By Kyle Ealy
– 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 County Speedway
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.