Art Combs would win at Mason City on August 19, 1951.
On August 19, 1951, Art Combs, a
29-year-old farmer from Emporia,
Kan., driving a 1950 Oldsmobile,
waged a terrific battle with Dudley Froy and Chuck Magnison for the last 80 circuits
of the scheduled 200-lap race before emerging as the winner.
the last 40 miles, it was Combs, Froy, an Englishman from Tucson, Ariz., and
Magnison, a Minneapolis pilot, electrifying a crowd of 6,000 plus as they ran
bumper to bumper, exchanging the lead numerous times. With about 10 laps
remaining Magnison, driving a 1951 Hudson,
fell behind the other two and Combs appeared a certain winner when, with
several laps left, Froy blew out a tire on his ‘49 Plymouth.
Magnison seemed to come from nowhere and pulled up on the leader to make a
final bid on the last turn. Riding high, he pushed the throttle in a desperate
attempt to overtake Combs, but scraped the fence and momentarily lost control
of his car and finished second. Only 11 of the 21 starters finished the
Wally Dahl of Minneapolis,
driving a 1951 Hudson,
would take top honors in the 100-mile stock car endurance on August 17, 1952. Dahl, in winning, set a new
track record for the event as he covered the 200-laps in 1 hour and 52 minutes,
nearly 8 minutes faster than the previous record.
drove his battered Hudson
to the triumph, but it might be added that he had a new motor put into the car
only days before Dahl was never worse than second place in the race and didn't
make any pit stops in taking the event in record time. His victory was worth
$500, a quarter of the total prize pot of $2,000.
Dyer of Shreveport, La., finished in second place, good for $400
in prize money. His finish was on the spectacular side. Completing lap 199 and
entering turns one and two, his front right tire blew out but he three-wheeled
his car around for the final three-quarters of the lap and hung on for second.
Shorty Perlick, also of Minneapolis, was the tough luck driver of the
day. Perlick led the event for 58 miles and appeared to be in command when he
lost a front wheel coming down the homestretch and skidded into the pit area.
He didn’t get back into action until 29 laps later and eventually withdrew when
he saw no chance to finish in the money.
As the 1953 season was winding down, Ernie Derr of Fort Madison
was at the top of the IMCA stock car national point’s standings. He would
solidify that spot after winning at the North Iowa Fairgrounds on August 15.
Derr beat out his brother-in-law, Don White, by just about a car length in the
100-mile race Saturday afternoon before an estimated 3,500 spectators. Derr
drove a1952 Olds to beat out White, who wheeled a 1953 Olds.
was going hard for the first place money of $500 and as the race moved along
they kept going faster and faster while lapping other cars in the field. Their
speed was such that during the last half of the race they each were weaving
through the field and covering each lap of the track in less time than the best
qualifying time posted prior to the grueling race.
the program started, it appeared it would be a bad day for racing. The track
was wet and slippery and the cars could get no traction for about the first 25
miles during the light drizzle of rain. The field of 19 drivers eventually
packed the wet stuff and it was a lightning quick surface the remainder of the
way. Halfway through the race Derr held first spot and White was second with
Herschel Buchanan of Shreveport,
La., the only serious challenger.
Buchanan placed third at the final flag in his 1953 Nash.
Beauchamp of Anita, Iowa, a relative newcomer to stock car
racing, finished fourth in the race. However, a protest was raised that he did
not have a regular stock engine in his 1952 Hudson. He refused to submit to a tear down
of his motor and therefore forfeited his place in the race with all other finishers
moving up a notch. Bill Bailey of Encino,
Calif., driving a 1952 Hudson, inherited
Beauchamp’s fourth place money.
their were no newspaper accounts of the 1954 race at Mason City, which prevents me from getting into
details of the race. Thanks to Lee Ackerman, I discovered that Don White would
earn the victory in the 200-lap, 100-mile endurance test on August 14.
1955 race was billed just like the previous affairs before; 200 laps and 100
miles. But it would finally be called after 101 circuits on August 13. Numerous
accidents, terrible track conditions and lack of light curtailed the event and
the end couldn’t come soon enough for the 4,500 fans in attendance.
Buchanan of Shreveport, La., was flagged the winner of the event but
his share of the purse was withheld because of a protest. Buchanan, driving a
’59 Thunderbird, had been locked in a duel with Bob Potter of Duluth, Minn.,
driving a 1955 V-8 Chevrolet.
got the jump to lead at the beginning of the marathon and Buchanan would
challenge Potter throughout, his front bumper never straying too far from
Potter’s rear fender. On lap 66, Potter suddenly shot into the fence on the
northeast curve of the half-mile oval.
inherited the lead and was out front when the checkers dropped a lap after the
midway point. Tiny Lund of Harlan, in a ’55 Chevrolet, was scored in second,
Bill Harrison of Topeka, Kan., grabbed third in a ’54 Dodge, Roxy
Dancy of Shreveport, La., in a ’54 Hudson took fourth and local favorite Ted
Zieman, driving a ’55 Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.
hold on a minute…
would enter a protest that Buchanan was the cause for him going through the
fence, bumping him from behind. Observers from the infield by the northeast turn
backed up Potter’s omission, saying they witnessed Buchanan giving Potter a
shove with the use of his front bumper. After some heated discussion, officials
from IMCA would still declare Buchanan the winner of the race, despite adamant
protests from Potter and others.
program got off to a sour start and it would go downhill from there. A seven
car pile-up ensued shortly after the green flag dropped in the feature, taking
out notable such as Newt Bartholomew of Carlisle, Iowa, Dick Houdek of Wichita,
Kan., and Bob Hilmer of Dysart. There was nearly an hour delay while crews
repaired the fence and re-graded the racing surface. The yellow flag would wave
eight more times before the race finally came to a finish.
Beauchamp of Harlan showed why he was the leader in the IMCA stock car national
point standings earning his 19th feature win of the season on August 12, 1956.The
“Flying Frenchman” dominated the 200-lap contest and won by nearly two laps
over his nearest competitor, Lennie Funk of Otis. Kan.
overflow North Iowa Fair crowd of between 4,000 and 5,000 with hundreds more
watching the 100-mile race from the infield after all space was taken in the
grandstand and bleachers.
was driving a 1956 Chevrolet while Funk was behind the wheel of a ’56 Dodge.
Beauchamp’s winning time was 1 hour, 51 minutes and 20 seconds, which
established a new record previously owned by Wally Dahl in the ’52 race. Even a
multi-car pileup on the west turn early on in the feature couldn’t slow down
the record-breaking effort.
accident claimed four top contenders and certainly made Beauchamp’s march to
victory lane that much easier. Knocked out of the running were; Chub Liebe of
Oelwein, Bernie Hentges of Anoka,
Minn., Don White of Keokuk, and
Ted Zieman of Mason City. They had four of the five fastest times in
qualifying, with Beauchamp no better than fourth in the group. White had won
the night before in Burlington
and Liebe was well in command of the race that day when the mishap occurred.
that, Beauchamp and Funk were well ahead of the rest of the pack. To show how
dominate Beauchamp was in the race; the last five laps he ran in the race were
actually faster than his qualifying laps in time trials.
Mason City Globe Gazette reported that the field of cars was not as big as
expected and the program was delayed an hour. “That was probably due to the fact that many of the drivers were
detained in their trip by the highway patrol. Many drivers were pulled over and
ticketed for illegal towing of their race cars. One of the drivers had to pay a
wrecker $25 to pull him from Iowa
Falls in order to
compete. At least eight others didn’t arrive in time even with the late start.”
would give a repeat performance on August 10, 1957, not only winning the race, but regaining
the lead at the top of the IMCA stock car standings. Beauchamp took advantage
of early race mishap by Bob Burdick to claim his second straight North Iowa
driving out of Omaha
and the national point’s leader entering the program, was the victim of an
early accident, which took him out of action. As he wheeled through the thick
dust into the west turn on lap 9, Burdick piled into Don Lewis of King, Wis., and damaged his
1957 Ford so badly, he was unable to continue.
the dust, another record crowd of 5,200 saw the Saturday afternoon race, making
it one of the larger crowds to witness a sports event in Mason City.
Al Sweeney called the scheduled 200-lap race at 101 circuits, citing the racing
surface was too dusty and too dangerous to continue. Beauchamp’s winning time
for the 50.5 miles completed was outstanding; 55 minutes and 11 seconds.
second in the race was Lennie Funk of Otis,
Kan., who like Beauchamp was
driving a 1957 Chevrolet. Funk was lapped by Beauchamp on the 100th turn of the
race. Close behind and taking third and fourth in covering 99 laps were Don
White of Keokuk and Darrell Dake of Cedar
Rapids. White and Dake both drove Fords.
of the estimated 4,000 racing fans who saw the 100-mile MCA stock car race at
the North Iowa Fair on August 9, 1958,
had something to brag about afterwards. They could have boasted they witnessed the
fastest 100-miler in the history of the International Motor Contest Association
(up to 1958). That covered lot of territory back then - from Florida to Canada.
man who performed the act was Don White, the IMCA national stock car point
leader. He smashed the listed mark by nearly a minute - a little more than 50
seconds to be exact. The Keokuk speedster was driving a 1958 Ford.
whizzed the 200 laps at better than a 60 mile per hour clip on the fast track
as he went inside, outside and up the middle in easily whipping all but two other drivers. His time
was 1 hour, 38 minutes, and 3 seconds. The old mark, set at the Minnesota State
Fair in 1956, was 1 hour, 38 minutes, and 53 seconds set by Johnny Beauchamp of
was so dominant, he took a 30-second pit stop to take on more gasoline and
didn’t even miss his place in line. But at the time he held a 2-lap lead over
his brother-in-law Ernie Derr and Bob Burdick of Omaha.
and Burdick finished second and third respectively, each covering 199 laps. In the
fourth position was Scott Cain, a newcomer from Santa Monica, Calif.,
and he covered 192 laps of the half-mile dirt oval.
also set a local record in the half-mile qualifying with a mark of 28.56
seconds. The old mark was held by Beauchamp last year at 29.81 seconds.
record of sorts was set as well that afternoon. According to promoter Al
Sweeney of National Speedways, Inc., no caution flags flied that afternoon, the
first time that had ever (or never) happened in a 100-mile race, Sweeney
for a lack of information, I don’t have much in the way of details for the race
that occurred on August 15, 1959. Ernie Derr won the 200-lapper with a fast improving Bob Kosiski of Omaha earning second and a rising star by the name of Dick Hutcherson taking third. Thanks again to Lee Ackerman for the that information.
There would be no IMCA stock car races at the fair in 1960.
Modified stock cars (rained out) and Aut Swenson’s Thrillcade would be the
feature auto attractions that year.
The IMCA stock cars would return to Mason City in 1961. On Saturday, August 19, Ernie
Derr would solidify his bid for a fourth national championship. The talented
driver with the good handling car (a 1961 Pontiac)
doubled down, winning the 25-lap feature in the afternoon and then scoring the
victory in the 100-lap nightcap.
crowd estimated at 2,000 saw the afternoon sprint show. The evening affair, which
was under the lights at the Mason City
fairgrounds for the first time, drew an estimated 4,500 racing enthusiasts.
the 50-mile nighttime finale, the fans almost witnessed an upset. Derr posted
quick time in qualifying (28.48) and the Keokuk star proceeded to take the
early lead. Chub Liebe would press Derr and on lap 25, the Oelwein veteran
nudged ahead of Derr and was off to the races.
had his car hooked up on this day, building up a commanding lead on Derr and
the rest of the field. Unfortunately, Liebe’s bid for first prize would fall 8
laps short. The rear end on his car would break, slowing Liebe to a snail’s
pace and allowing Derr and the rest of the field to catch up. Derr would pass
Liebe as he pulled into the infield.
collected $415 for the victory, his eighth of the ’61 season. Bob Reynolds of Edmonds, Okla.,
took second, Mert Williams of Rochester,
Minn., grabbed third, Eddie
Harrow of Corpus Christi, Tex., finished fourth and Buzz McCann of St.
Paul, Minn., rounded out the top five.
set a track record for the 50-mile race of 46 minutes and 6 seconds, more than
five minutes under his own mark set in May of this year of 51 minutes and 19
seconds. Derr also set a qualifying time of 28.48 seconds to start the
afternoon. To show how fast they were going at night, Liebe actually turned
one lap in the 50-mile race of 26.91 seconds. The Friday night rains
helped the track and it was in near perfect shape by Saturday
any of you old-timers out there who were fortunate enough to follow the IMCA
stock car series back in the 50’s and 60’s, you know as well as anyone it was
big news across the Midwest when someone from Keokuk, Iowa,
DIDN’T win a race. It was that rare…
on Sunday evening, August 12, 1962,
some major news was produced when the “Big Three”, Ernie Derr, Ramo Stott and
Dick Hutcherson, all showed up at the North Iowa Fair, raced their cars that
evening, and none of them were in victory lane at the conclusion of the race.
winner of the feature race of the day’s doubleheader was Mert Williams of Rochester Minn.,
a five-year veteran on the circuit who always did well but not enough to dent
the monopoly held by the Keokuk trio.
appeared that it would be another typical “Big Three” day. Derr was the winner
in a 25-lap sprint affair during the afternoon. In the evening, he won a 10-1ap
preliminary race in the record time of 4 minutes and 43 seconds to snap a mark
he had set a year ago. And Stott, in the afternoon, had set a new qualifying
mark of 28.15 seconds for the half-mile oval.
the lights, Stott led the 100-lap, 50-mile feature until the 36th
lap when mechanical failure forced him from the race. Chub Liebe, who almost
won the year before, also dropped out. That left Derr alone – almost - with the
lead and Williams close behind.
Liebe the year before, Derr looked like he had the race in the bag. Although Williams
was still in his rear-view mirror, the always smooth driving Derr looked to be
in total command. But on the 94th lap, Ernie would start to slow with
differential trouble. To the delight of the race fans, Williams sped his 1962 Pontiac by the ailing Derr
and a few laps later, was in victory lane. Williams, no stranger to the Mason City track, was the
toast of the town.
Haugen of Sioux Falls, S.D., in a 1961 Plymouth was second and Eddie Harrow,
the Texas champ from Corpus Christi in a 1962 Ford, was third, Jerry McCredie
of Keokuk, took fourth and Derr managed to limp home in fifth.
would be no IMCA stock cars for the 1963 North Iowa Fair and unbeknownst to
everyone at the time, when the popular series rolled into Mason City on August
16, 1964, it would be for the last time.
would be only fitting that the most dominant driver in IMCA stock car series
history win the very last North Iowa Fair race. And Ernie Derr would go out
with a bang…
“Keokuk Komet” would have another field day that Sunday and when he had
finished his afternoon and evening series of wins and record smashing, Derr
loaded his 1964 Plymouth
on his truck and banked $870 in prize money from promoter Frank Winkley.
was your typical Ernie Derr day at the office; in the afternoon he led off by
setting a new qualifying record of 26.03 seconds. This was well under the mark
of 26.8l set by Dick Hutcherson. Hutcherson, the point leader on the IMCA
circuit, did not compete in the Mason
on the afternoon program, Derr set a pair of dash records in winning. The first
came over five laps at 2 minutes and 21.85 seconds and the next when he took the 25-lap feature
in 11 minutes and 33.87 seconds.
his day wasn’t finished. During the evening show, before about 3,200 racing
fans, Derr copped a 10-lap heat event to get loosened up for the big 100-lap
feature race. Then the record smasher went out and took the windup in 44
minutes and 40 seconds, not a record but still an excellent performance.
Funk, the Otis, Kan.,
farmer, gave Derr a good run. He was second to Derr in the qualifying, won a
heal race and placed second to Derr in the feature in the afternoon. He was set
to challenge Derr in the 50-miler.
And that’s what Funk did – for a while. Derr,
starting on the pole position, led for 19
laps with Funk right on his tail.
Derr hit loose dirt high on the
southwest corner of the track
and Funk shot in front.
a 1964 Ford, he held the lead until the 44th lap when he got into some loose
dirt himself on the northeast corner and Derr recaptured the lead. It was Derr all
the way from that point and Funk had to go to the pits on the 83rd lap because
of low oil, lost three laps and finished seventh.
Brua of Albert Lea, Minn., took second in the 50-miler and
actually gave Derr a run for his money in the last 10 laps. Bob Jusola of
finished third, Dick Steffens of Minneapolis
took fourth and Jim Washburn of Keokuk rounded out the top five.
though the modifieds and hobby stocks would be the headliner at the North Iowa
Fair starting in 1965 and for years to come, the IMCA stock cars would always
be remembered for bringing star power to the half-mile in Mason City.