(July 29, 1992) - There is a little town in central Iowa where some would argue the bravest
athletes in the world are honored. Iowa
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
, 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. Knoxville
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
but instead it's a hall of fame for the entire nation’s history of sprint car
racing because Knoxville
is this sports’ temple. Knoxville
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
sprint car racing.
Names such as A. J. Foyt, Jan Opperman, Pancho Carter, Louis Chevrolet, Emory Collins of Le Mars and Gus Schrader of
are already enshrined in the halls at Cedar
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
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. Indianapolis
He even qualified for the
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. Indianapolis
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
Arie Luyendyk in 1985. Holland
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
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. Des Moines
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
’s hallowed halls. Knoxville
“It was a great honor. I hoped the Hall of fame would recognize me,” Grim said from his
home. “A lot of moments stand
out but that is definitely one of the highlights, absolutely.” Indianapolis
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
like a work of art on display. Knoxville
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