Friday, August 28, 2015

1977 - Bigelow sets speed record; wins DuQuoin big car race

Tom Bigelow

Du Quoin, Ill. (August 28, 1977) - Tom Bigelow of Whitewater, Wis., Sunday became the first man in 30 years of auto racing at Du Quoin State Fair to break the 100-mile-per-hour speed barrier as he won the 100-mile big car race and $7,200.

The 11,146 fans saw Du Quoin racing history made as Bigelow, driving the Leader Card Thermo-King with the only Ford engine in the race, was clocked in 59 minutes 30.08 seconds for an average speed of 100.818 miles per hour. Nobody in the midgets, stocks or big cars at Du Quoin had ever gone faster than 98.155 miles per hour (1:01:07.66) clocked by Al Unser in three laps.

A caution came again on laps 85-90 after Jackie Howerton crashed into the fence on the north turn. Fan interest, mounted as the cars bunched “bumper to bumper” in pursuit of Bigelow, who had lapped his field as early as the 21st lap.

Bigelow pulled away and won handily although there was a bit of suspense on the final lap as Gary Bettenhausen passed Billy Cassella in the north turn only a quarter of-a mile from home to take second money of $4,200. The move was like a $1,500 putt because Cassella got only $2,700 for third place.

The race started on a bizarre note as Pancho Carter, the fastest qualifier, threw a gear coming into the straightaway. Everybody passed Carter on the first lap and he retired to the pits.

The official charts showed Bill Vukovich led after one lap but Bigelow led the last 99 circuits.

Bigelow, Cassella, Bettenhausen, Vukovich, Sheldon Kinser defending champion Bubby Jones of Danville, Ill., Springfield race winner Larry Rice, Al Unser and Jim Hurtubise were in front of the 23-car-field throughout the race.

There were 23 starters instead of 24 because qualifier Bill Puterbaugh dropped out after the time trials and his alternate, Rollie Beale could not get his car started.

Feature -

1. Tom Bigelow
2. Gary Bettenhausen
3. Billy Cassella
4. Bill Vukovich
5. Larry Rice
6. George Snider
7. Bubby Jones
8. Eddie Leavitt
9. Jim Hurtubise
10. Larry Moore
11. Dean Shirley
12. Roy Hicks
13. Jerry Miller
14. Thad Dosher
15. Al Unser
16. Jackie Howerton
17. Sheldon Kinser
18. Arnie Knepper
19. Johnny Parsons
20. Steve Chassey
21. James McElreath
22. Rich Vogler
23. Pancho Carter
24. Rollie Beale

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