Mel Kenyon en route to winning at Hales Corner
Franklin, Wis. (July 11, 1969) – Mel Kenyon’s new car was ready Friday night and so was he, much to the appreciation of the race fans and to the dismay of other drivers in the United States Auto Club midget program at Hales Corner Speedway.
Kenyon, the three-time and defending champion, scored a near sweep, ending a drought of nearly a month. He demolished his old car on June 14th in Lansing, Mich., and had been shut out since.
Friday night was the Lebanon, Indiana veteran’s turn to do the shutting out and he came awful close to doing so. He finished second in time trial qualifying to Bill Engelhart of Madison, Wis., who was fast qualifier on the night, clocking in at 61.87 miles per hour. Otherwise, he won all that he could – the 50-lap feature, the 10-lap heat and the 6-lap trophy dash. The feature victory was the 55th of his career, which increased his own USAC record.
More impressive than his victories, however, was the way he scored them. He drove a tight line, passing on the inside, which brought the desired response from the crowd of 4,452. Kenyon’s driving earned him $578 of a $3,385 purse.
Starting seventh in the feature, he escaped a pile-up on the first lap – which knocked out four cars – and passed Bob Hauck for the lead on the 23rd circuit. After that, it was smooth sailing, holding off a slight challenge by Engelhart and winning by 100 yards. Hauck was third followed by Larry Rice and USAC point’s leader Bob Tattersall.
Two cautions periods slowed Kenyon’s overall winning average speed to 53.54 miles per hour.
For the crowd favorite Engelhart, it was a bittersweet night. He was the fastest qualifier and won his heat but lost twice in combat with Kenyon. He worked his way through the pack nicely into the second spot in the feature but was quickly dusted in his attempts to catch Kenyon.
Engelhart lost the trophy dash with the finish line in sight. Kenyon swooped off the fourth turn and down the inside groove, putting the nose of the car just ahead of Engelhart’s car. Engelhart picked up $424 for his efforts on the evening.
Feature Results –
1. Mel Kenyon, Lebanon, Ind.
2. Bill Engelhart, Madison, Wis.
3. Bob Hauck, Joliet, Ill.
4. Larry Rice, Linden, Ill.
5. Bob Tattersall, Streator, Ill.