Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Autumn Spectacular at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In 1979 Lefty Robinson convinced the Iowa State Fairboard to let him run a fall race to be called the “Iowa Autumn Spectacular.” The event turned out to be a great idea. More than 7,000 fans showed up on October 6, 1979 for the event which featured Late Models running for a purse of $15,000.

The event was actually planned to be a double feature show with both features being for 25 laps, with the second feature an inverted start from the finish of the first event. But plans were changed because of the old nemesis at the Fairgrounds, the 10:30 pm curfew. So instead of having two features it was decided to run just one feature of 35 laps.
Billy Moyer Jr. - Joyce Moyer Photo
Qualifying would see young Billy Moyer, Jr. of Des Moines set the pace with a clocking of 24.996 seconds. Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Don Hoffman of Des Moines, Johnny Johnson of Morning Sun and Joe Merryfield of Des Moines would round out the top five in qualifying.

Don Hoffman would take the trophy dash followed by Merryfield and Moyer. Craig Spetman of Council Bluffs took the opening heat followed by Jerry Holtkamp of Williams and Bill Martin of Council Bluffs. The second heat would see the only serious incident of the night when Randy Sterner of Blair, Nebraska and another car tangled exiting turn 4. The incident sent Sterner’s ‘79 Trans Am head on into the cement wall.

Sterner was taken to a Des Moines hospital where it was determined he had suffered a broken back. Hoffman would end up winning the heat with Rocky Hodges of Des Moines and Denny Osborn of Cedar Falls running second and third.

Red Dralle of Evansdale won the third heat beating Tim McDonough of Cedar Rapids and Karl Sanger. The fourth heat went to Bill Rice of Des Moines followed by Dick Schiltz of Waterloo and Mike Frieden of Cedar Rapids. Delhi’s Jim Burbridge won the consolation event with Dave Birkhofer of Muscatine second and Steve Keppler of Marion third.
Don Hoffman
Starting well back in the field, Don Hoffman would steadily work his way to the front, eventually taking the lead and driving his way to a big pay day. Hoffman would earn $600 for winning the trophy dash and $75 for each position he advanced in the feature, finishing with $3,300 for his evening’s efforts. Hoffman would be followed by Denny Osborn, Tom Hearst of Wilton, Curt Hansen of Dike and Bill Rice.

It would be the first time some of the Late Model drivers had driven at the Fairgrounds in 1979 as the regular weekly shows featured Limited Late Models due to a boycott of the track by several drivers in 1978 over weight restrictions. The success of the “Autumn Spectacular” would assure that the race would be held again in 1980.

The Late Models would return to the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the second annual “Autumn Spectacular” on September 19 & 20, 1980. That two day show would see Billy Moyer, Jr. set a new track record for Late Models with Mufflers at 23.52 seconds. St. Louis, Missouri’s Kevin Gundaker (winner of the NSCA sanctioned Hawkeye 100 at the Fairgrounds a month earlier) would be the second fastest qualifier at 23.74 seconds.

 The pair would continue to be the fastest cars at the track later in the evening when they both won their heat races. Gundaker would take the first heat passing defending race winner Don Hoffman on the final lap. Darrell Sells of Waverly was third and Joe Kosiski of Omaha, Nebraska fourth. Moyer would hold off Dave Chase of Council Bluffs, Joe Merryfield and Cedar Falls’ Larry Wasserfort to win his heat.

On Saturday night Late Model action kick off with a trophy dash that saw Gundaker to be the fastest car taking that win over Joe Kosiski, Moyer and Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids.

The 40-lap feature would end up being a continuation of the trophy dash as Gundaker would take home the top prize and once again defeat defending race winner Don Hoffman for the honor.
Kevin Gundaker

Gundaker’s share of the purse would be $3,060. Following Gundaker and Hoffman to the line were Kosiski, Moyer and Chase.
The race would be held for only two years but it would provide Central Iowa race fans with some great racing action.

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