Sunday, July 28, 2019

1976 – Steuding Nips Plank on Final Lap

Eau Claire, Wis. (July 28, 1976) - Dick Trickle was the main attraction but the heralded Wisconsin Rapids driver was forced to sit back and watch two dirt drivers battle it out for honors Wednesday night at the River City Raceway.

Trickle, a national record holder, helped pack in a season-high 1,800 fans for the second leg of the 1976 International Late Model Short Track Championship Series of stock car racing.

And the Superamerica-sponsored whiz ran a fine race but at the checkered flag, he was well behind winner Tom Steuding of Altoona and runner-up Leon Plank of Mondovi.

For Steuding and Plank, the finish was a repeat of the June Invitational here, but Wednesday’s 40-lapper was not decided until the final lap. After exchanging the lead throughout the race, the two ran neck and neck in the final five laps.

On the south turn of the last lap, Plank, the Flying Farmer and 1974 series champion, slid high with Steuding getting inside to take the lead on the backstretch and then held it as he passed flagman Jack Rada's victory stand, winning by about a car length

Even with the presence of Trickle, Steuding’s victory came as little surprise. For the White Knight of Wisconsin dirt track circles, it was his 20th feature win of the season and boosted him into the lead in the series which he won a year ago.

Steuding's time of 12 minutes and 59 seconds easily set a new 40-lap record on a record setting night and he got away with $1,000 first place money, Plank pocketing $700 for second. Trickle came to town with the reputation as the #1 short track racer in North America with over 400 feature wins, including 67 in one season.

But nearly all of his winnings came on half mile, asphalt tracks, in contrast to the quarter mile dirt track of the raceway here. Despite the change in atmosphere. Trickie showed his class.

After running a fifth best time trial of 17.53 seconds, he started inside on the third row, ran sixth early in the race only to work his way up to a solid third place finish passing track point leader Red Steffen on lap 38 to claim $500 prize money.

Steffen, who started inside on the fourth row, also ran a good race and wound up fourth to pocket $400 while Punky Manor of Altoona, the polesitter, came in fifth and checked out with $300.

Manor gained the pole with a sensational 17.31 second time trial run, setting a new track record as the first eight times bettered the old standard. Manor lost the feature race lead to Plank on the second lap, however, and Steuding. charging from his outside start in the second row, took command on the seventh lap.

Plank roared into the lead on lap 10 with Manor second but Steuding gained the runner-up position at the mid-point of the race and then moved ahead of Plank on lap 27 with Trickle passing Manor to take fourth place.

On the 32nd lap. Plank passed Steuding, setting the stage for the neck-and-neck dash to the flag. While Trickle moved into third, neither Steuding or Plank could take command until the final lap when Steuding made his victory move.

The victory pushed Steuding into the series lead with 375 points, five more than Johnny Jones of Thunder Bay, Ont., who finished 12th in the feature.

Bob Saterdalen, who finished eighth in the feature, ranks third with 350; Brent Larson of Cumberland is fourth with 340 and Steffen is fifth with 325. Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, winner of the first series event at Superior earlier this month, finished far down and dropped to tenth in the standings.

In all, there were 27 late models in the competition, 18 running in the feature event.

Results –

1. Tom Steuding, Altoona, Wis.
2. Leon Plank, Mondovi, Wis.
3. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
4. Red Steffen, Eau Claire, Wis.
5. Punky Manor, Altoona, Wis.
6. Don Berger, Mondovi, Wis.
7. Tom Nesbitt, Thunder Bay, Ontario
8. Bob Saterdalen, Oronoco, Wis.
9. Gary Dorn, Altoona, Wis.
10.Phil Prusak, Eau Claire, Wis.

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