Sunday, June 8, 2014

1968 – Eaker surprises racing fans in Burlington

Burlington, Iowa (June 8, 1968) - The string of feature wins by the Keokuk Komets was slashed Friday night.
Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids surprised Fairgrounds crowds of about 2,500 racing fans as he piloted his 1967 Hemi-powered Dodge to a feature race win in the International Motor Contest Association late model stock car races.
Positioned on the outside in the third row at the start of the race, Eaker gained the lead on the 19th lap after a spin-out in the number three turn and after Ramo Stott blew the engine in his 1968 Roadrunner Plymouth.
During the 19th lap Ken Christie of Springfield, Mo., spun out in the third turn. Stott, who had been leading the feature, seeing the yellow caution flag being waved, slowed and for an unknown reason his engine ceased to function.
Derr, the other half of the famed Komet crew who races a 1968 Dodge Charger had been running fourth in the event. He made a pit stop to take on water and in apparent attempt to gain position pulled back onto the, track in front of Eaker but was placed to the rear of the field at the restart. Automobile racing rules prohibit position advance in a race while the yellow flag is out.
Finishing behind Eaker, in order, were; Ole Brua of Albert Lea, Minn., '68 Ford; Derr, third; Elaine Morrow of Joy, Ill., and Dale Keeling of Waynesville, Mo.
Eaker, 35 years of age, is a soft-spoken individual. He started racing at the age of 20 in a 1937 Pontiac, with a six-cylinder motor, which contained about 10 horsepower - a far cry from his current machine. Eaker drives primarily quarter-mile tracks with his “back-up” car, a 1965 Dodge.
Eaker said he likes the Burlington track, although “it was little bit dusty tonight." Dusty, it was. Water trucks just couldn't enough water on it to keep the dust down.
“I knew Ernie and the others were back there some place, so I had to keep driving to keep away from them,” Eaker added. “I really didn’t think I would win!”
Stott had nothing but praise for Eaker. Ramo said he didn't know why the engine blew, because “it was running real good and the heat gauge was normal, but it just blew up.” He said the loss of the $2,475 motor was, “just racing”.
Eaker and his Dodge also turned in the fastest time trial with timing of 26.92 seconds In fact; the victorious Eaker was the only one to turn the half-mile oval in the 26-second bracket. Derr placed in the time trials with a time of 27:10 seconds, while the time of 27:10 seconds of Stott and Brua followed.
The first heat race saw Lenny Funk of Otis, Kansas, blow the engine in his 1966 Ford. Funk was fearful of this prior to the races because it was smoking and consuming oil because too much piston ring gap.
“This 427 engine is obsolete. You can look for this thing to smoke some and it probably won’t finish the races tonight,” Funk said. “If it blows I will go back to my Kansas farm and earn a few more pennies to build another engine.”
Brua eventually won the first heat and Stott finished a close second. Wally Christenson of Minneapolis, Minn., won the second heat, with Butch Hall placing second.
The Derr fans didn’t go away from the races in complete dismay. He won the consolation event, with Dale Keeling of Waynesville, Mo., placing second. Irv Janey went through the outside guardrail in the seventh lap of the race. The car was scratched for the remainder of the racing program because the right front wheel assembly was bent at a 90-degree angle.
Stott, with Eaker finishing a close second Derr finished third, won the STP handicap, which pits the six fastest cars and drivers. The sixth heat was won by Morrow, while Karl Staufer of Independence, Mo., finished second.

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