Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1949 – Wilburn edges Collins by a wheel at Davenport

Davenport, Iowa (August 20, 1949) – In one of the most thrilling races ever staged on the local dirt track, Jimmy Wilburn of Indianapolis, Ind., edged Emory Collins of LeMars, Iowa by a front wheel in the feature 10-lap race of the big car event Saturday afternoon at the Mississippi Valley Fair.

A crowd of over 8,000 saw Collins leap ahead at the start and increase his lead slightly at the fifth lap when Wilburn hit a turn too fast. However, Wilburn righted his car nicely and surged back-into the race to overhaul the lead-footed Iowan at lap nine.

The two cars roared hub to hub around the half-mile oval on the final lap with Wilburn coming out of the last turn with a slight advantage. In the grueling drive down the stretch, Wilburn kept his car out in front by a wheel to cop the first prize. Collins settled for runner-up honors and Ben Musik took third place.

Wilburn gave the crowd its first thrill of the day by setting a new record in the time trials. Wilburn burned up the track in a rapid 24.23 seconds for a new mark.

Emory Collins was unable to enter competition until the feature race due to a damaged ring gear. The mechanical difficulty was encountered as Collins was testing the track during the warm-up period. The necessary repairs were not completed until the feature race.

Wilburn raced away with the first heat race with Bill Hooper of Decatur in second place. Jim Weldon came in third.

In the second heat race, Ben Musik of Dallas, Tex., piloted his Offenhauser to a one-sided victory. Bert Helmueller of Louisville, Ky., was second with Ron Bolander third. Helmueller and Hooper engaged in the three-lap helmet dash event but Hooper encountered difficulty on the back stretch of the final lap to drop from the race.

The hard-luck award of the day went to Dick Vahn of St. Paul who had everything going his own way for four laps of the consolation event. Leading by a quarter of a lap with only a half lap to go, Vahn's machine suddenly conked out and Johnny Harper sailed into first place. Sunny Ebsen was second with Dutch Morehouse third.

Morehouse came back to cop the Australian Pursuit race by staying ahead of Jim Weldon who made a tremendous effort to overhaul the Galesburg entrant.

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