Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The 1968 IMCA Winter National Sprints

Al Sweeney and National Speedways, Inc., welcome fans and drivers during opening ceremonies for the 1968 IMCA Winter Nationals at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

By Kyle Ealy
Tampa, Fla. (February 7-17, 1968) – The five-event IMCA Winter National Sprints in February of 1968 would prove to be a two-man show as Bobby Adamson of Coraopolis, Penn., and Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., would split a pair of features at the Florida State Fairgrounds’ half-mile with Adamson, in his first trip down south, winning the overall title.

Richert, a three-time IMCA national sprint car champion, would win the series’ opener on Wednesday, February 7, winning the 30-lap feature and collecting $600 on a dusty afternoon at the Fairgrounds.

A gamble on the last restart proved to be the difference for Richert. The gamble was Richert could take the high road and fortunately there was just enough weight to the dirt to give him the acceleration to power his Frank Wagner Chevy past Jerry “Haircut” Lepinski of St. Paul, Minn.

Lepinski, the fastest qualifier at 27.86 seconds on the half-mile, settled for second while Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., took third. Ralph Parkinson Sr. of Wichita Falls, Tex., and Gus Linder of Pittsburgh would round out the top five.

Happy about the win, but not too pleased with track conditions, Richert said after his victory that he would, “I sure would like to see them let us use knobs so we could show the fans the way the races use to be."

Heat winners were Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn., Earl Halaquist of Sidney, N.Y., and Barry Kettering of St. Paul, Minn. Wayne Reutimann of Zephyr Hills, Fla., would win the consolation.
Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., won two IMCA sprint car features during the IMCA Winter Nationals.

Richert would find the track to his liking again three days later, February 10, as he scored his second straight IMCA sprint car win. With a little better racing surface, Richert was winding the half-mile so tightly that he actually turned in times three seconds faster than the quickest laps turned in previous time trials.

At the end of the 30-lap event, Richert had a straightaway advantage over second-place car Gus Linder, the Pittsburgh flash, who had worked his way from his seventh starting position. Pole-sitter Jerry Lepinski took third followed by Bobby Adamson and Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio.

Richert started on the inside of the second row and quickly drifted to top of the track, where he turned loose every horse in his engine. He was in front, going down the backstretch and after that it was just a case of who was going to finish second.

There would be a close call when a caution flag would come out on lap 17, costing Richert his quarter-lap lead. Starter Johnny Hicks, thinking the track was clear, waved the green and the field charged towards the first turn, only to find two tow trucks still parked there. Richert narrowly avoided the trucks and when coming back down the homestretch, shook an accusing finger at Hicks for almost costing him the race.

Richert, Karl Busson of Toledo, Ohio, and Don Nordhorn of Mitchell, Ind., were heat winners Earl Halaquist of Sidney, N.Y., won the consolation.

Bobby Adamson, who brought a great set of credentials with him on his first trip to Tampa, had a little “Lady Luck” to win the 30-lap feature on Sunday afternoon, February 11.

Adamson took the checkered with Jerry Richert charging at his tailpipes, and Ray Tilley right behind him.

Time trials turned everything topsy turvy, putting some of the favorites out of contention early. The fastest single lap was recorded by Richert at 27.22 seconds with Bill Roynon of Tampa second fastest at 27.24 seconds.

Roynon would take the lead at the start of the feature and once hee was settled in, took the middle of a very narrow groove on the track. Richert would attempt to pass Roynon on the straights but was never able to get the nose of his car more than even with the rear tire of Roynon’s. As Roynon was receiving starter Johnny Hick’s cross flags signaling the halfway point of the race, the crankshaft on Roynon’s car broke.

As Roynon’s sprinter swerved, he nicked Richert, who swung to the outside on the backstretch and Adamson shot through on the inside to take over the lead. That was the end as far as the race was concerned. The groove was too narrow for anyone to pass on and Adamson cruised to victory.

“It looked to me that Jerry bumped him,” Adamson said, describing the incident afterwards. “Jerry swerved to the outside to avoid hitting Bill and I got past him on the inside. If Jerry had gotten in front right then, I would have never been able to get by him. The groove was just too narrow.”

It was a relatively quiet race day, lacking the flurry of spinouts like the first two days of racing.  The quick development of the narrow groove provided little passing. Once the green flag waved and the cars cleared the first turn, they settled in and the race took the shape of a parade.

Dale Reed of Wichita, Kan., Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., and Al Murie of Kansas City were heat winners while Bill Roynon took the consolation prize.

The only race that Adamson or Richert wouldn’t win would be the fourth event on Wednesday afternoon, February 14. Benny Rapp of Toledo, Ohio, normally right at home on pavement, showed ‘em he could win on dirt as well in winning the 30-lapper and a $600 paycheck.

It would be another dusty and rough afternoon for the drivers as the dry, rough surface would eliminate some of IMCA’s top sprint car stars. 1967 IMCA national champion Karl Busson, Buzz Barton, Wayne Reutimann and Bill Roynon weren’t even fast enough to qualify for the main event.

The 40-year-old Rapp would start on the pole but it was two-time winner Jerry Richert jumping out to the lead from his outside starting front row position and leading the race for the first 15 laps. A broken drive line would send Richert to the pit area, giving Rapp, who had been choking on Richert’s dust, the top spot. Rapp stayed there without much challenge the rest of the way.

Gus Linder, who had passed more cars in the four meets to date, would finish second followed by Ralph Parkinson Sr, Bobby Black of Middletown, Ohio and Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn.

The tricky half-mile proved many a guesser wrong as it started out fast but ended up slow.

A filthy, dirty Rapp complained that he couldn’t see through the clouds of dust in the turns. In fact, the dust throughout the whole program became so bad that the consolation had to be red-flagged after one lap and the water wagons would be sent out to re-water the track. The moisture wouldn’t last long and the race had to be cut from 10 laps to 8.

Bobby Adamson, Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio, and Jay Woodside of Kansas City scored heat wins while Gus Linder won the shortened consolation.
Bobby Adamson scored two victories at the 1968 IMCA Winter Nationals, including the 50-lap finale.

Bobby Adamson would win his second Winter National Sprints feature, the 50-lap finale that saw two drivers go to the local hospital with injuries.

The injured drivers were Ralph Parkinson Sr. and Hank Smith of Mt. Ayr, Iowa, both flipping on the second lap of the main event.  

The wipeout of the first two cars in the feature put Jerry Richert in front of the field at the start where he would lead the first four circuits. Gus Linder would pass Richert on lap 5 and lead the next four laps before Adamson, who started in 11th, powered past him for the lead, and was ahead to stay for the remaining 40 laps.

It had been a slow start to the day for Adamson, who turned in poor times in qualifying, so he had to start a little farther back in the field. But his wheels were shod right before the feature and he was able to blow by cars in what was his own private groove on the topside of a near-perfect track.

Adamson, Richert and Karl Busson grabbed heat wins and Don Nordhorn nabbed the consolation.

Al Sweeney, president of National Speedways, Inc., credited track superintendent Joe Aiken with finding the solution on the last day of racing. Water was applied all night and then three tons of calcium chloride was spread to keep it wet and dust free. Probably something today’s promoter wouldn’t be able to get away with.

Sweeney said total attendance for the five-day meet was 38,592, 105 below 1967’s all-time record attendance, but Sweeney mentioned that it was 10 degrees cooler than the previous year.

Results –

February 7

1.    Jerry Richert, Forest Lake, Minn.
2.    Jerry Lepinski, St. Paul, Minn.
3.    Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo.
4.    Ralph Parkinson, Wichita Falls, Tex.
5.    Gus Linder, Pittsburgh, Penn.
6.    Bob Adamson, Coraopolis, Penn.
7.    Karl Busson, Toledo, Ohio
8.    Ray Tilley, Clearfield, Ohio
9.    Chuck Lynch, Springfield, Ill.
10.   Earl Halaquist, Sidney, N.Y.

February 10

1.    Jerry Richert
2.    Gus Linder
3.    Jerry Lepinski
4.    Bob Adamson
5.    Darl Harrison, Tiffin, Ohio
6.    Karl Busson
7.    Bill Roynon, Tampa, Fla.
8.    Buzz Barton, Tampa, Fla.
9.    Don Nordhorn, Mitchell, Ind.
10.  Ray Tilley

February 11

1.    Bobby Adamson
2.    Jerry Richert
3.    Ray Tilley
4.    Ray Lee Goodwin, Raytown, Mo.
5.    Harold Leep, Wichita, Kan.
6.    Don Nordhorn
7.    Karl Busson
8.    Chuck Lynch
9.    Bob Black, Middletown, Ohio
10.    Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
February 14

1.    Benny Rapp, Toledo, Ohio
2.    Gus Linder
3.    Ralph Parkinson
4.    Bobby Black
5.    Ray Tilley
6.    Lee Kunzman, Guttenberg, Iowa
7.    Charley Masters, Waddy, Ky.
8.    Gordon Woolley, Waco, Tex.
9.    Whitey Harmon, Blue Springs, Mo.
     10.   J.D. Leas, Quaker City, Ohio

February 17

1.    Bobby Adamson
2.    Ray Tilley
3.    Jerry Richert
4.    Don Nordhorn
5.    Earl Halaquist
6.    Jerry Weld, Kansas City
7.    Jerry Blundy
8.    Jon Backlund, Kansas City
9.    Al Murie, Kansas City
10.   Darl Harrison

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Tiny Lund Memorial: Honoring the Big Man


by Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - On August 17, 1975, racing lost one of its down-home heroes when Tiny Lund was killed as a result of an accident at the Talladega Super Speedway. The gentle giant from Harlan, Iowa was a crowd favorite. He became a legend in 1963 pulling Marvin Panch from a burning sports car at Daytona, then taking Panch’s place driving the Woods Brothers #21 and winning the Daytona 500.

In 1975, four days before his fatal accident at Talladega, Lund won a race at the Summerville Speedway in South Carolina called the Patriot 200. To honor Lund’s memory the race became known as the “Tiny Lund Memorial.” In 1976, Ray Allison won the race renamed the “Tiny Lund Memorial.” Dirt Late Model legend Buck Simmons won in 1977, Al Bailey in 1978 and another Dirt Late Model legend Freddy Smith in 1979.
The Fifth Annual Tiny Lund Memorial saw the first repeat winner as Baldwin, Georgia’s Buck Simmons got by Larry Moore with just eleven laps remaining and drove to a three second victory in the 100-lap affair. Moore finished second with Rodney Combs, Jack Pennington and Sammy Sommers rounding out the top five.
Moore, who started on the pole was the dominate car in the event, leading the most laps before brake problems in the final stages of the races allowed Simmons to make his move. Another strong challenger was Freddy Smith who was battling the leaders when he was pinched high by Mike Head and was eliminated from competition. Qualifying race winners were; Sommers, Billy Manor, Leon Archer and Haskell Willingham.
Larry Moore
The 1981 Tiny Lund Memorial could be called “turnaround is fair play” as Larry Moore returned to the Summerville Speedway and this time would not be denied. Moore put his Tri-City Camaro out front at the start and stayed there the whole 100 laps in picking up a nine second win over his teammate and ironically the driver who defeated him the previous year, Buck Simmons. Moore pocketed $3,300 for the victory.
Tire wear played a major part in the outcome of the race as several drivers’ tires went away in the late stages.  In the early stages of the race Moore managed to stay just ahead of a tight scramble behind him which included Leon Archer, Jack Pennington, Buck Simmons, Mike Duvall and Charley Powell III.

As the race wore on, Moore was able to charge to the finish line and win by a comfortable margin while several earlier challengers faded. Simmons held on for second, Pennington finished third with Leon Archer fourth and Powell III getting around Duvall for fifth on the last lap. Archer and Duvall admitted after the race that they had their tires mixed up and had the wrong compound on.
One driver who was unable to make a run at a repeat win was Kings Mountain, North Carolina’s Freddie Smith. The 1979 race winner destroyed his B & D Boilers Camaro in practice, the result of a stuck throttle which sent him slamming into the third turn retaining wall. Smith’s car was a total loss.
Freddie Smith

It seems that to win the Tiny Lund Memorial you first must have bad luck the year before. Larry Moore proved that concept in 1981 and Freddy Smith proved it in 1982.
Smith started things off by out qualifying the field as he posted a lap of 17.217 seconds around the 4/10ths mile oval. Starting on the pole, the driver who became known as “The Southern Gentleman” then led the 100-lap main event from start to finish.
Smith’s win was not a cakewalk however, as he was constantly pressured by Larry Moore and Jack Pennington as the trio weaved through slower traffic. At the end Smith’s margin of victory was just 1.7 second over Moore with Jack Pennington finishing third and Fulmer Lance fourth.

The race turned out to be one of little attrition as 19 of the 26 starters were running at the finish, the most of any of the seven Tiny Lund’s held up to that time. One contender you did not last long was two-time race winner Buck Simmons. The 1977 & 1980 race winner lasted just 19 laps before the engine in his Firebird expired.
Misfortune would once again decide the outcome of the Tiny Lund Memorial in 1983. Buck Simmons looked like the races’ first three-time winner, as after out qualifying the field with a lap of 17.491 seconds Simmons was leading the race on lap 71 when his Barry Wright #41 misfired going down the backstretch and coasted to a stop in turn three.
Buck Simmons
The magneto in Simmons’ engine had broken leaving him without power. Second running Jack Pennington of North Charleston, South Carolina, always in the mix for a win at the Tiny Lund assumed the lead and drove his B & D Boilers Firebird to the win and a check for $5,000.
Finishing right on Pennington’s bumper was another car sponsored by Beadie Lynch’s B & D Boilers in the person of two-time race winner Freddy Smith. Larry Moore finished third, Leon Sells fourth and Mike Head fifth. Head had earlier won the consolation race which earned him a starting spot near the end of the 23-car starting field.
While Simmons had dominated the race, at the start outside pole sitter Fulmer Lance had gotten the jump on him only to surrender the lead to Simmons in turn four. Lance then started to fade as Pennington passed him two laps later. Lance had tire issues throughout the race and finished ninth. At the halfway mark it was Simmons, Pennington, Moore and Smith. After Simmons left the race, Smith got by Moore on lap 83, taking second with Sells getting by Head in lapped traffic late in the race for fourth.
Fate or luck one again played a part in the outcome of the 1984 edition of the Tiny Lund. Larry Moore, then racing out of Seneca, South Carolina avoided a major accident on lap 30 and then held off the late race charge of Rome, Georgia’s Buddy Morris to become the races third two-time winner.

Jack Pennington was leading the race on lap 30 and working his way through lapped traffic when a multi-car accident was triggered that eliminated race leader Pennington with major front-end damage. The accident also took out second running Lee McCallister and damaged the car of fourth running Freddy Smith. Moore, running third at the time just barely slipped through the mud on the low side and assumed the lead.
When the race resumed, Moore was able to open a good-sized lead over second place Ricky Brant. Meanwhile, Smith had returned to the race after making repairs, but was caught up in a battle with Hal McGraw. On lap 74, Morris moved around Brant for second and started to chase down Moore. A lap 84 caution tightened the field up and although Morris was all over Moore he could not get around as Moore picked up his second Tiny Lund Memorial. Morris was second, Brant third, Al Bailey fourth and Charley Powell III fifth.
The 1985 version of the race was sanctioned by the NASCAR Busch All Star Tour Super Series and Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Ronnie Johnson making his first visit to Summerville out charged pole sitter Gene Chupp into the lead at the drop of the green and lead the entire 100 laps to pick up the win. “I’ve always wanted to come to this race, now I wish I had been coming before, exclaimed Johnson after the race.
Chupp ran second until about the halfway point of the race when local favorite Charlie Powell III powered by as Chupp went high. Powell III was able to keep pace with Johnson until the end of the race when Johnson was able to put more distance between the two. Powell was happy with his second-place finish and noted after the race “We did pretty good for having a 350 motor against his 402, but the car was pushing so bad I couldn’t turn it from lap 40 on.”
Mike Head finished third and Chupp fourth. Two drivers who made valiant efforts but came up short were Mike Duvall who charged from 11th to fifth only to have a flat tire and Buddy Morris, who after spinning out went to the tail and charged back to sixth.“We ran well at Summerville,” Freddy Smith recently recalled. “Because we done so well there, it led to us getting Beadie Lynch as a sponsor.”
Following the 1986 racing season, the Summerville Speedway was paved and remained a NASCAR weekly racing series track for years to come. But by 2004 it was struggling to draw fans and the track was closed and sold to the Landcraft Development Company ending a four-decade run as the place to be on Saturday nights.