Tuesday, April 21, 2015

1979 – Wib’s Web at Speedway

Alton, Ill. (April 21, 1979) - Wib Spalding, experienced carpenter and respected area stock-car driver, wants to add another success story to his already crowded lifestyle.

He’s hoping to become Wib Spalding, the profitable owner of the Godfrey Speedway race track. Spalding, a native of Granite City, has purchased the track from Clay Landon, the Speedway owner the past six seasons. Landon, a former school teacher and coach, packed his bags and moved to Arkansas.

Enter Spalding, age 45 and a weekly driver at the Speedway during the 1950's. Wib’s web of intrigue begins tonight when the 1979 season gets under way at the Godfrey track, located off Route 67 near Bethany Road.

Time trials are set to start at 6:30 with the racing show beginning about 7:30.

The Speedway season will run through September.

During the Landon years, the Speedway kept a similar format; late model stock cars, semi-lates and amateurs. Spalding will revise the system a bit.

“We have changed it slightly. Instead of the semis, we are adding the sportsman class. And the amateur class is being changed to a hobby stock class,” he said. The late models will remain the same.”

Why the switches?

“I don't think we had enough semi-late model cars so by dropping that class, it causes the fellas to build more late-model cars,” he said. "’The hobby (or street) stock class is practically the same as the amateur class.”

Spalding said he also intends to keep some of Landon's innovations such as: point standing charts in each classes, awards, mid-season championships and end-of-the-season championships. However, he is phasing out the “street car” special event because of possible insurance problems.

Presently, Spalding and his family are huddling in a camper at the track. The Spalding's, who have been virtually living at the track the past three weeks, make their residence in Granite City. Wib said be is working daily in an attempt to get the track in suitable condition for Saturday's opener.

“We have had some problems caused by the rain in the parking lot. But overall, it's in pretty good shape,” he said.

Admittedly, purchasing any racetrack is a gamble, but Spalding likes the odds. He thinks the speedway can become a successful business and pleasure venture.

“I feel that I know my drivers and this area (Alton-Godfrey) is growing,” he said. “With the mall going in and everything, there is even the possibility that we may make the track bigger.”

The oval speedway track is currently a quarter-mile. “I don’t think we could make it into a half-mile track but it would be comparable with that kind of track,” Spalding speculated.

The Granite City (Tri-City) Speedway track that Spalding drove on for a number of years featured a half-mile set up until 1978, when it was converted to a quarter-mile ring. This season, however, the Tri-City track is once again a one-half mile length oval.

Spalding was somewhat of a local legend during the salad days at Tri-City Speedway. Spalding won several point titles and various major races. He rates his championship in the 100-lap open competition race, the final event of the 1977 season, as his biggest thrill at the track.

But Spalding's days go beyond the recent years at Granite City. “I ran two months one season at the Godfrey Speedway during the 1952 season and I drove there in 1953. In fact, I drove there until the speedway closed,” said Spalding, a carpenter by trade.

Although Landon helped to reopen the speedway during the 1978 season, Spalding preferred to drive at Granite City. “I liked the big track in Granite City,” he added.

Spalding is crossing his fingers that he and his fellow drivers will enjoy the new look Godfrey Speedway just as much.

Familiar names like Lou Janssen, Mike Hammerle, Jake and John Sects, Randy Butler, Kevin Goss. Lou Thery and George Carroll, just to name a few, are expected to continue motoring around the speedway track. Spalding hopes to add a few more drivers, too.

“I have a lot of friends in this area and I know that 86 cars ran the final week of the season last year. I don't think we will lose a car,” he stated confidently.

If that's the case, Spalding shouldn't have too many problems adjusting his repertoire from speedway driver to speedway owner-driver.

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