lap heats. This, the longest dirt track race of the International Motor Contest association for the 1934 season, was for national championship points and Collins’ victory sent him up dose to Gus Schrader for a chance at this crown which Schrader has worn for two years.

Also in the race was Sig Haugdahl, the Norwegian veteran who in 22 years of racing has held the national title 7 consecutive years before losing it to Schrader in 1932.

The matching of the three racers, Schrader, Collins and Haugdahl, in one great meet was an outstanding attraction to the fair.

In the Western Sweepstakes preliminary heats Haugdahl and Collins were the winners. Haugdahl nosed out Schrader in the first heat after a brilliant piece of stretch driving during the final three laps of the five-lap affair.

On the fourth lap, the thousands almost saw a crash between the two stars as Schrader was pocketed behind Haugdahl by Gus Anderson, South Dakota speed demon, and had to shoot between the Norwegian’s yellow Miller Special and the concrete retaining wall in order to get out of the fix. He shot ahead momentarily in this desperate burst of speed, but Haugdahl’s H-4 car overtook him on the backstretch and came careening around the short turn into the stretch for the victory. Larry Beckett was third.

In the second heat, Collins had an easy time disposing of the lone challenger, Buddy Calloway, in his powerful six-cylinder Luthy Special, a cut-down model of Calloway’s Indianapolis speedway two-seater. Galloway was second and Roy Lake third.

Then after a series of championship dashes, consolation matches and invitation heats, the results of which are set out in the chart on this sport page, a field of twelve met for the 25-lap championship heat and the national title points.

Collins started making his successful bid for the victory in the sixth lap when he came from about fifth place up to third and challenged the leader, Roy Lake, in the eighth lap.

The two battled it out for five laps, but in the fourteenth Collins shot to the fore and took a lead, which he never relinquished, although Gus Schrader tied him at the wire on two of the final laps only to see the LeMars speedster again take the advantage with brilliant short turn driving and amazing bursts of speed on the stretches.

Schrader and Collins raced nose-and-nose in the 22nd and 24th laps as the national champion sought to stave off the stigma of defeat.

Haugdahl and Lake also staged a brilliant battle for third place. It commenced in the 21st lap when Haugdahl, driving his 1933 Miller, tried to pass Lake on the backstretch and failed when Lake short turned the near turn and threw a chunk of dirt in Haugdahl’s face.

On the 22nd lap, however, Haugdahl came up to be exactly even with the flying white Cragar Special driven by Lake, but again on the turn the plucky Los Angeles speed demon outmaneuvered the ex-champion and again dished out a good section of the track surface in Haugdahl’s lap.

In the 23rd lap, Haugdahl reencountered for a final position for his final spurt and apparently had gained it until Lake put on a sudden burst of speed that left the Norwegian flatfooted. Haugdahl sped up and overtook the Californian as they crossed the wire on the 24th lap, but had to go to the outside on the turn which let Lake short-turn him again and tossed some dirt, costing Haugdahl the third position. The little white car flashed across the finish line a length ahead of Haugdahl and his cigar.

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