Monday, July 29, 2019

1992 - Grim’s Fame Goes Round and Round

Bobby Grim

Rock Rapids, Iowa (July 29, 1992) - There is a little town in central Iowa where some would argue the bravest athletes in the world are honored.

Each August this town of 8,000 people quadruples in size with anticipation for one of the greatest spectacles in sports. The Knoxville Sprint Car Nationals are a site. To put this event into words is a reach; but I’ll try and do it justice.

It is four of the hottest, muggiest, fastest, muddiest, dirtiest, rainiest, most exhilarating days you could ever imagine. Many wouldn't miss it for the world; and once you’ve been there to see the spectacle, it's hard to walk away from ever again.

When you step on the grounds of the Marion County Fairgrounds in Knoxville, you are immediately engulfed with every form of souvenir salesman around. They sell gads of T-shirts and memorabilia because sometimes, yes even Knoxville, the four days can get kind of.... well, long.

But now the newest toy for sprint car fans is the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum which graces the second turn at the fabled track. It’s not a hall of fame for Knoxville; but instead it's a hall of fame for the entire nation’s history of sprint car racing because Knoxville is this sports’ temple.

It is a miniature Indianapolis Hall of Fame. It’s that neat. It’s filled with old restored sprint cars that have won big races and have a rich history behind them. Tons of photos, old racing uniforms, helmets, trophies and memorabilia grace the four story structure, which houses V.I.P. suites on the top two floors.

And, each year the Hall of Fame inducts famous sprint car figures from the past into the hallowed halls of the Cooperstown of sprint car racing.

Names such as A. J. Foyt, Jan Opperman, Pancho Carter, Louis Chevrolet, Emory Collins of Le Mars and Gus Schrader of Cedar Rapids are already enshrined in the halls at

This year, a driver was inducted into the Hall of fame who used to tear up Rapid Speedway soil back in the 1950's.

Bobby Grim, of Indianapolis, was welcomed into the Hall of Fame because of his accomplishments in sprint car racing from 1946-1971. He won the IMCA circuit point championship four straight years from 1955-58.

He even qualified for the Indianapolis 500 for nine straight years from 1959 to 1967. He was the rookie of the year in 1959 driving the Sumar Special car owned by Chapman Root. It was the same car Pat O'Connor was killed in the year before at the 500 on the opening lap. Rookie of the year at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is only shared by an elite few.

The award was established in 1952, and because of co-rookie of the year honors in 1961 and 88, there have been only 42 honored since the race began in 1911.

Grim stands with some pretty tall timber with that honor. Former rookie of the year drivers include Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Bill Vukovich, Rick Mears, Michael Andretti and the Dutchman from Holland, Arie Luyendyk in 1985.

The IMCA circuit that Grim dominated for four years was called the circuit of travelers as the group toured to various sites around the country, very similar to the World of Outlaw circuit of today.

There were no Knoxville Nationals or Kings Royal races in sprint car racing in the 1950's like there are now that pay $50,000 to win.

Instead, the big race in Grim’s time was the Hawkeye Futurity which was held in Des Moines at the Iowa State Fairgrounds each summer. Grim finished second in the “big car” dirt race in 1955 and ’56 and won it in ‘57 and ‘58.

He raced at Rapid Speedway only a couple of times in the 50s when he was tearing the IMCA circuit to shreds. His last appearance was Tuesday, September 9, 1958 when he won the 20-lap feature event on the then, Lyon County Fairground half-miler, and now he is celebrated among the best in Knoxville’s hallowed halls.

 “It was a great honor. I hoped the Hall of fame would recognize me,” Grim said from his Indianapolis home. “A lot of moments stand out but that is definitely one of the highlights, absolutely.”

Racing for 25 years would include a lot of great moments but Grim says he never thought about quitting the sometimes dangerous sport.

“You can’t let getting upside down bother you,” he said.

Grim raced one of the most famous cars in this sport’s past. The Bardahl Black Deuce owned by Hector Honore and built by Hiram Hillegas, the Bob Trostle of today, was built for Grim in 1953 and he drove it until 1958 before he raced for the United States Auto Club (USAC). The car was later driven by many famous drivers thereafter including Pete Folse.

It was the first sprint car with a major sponsor on the side of it as the “Bardahl” of the Black Deuce was the STP motor oil of today.

The Black Deuce now shines in the Hall of Fame in Knoxville like a work of art on display.
The money wasn’t like it is now in sprint car racing when Grim chewed up the dirt tracks across the nation. In his time; the drivers put their lives on the line for less than $1,000 a race. It was guys like him that paved the way for the success the sport has today.

The grit, determination and love for the rush of pitching a four wheeled monster into a high-banked muddy turn is what drove drivers like Grim.

Now we all have the chance to take a step back into history and see a glimpse of what this dirt track legend has done at the National Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville.

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