Tuesday, June 30, 2015

1963 - Two New World's Stock Car Records Established at Belleville

Dick Hutcherson


Belleville, Kan. (June 30, 1963) - Two new world records for new model stock cars were established at the Jayhawk 100 races held in Belleville on Sunday afternoon before a capacity crowd.

Ernie Derr, the 1962 IMCA stock car national champion, set a new world mark for a half-mile track in the time trials with a one-lap speed of 24.50 seconds. This erased an old world mark established in 1954 by Bob Peterson at Salem, Ind. Derr knocked .33-one-hundredths of a second off the world record, which had been 24.83 seconds, Derr, of Keokuk, Iowa, was driving a 1963 Pontiac. The world record is for dirt and asphalt half-mile tracks.

Dick Hutcherson, Keokuk, Iowa also set a new world record for 100 laps on a half-mile track, as he won the feature event in 42:18.25. This record also had stood since 1954 and had been set at Salem, Ind., by Bob Peterson.

Hutcherson, currently in third place in the IMCA stock car standings in a 1963 Ford, and Ramo Stott, Keokuk, Iowa, driving a 1963 Plymouth and the current IMCA point leader, fought a duel for the 100 lap championship here Sunday.

After the inverted start Stott in front and held that position to the 38th lap with Hutcherson right on his tail. On the 38th lap Hutcherson jumped into the lead for two laps then Stott pulled back in front.

On the 42nd lap Hutcherson grabbed the lead for good to go on and win the race, with his and Stott's car never more than a car length apart.

Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., driving a 1963 Ford held third place all through the race. Fourth place finisher was John Mickey, Columbus Junction, Iowa, in a 1963 Pontiac and Ernie Derr, 1963 Pontiac finished fifth.

Hutcherson and Stott lapped everyone in the field one-lap with the exception of Funk, the third place finisher.

The race was exceptionally trouble free, as only two cars failed to finish out of the 13 starters.

Ramo Stott, 1963 Plymouth, won the first 10-lap heat race following the time trials and Hutcherson won the second. Newt Bartholomew, Carlisle, Iowa, driving a 1963 Plymouth won the six-lap consolation race

Eight of the top 10-stock car drivers in the standings were present for the event here Sunday for non-money winners, which preceded the 100-lap feature event.
 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

1971 - Bjorge masters field at Fairmont

Fairmont, Minn. (June 25, 1971) - Dave Bjorge of Austin mastered a starting field of 24 cars to win the feature race of the First Annual Minnesota - Iowa Dirt Track Late Model stock car championship at the Fairmont Speedways here Friday night

Bjorge went into second place on the sixth lap after Phil Prusak of Eau Claire led during the earlier laps. There was no change in the top four from the sixth to the 18th lap. On the 18th lap Bjorge went around Bob Shryock of Estherville who led from the start of the race. Then on the 27th lap Butch Householder of Algona moved ahead of Shryock for second.

Here’s a wrap up of the other five races plus the time trials: A total of nine drivers broke the 25 second barrier over the half-mile oval. Pace setter was Mert Williams of Rochester who turned in a time of 24 seconds flat. Butch Householder of Algona was next in 24:03 with Phil Prusak of Eau Claire, Wis., 24:06, Joe Salner of St. Cloud, 24:50, and Dave Bjorge of Austin, 24:61, rounding out the top five.

Jim Edgington of Fairmont was declared the winner of the first heat even though he did not complete the final lap. Edgington took the lead on the ninth lap from Jack Piper of Mason City, but spun out in the third corner of the last lap when Piper hooked him. Piper went on to finish ahead of the 12-car pack but was disqualified. Jim Calverley of Albert Lea, the early pace setter finished second with Phil Prusak of Eau Claire third.

Edgington started on fourth row outside wheel.

Dave Bjorge of Austin, taking the lead on the sixth lap from Lloyd Matter of Lyle, won by several car lengths in the second heat. Bjorge started on the sixth row inside and finished the 10 laps in 4:10, the time trial clocking. Matter finished second and Gerhard Wollenburg of Austin third.

Starting from the back of the pack, time trial winner Mert Williams of Rochester skillfully worked his way into the lead on the ninth lap to win the third and final heat race. Paul Fitzpatrick of Rochester, who took the lead temporarily on the fifth lap, finished second with Bob Soma of Winnebago third.

Gerhard Wollenburg of Austin, jumping off to a quick start, won the trophy dash by a quarter lap of his nearest rival, Dave Bjorge, also of Austin. Wollenburg started on the first row outside wheel. Bjorge had to battle toward the front from fourth row outside.

Third in the fierce driving was Bill Oas of Minneapolis.

With only nine of 20 starters finishing the race, Al Metcalf of Minneapolis won the consolation event after starting on the fourth row outside. Metcalf took the lead on the sixth lap with Jack Piper of Mason City, who led during the early laps, second and Chuck Knutzman of New Richland, third.

There were two restarts because of accidents, on the second and 12th lap with no personal injuries.

Monday, June 22, 2015

1982 – Smith Cruises to Columbus ARCA Score

Columbus, Ohio (June 22, 1982) - Marvin Smith sailed to victory in the ARCA-sanctioned “Columbus 100” at Columbus motor Speedway on Friday night for his first victory in the 1982 Automobile Racing Club of America Talladega Super Car Series campaign.

Scott Stovall, the ARCA series point leader, nipped Bob Dotter by less than 6 inches on the final lab to take second place. The pair finished around eight car lengths behind the winner.

Lee Raymond, who won the last round at Flat Rock earlier this month, finished fourth, surrendering the lead to Smith on lap 34. Bobby Jacks and Larry Smith, Marvin's brother, finished fifth and sixth on the same lap as the leader.

Stovall, Dotter, Raymond, Jacks, Larry Smith, Rick Roland and Jack Wallace dies for positions to through eight to route the 100-lapper around the CMS third-mile paved oval as Marvin Smith was able to open up a lead but never fully break away from the pack.

Roland and Wallace ran with leaders for much the day before tire problems forced both to the pits late in the race, putting and several laps down to leaders.

A total of 20 cars were on hand for the event, which was number five for the tour. The features saw five caution flag periods.

Marvin Smith, at two-time track champion here and two-time ARCA national champion, piloted his Buick Regal to the quickest lap, 15.311 seconds, of the six cars eclipsing the old ARCA record set in 1979.


Results –

1.     Marvin Smith
2.     Scott Stovall
3.     Bob Dotter
4.     Lee Raymond
5.     Bobby Jacks
6.     Larry Smith
7.     Delmar Clark
8.     Terry Stineman
9.     Jerry Churchill
10.  Rick Roland
11.   Joe Adams
12.   Jack Wallace
13.    Darrell Basham
14.    Jerry Bowman
15.    Jim Vaughn Jr.
16.     Ned Tracy
17.     Jim Cushman
     18.     Stuart Huffman
19.     Craig Jackson
20.     Gordon Blankenship

Sunday, June 21, 2015

1975 – Madison’s Ziegler wins ‘Red’ race

John Ziegler - John Quinn Photo
 
 

Kaukauna, Wis. (June 21, 1975) - John Ziegler of Madison wheeled his 1974 Camaro to victory in the first race of the “Red, White and Blue” state championship series at the

Wisconsin International Raceway with four car lengths to spare over Tom Refiner of Rudolph Sunday afternoon.

Slinger’s Tony Strupp paced the 24-car starting field for the first three laps before Doug Strasburg of Johnson Creek slipped into the top spot. Strasburg set the pace until the 28th lap when Ziegler and Reffner bolted past on the outside.

Reffner quickly maneuvered past Ziegler and took the lead on the 30th lap with his 1974 AMC Javelin. However, Reffner was unable to pull away from Ziegler and on the 44th lap Ziegler regained the lead when Reffner began experiencing minor handling problems with his car.

Following Ziegler and Reffner across the finish line were Rich Somers of Stevens Point, the defending state champion, with his 1973 Mustang; Strasbourg in his 1973 Camaro; John Reimer, Caledonia, 1973 Camaro; and Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill., ‘73 Camaro.

Ziegler, who has been driving the winning car only three weeks after demolishing another racer at Kaukauna this Spring, said, “Every week it keeps going a little faster. I’ve raced here six times and every time I either cracked up or blew an engine.”

Douseman’s Steve Lurvey won the 20-lap semi-feature with his smooth running 1973 Nova over Del Keup of Green Bay in a 1973 Camaro and Darrell Swartout of Janesville in a 1973 Mustang.

The race was halted on the 15-lap in one of the worst crashes ever at the track. The crash occurred when Pat Griffin of Galesville spun in the first turn. Junior Dunn of Roscoe, Ill., approached the scene at full speed, spun to avoid hitting Griffin’s stalled racer, flipped over and in the process hit the first turn wall. The car flew high into the air and was caught in the outer wall wire mesh

Dunn crawled out of the wreck and was rushed to the Kaukauna Community Hospital where he was treated for a sprained ankle and other bruises.

Mike Mattson of Marquette, Mich., made his long trip to the track worthwhile as he won the 10-lap first heat and the 15-lap consolation. The consolation was tightly contested by Butch Mierendorf of South Milwaukee second and Ray Kreyer of Rio third.

Wayne Erickson won the second heat, race while Ziegler emerged the winner in the third heat race. Larry Schuler brought the crowd of 6,174 to its feet when he outraced Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids to the finish line in the event. Schuler, a 22-year-old driver from Lockport, Ill., was a popular winner as he downed the national stock car feature win record holder.

Reffner topped the 56 late model stock car field with a 21.33 second lap around the half-mile paved oval.

 

Results –

  1. John Ziegler, Madison
  2. Tom Reffner, Rudolph
  3. Rich Somers, Stevens Point
  4. Doug Strasburg, Johnson Creek
  5. John Reimer, Caledonia
  6. Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill,
  7. Dave Watson, Beloit
  8. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids
  9. Joe Shear, South Beloit, Ill.
  10. Larry Detjens, Wausau
  11. Marv Marzofka, Nekoosa
  12. John Knaus, Rockford
  13. Al Schill, Franklin
  14. Bob Abitz, Freedom
  15. Gary Hemmerling, Beloit

Saturday, June 20, 2015

1971 - Schattschneider wins Boone race

Gene Schattschneider
 
 
Boone, Iowa (June 20, 1971) - Gene Schattschneider, Algona, fought his way past Rich Green, Webster City, to grab the lead in the super late model feature at Boone Sunday night and pulled away to take his second feature of the year.

Weather forced the regularly scheduled Saturday night program to be postponed to Sunday night. Both Schattschneider and point leader Denny Hovinga, Laurens, had to overcome mechanical problems in preliminary events to finish one-two in the feature.

In the first heat, Schattschneider was second on the last lap, but dropped to fourth as teeth sheared off a gear in the quick-change rear end. In the semi-main, frame work holding the entire rear end of Hovinga’s car snapped. Hovinga had repairs made in time for the feature.

Arnie Braland of Boone, a three-time feature winner this year, battled with Rich Green, Webster City, who has won the feature once, for second until Braland’s Chevelle developed engine trouble. Hovinga then moved up and challenged and took Green for the number two spot.

Arlo Dorenbush of Boone also had trouble keeping the rear wheels under his car during the feature. Dorenbush was clipped by another Boone driver, Darwin Madden, and the right rear spring came apart.

In the opening race of the night, Braland picked up his fourth super late model trophy dash of the year. He started on the pole and led all the way.

Del McDowall, Ames, proved how tough he is to pass in two events. In the first heat and the semi-main, he started in the pole position, and no one ever passed him in either events.

Earl Tice, Ames, made fourth place consistently Sunday night, finishing in that position in the trophy dash, second heat and feature. In the semi-main, he was forced out with car problems.

Lynn Ballard, Ames, left the track unnoticed during a heat race. While the crowd was watching a battle for position on the last lap at the west end of the track, Ballard’s steering gave out in the number one and two turns and he drove over the high bank. He remained upright, and had the trouble fixed in time to come back for a third place finish in the B-Main.

Fred Yorgensen of Ames finished right behind Ballard in the B-Main. Sportsman driver, Elmer Pollock, Adel, had a streak of luck which gave him first place in the sportsman feature.

Running a distant (almost half a lap) second with two laps to go, Pollock moved up behind leader Glenn Woodard, Des Moines, on a restart. The restart was required when Charlie Ellis, Ames, spun out in number two turn just as Woodard took the white flag.

Since not all cars had finished the next-to-last lap, the race was restarted with to laps to go. Woodard held onto the lead for the first lap, but on the backstretch of the secondly dropped back as if he thought the race was over and Pollock took over the number one position at the checkered flag. Woodard recovered to finish second.

 
Results –


Super Late Model –

Trophy Dash: Arnie Braland, Boone
First Heat: Del McDowell, Ames
Second Heat: Denny Hovinga, Laurens
Semi-Main: Del McDowell
Feature:

  1. Gene Schatschneider, Algona
  2. Denny Hovinga
  3. Rich Green, Webster City
  4. Earl Tice, Ames
  5. John Carlson, Ankeny

Sportsman –

Trophy Dash: Denny Kuebler, Jefferson
First Heat: Mark Michaud, Ames
Second Heat: Fred Van Cannon, Boone
Feature:

  1. Elmer Pollock, Adel
  2. Glen Woodard, Des Moines
  3. Jerry Brown, Slater
  4. Jim Williams, Des Moines
  5. Norm Carlson, Ames

Friday, June 19, 2015

1973 - Train’s yellow light gives Eaker a scare at Challenge Cup

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (June 19, 1973) - Verlin Eaker couldn’t believe what he saw with two laps to go in the 3rd annual Iowa Challenge Cup dirt track championship race at Hawkeye Downs Tuesday night.

“There was a yellow light on the backstretch and my first thought was, ‘What the hell, I thought the yellow light was banned for this race this year.’

“But I stuck my arm out to warn the cars behind me. Then, when I came out of turn four I could see the green was still on, so I got back on it.”

Eaker was not seeing things. There was a yellow light, but it belonged to a train that was parked adjacent to the Downs half-mile dirt oval. That was only one of the two scares Eaker got en route to his second straight Challenge Cup title before a crowd estimated at 7,000.

“My oil pressure was good, but I was losing some oil and it, was spraying my goggles,” explained the veteran Cedar Rapids driver. “I had a rag to wipe the oil off, but then I lost the rag. I would have been in serious trouble if; I had to run 10 more laps.”

As it was, the spanking new engine in Eaker’s 1971 Nova held up and he set the pace for the final 42 tours in the 50-lap feature. That gave him $840 in lap money. Coupled with the $1,000 top prize offered by the sponsoring Cedar Rapids Jaycees, Eaker’s take home pay was $1,840.

There were two other leaders. Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, who earned $100 for his fast time of 25.07, led the first five laps before going out with a broken axle. Mike Niffenegger took over for the next three laps before he and Eaker tangled coming out of turn four. Eaker said contact couldn't be avoided.

“Mike went into turn three too hard and got up too high,” explained Eaker. “I went underneath him and he came down into me. We hit each other pretty hard.”

“I was in a position that we’d hit, no matter what, so I stayed on the gas.”

There were five restarts in the feature and they followed a delay of one hour, 55 minutes due lo intermittent showers. In fact, the trophy dash and consolation had to be canceled because of an insurance clause that will not permit racing after midnight.

The feature was completed at 12:08 a.m., which was within the contract because the race started well before the curfew. Eaker said the track “was not in good shape” when the feature started. If it hadn’t been for the red flags (restarts) where drivers could bring (heir cars into the pits to cool them down, there would have been a big loss in equipment.”

 The track was hard and slick - and fast - at the finish, which surprised Eaker.

“The groove kept moving higher and higher and the track didn’t stay tacky. I didn’t use rain tires, but halfway through the race I wished I had.”

Stan Stover of Reinbeck (1972 Chevelle) chased Eaker from the 10th lap on and finished second, about four lengths back. Curt Hansen of Dike (1971 Torino) was right on Stover's bumper in third place. Ed Sanger of Waterloo (1972 Chevelle) was fourth and Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids (1971 Plymouth) was fifth. The 1971 Challenge Cup champion, Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids (1965 Chevy) was eighth.

Monday, June 15, 2015

1963 – White’s Sprinter Hot under Arcs at Dayton


Johnny White
 
 
Dayton, Ohio (June 15, 1963) – Johnny White, the Warren, Mich., flash, gunned his Weinberger Homes Chevy to an easy victory in the 30-lap IMCA sprint car feature at high-banked Dayton Speedway on Saturday night. 
Finishing second, 12 seconds behind, was Bob Coulter in the Alfater Chevy, and in third place was Al Smith behind the wheel of the Steck Buick.
The first sprint car ever run under the lights at Dayton drew a crowd of 5,500, which prompted promoter Lefty McFadden to schedule another IMCA show a month later.
Starting outside of the front row, White spurted ahead of polesitter Red Amick at the drop of the green to take the lead in turn one. Amick, making his return to racing after a two-year retirement, gave chase to White for 10 laps.
Then Coulter and Smith began to catch Amick and both went around him on lap 21. Amick held on for fourth place as Norman Brown copped fifth.
A field of 22 cars took qualifications with Arnie Knepper in the Diz Wilson Chevy setting fast time of 18.94 seconds (102.597 miles per hour). Knepper would be sidelined with a problematic oil leak for the remainder of the evening, however.
White, Amick, and Ray Duckworth were heat winners while Coulter picked up the victory in the trophy dash.  Buzz Barton took honors in the semi-main.

Feature results –

1.       Johnny White
2.       Bob Coulter
3.       Al Smith
4.       Red Amick
5.       Norman Brown
6.       Gordon Woolley
7.       Buzz Gregory
8.       Curly Boyd
9.       Pete Folse
       10.   Bob Davis
11.   Johnny Wallace
12.   Ray Duckworth
13.   Don Friend
14.   Jerry Mans
15.   Buzz Barton

Saturday, June 13, 2015

1965 - Rutherford wins 30-lap sprint main at Terre Haute

Johnny Rutherford in the Stapp #4 at Terre Haute
 
 

Terre Haute, Ind. (June 13, 1965) – Johnny Rutherford, who was just seconds away from missing Sunday's 30-lap feature sprint car race here because of a leaking fuel tank, took the lead on the fifth lap and remained in that position to win $1,786 of a $9,065 purse.

Rutherford started the feature in fourth place and grabbed front-running position from pole winner Jerry Richert, Jerry Daniels and Jud Larson.

Larson gave it a good try, but ran out of time before he could catch Rutherford. A. J. Foyt finished a very creditable third with an automobile that still wasn't running 100 percent.

Rutherford drove his Chevy-powered sprinter to first place in the second heat of the afternoon at the Vigo County Fairgrounds after qualifying with a time of 24.42 seconds.  Richert, Daniels and Larson finished first, second and third respectively in the first heat. There was no official time on the 10-lap heat because of a caution flag.

Don Branson, last year's sprint car champion, took the checkered flag in the third heat with a time of 3:23.73 on the half-mile dirt oval.

Rutherford's leaking fuel tank was discovered at the end of the winner's heat race and another type of “race” was underway; a race with time in finding a welder to repair the leak. As it turned out, a welder was not available and the crew had to stuff gaskets around the leak, according to Rutherford.

And how about our National Driving Champion, A. J. Foyt? Anthony Joseph won the 10-lap consolation race. And he had to come from a sixth place starting position in a 10-car field to do this. My, how things do change from year to year.

A word must be said in A.J.'s defense. He was the hardest working driver at the track Sunday. To start the afternoon, his Chevrolet - powered sprinter came up with a sick engine. He missed his turn to qualify, and just barely got his car running well enough to make the last try of the day.

Branson's luck wasn't much better. His draw for qualifying position was number 31. Larson drew number 30.

On asphalt tracks, the qualifying order isn't too important, but on dirt it can make or break a driver. The more qualifying attempts the rougher – and slower - the track becomes.

Less skilled drivers than these three probably wouldn't have made the program. Indianapolis 500 “Rookie of the Year”, Mario Andretti, kept the hex going that seems to follow the winners of this honor.

Last years' “Rookie” winner, Johnny White, was seriously injured at the Terre Haute track. Mario escaped injuries, but his car was badly bent in a brush with the outer retaining wall coming out of the fourth turn.

This was during practice before the race.

Chuck Engle wasn't as fortunate in his “bouncing ballet of the dirt”. Chuck got sideways in number four turn that resulted in a spectacular series of end-over-end flips. He was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital, but a report on his condition wasn't available at press time.

 

Results –

1.     Johnny Rutherford
2.     Jud Larson
3.     A.J. Foyt
4.     Greg Weld
5.     Jerry Richert
6.     Bobby Unser
7.     Don Branson
8.     Ronnie Duman
9.     Gary Congdon
10.  Red Riegel

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

1973 - Jimmy Canton; Hell Driving Is His Game

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (June 10, 1973) – When Jim Kolsto was growing up in Newhall, Iowa, his mother was certain he'd be a priest.
The Kolsto family was quite active in the small Roman Catholic parish there and, as a boy, Jim served daily mass for a period of seven years.
But Kolsto, who now lives at Indianola, had a hidden desire - one that he kept secret from his family. It eventually led him away from guiding people toward heaven and, instead, thrilling them with a new vocation - hell driving.
You see; Kolsto wanted to be a race driver.
“I was working as a welder in Cedar Rapids after I graduated from Newhall High School in 1949,” Kolsto says, “when I got the chance to drive modified stock cars at an area track, I didn't want my folks to find out about it, so I used the name ‘Jimmy Canton’ when I was driving.”
His parents found out the day after his first venture, and they didn't like it.
Even so, Kolsto, still using the Canton name, slipped across the Mississippi River into Illinois and continued to drive cars for a couple of summers after his high school graduation.
But it didn't pay very well. Neither did his welding job. So when a driver with the Joie Chitwood Auto Daredevils show, playing that summer at the All-Iowa Fair in Cedar Rapids, talked to Kolsto about joining the show, he didn't have to talk hard, Kolsto (alias Canton) was ready for the fame and fortune - $45 a week plus $5 a show.
“My folks didn't have any idea what I was doing with the thrill show,” he says “They thought I was just along to help set up ramps and work on cars.”
Instead, he started rolling cars end over end and from side to side. He drove cars over ramps head first into parked cars in the “T-bone crash” routine.
And he performed the “slide for life”, a daring venture where he'd drop off a car (going 50 to 60 miles an hour) and then slide through a raging fire burning on the dirt runway.
“I didn't find out till after I'd joined the show that the outfit had openings because one driver had suffered a broken neck and another a broken back the week before,” Kolsto says.
“And, after I'd been with the show only one day, a parachutist with our group got killed in Lexington, Neb., when he made a bad landing (He was one of four men Kolsto has seen killed in show-connected accidents).
“I wondered right then what I was doing with this outfit, but I stuck with it. This is my 23rd season with thrill shows, but it’s going to be my last.” Kolsto may be back next year, though. He's been through his “last season" every year for the last nine or 10 years.
“I love my work,” he says. “It's the only thing I know.”
Kolsto is the only Iowan performing regularly with a major thrill show, although Bill Barnett and his son, Steve, of Cedar Rapids are clowns with Kolsto's group, the Tournament of Thrills. And in the words of the show’s manager, Jim Riser of Tampa, Fla., “there aren't many like Jimmy. He's by far one of the finest in the business.”
Anyone who imagines thrill show drivers as a bunch of extroverted, swaggering, whisky drinking women-chasers had someone other than Jim Kolsto in mind when he settled on that mental description.
The Warren County driver has a quiet disposition, and seldom raises his voice. He's a religious man, and a non-drinker. He carries a cut across the bridge of his nose, but otherwise he gives little visible evidence of doing anything more dangerous than walking across the street.
And the 41-year-old father of three daughters “remembers his family when he's on the road,” Riser said recently. “Jimmy's on the road to make a living.”
Kolsto doesn't make a bad living, either, during the five months he spends on the road with the Tournament of Thrills team.
It adds up to far more than he was paid when he began, but it's not all profit. From his paycheck, Kolsto pays nearly all his personal expenses.
He saves money by eating only two meals a day between – from the time the show opens in May and when it closes in October. Altogether, he makes 124 appearances during the season, nearly all of them at different tracks throughout the United States.
Kolsto has four main driving jobs with the show. He's part of the four-car precision “hell-driving” team, and in its various routines he drives his car at speeds up to 90 miles per hour only inches from the other three cars. He drives a car delicately balanced on two wheels for up to 300 yards. He jumps his motorcycle over four parked cars.
He drives the same 1955 BSA cycle, one of only 400 manufactured, through a flaming wooden barricade. (He's been offered several thousand dollars for the collector's item, but he won't sell. – “It would be like selling a brother.”)
He estimates his motorcycle, which has less than 900 miles on the speedometer (only 50 miles of which were “over the road”), has boosted him over 8,000 cars - four at a time. It's the only one he's ever used, with the exception of an Italian model utilized during a special promotion.
On the fourth jump with that cycle, the front wheel and fork of the bike fell off while he was airborne. He landed face down on the handlebars, drove his teeth through his upper lip, dislocated His shoulder and pulled the muscles throughout his body. “Even my hair hurt for five days after that,” he recalls.
“You're the most vulnerable for injuries on the cycle jump,” he claims.
The second most dangerous aspect of his daily track driving (he claims the worst part of his job is getting from show to show, trying to avoid bad drivers on the highway) is the crash through the wall of fire. The half-inch pine boards that make up the wall (which are doused with gasoline and set afire) splinter on impact. Often times, pieces of those boards poke into Kolsto's body. Toward, the end of last season, one went up his pant leg, ripping a wound in his calf that required 13 stitches.
“I was once knocked unconscious in that stunt,” Kolsto says. “We were in Europe, and the lumber was green and wouldn't break.”
Actually, Kolsto says “it's an easy stunt if all goes well. But you get the hell beat out of you if it doesn't.”
“That's the key to the whole show. If things go as planned, everything is roses. If it doesn't go well, for instance, if a piece of machinery breaks, there can be problems.”
“It's all a calculated risk,” he says. “We have a set way of doing things. We do everything we can in our show that we figure we can get away with every day.”
Sometimes they don't get away with it. Several years ago while he was taping a Wide World of Sports segment, Kolsto was jumping a car 50 feet through the air from one ramp to another. The stunt is normally done at speeds of 45 to 50 miles per hour, depending on the weight of the vehicle, and it's important for the driver to know the exact speed he's traveling.
“They had this new convertible they wanted to use in the Ramp N Jump,” Kolsto says. “I protested because I hadn't had a chance to calibrate the speedometer.”
“But they insisted, so I went on TV with the untested car. I landed short, and piled into the ramp. The car was going four miles per hour slower than the speedometer indicated.”
Kolsto did not hurt any more than his pride in that episode. He was luckier than the man who originated the stunt at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.
That man was later killed when his engine conked out just prior to takeoff on a ramp jump, Kolsto says.
Though he looks older in the face than his 41 years, Kolsto is still as rugged physically as he was when he participated in athletics at Newhall High School. And, even though he performs so much, his family rarely sees him in action. His brother Jack (now 33 and barnstorming with a thrill show group out of California) and a younger sister saw him at, the Benton County Fair when he played there.
But his late mother never saw him perform in person – and only viewed taped television sequences if Jim was sitting at her side.
His wife, Shirley, and daughters Kelley, 12, Kindra, 11, and Kerri, 10, will see him when he pulls into Iowa this summer, and they never miss him on television. But they've seen him drive personally only in Des Moines and Davenport, and once in Missouri.
By joining a barnstorming team during the off-season, Kolsto could probably work at his chosen profession year-round.
But, instead, he packs his bag and returns to Indianola to spend a few months with his family and work at Chumbley's Conoco, an Indianola service station. ,
“It's tough enough being gone from the family for five or six months each year - let alone being gone all year,” he says.
So, in October, after winding up another season and perhaps filming a commercial for television (he’s done several) in past years - he'll be heading back home a little richer, a little older, and a little more, battered, but still infatuated with a sport the faint-hearted love to watch but don't want to attempt.