Thursday, July 14, 2016

1974 - Somers Scores Upset; Wins Red, White and Blue at WIR

Rich Somers

Kaukauna, Wis. (July 14, 1974) - Rich Somers, a 34- year-old foreman at Copp's Discount Store's warehouse in Stevens Point, scored a major upset at the Wisconsin International Raceway here Sunday afternoon as he wheeled his 1973 Mustang to victory in the second race of the “Red, White and Blue” state championship series before 3,453 fans.

Somers’ victory in the 100-lap main event on WIR’s half-mile paved oval was his first major win in the third annual series. He has competed at the track since 196S and never before captured a win in a long-distance event.

Temperatures of over 90 degrees took its toll during the race as many of the front runners fell by the wayside. Paul Smith of Marquette, Mich., paced the 24-car starting field for the first six laps before giving way to Rockford, Ill. driver John Knaus.

Knaus immediately built up a huge lead and held onto the top spot until the 32nd lap, when he lost control of his 1973 Camaro in the fourth turn, spinning in a cloud of smoke. Jim Back of Vesper, winner of the first race of the series, assumed the lead position after Knaus' spin and appeared to be headed for victory. However, on the 75th lap his 1974 Camaro began to spit and sputter and on the 52nd lap Somers surged into the top spot.

Two yellow flag periods during the final six laps bunched the field up behind Somers. On the 94th lap Larry Detjens of Wausau and Al Schill of Franklin collided in the first turn, resulting in a blown tire to Detjens' 1974 Dodge Challenger. His racer stalled on the backstretch. The green flag was then waved and two laps later Madison's Bob Gunn spun in the fourth turn while attempting to gain second position.

Upon the final restart, Somers was chased to the finish line by Schill and Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill. Schill was a half car length off the pace and Shear one car length behind Schill. Rounding out the top six were Dave Watson, Beloit, Gunn and Back.

Lee Schuler of Lockport, Ill., grabbed the lead on the sixth lap of the semi-feature and guided his 1970 Chevelle to victory in the 20-lap semi-feature. Janesville's John Speer crossed the finish line second, followed by Tony Strupp of Slinger and Wally Jors of Fond du Lac. Heat race wins went to Bill Retallick of Marshall, Knaus and Jim Sauter of Necedah.

The only serious accident of the afternoon occurred in the second heat race, when Neil Callahan of Merrill and Knaus collided in the first turn. Four other drivers joined the accident with Madison's Ed Hume climbing the outer wall. His car was then hit from the rear by cars driven by Don Leach, Schill and Paul Smith of Marquette, Mich. Hume was able to repair his car in time for the main event although the car's body was badly bent.

Caledonia’s John Reimer paced the 39-car field in time trials when he covered the half-mile oval in 21.61 second with Nielsen Enterprises’ 1973 Camaro.

Results –

  1. Rich Somers, Stevens Point, Wis.
  2. Al Schill, Franklin, Wis.
  3. Joe Shear, South Beloit, Ill.
  4. Dave Watson, Beloit, Wis.
  5. Bob Gunn, Madison, Wis.
  6. Jim Back, Vesper, Wis.
  7. Paul Smith, Marquette, Wis.
  8. Fred Bender, Sun Prairie, Wis.
  9. Bob Abitz, Freedom, Wis.
  10. Vic Carr, Beloit, Wis.
  11. Bill Retallick, Marshall, Wis.
  12. Larry Detjens, Wausau, Wis.
  13. Johnny Reimer, Caledonia, Wis.
  14. Jim Sauter, Necedah, Wis.
  15. Jack Brewer, Oak Creek, Wis.

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