Wednesday, October 31, 2018

1949: The First Year of the IMCA Stock Car Series

Eddie Anderson of Grinnell, Iowa
1949 IMCA Stock Car Champion

By Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - In the last few years, considerable effort has been given to documenting the early years of NASCAR. What many fans are unaware of is that before IMCA became a grass roots racing series famous for its sanctioning of over 100 weekly racing tracks across the country, it had a stock car series that for many years rivaled its southern counterpart, NASCAR.

The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), organized in 1915, is the oldest active automobile racing sanctioning body in the United States.  J. Alex Sloan, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., was instrumental in establishing the IMCA, and for years ran more races than all other promoters in the United States combined, all under IMCA sanction.

 After Sloan’s death in 1937, his son John continued the IMCA tradition.  Under his leadership, IMCA continued to grow and reports suggest that IMCA held its first late model stock car race on November 9, 1947 in Lubbock, Tex. Certainly, the first recorded season of IMCA stock cars was 1949.

Today, late models are all specially constructed frames, mass produced on a jig at a chassis companies such as Rocket, MastersBilt, GRT or whomever. In 1949, when IMCA conducted its first year of stock car racing, many of the cars were ordinary passenger cars were driven to the track with license plates remaining on the car during the race.

 As you will see in this story, many car companies were represented, some of which have been all but forgotten. What’s a Kaiser-Frasier you ask, how about a Willy’s? A Nash won several stock car races, you have to be kidding!

Information about that first IMCA stock car season is certainly not complete, but while no points were kept, we do know that it is well documented that Eddie Anderson of Grinnell, Iowa was declared the first IMCA stock car champion.

The first race of the season was held at the Mid-America Fairgrounds on May 30, which became the traditional Topeka Memorial Day Race.  Bob McKim of Salina, Kan., won the 200-lap feature in an Oldsmobile 88 owned by Ron Rice. Ray Rutman finished second, Eldon Burkeholder took third and Frank Winkley was fourth.

Winkley and his wife Verna would later form Auto Racing, Inc. (ARI) and for many years promoted IMCA events. The other group that promoted IMCA sanctioned events for years was National Speedways, Inc. led by Al Sweeney.
Herschel Buchanan receive congratulations from IMCA promoter Al Sweeney.

It is also reported that Hershel Buchanan of Shreveport, Louisiana won a race at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds in a Nash on the same day that may have been an IMCA sanctioned event. Buchanan had spent a number of years racing in the IMCA big car (sprint car) division prior to racing stock cars. In 1950 and 1951 Buchanan won the IMCA stock car championship.

On July 4, the IMCA stock cars ran a 200-lap race at the Kansas State Fairgrounds at Hutchinson with McKim leading 96 laps in his 1940 Oldsmobile 88 (which carried the number 88), prevailing again before 8,000 fans. Norm Horn finished second, Jim Roper third, Herschel Buchanan fourth and Don Smith fifth.

Also, in the field was Nick Nachicas. Nachicas would later work for Winkley and ARI serving as an announcer of IMCA events for many years.

As for Jim Roper, that’s the same Jim Roper from Halstead, Kan., that won the first ever NASCAR strictly stock car race on June 19, 1949 at the three quarter-mile Charlotte Speedway. Roper pulled a Lincoln all the way to Charlotte, N.C., and ran second to Glenn Dunaway. Roper was awarded the win when Dunaway was disqualified for illegal use of rear springs.

As for Dunaway…

The first National Speedways, Inc., sanctioned stock car race took place on August 20, 1949 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa with Glen Dunaway of North Carolina winning in an Oldsmobile. Yes, the same Glenn Dunaway that was disqualified at Charlotte.
A tremendous crowd of 14,000 jam-packed the All-Iowa Fair grandstand and watched Dunaway push his black 1949 Oldsmobile coupe around the half-mile 200 times in 2 hours and 22 minutes. He finished two laps ahead of Herschel Buchanan.
"Wild" Bill Harrison of Topeka, Kan. - Photo courtesy of Troy Harrison

On August 21, Wild Bill Harrison of Topeka, Kansas drove his Lincoln to the 200-lap feature win at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, before 7,052 curious fans. Glen Dunaway followed in an Oldsmobile with Buchanan third in his 46’ Nash. The race took 2 hours, 9 minutes and 30 seconds to complete.

August 23 saw the series back at Topeka, Jim Roper of Great Bend, Kansas winning a 200-lap feature in a Lincoln.  Three days later, on August 26, Herschel Buchanan drove his Nash to victory at the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls.

On September 1, 1949, Anderson came alive and drove his 1949 Mercury to a 200-lap victory at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines defeating highly touted Herschel Buchanan.  The car Anderson drove had been wrecked in a highway accident near Grinnell, and Anderson took possession of the car from the insurance company only five days before the race.

On September 2, at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Tom Adelman of Minneapolis drove his 1948 Kaiser-Fraiser to a win in the 200-lap event. Bill Harrison in a Lincoln and Wally Dahl in a Ford finished second and third.

Eddie Anderson scored another win on September 4, at the All-Iowa Fair in Cedar Rapids, Jack Morgan of Duenwig, Mo., ran second driving a 1941 Mercury with Dick Hobel of Cedar Rapids third in a Buick and Harlan Young of Anamosa, Iowa fourth in a 1940 Willys. 

Herschel Buchanan, who set fast time by blistering the half-mile in 34.765 seconds, finished fifth after making a couple of pit stops. Anderson’s winning time was 2 hours, 10 minutes and 35 seconds.
IMCA Stock Cars roll down the front stretch at the Nebraska State Fair. A standing room only crowd eagerly awaits the action.

On September 9, at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln, Eddie Anderson continued his winning ways once again taking a 200-lap win pocketing $500 for his efforts. Herschel Buchanan brought his Nash home second, Wayne Selzer of Omaha was third in a Ford and open-wheel ace Frank Luptow ran fourth.

Anderson kept his streak going by winning the 200-lap race at Topeka, Kansas on October 2. He then added yet another win on October 9 back at Hawkeye Downs where he completed the 200-lap affair in 2 hours and 20 minutes with Don Fischer in a '46 Ford finishing second and Sonny Ebsen in a '41 Mercury third.

The final event of the season was run on October 26 at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds in Shreveport with Buddy Keith winning in a 1939 Lincoln. For a good part of the 29 years that the IMCA stock car series raced, the series started the season and ended the season in Shreveport.

There were several other IMCA events that were reported ran in 1949, but no reliable information is available on those events. In the end, we know that Eddie Anderson in his wrecked '49 Mercury was the class of the field and usually had to battle Herschel Buchanan in his Nash for the win.

The IMCA stock car series grew to be the leading series in the Midwest for many years and in the beginning rivaled NASCAR. IMCA races at the various state fairs routinely drew 20,000 or more fans. Ernie Derr became a legend in the series, winning 12 IMCA national stock car championships, but in the end the series faded into history with 1977 being its last year of competition.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

1981 – Schacht Score ARCA Win at Nashville

Bob Schact

Nashville, Tenn. (October 18, 1981) – Bob Schacht of Lombard, Ill., grabbed the victory in the Nashville ARCA 100 at Nashville International Raceway.
The event was moved to Sunday afternoon after the rain washed out the program on Saturday night. Only the time trials got in under the threatening skies.
The rain also played havoc for Billie Harvey, the current world record holder in a stock car. He would set a new track record on Saturday evening with a time of 20.54 seconds, erasing Marvin Smith’s 1979 record of 20.79 seconds.
Harvey had a commitment to compete in an All-Pro event on Sunday and wasn’t able to race against the ARCA stars.
This put Schacht on the pole by virtue second fastest time in qualifying. Schacht led until lap 51 when he pitted under caution to replace a flat rear right tire. Chicago’s Bob Dotter, the 1980 ARCA champion, then inherited the lead when the green flag reappeared.
Dotter, Smith and 1981 ARCA champ Larry Moyer ran nose to tail for the next 40 circuits, with Schacht slowly making his way back to the front of the field.
On lap 77, Bobby Jacks blew an engine and took 19-year-old Jerry Bowman with him into the turn one wall. The red flag was displayed, putting Schacht five cars behind the leader.
Schacht, who made his move to get by the next three cars shortly after the red flag period, moved up on Dotter’s bumper on lap 92. He then moved into the lead when Dotter’s throttle linkage broke and went on to victory.
A total of 34 cars were on hand.

Results –

1.    Bob Schacht
2.    Marvin Smith
3.    Larry Moyer
     4.    Scott Stovall
5.    Wayne Carden
6.    Bill Green
7.    David Sisco
8.    Larry Smith
9.    Bob Dotter
10.  Lee Raymond
11.  Jack Wallace
12.  Sandy Satullo
13.  Jerry Churchill
14.  Terry Stineman
15.  Tom Meinberg
16.  Bill Rasinen
17.  George Wiltshire
18.  Charlie Paxton
19.  Steve Spencer
20.  Bobby Jacks
21.  Jerry Bowman
22.  Tom Hilbert
23.  Ned Tracy
24.  Curtis Payne
25.  Tony Cunningham
26.   Jim Vaughan
27.   Gerald Satterfield
28.   Bob Slawinski
29.   Junior Tinney
30.   Bill Pack

Thursday, October 11, 2018

1980 - Missouri Mains to Niffenegger, Jackson

Holts Summit, Mo. (October 11, 1980) – The 1980 racing season came to an action-packed end at Capital Speedway when over 65 late models competed in the Goodyear Missouri Nationals.
Time trials, qualifying heats, and a handicap race were held on Friday night. On Saturday night, two consolation races were followed by twin 50-lap features.
Ken Walton of Viola, Iowa, set a new track record, turning the 3/8-mile in 20 seconds flat.
The six fastest qualifiers, Ken Walton, Kevin Gundaker of St. Louis, Dick Schiltz of Waterloo, Iowa, Leon Plank of Eau Claire, Wis., Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa, and Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, competed in a six-lap handicap race with Niffenegger posting a flag-to-flag victory.
Ron Fisher of Centuria, Ill., and Dalton Walker of Curryville, Mo., won their respective consolation races on Saturday night, enabling them to enter the field for the twin 50-lap features.
In the first feature race, Ken Walton jumped to an early lead when the green flag dropped with Kevin Gundaker right behind. Gundaker would take the lead on lap 4 and maintained it for the next 15 circuits until bowing again to Walton. Gundaker, charging hard, got together with Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, between turns three and four and had to be towed to the pit area with front end damage.
Walton continued to lead the field for the next 25 laps but the victory wasn’t to be his. A broken spring would slow Walton with only five laps to go allowing Mike Niffenegger to inherit the top spot and go home with the $1,000 paycheck and trophy. Walton would settle for second with Billy Moyer Jr. of Des Moines in third, Ron Jackson in fourth and Ken Schrader of Fenton, Mo., in fifth.
The second feature saw the top six finishers of the first 50-lapper inverted in the front of the field with the other late model competitors filling in according to their finish in the first feature.
Ken Schrader took the lead at the green with Ron Jackson a close second. Jackson would charge ahead on lap 4 only to lose the top spot to Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa, for one lap. Jackson would get by Martin on lap 6 and hold it for the final 44 tours to take home the other $1,000 check and trophy.
For the second time that evening, Ken Walton found himself finishing second with Niffenegger, Schrader, and Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., rounding out the top five.

Results –

Feature #1 –

1. Mike Niffenegger, Kalona, Iowa
2. Ken Walton, Viola, Iowa
3. Bill Moyer Jr., Des Moines
4. Ron Jackson, Burlington, Iowa
5. Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo.
6. Bill Martin, Council Bluffs, Iowa
7. Leon Plank, Eau Claire, Wis.
8. Vic Bentlage, Jefferson City, Mo.
9. Dick Taylor, Springfield, Ill.
10. Johnny Johnson, Morning Sun, Iowa
11. Ed Knaebel, Jefferson City, Mo.
12. Joe Kosiski, Omaha, Neb.
13. Larry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.
14. Gene Claxton, Kansas City
15. Brian Leslie, Hamilton, Ill.
16. Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
17. John Connolly, Delhi, Iowa
18. Len Gittemeier, St. Charles, Mo.
19. Dan Dickey, Packwood, Iowa
20. Ed Gray, Jefferson City, Mo.
21. Galen Schaefer, Topeka, Kan.
22. Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
23. Mike Barbeau, Bridgeton, Mo.
24. Shorty Ackers, Windsor Heights, Mo.
25. Rick Kimberling, Slater, Mo.
26. Steve Keppler, Marion, Iowa
27. Dick Schiltz, Waterloo, Iowa
28. Dalton Walker, Curryville, Mo.

Feature #2 –

1. Ron Jackson
2. Ken Walton
3. Mike Niffenegger
4. Ken Schrader
5. Larry Phillips
6. Ed Knaebel
7. Steve Keppler
8. Galen Schaefer
9. Billy Moyer Jr.
10. Brian Leslie

Thursday, October 4, 2018

1975 – Hansen Cops Omaha $$$

Omaha, Neb. (October 4, 1975) – Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa, won the fourth annual Cornhusker-Hawkeye Challenge on Saturday night at Sunset Speedway.
Hansen, who was point champion for the second consecutive year at Oskaloosa, Iowa, picked up his fourth recent big win of the season. His earlier big wins were at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cresco, Iowa and Marshalltown, Iowa.
Hansen, driving the familiar blue #9 Camaro, joins fellow Iowans Verlin Eaker and Darrell Dake, both of Cedar Rapids as Cornhusker-Hawkeye Challenge champions as well as last year’s winner Bill Martin of Council Bluffs.
The race was marred by a chain-reaction crash earl in the evening when Omahan Tom Yocum lost control after he was hit and slid into the crowded infield.
Yocum’s car hit another, which pinned Jefferson, Iowa, driver Rich Lyon and Robert McPherson, also of Jefferson, between two cars. Lyons, point champion at Alta, Iowa, was rushed to an Omaha hospital but died two hours later from massive internal injuries.
It was the first death ever recorded at Sunset Speedway in its 19 years of existence.

McPherson remained hospitalized in fair condition with lacerations to the head and a fractured left leg. He was expected to be hospitalized for several months.
Kent Tucker of Aurora, Neb., who won his heat race by a substantial margin and was the Nebraska driver favored in the race, took the lead in the 100-lap main event, but on lap 3 his left front wheel broke forcing him to the sidelines. Tucker was point champion at Lincoln, Neb. and Hastings, Neb., and winner of Nebraska’s Triple Crown race held a couple of weeks earlier at Sunset.
The race would hold the fans in suspense as Hansen and Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, would deliver a see-saw battle for the top spot throughout the race. Hansen would lead a total of 55 laps while Sanger held the top spot for 43 go-rounds. Finally, Hansen would secure the point for good on lap 79 and never look back.
The only red flag occurred on lap 72 when Em Fretheim of Decorah, Iowa, climbed the north wall in turn four.
Bill Martin, the defending race winner, had engine trouble on lap 28 and dropped from the race.
Only 13 of 22 starters finished the feature. Of the 22 starters, only six were Nebraskans. The invading Iowans outshined their neighbors and things are expected to be as tough when the Iowa chauffeurs return to Sunset for the Spring Invitational in April.

Results –

Heat #1 – Dan Dickey, Packwood, Iowa
Heat #2 – Kent Tucker, Aurora, Neb.
Heat #3 – Red Dralle, Waterloo, Iowa
Heat #4 – Curt Hansen, Dike, Iowa
Heat #5 – Don Hoffman, Des Moines
Heat #6 – Jerry Wancewicz, Omaha
Consolation #1 – Em Fretheim, Decorah, Iowa
Consolation #2 – Joe Merryfield, Des Moines
Feature –

1.   Curt Hansen
2.   Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
3.   Duane Steffe, Colona, Ill.
4.   Bob Kosiski, Omaha
5.   Karl Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
6.   Joe Merryfield
7.   Dan Dickey
8.   Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo, Iowa
9.   Stan Stover, Delhi, Iowa
10. Phil Reese, Des Moines
11. Don Stysdal, David City, Neb.
12. Curt Houge, Ames, Iowa
13. Ed Morris, Council Bluffs, Iowa
14. Denny Hovinga, Laurens, Iowa
15. Ken Walton, Viola, Iowa

Monday, October 1, 2018

1978 - Old Car a Winner for O'Conner in Kankakee Clay Track 100

Kankakee, Ill. (October 1, 1978) – Jim O’Conner climbed back into his old Camaro and captured his second straight Northern Illinois Clay Track Championship 100-lap feature for late models at the Kankakee Fairgrounds Speedway on Sunday.
John Provenzano set a track qualifying record to earn the pole position for the main event and soared into the lead which he maintained until lap 36 when O’Conner took charge.
O’Conner remained on top until Provenzano regained the lead on a restart following a caution period on lap 49.
However, O’Conner never let Provenzano establish a comfortable margin and charged back in front by using the inside groove to pass the Glen Ellyn, Ill., pilot on lap 62.
Once in front, O’Conner easily outdistanced his foes the rest of the way to pick up the victory with Provenzano, Bill Davis, and Denny Falkos, who finished second through fourth respectively, the only other drivers to complete all 100 circuits.
Mechanical difficulties sidelined three top contenders, Al Johnson, Arnie Gardner, and Ken Pohlman. Johnson, who had earlier won the trophy dash, bowed out after 30 laps; Gardner, the defending Kankakee late model driving king, lasted 35 circuits; and Pohlman, in the car O’Conner had originally planned to drive, dropped out after 92 rounds.

Results –

1.    Jim O’Conner, Kankakee, Ill.
2.    John Provenzano, Glen Ellyn, Ill.
3.    Bill Davis, Chesterton, Ind.
4.    Denny Falkos, Aurora, Ill.
5.    Dick Potts, Morocco, Ind.
6.    Bobby Shell, Clifton, Ill.
7.    Ken Widdes, Chicago
8.    Cary Dehm, Chatsworth, Ill.
9.    Fred Shickel, Peoria, Ill.
10.   Larry Owen, Rensselaer, Ind.