Rapids, Iowa – With its once-stellar stock car series now but a distant memory,
the United States Auto Club decided it still needed a full-bodied racing
division to complement its highly successful open wheel program.
from the traditional full-sized stock car that had been a staple of that
division for over 30 years, USAC officials went down a different path and
capitalized on one of the most dynamic forms of racing; late models.
From 1985 to
1988, the United States Auto Club would sanction dirt late model racing and
some of the biggest stars in the sport would compete under their banner.
In 1987, the
USAC Dirt Late Model Series came to Iowa during the July 4th weekend for a
three-race sked (Cedar Rapids, Burlington and Marshalltown). It was
appropriately named, “The Iowa Firecracker Jamboree”.
Due to the
success of the promotion, USAC officials and Iowa promoters decided to give it
another try for the 1988 season.
Davenport, Marshalltown and Oskaloosa would be the sites for the for the
four-day weekend of racing.
July 1, the USAC cars and stars rolled into Marshalltown, Iowa, and before a
capacity crowd, Larry Phillips won the hard-fought 40-lap feature. The
Springfield, Mo., veteran outdistanced Billy Moyer Jr. and Willy Kraft to the
finish line for the victory.
win was hard-fought as he and Moyer Jr. often raced side-by-side as they dueled
through lapped traffic. On several occasions, Moyer Jr. actually took the lead
but Phillips decision to run the low groove paid off in the long run. Moyer
hung on for second while Kraft took third. Ken Essary of Galena, Mo., who
earlier had set a new track record in qualifying (15.173 seconds), grabbed
fourth while Dick Potts of Morocco, Ind., rounded out the top five. The highest
finishing Iowan was Johnny Johnson of Wapello who finished ninth.
heats were won by Essary, Phillips, and Moyer Jr. while Jim Rarick of
Taylorville, Ill., took the last chance race.
would head to Burlington, Iowa, and 34 Raceway, on Saturday, July 2. Once
again, race fans came from near and far as a standing room only crowd was on
hand to witness the action.
Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., would jet to a straightaway advantage early in the 40-lap contest and lead from start to finish in winning his fourth series race of the year. But it was anything but easy...
Phillips, who had made an engine change and had to qualify out of the last
chance race, cleared himself from the field and slowly began to reel in the
leader and by lap 21 had caught up with Kraft. Phillips was able to stick the
nose of his car to the inside of Kraft on numerous occasions in the corners,
but Kraft would maintain the lead in the straightaways. By lap 30 Phillips
would stay close until he over-compensated his car and dropped off the topside
of turn 2 on lap 30.
Jr. would take up chase after Phillips’ mistake and he too, would give Kraft fits
until the very end. When Kraft fish-tailed on the last lap, Moyer Jr. made a
last-ditch charge for the checkered, but Kraft was able to straighten his car
out and hold on for the win. Moyer Jr. would settle for second, Phillips
recouped to take third, followed by Ken Esssary and Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill.
Johnny Johnson would be the highest finishing Iowan with an eighth place
showing. Heat winners were Esssary, Dick Potts, Kraft, and Guss Jr. Phillips
won the last chance race. Moyer Jr, set fast time on the evening, touring the
3/8-mile high-banked clay surface in 15.539 seconds.
follow up his Saturday night performance with another stellar showing at the
Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. The current USAC point leader would score
his second consecutive late model victory as he topped the 40-lap headliner on
Sunday, July 3.
Egersdorf of St. Paul, Minn., would lead the opening lap of the contest but
Kraft would take command as the field came to the start/finish for lap 2.
Unlike the night before, Kraft would have an easy time of it, leading the race
by a straightaway at times. Dick Potts would be a distant second followed by
Larry Phillips, Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, was the highest finishing Iowan in
fourth and Jeff Hinkemeyer of St. Cloud, Minn., in fifth.
Kraft, and Larry Phillips were heat race winners and Jim Rarick won the last
chance race. Billy Moyer Jr., was fast
qualifier for the evening, cruising the big half-mile in the time of 20.364
and final race would take place at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in
Davenport, Iowa, on Monday, July 4.
fireworks crackling in the background, Larry Phillips would return to victory
lane, leading wire to wire on the third-mile dirt oval. Phillips was never
challenged as he built a huge lead in the early going and cruised to an easy
win. Willy Kraft would finish a distant second, Ken Schrader of Fenton, Mo.,
grabbed third, Ken Essary took fourth and Ray Guss Jr., rounded out the top
five. Johnny Johnson was the top finishing Iowan in seventh. The main event
started on a sour note as fast qualifier (15.598 seconds) Billy Moyer Jr. blew
a motor at the wave of the green flag.
were Moyer Jr., Ray Guss Jr., and Willy Kraft. The last chance winner was “The
Racing Auctioneer” Charlie Sentman of Waveland, Ind.
Davenport race was coined “The Final Conflict” and maybe it was pure
coincidence but it would be the final appearance in Iowa for the USAC late
model division. Despite the popularity of dirt late models, it just didn’t fit
the mold for the United States Auto Club.
Making a decision
to showcase their open wheel divisions (sprints and silver crown), long the
calling card of the United States Auto Club, they decided to shut down the late
model series after the 88’ season.
However, with the World of Outlaws and
the American Late Model Association co-sanctioning, there would be another Iowa Firecracker Jamboree in 1989.
Keokuk, Iowa - By the start of the 1964 season, it was
becoming very obvious that drivers from Keokuk, Iowa were a major factor in
IMCA Stock Car Racing. Don White had won three IMCA Stock Car Championships and
had moved on to run with the United States Auto Club, where he would win two
USAC Stock Car Championships and become the all-time winningest driver in USAC
Stock Car history with 53 wins.
The remaining three giants of Keokuk racing, Dick Hutcherson,
Ernie Derr and Ramo Stott had finished the 1963 IMCA racing finishing first,
second and third in the points, (Hutcherson, Stott and Derr) and had managed to
win 51 of the 56 features contested along the way. But no one could imagine
what the three were going to accomplish in 1964.
The 1964 IMCA Late Model Stock Car season turned out to be
one of the most remarkable accomplished in sports.At the end of that season, the series had
contested 56 races and ALL 56 were won by one of three drivers hailing from an
unassuming Iowa river town on the Mississippi River called Keokuk.
A record crowd of 10,000 fans welcomed the series to the
annual season opener at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds in Shreveport. Dick
Hutcherson in his new 1964 Ford broke Ernie Derr’s track qualifying record with
a lap of 26.08 and appeared to have things under control until a faulty
distributor condenser forced him to cut down his speed and he ended up finishing
third. Ernie Derr took control of the race on lap 56 and go on to win the race
with Ramo Stott finishing second. Derr was driving a 1964 Dodge as his new 1964
Plymouth had not yet arrived.
Hutcherson countered with a win on May 2 at Knoxville, Iowa,
winning the 200-lap feature with pressure from Stott throughout most of the
race. Hutcherson set a new IMCA qualifying record as well as new marks at 50,
75 and 100 miles. Ernie Derr countered by winning a 250-lap affair at Hawkeye
Downs in Cedar Rapids, but Hutcherson slipped by Stott early in the Memorial
Day Classic at Topeka and went on to best Stott for the win. Derr appeared to
have third nailed down until an axle went out.
The next day, Derr and Stott each scored a 50-lap win back
at Hawkeye Downs. Hutcherson countered again with wins at Memphis, Mo., and
Donnellson, Iowa. The trio swapped wins back and forth over the next several
races with Stott winning the annual 200-lap Kansas International at Topeka, on
the 4th of July holding off Hutcherson by a nose. Ernie Derr was six seconds
back in third. At this point in the season, Hutcherson held a 213 point lead
over Derr with Stott just 13 points further back.
The drivers were greeted by a wet and heavy track at the
Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on July 12 for the annual running of the
Iowa International 300. Stott led most of the first 150 laps, but for safety
reasons, the race was halted and regarded. After the restart, Hutcherson took
to the heavy and wet track like a duck to water and drove away to the win
before 15,000 fans. Bob Reynolds of Edmonds, Okla., got by Stott for second,
with Derr, finishing fourth.
Not only did the win increase Dick Hutcherson’s point lead,
but he then set off and proceeded to win eight more races in a row, with two
wins each at Minot, N.D., Fargo, N.D., Cresco, Iowa and Hibbing, Minn., in a
run that put the championship pretty much out of reach. The second Fargo show
saw Hutcherson wage a tremendous dogfight with both Stott and Derr in the 100-lap
affair before Derr retired with a blown rear end and Stott with a broken
Finally, at the Southern Iowa Fair in Oskaloosa on August 5,
Ernie Derr broke Hutcherson’s streak by winning the 100 lap race with
Hutcherson and Stott following in second and third. The victory started a bit
of a winning streak for Derr as starting with the win at Oskaloosa he would win
seven of the next eight, with Stott winning at La Crosse, Wis.
August 22nd brought the series back to Des Moines for the
Iowa State Fair and Hutcherson regained his momentum by winning their and then
followed by with two wins at the Missouri State Fair, one on the half-mile and
one on the mile. Stott then won back at Des Moines in a 250-lap affair.
It was then off to the annual trek to the Minnesota State
Fair in St. Paul. But in 1964 something had changed. The track had been paved.
Some IMCA driver had trouble with the unfamiliar racing surface, Dick
Hutcherson wasn’t one of them. He set fast time all three days they were held
and then went on to win three of the four features, with Stott winning the
other.The final of these races was the
North Star 400, scheduled for 400 laps it was cut short by rain at the 375 lap
mark, with who else, but Hutcherson at the front of the field.
Back on the dirt the trio swapped wins again, with Stott
winning five times, Hutcherson 4 times and Derr twice leading up to the last
four races of the season to be held back at Shreveport.
The four events held at Shreveport can be summed up in one
name; Dick Hutcherson. Hutcherson won all four features. The last race of the
season proved to be an exciting one as Derr, Stott, Hutcherson and Lenny Funk
all held the lead at one time or another. Hutcherson took over the lead for
good with 10 laps remaining when Stott had to pit for refueling in the 150-lap
This ended, one of the most amazing seasons in auto racing
history. Dick Hutcherson won 29 times on
his way to winning his second straight IMCA championship. Ramo Stott won 12
times and finished second in the points with Ernie Derr recording 15 wins and
third place in the championship race.
Dick Hutcherson left IMCA following the 1964 season and headed
south to NASCAR country.In 1965, he won
nine races in the Holman-Moody Ford and finished second to Ned Jarrett it what
is now the Nextel Cup series. Dick would win 22 poles and score 14 wins before
retiring at the end of the 1968 season. Later he would be a successful crew
chief and then go on to co-found Hutcherson-Pagan Racing. If you ever attend a
race of one of NASCAR’s three major series you can count on seeing the Brown
and Orange Hutcherson-Pagan hauler somewhere in the pits.
Ramo Stott stayed in IMCA four more years finishing second
each of those years to Ernie Derr. In 1965 and 1966 the two combined to win 72
of the 74 IMCA Stock Car races held. Stott would leave IMCA after the 1968
season and go on to race in ARCA and USAC. Stott would win the ARCA Championship
back-to-back in 1970 and 1971 and then win the USAC Stock Car Championship in
1975. He would also claim the pole position for the 1976 Daytona 500.
Ernie Derr remained a regular in the IMCA series through the
1971 season. While he did race a few times in other series, he is remembered
mostly for his accomplishments in IMCA. Those accomplishments include a
staggering 328 career wins and 12 championships. When you mention IMCA stock
car racing, the first name that has to come to mind is; Ernie Derr.
In the 29 year history of the IMCA Stock Car Series (1949-1977),
Keokuk drivers won 18 championships. From 1953 thru Ernie Derr’s retirement
following the 1971 season, only with Johnny Beauchamp’s championships in 1956 and
1957 did the championship go to a driver who did not hail from Keokuk.
– For seven years, it was one of the most popular year-end racing events in the
Midwest. The Mid-America Nationals, held at the Scotland County Fairgrounds in
Memphis, Mo., lured drivers and race fans from all over.
annual Mid-America ¼-Mile Nationals took place on September 17 and 18, 1976,
offering a $6,500 purse. New Models, Sportsman and Hobby Stocks competed in
heat races on Friday with semi-mains and championship features on Saturday
out-of-staters would take home championship hardware.
The Late Models
would time trial and a familiar racing name, Russ Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, was the
fastest around the track with an 18.04 second timing.
heat winners were Jim Gerber of McCausland, Iowa, Lem Blankenship of Keokuk,
Iowa, Steve Keppler of Marion, Iowa, and Larry Pipes of Kirkville, Mo. Sportsman
heat wins went to Dan Lake of Washburn, Iowa, Larry Larson of Keokuk, Mike
Benjamin of Keokuk, and Steve Becker of Norway, Iowa. Hobby Stock winners were
James Cannon of Randolph, Ill., Dean Lindsay of Jacksonville, Ill., Steve
Schneider of Keokuk and Kay Pierce of Hamilton, Ill.
semi-mains claimed by Larry Rummelhart of Riverside, Iowa (Late Models), Gary
Trump of Kahoka, Mo. (Sportsman) and L.Z. Coleman of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (Hobby
would grab the lead at the drop of the green of the Hobby Stock feature and
never look back in winning the 15-lapper. Kay Pierce would take second while
Tom Long of Payson, Ill., would finish third. Lyle Chancellor of Keokuk and
Earl Pruitt of Marshalltown, Iowa, would round out the top five finishers.
The 25-lap Sportsman
main event would see Larry Larson follow suit and lead from start to finish as
well, holding off a stubborn Steve Becker to score the victory. Bob Marriott of
Chillicothe, Mo., finished a strong third, followed by Mike Inman of Keokuk and
The Late Model
headliner saw Russ Derr, who started on the pole by virtue of his quick time,
jump out front quickly and lead all 35 circuits in securing the win. Larry
Pipes would slip by Lem Blankenship early in the contest and put pressure on
Derr for the remainder of the race but “Pee Vine” would settle for runner-up
honors. Blankenship would finish third followed closely by Jim Gerber and Steve
With 90 cars
in attendance and fans filling the seats, the first annual Mid-America ¼-Mile
Nationals was hailed a success and plans were being made for next year.
annual Mid-America ¼-Mile Nationals would take two weekends to complete. Originally
slated for September 16 and 17, 1977, over 100 cars would compete in Friday’s
qualifying heats, only to have early morning thunderstorms wipe out Saturday’s
festivities. Officials postpone the semi-main and championships until the
following Saturday, September 24.
heat races saw some close-order racing in all three divisions. Darrel DeFrance
of Marshalltown, Iowa, Jerry Meyers of Quincy, Ill., Jim Powell of New London,
Iowa, Chopper Safely of Marion, Iowa, and Jim McClure of Cincinnati, Iowa,
would score heat wins in Hobby Stock action. Sonny Findling of Kirksville, Mo.,
Kenny Fenn of Washington, Iowa, Joe Churchill, Harley Harrelson of Brashear,
Mo., and Tim Swope of Waterloo, Iowa, earned Sportsman heat wins. Late Model
heat wins went to Johnny Babb, Rex Stottlemyre of Chillicothe, Mo., Steve
Becker, and Larry Pipes.
later, semi-main and championship features were run. Jack Evans of Keokuk
(Hobby Stock), George Koontz of Memphis, Mo. (Sportsman) and Jim Gerber of
LeClaire, Iowa (Late Model) started the evening off by winning their respective
Churchill would make his long trip from Peosta, Iowa, pay off when the checkers
flew in the Sportsman feature. Churchill would divide his time among three positions
en route to the feature win. He spent the first 10 laps in third place, the
second 12 circuits in second place and then made his move on lap 22, slipping
past Kenny Fenn for the lead and the eventual win. Charlie Milligan of Keokuk
tailed Churchill throughout the race and finished second followed by George
Koontz of Memphis, Sonny Findling and Bob Findling of Kirksville, Mo.
Iowa, pilot Dennis Stewart took the lead on lap 14 to capture the Hobby Stock
title. Chopper Safely towed from Waubeek, Iowa, to finish a close second, just
ahead of Terry Lyons of Virginia, Ill. Early leader Jim Powell took fourth and
Rich McClure grabbed fifth.
In the Late
Model main event, Johnny Babb, no stranger to the Memphis track, jumped into
the lead from his pole position and put on a driving clinic, leading all 40
laps to take the win. Larry Pipes would apply pressure throughout the race
until his engine let go with 12 laps left. Waterloo, Iowa’s Joe Schaefer, who
started near the rear of the 22-car field, would work his way steadily through
the pack and finish second. John Miller of Keokuk, Jerry Pilcher of Bloomfield,
Iowa, and Bob Widmar of Ottumwa, Iowa, would round out the top five.
wet weather would come into play, this time for the third annual Mid-America
¼-Mile Nationals, September 15-17, 1978. Friday’s qualifying heats went
uninterrupted but rain midway through Saturday’s program would push features to
of West Chester, Iowa, was anything but slow over the weekend, winning his heat
and taking home the top prize in the Late Model feature on Sunday afternoon.
West started third in the main event and was running third behind early leader
Mike Benjamin and Larry Pipes for the first 16 laps. After a restart, West
passed Pipes for second and three laps later, slipped past Benjamin for the
lead. West was in command when heavy skies let go and rain stopped the race on
lap 37, which officials declared complete. Steve Fraise of Montrose, Iowa, who
started 12th, made a spirited drive through the pack to overtake Benjamin for
second place on lap 28 and finished a strong second. Pipes settled for third
place, Jerry Pilcher, who started 18th, took fourth and Joe Churchill of
Peosta, Iowa, who won the Sportsman title the year before, grabbed fifth.
heat wins went to Pipes, Benjamin, West and Jim Brown of Ottumwa, Iowa. Bill
Early of Edina, Mo., won the rain-shortened semi-main on Saturday.
of Washington, Iowa, took the lead on lap 4 and roared to the Sportsman
championship. Mike Inman of Keokuk took second while Dick Crane of Palmyra,
Mo., ran third. Bob Marriott of Chillicothe, Mo., finished fourth and Leonard
Hamlin of LaPlata, Mo., took fifth.
George Koontz of Memphis, Gary Tigges of Dubuque, Iowa, Fenn and Inman were
heat winners. Larry Asher of Kirksville, Mo., won the rain-interrupted
Stock feature, after being rained out Saturday night, would be washed out again
on Sunday, so the finish was given according to the line-up. Rod Uppinghouse of
Payson, Ill., winner of the first heat, was awarded the win. Heat #2 winner Bob
Hawks of Virginia, Ill., was second, heat #3 winner Jim Powell of New London,
Iowa, third, heat #4 winner Rich McClure of Cincinnati, Iowa, fourth and
defending champion Dennis Stewart of Marshalltown, Iowa, was fifth. Norwalk,
Iowa, driver Rex Bonnett won the 8-lap semi-main.
annual event, held September 14-15, 1979, would bring a slight name change to
the race. The ¼-Mile Nationals had now become the ½-Mile Nationals.
extensive research, I found no reason given for the name change, except for the
fact, according to Allan Brown’s America’s
Speedways, Scotland CountySpeedway
had always been half-mile track since 1950 until 1999 when it was shortened to
its present size of a 3/8-mile.
of Waterloo, Iowa, would tow nearly 200 miles and it would pay off handsomely
as he won the 40-lap Late Model headliner. Nesteby and defending winner Johnny
Babb dueled early on in the race until Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa, got
involved into the mix. Jackson would get past Babb and the battle between
Nesteby and Jackson was on. The two would swap the lead several times until
Jackson grabbed the lead on lap 38. Jackson could practically taste victory
until a careless spinout on the backstretch let Nesteby slip by for the lead
and the win. Jackson would recover to finish second while Babb hung on to
third. Bob McCall of Ottumwa, Iowa, took fourth and inaugural winner Russ Derr
Pilcher, Nesteby, Babb, Jackson and Paul Carr of Ottumwa, Iowa, were heat
winners while Randy Harrison of Memphis, took the 15-lap semi-main.
In a near-photo
finish, Fred Knapp of Des Moines, Iowa, came out on top in the 25-lap Sportsman
feature. Knapp had passed Jack Dunn of Keokuk for the lead on lap 11, only to
exit the race with mechanical issues during a lap 14 caution period.
re-entered the race at the rear of the field as the green flag waved and
started making his way through the pack. Meanwhile, George Koontz of Memphis
had started to challenge Dunn for the race lead. By lap 20, Knapp had made his
way back up front to make it a three-car battle. Knapp would get by Koontz for
second, but as the white flag waved, Dunn, Knapp and Koontz were virtually
side-by-side. As the trio reached the backstretch, Knapp edged ahead of Dunn
and Koontz and as they came out of turn four, Knapp was slightly ahead of Dunn
as they could see the checkered flag waving. Knapp would beat Dunn by less than
a foot at the finish line with Koontz right on their bumper. Sonny Kindling of
Kirksville, Mo., would finish fourth followed by Mike Klinkhammer of West
in the Sportsman class were Dunn, Kenny Fenn, Knapp, and Corrie Stott of
Keokuk. Carl Storms of Montrose, Iowa, won the semi-main.
Stock would be anti-climactic as Darrel DeFrance of Marshalltown, Iowa, was an
easy winner, leading all 15 circuits. Challenging hard but not changing
positions were Earl Pruitt of Marshalltown, Dino Rodish of West Des Moines,
Smoke Wilson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Steve McCartney of Kirksville, Mo.
heat winners were DeFrance, Pruitt, Rodish, and Wilson, while Rick McClure of
Cincinnati, Iowa, won the semi-main.
annual Mid-America ½-Mile Nationals saw two new winners and one repeat
performance on September 19-20, 1980. Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa (Late
Models) and Chopper Safely of Marion, Iowa, won titles at Memphis for the first
time while Kenny Fenn of Washington, Iowa, scored his second Sportman
driving his #11 Camaro, started on the pole position via his heat win and
jumped into the lead at the drop of Chuck Downing’s green flag and never let
off the gas pedal, leading all 40 laps. Jackson was so dominant, in fact, he
lapped nearly the entire field, except for second through fifth place. Chasing
Jackson every lap of the way and finishing runner-up was Johnny Johnson of Morning
Sun, Iowa. Tony Stewart of Washington, Iowa, last year’s winner Dan Nesteby of
Waterloo, Iowa and Jim Brown of Ottumwa, Iowa, rounded out the finishers still
on the lead lap.
heat winners were Jackson, Sonny Findling of Kirksville, Mo., Johnson and Mike
Klinkhammer of West Branch, Iowa. Gordy Blankenship won Saturday’s semi-main.
Sportsman main event saw two Iowa drivers fighting it out for the win. Kenny
Fenn grabbed the lead at the onset but Jim Hollenbeck of Burlington, Iowa, tried
his best to keep up with the wily veteran. Despite several caution flags that
bunched up the field, Fenn had too much horses under the hood and pulled away
every time on his way to the 30-lap victory. Hollenbeck would hang on for
second, followed by semi-main winner Ronnie Armstrong of Kahoka, Mo., Lynn
Richards of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and Keith Allen of Donnellson, Iowa.
heat winners were Rick Germar of Red Oak, Iowa, Fenn, Hollenbeck, and Carl
Storms of Keokuk.
Safely would win the Hobby Stock feature rather handily, leading all 20 laps,
although Henry DeLonjay of Quincy, Ill., kept it close in taking second. Dale
DeFrance of Marshalltown, Iowa, was third, Daryl O’Haver of Kirksville, Mo.,
grabbed fourth and Russ Hamilton of Eldon, Iowa, rounded out the top five.
Over 90 cars
from five states took to the Scotland County Fairgrounds’ half-mile for the
sixth annual Mid-America ½-Mile Nationals on September 18-19, 1981, and Iowans
took home hardware in all four divisions.
duel in the Saturday night Late Model finale saw Rocky Hodges of Des Moines and
Andy Claiborne of Shawnee Mission, Kan., battle throughout the 25-lapper. By
lap 8, both drivers were lapping slower cars in the 18-car field. A lap 15
caution cooled the two hot shoes only momentarily, as when Gene Holt’s
green flag waved again, Claiborne shot to the lead with Hodges hot on his tail.
On lap 21, Hodges would power by Claiborne for the lead and despite some
bumping and banging, would hold on for the win. A disappointed Claiborne would
settle for second. Jerry Pilcher of Bloomfield, Iowa, would sneak by David
Hammond of Camanche, Iowa, on lap 19 for third-place honors. Hammond and Sonny
Findling would round out the top five.
heat winners were Hammond, Claiborne and Hodges. Mike Klinkhammer of West
Branch, Iowa, won the 15-lap semi-main.
DeFrance made the long haul from Marshalltown, Iowa, worthwhile, as he captured
his heat and the 20-lap Sportsman main. DeFrance grabbed the lead from Tim
Swope of Waterloo, Iowa, on lap 4 and continued to pull away for the win. Denny
Banks of Washington, Iowa, would get past Swope to take second while Swope
settled for third. Dick Crane of Palmyra, Ill., and Bruce Hanford of Davenport,
Iowa, took fifth.
Sportsman heat winners were DeFrance, Banks, Swope, and Crane. George Koontz of
Memphis won the semi-main.
of Des Moines led flag to flag in the Hobby Stock finale. Steve McCartney of
Kirksville, Mo., passed Larry DeFrance of Albion, Iowa, midway through the
15-lapper to claim second while DeFrance held on for third. A pair of Quincy,
Ill., drivers, Henry DeLonjay and Rich DeWeese, finished fourth and fifth
Gustin, and DeFrance were Friday night heat winners and Dean Franks of LaBelle,
Mo., was the semi-main winner.
division was added to the Mid-America Nationals with Compact Modifieds also on
the card. Wendell Folkerts of Albia, Iowa, dominated the class, steering his
AMC Gremlin to an easy feature win.
annual Mid-America ½-Mile Nationals would see three new winners in victory lane
as once again, rain shifted the program towards an extra day of competition.
of rain on Friday evening postponed preliminary heat races to Saturday night
and Sunday afternoon featured championship main events. Despite that, the event
drew over 75 cars from four states.
took to the track first on Saturday and heat winners were Henry DeLonjay of
Quincy, Ill., Charley Baker of LaBelle, Mo., and Randy Uppinghouse of Payson,
Claiborne of Shawnee Mission, Kan., would come from his last row starting
position to claim the first Late Model heat and hometown driver Lynn Monroe
roared home to victory in the second. In the third late model heat, Ron
Pallister of Wapello, Iowa, put his Corvette into victory lane.
of Palmyra, Ill., won the first Sportsman heat race while Tim Swope of Elk Run
Heights, Iowa and Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, scored wins in the second
and third heats respectively.
winners on Sunday afternoon were Danny Foxall of Colchester, Ill. (Hobby
Stock), Jim Hollenbeck of Burlington, Iowa (Sportsman) and Corky Roach of St.
Louis, Mo. (Late Model).
see-saw battle to begin the Hobby Stock feature, Randy Uppinghouse would
finally get by Danny Bowen of Hurdland, Mo., on lap 13 and go on to claim the
top prize in that division. Bowen would hang on for second while John Crear of
Middleton, Iowa, would grab third. Rod Smith of Monmouth, Ill., was fourth and
Bruce McCartney of Kirksville, Mo., was fifth.
numerous years of running successfully at the ½-Mile Nationals but no trophy to
show for it, Dick Crane left no doubt that the 15-lap Sportsman championship
feature was his for the taking. Crane led wire-to-wire in a dominating
performance. Tim Swope would give chase but settle for second while Tom Long of
Payson, Ill., finished third. Jim Hollenbeck came from the rear of the field to
grab fourth and Lonnie Heap of Macomb, Ill., took fifth.
Pallister would take home the lion’s share of the Late Model purse by capturing
the 40-lap feature. Pallister, who started inside of the second row, battled
Lynn Monroe early on for the top spot before finally securing the lead and
sailing to victory. Bob Lekander of Burlington, Iowa, would get by Monroe and
take runner-up honors. Bill Beuer of Wapello, Iowa, would also get by Monroe as
the laps were winding down and finish third. Monroe would hold on to fourth
place while Darrel DeFrance of Marshalltown, Iowa, rounded out the top five.
of Carlisle, Iowa, put his AMC Gremlin out front on the first lap of the
Compact Modifie feature and never looked back in winning handily. Terry
Peterson of Agency, Iowa, was second and defending winner Tim Folkerts of
Albia, Iowa, was third.
and results were hard to obtain for the eighth and final Mid-America ½-Mile
Nationals, held on September 16-17, 1982. While no recap was found, Ida May Van
Genderen, who penned a column for Hawkeye
Racing News named “Racing Ramblings” reported that 75 cars were entered in
three divisions of racing.
reported that Friday night was definitely a “heavy coat” night while Saturday
evening was a “shirt sleeve” type of evening. She also reported that the
program moved along quite well on both nights and drivers obeyed starter George
Claiborne of Shawnee Mission, Kan. (Late Model), Dave Birkhofer of Muscatine,
Iowa (Limited Late Model), and Bill Schubert of Burlington, Iowa (Street
Stock), were winners on Saturday night.
Scotland County Speedway, under the direction of promoter Todd Staley, revived
the event, dubbing it "The Mid-America Nationals”, featuring the United States
Modified Touring Series and USRA B-Modifieds, Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks.
Ill. (October 6, 1968) – Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, set fast time in
qualifying at the sixth annual Sterling Midwest Invitational, then went on to
win the 100-lap feature running the last 25 laps on a flat tire.
inner boot, used on many race cars today, prevented Eaker’s tire from going
completely flat and permitted him to pull away in the closing laps of the
all but one of the 100 laps when Don Bohlander of Glasford, Ill., briefly led
one circuit. He collected $1,000 for his victory.
USAC star Herb
Shannon of Peoria, Ill., finished second while Bohlander took third. Jim Gerber
of Long Grove, Iowa, finished fourth, the last competitor to complete the
entire 100-lap distance. Only 18 of the original 30 starters finished the event
that was run without a single caution flag being thrown.
Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, came from his 28th starting position to grab fifth
place in an outstanding display of driving on the dry, slick clay oval. Bill
McDonough of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was equally impressive as he moved from his
26th starting spot to finish sixth.
A total of
66 cars were entered for the Speedbowl Park season finale with 16 drivers
timing in under the 19-second mark on the third-mile oval.
of Des Moines won the 30-lap semi-main while B.J. Higley of Sterling, Ill., won
the 20-lap consolation.
Ind. (October 5, 1980) – Terry Senneker of Wayland, Mich., claimed his
first-ever American Speed Association victory, winning the Dri-Powr 400 at the
historic high-banked Winchester Speedway.
perhaps the wildest of the eleven previous Dri-Power 400 events staged at the
half-mile asphalt speedway.
Senneker finished seven laps ahead of runner-up Ray Young of Dolton, Ill., Senneker
was in third place with just eight laps left remaining – behind race leader
Mike Eddy and second place Mark Martin. However, as the pair entered the first
turn on lap 393, Martin was on the inside, but drifted up into the side of
Eddy, sending both into the wall between turns one and two, sidelining both
Senneker to coast home to an easy win with Young completing 393 circuits for
second. Eddy was third and Martin fourth with 392 laps completed.
eliminated the likes of Bob Senneker, the brother of the winner, Doug Klein,
Jerry Sisco, Dave Brandenburg, Jeff Pflum, Ken Harrison, Dave Jensen, Chuck
Roumell, Bob Strait, Ron Hayes, Randy Sweet and Harold Scott.
there were 15 caution flags for 122 of the 400 laps run.
Martin set a
new record in qualifying with a lap of 15.741 seconds for an average speed of
114.351 mile per hour.
Ill. (October 4, 1970) – A crowd of 3,852 watched Wayne Stallsworth of Denver
Colo., win the fifth annual National Short Track Championship 200-lapper on
Sunday afternoon at Rockford Speedway.
inherited the lead from Bud Helm of Brainerd, Minn., on lap 141 when Helm’s car
developed an ignition problem. Helm had been the dominant car up to that point,
with a 2-lap lead over his nearest competitor.
would lead the remaining 59 circuits and win by a couple of car lengths over
Don James of Bloomington, Minn. Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, the defending race
winner, would claim the final podium spot with a third-place finish.
of the race may have been very different if many things hadn’t happened…
the Rockford point’s champion from Beloit, Wis., pushed Helm for the first 110
laps of the event before he dropped from the race with a broken fuel pump.
and Dick Stang of Prior Lake, Minn., spun out early in the race only to recover
and finish third and fifth respectively. Bob Jusola, the Elko, Minn., champion,
blew a motor as he began moving his way to the front to challenge the leaders.
Marlin Walbeck, the 1967 champion, crashed when he spun out in the oil that
spewed from Jusola’s car.
of Minneapolis set the event’s fast time at 14.58 seconds but the youthful
driver had trouble in the feature when his drive shaft gave out on lap 20.
So much racing history has been made through the years right here in the Midwest.
From the rich dirt ovals in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska to the paved short tracks in Minnesota and Wisconsin, some of the best drivers ever to get behind the wheel of a race car competed right here in the heartland.
We all have our own story to share about our favorite driver who thrilled us everytime they rolled onto the track or that one particular race that still stands out as the greatest they ever saw.
We'll go back in history, 10, 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago (even more) and reminisce about what has made racing in the Midwest so special for us.