Monday, February 17, 2020

1962 – Tampa Finale, Crown to Folse

Pete Folse was the 1962 Florida State Fair champion.

Tampa, Fla. (February 17, 1962) – Pete Folse came from behind to nail the Florida State championship by winning the 25-lap finale on Saturday to boost his point total by 100 tallies.

Folse went into the feature tailing Herschel Wagner, Johnny White and Jerry Richert. Wagner ran second for three-quarters of the race and that spot would have given him the title and trophy. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Hickman Hills, Mo., driver and his fourth place finish left him 10 points shy of Folse’s 350 total. Neither White nor Richert netted any points in the feature.

Folse had some anxious moments in the closing laps, as Johnny Rutherford, a young driver from Fort Worth, Tex., was gaining on the leader consistently. Afterwards, Folse said he heard a car behind him but thought it was a lapped car. When he finally realized the car was a contender, Folse sent his foot to the floor on the Honore Offy and used the remaining cushion to pull away.

Rutherford said he heard Folse’s engine respond but believed had the race been a little longer the ending would have been reversed. Arnie Knepper was a close enough third to make it a three-car battle.

The race had a red flag on the second lap, with Jerry Blundy, Gordon Woolley and Mickey Shaw getting involved in a fracas.

Folse, Wagner and White ran knobbies while the rest of the field used the wide tire. The result was a really bunched up field of cars and no true groove. As one lapped driver put it, “Every driver had a different groove and he didn’t know where to make room for a car to lap him.”

Once again, the weatherman smiled on another banner production of Al Sweeney of National Speedways, Inc.

Results –

Heat #1 – Arnie Knepper
Heat #2- Dick Hope
Heat #3 – Herschel Wagner
Match race – Jerry Richert
Consolation – Johnny White
Feature –
1. Pete Folse
2. Johnny Rutherford
3. Arnie Knepper
4. Herschel Wagner
5. Dick Hope
6. Joe Conroy
7. Gordon Woolley
8. Jerry Blundy
9. Jerry Daniels
10.Mickey Shaw

Sunday, February 16, 2020

1974 – Osborne cops Winternational Finale

Lee Osborne

Tampa, Fla. (February 16, 1974) – Experimenting with something new, Lee Osborne of Lebanon, Penn., won the 50-lap Winternational Sprints finale on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 6,600 at the Florida State Fair.

The something “new” was a torsion bar suspension to springs and Osborne was not clear whether he won because of them or in spite of them.

The win probably came because, as he said, “The track got black (with rubber) towards the end.”

It was towards the end, on lap 38 of the 50-lapper, that Osborne gained the front position.

The driver stated that the experiment was still far from satisfactory and he had…” a lot of changing to do. The suspension is still too soft.”

Bill Utz, who came from last position twice, once at the original start and again on a restart after a minor accident blocked the track, finished an impressive second. But it was an hour after the checkered flag had dropped that Utz was assured his position. The race was protested by Ray Lee Goodwin, who claimed that Utz did not go completely to the rear of the field, his assigned position, on the restart.

IMCA officials ruled that although he may have been ahead of two cars on the restart, they were cars involved in the same accident and all were assigned to the rear at the restart.

Goodwin, who challenged throughout the race, but never managed to get in front, finished third.

The program started under clear skies after a rainy morning. The rain did a good job of wetting down the clay surface. But a brisk wind and a hot afternoon sun changed the track from wet and tacky to a dry-packed surface midway of the feature race.

Once it dried and the field of 24 cars started laying rubber down, the field did an about face. The front runners early, drifted back and a new set of chargers shot to the front.

It was then that Osborne found the low groove to his liking and threaded through from about halfway back in the pack.

But the real workhorse of the race was Utz, the cigar smoking former blacksmith, who picked off one car after another in a furious charge to second place.

The overall winner of the Winternational Sprints was Jan Opperman, who had won the first three feature of the series and finished second in the fourth race of the series. Saturday, he wrecked his own car, then changed to two others before he qualified for the feature and finished 10th.

Attendance for the five days reflected the gasoline shortage that has plagued the South Florida area. Promoter Al Sweeney said attendance was down 8.9% for the five days of racing.

Results –

Heat #1 – Ralph Blackett
Heat #2 – Bubby Jones
Heat #3 – Jerry Richert
Consolation – Thad Dosher
Feature –
1. Lee Osborne
2. Bill Utz
3. Ray Lee Goodwin
4. Kramer Williamson
5. Larry Dickson
6. Chuck Amati
7. Bob Kinser
8. Earl Wagner
9. Jay Lyle
10.Jan Opperman

Saturday, February 15, 2020

1970 – Stott wins Daytona ARCA

Ramo Stott is joined by his wife Judy and ARCA owner John Marcum after winning the 300-miler. 

Daytona, Fla. (February 15, 1970) - A Keokuk, Iowa, driver - Ramo Stott - wrestled the lead away from 54-year-old Iggy Katona in the final three laps Sunday to win the ARCA 300 stock car race at Daytona International Speedway.

With only seven miles remaining in the race, Bobby Watson of Prestonsburg, Ky., was running second and Stott third with a bare car length separating the three.

Katona blew a tire on his 1969 Dodge and went into a wild spin. Stott took advantage of the situation to scream past both Katona and Watson and take the lead.

Stott, 33, then beat Watson across the finish line moments later to win the closest finish in seven of these high-speed chases at Daytona for drivers of the Midwest-centered Auto Racing Club of America.

It was the first victory for one of Chrysler’s new winged Plymouth “Superbird.” Watson drove a similarly – designed Dodge Daytona.

Stott's time for the race was 2 hours, 6 minutes and 41 seconds for an average of 142.086 miles per hour. The victory was worth $5,900.

Results –

1. Ramo Stott
2. Bobby Watson
3. Ron Grana
4. Louis Wusterhausen
5. Iggy Katona
6. Hank Teeters
7. Les Snow
8. Bill Clemons
9. John Sommerville
10. Blackie Wangerin
11. Buck Newland
12. Joe Booher
13. Bob Thomas
14. Red Farmer
15. Hoss Ellington
16. Armon Smith
17.Larry Ashley
18. Hubert West
19. Dave Sorg
20. Dick May
21. Wayne Trinkle
22. Phil Ploughe
23. Benny Parsons
24. Paul Wensink
25. Coo Coo Marlin
26. Paul Feldner 
27. Bill Kimmel 
28. Jim Scott
29. Leroy Austin
30. Charlie Paxton
31. Andy Hampton 
32. Dick Trickle
33. Len Blanchard 
34. Dave Dayton
35. Joy Fair 
36. Jerry Churchill
37. Frank Utterback
38. Ronnie Daniel 
39. Larry Baumel 
40. John Anderson

Friday, February 14, 2020

1968 – Rapp’s Victory is Sweet

Benny Rapp

Tampa, Fla. (February 14, 1968) – Benny Rapp didn’t get a single Valentine but ended up the sweetheart of Plant Field on Wednesday – for a while.

The 40-year-old Rapp came back Wednesday as the dust settled from the 30-lap IMCA sprint car race at the Florida State Fairgrounds and a voice broke through the throng of congratulations,…” all right old man, that’s enough.”

Rapp, after winning his first feature at Tampa, was just coming up for air from his second kiss from pretty IMCA Speed Queen Bernadette Juanich.

Mrs. Rapp applied the brakes.

It was another kind of brakes, however, that put the sunned-tan Toledo, Ohio, chauffeur out front to stay. Rapp had started the feature on the pole but sitting next to him was IMCA’s most respected driver, Jerry Richert.

Richert, with two feature wins already to his credit in the young season, seemed to be a heavy favorite to win despite Rapp’s sizzling qualifying mark of 26.23 seconds he set in time trials.

As expected, Richert quickly grabbed the lead at the start and Rapp fell in behind him, with dust that almost obscured the track.

Halfway through the race Rapp got his break. Richert broke a drive line and had to be towed to the pits. For the next 15 laps Rapp made the rest of the field eat his dust.

Gus Linder, the hard charger whose probably passed more car than anyone else in the four programs, finished second and Ralph Parkinson took third.

The tricky half-mile dirt proved many a guesser wrong as it started out fast and ended up slow towards the end.

Among those who guessed wrong were IMCA standouts Richert and Karl Busson as well as local hopefuls Wayne Reutimann and Bill Roynon. Richert did make the show, however, by borrowing Jerry Weld’s car.

Results –

Heat #1 – Bobby Adamson
Heat #2 – Darl Harrison
Heat #3 – Jay Woodside
Match race – Jay Woodside
Consolation – Gus Linder
Feature –
1. Benny Rapp
2. Gus Linder
3. Ralph Parkinson
4. Bob Black
5. Ray Tilley
6. Lee Kunzman
7. Charlie Masters
8. Gordon Woolley
9. Whitey Harmon
10.Jerry Lepinski

Thursday, February 13, 2020

1972 – Cassella Doubles Up in Tampa Sprint Series

Billy Cassella of Weirton, W.Va., won the IMCA sprint car feature at the Winternational Sprints in Tampa, Fla., on February 13th. IMCA referee Gene Van Winkle (left) presents the trophy to Cassella. Speed queen Jo Ann Jenkins and National Speedways VP Woody Brinkman join in the celebration. When Ms. Jenkins went to give the winner his traditional victory kiss, he brushed her off stating, "I just don't go for that". — Al Major Photo

Tampa, Fla. (February 13, 1972) – It was a repeat performance for Billy Cassella on Sunday, as the curtain fell on the Winternational Sprints at the Florida State Fair.

As he did on Saturday, the dark-hared West Virginian driver led from green to checkered in the feature race. It was a shorter race, 30 laps, but apparently just as tiring as Cassella asked someone to hold the big trophy while he was waiting for Winternational point champion Jerry Blundy to show up for the picture session.

But Blundy did not show. He was already on his way to the airport to catch a plane back to home base, Galesburg, Ill.

The feature race was one of the calmest of the series, caused by a narrow groove that limited passing. Cassella admitted the groove was tight.

He had little trouble during the running of the race, except for running into heavy traffic as he caught up with a gaggle of slower cars. Once, Jan Opperman attempted to pass Cassella in traffic but settled back to claim second-place.

Ray Lee Goodwin was third followed by Jerry Blundy and crowd favorite Chuck Amati rounded out the top five.

Early in the race, Opperman and Blundy worked each other over for a couple of laps, banging wheels as they few down the backstretch and nearly put each other into a spin. Those were the only fireworks of the race.

The paltry crowd of 2,500 did some breath catching in the consolation.

Leroy Felty did a half spin and crowded Bill Burk Jr. The latter’s car jumped into the air, did a half turn and cracked into the wall. Burk was stunned momentarily but suffered nothing worse than a leg bruise.

Results –

Heat #1 – Ron Perkins
Heat #2 – Cliff Cockrum
Heat #3 – Steve Schultz
Match race – Chuck Amati
Consolation – Chuck Amati
Feature –
1. Billy Cassella
2. Jan Opperman
3. Ray Lee Goodwin
4. Jerry Blundy
5. Chuck Amati
6. Dean Shirley
7. Cliff Cockrum
8. Jim McCune
9. Roger Rager
10.Hank Albers

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

1975 – First timer; Dawley wins at Tampa

Darryl Dawley powers through the turn en route to his first Winternationals victory. 

Tampa, Fla. (February 12, 1975) – Darryl Dawley was so excited after winning the feature race at the Florida State Fair Wednesday night, that he ran away from photographers, fans and sports writers and disappeared into the darkness of the pit area.

But when he was finally cornered, the Sioux Falls, S.D., admitted that it was because it was the first time he has won a feature in the Winternational Sprints in the five years he’s been coming to Florida.

He was almost passed by Ralph Parkinson Jr., at one point, but managed to pull away when heard the latter’s engine.

Dawley said the track was a little greasy going into the corners but liked the generous groove it presented. It rained an hour before the races, delaying the program for about an hour but the showers worked well for the racing surface.

Parkinson came through to finish second and a hard-charging Joe Saldana finished third.

Heat races were won by Jan Opperman, Rick Hood, and Doc Dawson. Joe Saldana was the consolation winner.

Results –

Heat #1 – Jan Opperman
Heat #2 – Rick Hood
Heat #3 – Doc Dawson
Consolation – Joe Saldana
Feature –
1. Darryl Dawley
2. Ralph Parkinson Jr.
3. Joe Saldana
4. Ralph Blackett
5. Jan Opperman
6. Jim Edgington
7. Tommy Dickson
8. Ralph Quarterson
9. Chuck Amati
10.Dick Tobias

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

1967 – Ungar in Winternationals Opener

Steve Ungar of Garrettsville, Ohio, gets a kiss from Speed Queen Anne Harris after his upset victory in the IMCA Winternationals opener at Tampa. Starter Johnny Hicks holds the checkers and George Brummett, vice-president of Pepsi-Cola presents the trophy. 

Tampa, Fla. (February 11, 1967) - Steve Ungar, a balding 39-year-old from Garrettsville, Ohio, who does most of his racing in supermodifieds, turned a lot of firsts into first-place in the rain-delayed opening day feature of the IMCA Winternationals sprints at the Florida State Fair on Saturday.

A turn away crowd saw Ungar flip while attempting to qualify early in the afternoon but came back later to set fastest time of the day with a lap of 26.77 seconds on the hard and slick half-mile clay oval.

Oddly, it was the first time he had driven the Long Brothers #55 Chevy and his first ride at the track.

“I was wondering if I would even qualify for the feature,” said a grinning Ungar, surrounded by well-wishers, and still carrying a lipstick print from a kiss by Speed Queen Anne Harris. “The car handled real good, I didn’t have any trouble.”

Ungar explained after his flip that he had tried to go too deep into the first turn during his first qualifying attempt and the car went into a drift. It was too far gone for him to correct and he went over three times.

Not so lucky was Bill Brown of Denville, N.J., who made five rolling end-over-end turns on the same corner during the consolation. Brown’s Chevy was demolished, and he was removed unconscious and taken to an area hospital where he was released after overnight observation.

Finishing second to Ungar was Darl Harrison of Bettsville, Ohio, followed by Dick Kelm of Clinton, Penn., Jerry Daniels of St. Paul, Minn., and Bill Puterbaugh of Roxana, Ill.

The crowd of 10,638 was the largest crowd ever to witness an IMCA race here, topping last year’s opening day crowd by 335 admissions.

It was a bad day for a lot of drivers, with almost every race stopped because of spinouts or accidents.

The track, after a heavy morning rain, got faster as qualifying stated to unfold, and the top 20 in IMCA points, allotted the first 20 qualifying spots, found their times exceeded by the late timers.

Jim Moughan, second in points for 1966, qualified the Honore Black Deuce qualified 40th and missed the feature. And for the first time in IMCA history, the champion, Jerry Richert, failed to make the feature, running the consy and failing to finish.

Results –

Heat #1 – Buzz Barton, Tampa, Fla.
Heat #2 – Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
Heat #3 – Frank Riddle, Tampa
Match race – Bill Brown, Denville, N.J.
Consolation – Darl Harrison, Bettsville, Ohio
Feature –
1. Steve Ungar, Garrettsville, Ohio
2. Darl Harrison
3. Dick Kelm, Clinton, Penn.
4. Jerry Daniels, St. Paul, Minn.
5. Bill Puterbaugh, Roxana, Ill.
6. Karl Busson, Toledo, Ohio
7. Buzz Barton
8. Frank Riddle
9. Dave Scarborough, Largo, Fla.
10.Jerry Blundy

Monday, February 10, 2020

1971 – Leavitt overcomes cold, temp in Tampa win

Winner Eddie Leavitt is interviewed by Chris Economaki while Speed Queen Barbara Clack looks on. – Al Majors Photo

Tampa, Fla. (February 10, 1971) – The cold weather on Wednesday did not bother Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo.

He walked into the Florida State Fairgrounds that morning with a 102-degree temperature but walked out that night with the trophy that went with winning the 30-lap IMCA sprint car feature during the Winternational Sprints.

That wasn’t the only handicap he had to overcome. He smacked the wall during the trophy dash and his car was so badly damaged it had to be lifted up and brought back to the pits on a wrecker.

But his crew got the car back together in time to make the main event.

In spite of a record 40 degree temperature and what Al Sweeney, National Speedway, Inc., promoter can recall, the coldest race day in 35 years, a crowd of 2,200 attended and were treated to one of the liveliest series of events to begin the 1971 season.

The feature was led variously by Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., then Chuck Amati of Greenfield, Tenn., and finally by Leavitt. Kinser stayed right with Leavitt until the late laps, when Leavitt started lapping the tail end of the field beginning on lap 12.

After that, it became confusing with the lapped cars mingling with the front runners.

Leavitt stood in the middle of the track, holding his trophy when a rush of youngsters came out of the grandstand to shake his hand. It was obvious that he was more pleased with the small fry than the grownups.

In spite of an exhausting day, starting with a visit to a doctor for a shot for strep throat, he stood still for an interview a long picture session with Speed Queen Barbara Clack, and to receive congratulations from the numerous race fans.

Leavitt also had the quick time in qualifying, circling the half-mile clay oval in 24.469 seconds.

The finish of the race was Leavitt, Kinser, and Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill., in that order. The race was run off in 14 minutes and 7.03 seconds, the fastest feature of the series to date.

The action started early when eight cars were caught in a spinning tangle during warmups. The machines of Roger Rager and Don Hewitt were both damaged.

Leavitt tagged the wall during time trials and made only a single lap, coming in to check the car out. But in spite of that, he still had the best time on the clocks.

Eight cars spun on the first lap of the consolation. Cliff Cockrum, Mitchell, Ind., and Buzz Barton, Tampa, were both knocked out of action for the evening.

Then, after a restart, Bill Burk Jr., Marion, Ill., the IMCA rookie of the year, got into the wall, bringing out another yellow flag.

Results –

Heat #1 - Bill Cassella, Weirton, W. Va.
Heat #2 – Chuck Amati, Greenfield, Tenn.
Heat #3 – Hank Albers, Bismarck, N.D
Match race – Bob Kinser, Bloomington, Ind.
Consolation – Gene Gennetten, Gladstone, Mo.
Feature –
1. Eddie Leavitt, Kearney, Mo.
2. Bob Kinser
3. Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill.
4. Chuck Amati
5. Dick Sutcliffe, Greenfield, Mo.
6. Jan Opperman, Beaver Crossing, Neb.
7. Herman Wise, Atlanta
8. Ron Larson, White Bear Lake, Minn.
9. Jim Moughan, Springfield, Ill.
10.Frank Riddle, Tampa, Fla.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

1974 – It’s Opperman again at Tampa

Feature winner Jan Opperman exits his Speedway Motors 4X after winning his second consecutive IMCA sprint car feature at the Florida State Fair. – Al Majors Photo

Tampa, Fla. (February 9, 1974) – Long-haired Jan Opperman won his second consecutive IMCA Winternationals sprint car feature at the Florida State Fair on Saturday, but it wasn’t easy.

He had to contend with a tricky track, but more important, he had to contend with a charging driver most of the way.

USAC star Duane “Pancho” Carter who smacked the wall and caused a restart on the first lap, challenged Opperman repeatedly on the turns and appeared at times to have a wheel in front. Experience paid off in the end as the smooth driving Opperman sailed along while Carter was fighting off handing issues.

Jay Lyle was a distant third, really out of the race between the two front-runners.

Opperman was lavish of his praise for Carter, the driver who gave him the most problems in the feature.

“Pancho is a super race car driver,” he said, catching his breath after his epic battle. “He’s a real gentleman, quite a boy.”

But Opperman was not so kind in his comments about the track. While there was a bit of cushion, piled clay in the turns, the straights were something wild.

“I had to go half-throttle on the backstretch,” he remarked. “I was going all over that track.”

Later in the pits, both he and Carter agreed that the track was something they had never experienced before.

“How about that hole in the third turn,” exclaimed Carter. I was hitting it so hard that the rear end of the car was bouncing up and breaking my seat.”

The consolation was the thriller of the afternoon. Eight cars were wrecked in to four-car tangle. No one was hurt.

In the first incident, coming out of the fourth turn, young Jimmy McElreath ran into a gaggle of three spinning cars and did a half roll with his cage slamming into the outside wall.

A few laps after the restart, four more cars collided in the first turn as Gene Gennetten lost his steering completely. Ralph Liguori, with no place go, clipped one of the spinning cars and went up in the air in three complete rolls.

“Why did it have to happen to me?” a shaken Liguori asked afterwards. “Someone else loses his steering and I’m the one to flip.”

Results –

Heat #1 – Duane Carter
Heat #2 – Ray Lee Goodwin
Heat #3 – Darryl Dawley
Match race – Jan Opperman
Consolation – Lee Osborne
Feature –
1. Jan Opperman
2. Duane Carter
3. Jay Lyle
4. Jerry Richert
5. Leroy Felty
6. Ray Lee Goodwin
7. Kramer Williamson
8. Lee Osborne
9. Chuck Amati
10.Kenny Weld

Saturday, February 8, 2020

1975 – Ferkel cops Winternationals opener

Rick Ferkel 

Tampa, Fla. (February 8, 1975) – Rick Ferkel thought the race would never end.

Three times, spinning cars brought out the caution that called for realignment of the field and cost him the lead he had built.

But at the finish, the Bowling Green, Ohio, driver was still three-quarters a lap on the old half-mile Florida State Fairgrounds oval in front of rest of the field.

So Ferkel won the first of the Winternational Sprint Series at Plant Field on Saturday afternoon. He finished ahead of Chuck Amati of Marion, Ill., and Greg Leffler of North Vernon, Ind.

It was the three yellow flags that made the race seem so long. Each time the pace car went out to line up the field while the track was cleared and each time Ferkel lost nearly half a lap advantage he had earned.

That means he raced a lot mor than the scheduled 30 laps.

“When I saw the halfway signal, I thought to myself, ‘Oh no, this race has to be over,’” he said.

He had a close call. He hooked a wheel in a rut between the first and second turns and almost went completely out of control.

In spite of the threat of the cold weather, the weather worked just right for the Fair races. The sun shown hot and bright and coaxed out a crowd of 7,563, the biggest crowd to attend a Fair race since 1970.

The track was good enough that Joe Saldana of Lincoln, Neb., set a new 15-lap record in winning the consolation. He was time in at 6 minutes and 48.46 seconds. The old record, set by Jud Larson in 1965, was 6 minutes and 55.69 seconds.

The consolation qualified three of the real hustlers into the feature, Amati, Saldana and Leffler. Jan Opperman also qualified by way of the consy but he had handling issues in the feature and finished well down on the list.

Heat races were won by Roger Rager, Daryl Dawley, and Larry Kirkpatrick. Ferkel also won a 6-lap match race.

Results –

Heat #1 – Roger Rager
Heat #2 – Daryl Dawley
Heat #3 – Larry Kirkpatrick
Match race – Rick Ferkel
Consolation – Joe Saldana
Feature –
1. Rick Ferkel
2. Chuck Amati
3. Greg Leffler
4. Joe Saldana
5. Bill Utz
6. Dean Shirley
7. Larry Kirkpatrick
8. Ralph Parkinson Jr.
9. Butch Wilkerson
10.Roger Rager

Friday, February 7, 2020

1962 – Pit decision cost Folse; Richert Cops

Tampa, Fla. (February 7, 1962) – A split-second decision in the pits that didn’t pan out, two spine-tingling flips featuring the “May and September” of racing, and the absence of a cigar-chewing veteran driver played a key role in the opening day of the Florida State Fair IMCA races on Wednesday afternoon.

It was the wrong selection of tires that may have cost three-time IMCA champion Pete Folse hiss second Florida feature loss in two years. It did allow hard-driving Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., to cop the first big day of racing on the Plant Field half-mile.

Richert won the 20-lap feature on the 19th loop, nosing out last year’s strong finisher, Johnny White of Warren, Mich. Johnny Rutherford of Fort worth, Tex., always a bridesmaid but never a bride at these Florida events, powered his way to a third-place finish in the Beatson Chevy, while Folse, driving the almost legendary Honore Bardahl Special, finished a puzzled fourth.

Folse, soundly beaten, still managed to flash is credentials at the finish line – his big, broad, “wait until next time” grin. But he failed to list a definite reason as to his loss.

“Main reason,” said Folse, “was I couldn’t get enough bite on the track. No, it wasn’t the tires. Actually, I don’t know what other tires I would have used.”

Folse had won the second heat of the day and the trophy dash both in high fashion, using knobby tires. He had found a cushion on the high side of Plant Field half-mile and was riding the groove all the way.

“And that’s the way I had planned to run the feature as well,” he added.

Richert, however, had planned to run the feature a little differently.

“I was using I.V. slicks, and decided to stay on the pole the whole way,” he said.

“I sort of felt that Pete couldn’t keep the outside groove, that track changes too much after every race. About halfway through, I could see he was running out of cushion.”

Folse didn’t, and finally with several laps remaining, the smooth-driving Tampan edged his car down to the pole, hoping to block anymore cars from coming through while holding onto fourth position.

Despite the fact that the majority of drivers felt this was the strongest Tampa racing field ever, there was a definite void in the events. It was the absence of Buzz Barton, Folse’s shadow for the last three years.

And, it was not unreasonable to assume that many of the 5,200 spectators on hand had traveled just to see one of their classic duels.

Richert’s brilliant driving, however, almost made most of them forget.

Results –

Time trial – Herschel Wagner (26.35)
Heat #1 – Mickey Shaw
Heat #2 – Pete Folse
Heat #3 – Dick Hope
Trophy dash – Pete Folse
Consolation – Jerry Richert
Feature –
1. Jerry Richert
2. Johnny White
3. Johnny Rutherford
4. Pete Folse
5. Arnie Knepper
6. Dick Hope
7. Larry North
8. Gordon Woolley
9. Mickey Shaw
10.Herschel Wagner

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

1972 – Opperman a Winner at IMCA Winternationals

Jan Opperman won the second leg of the IMCA Winternationals at Plant Field. Florida State Fair President J. McKissick Jeter is to Opperman's left while Speed Queen Joanne Jenkins is to Opperman's right. - Morris L. Bailey Photo

Tampa, Fla. (February 5, 1972) – Jan Opperman, the driver with the long hair, won the 30-lap feature Saturday, round two of the IMCA Winternationals Series at the Florida State Fair and thanked the Lord he had the strength to finish.

He didn’t say that casually, as would many, he meant it sincerely.

“I give credit to the Lord,” he said, after standing patiently for the cameras in the winner’s circle. “I like to witness for Him. He sure has changed my life.”

Opperman needed the strength because his car was acting up during the final six circuits and was…” beating me to death.”

To the numerous fans in attendance, Opperman appeared to be in complete control after taking the lead on lap 6 from his 11th starting position. After grabbing the top spot, he stretched out to substantial lead, then stretched it twice more when cautions bunched the field after slower cars spun out.

It was a good day for the self-styled “hippie,” a follower of the simple, quiet life until he climbs into the cockpit of a race car. He also won his heat race to qualify for the main event.

Chuck Amati, Opperman and Bill Utz were heat winners. Bill Cassella scored the victory in the 6-lap trophy dash and Jerry Blundy, the defending IMCA national champion, grabbed top honors in the consolation.

While Opperman rode serenely in the lead throughout most of the contest, Amati and Blundy carried on a dogfight for the runner-up spot. Once Blundy got in front, Amati charged right back past him again, taking the high road on the corners and bouncing his way through the turns.

With two laps to go, announcer Jim Riser sang out, “Oh, there’s something wrong with Amati’s car.”

And there was, he was running out of fuel, getting power only when it sloshed around in the turns.

The feature was marked by three yellow flags. First Blundy and Cliff Cockrum hooked together, with Blundy continuing and Cockrum spinning to a stop. Then, in two separate spins, Jim Linder and Ron Perkin performed loops to bring out the caution.

Results –

Heat #1 – Chuck Amati
Heat #2 – Jan Opperman
Heat #3 – Bill Utz
Trophy dash – Bill Cassella
Consolation – Jerry Blundy
Feature –

1. Jan Opperman
2. Bob Kinser
3. Bill Cassella
4. Jerry Blundy
5. Bill Utz
6. Roger Rager
7. Ralph Parkinson Jr.
8. Chuck Amati
9. Dale McCarthy
10.Eddie Leavitt

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

1970 – Adamson takes Winter Sprints opener

 Piloting the Hawthorne Special, Bobby Adamson won the 1970 National Winter Sprint Series opener at the Florida State Fair. - Beetle Bailey Photo

Tampa, Fla. (February 2, 1970) – Bobby Adamson, who does his best in the final days of the Florida State Fair races, turned the timetables around, winning the 25-lap feature, the 6-lap match race, and finishing second in the 12-lap consolation at the opening program for the National Winter Sprints.

For the last two years, Adamson has won the final feature of the Fair series, but Wednesday, he ran a perfect race before a half-frozen crowd of 3,500 hard core race fans in the grandstand.

It was a tough one to win, with six yellow flags slowing the race and bunching the field, taking away the cushion that Adamson had built as a lead each time. The yellow flags came out for spinouts by single cars, except for one time when Jim Moughan and Thad Dosher spun coming out of the fourth turn and Moughan’s car getting a little bent out of shape.

The lanky Adamson said he had trouble in his heat race because he had thee wrong tires on the car, but all that changed with different tires for the feature.

“The track was beautiful once we got the setup right on the car,” he grinned. “My car felt so good I can’t explain it.”

He got the lead on the first turn from his pole position and he was never headed, not even threatened. Each time the field was released on a restart, Adamson would roar away to open up a substantial lead again.

The feature was the most interrupted race of the day and 15 of the 25 laps were run under the caution flag. Even in the final laps, when the yellow flag laps were not counted as part of the race, the field was slowed to a crawl.

The final flag came on the white flag lap, signaling one more lap to go, and when the green flashed, a dog fight developed between three cars for the runner-up spot.

At the checkered, Bobby Allen was second; Kenny Weld third; and Jan Opperman fourth.

J.D. Leas turned in the fastest time in qualifying, caught by the clocks at 26.71 seconds for the trip around the half-mile clay oval.

With a wet track in the morning, the time trials were moved to the afternoon and the cars were put on the track at the rate of two at a time to keep the program from lagging.

Bill Utz won the first 10-lap heat while Bob Williams took top honors in the second heat. Jerry Blundy roared from his sixth starting spot to capture the third heat.

It was Adamson all the way in the 6-lap match race and Chuck Lynch got the jump from the pole position to capture the 12-lap consolation.

Results –

Time trials – J.D. Leas (26.71)
Match race – Bobby Adamson
Heat #1 – Bill Utz
Heat #2 – Bob Williams
Heat #3 – Jerry Blundy
Consolation – Chuck Lynch
Feature –

1. Bobby Adamson
2. Bobby Allen
3. Kenny Weld
4. Jan Opperman
5. Darl Harrison
6. Chuck Lynch
7. Dick Sutcliffe
8. Bob Williams
9. Bill Utz
10. Bill Hughes

Sunday, February 2, 2020

1968 – Richert wins Tampa Opener

Jerry Richert is presented his trophy by the Winter Nationals speed queen after winning the series' opener. 

Tampa, Fla. (February 2, 1968) – Jerry Richert, three-time International Motor Contest Association champion from Forest Lake, Minn., gambled on the restart of the sprint car feature and won, collecting $600 after 30 laps around the Florida State Fair dust bowl.

The gamble was that he could take the high road - top of the track – and fortunately there was just enough weight to the dirt to give him the necessary acceleration on that one lap to make the winning pass.

After that, the dirt turned to dust and a fly would have skidded off the rim of thee track.

It was the big one for Richert and the Frank Wagner Chevy, although he did place third in the second heat as the annual Winter National Sprints opened a five-day stand at the Tampa fairgrounds.

Dick Sutcliffe of Kansas City finished second and Jerry Lipinski of St. Paul, Minn., who also turned in the fastest time at 27.86 seconds on the half-mile dirt, was third and the victim of Richert’s gamble on the restart.

Happy about his win but not too pleased about the track conditions, Richert said after his victory he was sure he would “sure like to see them let us use our knobs so we can show the spectators the way race use to be”.

He was referring to the knobby tires that dug deep into the clay, loosened it, and gave drivers a big bite at the top of the track.

“It was pretty much one-groove out there, unless you’re exceptionally good,” he added.

The 30-lap main event was slowed twice due to caution flags, first when Wayne Reutimann spun and secondly, when three cars tangled wheels in the north turn on lap 20. The only damage both times was bent machinery, although it took Tampa’s Buzz Barton, Jon Backlund of Kansas City and Barry Kettering of St. Paul, Minn., out of action.

Heat winners were Ray Tilley, Clearfield, Penn., Earl Halaquist, Sidney, N.Y., and Kettering. Tilley won the match race and Reutimann, who enjoyed and suffered about everything that could happen to a driver, won the consolation. He flipped his car in the second heat in addition to spinning in the feature.

Results –

Time trials – Jerry Lipinski (27.86)
Heat #1 – Ray Tilley
Heat #2 – Earl Halaquist
Heat #3 – Barry Kettering
Match race – Ray Tilley
Consolation – Wayne Reutimann
Feature –

1. Jerry Richert
2. Dick Sutcliffe
3. Jerry Lipinski
4. Ralph Parkinson
5. Gus Linder
6. Bobby Adamson
7. Karl Busson
8. Ray Tilley
9. Chuck Lynch
10.Earl Halaquist

Saturday, February 1, 2020

1970 – IMCA Sprint Car Opener to York

Macon, Ga. (February 1, 1970) – Tom York, driving the Null Chevrolet, led from start to finish to win the 40-lap International Motor Contest Association sprint car season opener at Middle Georgia Raceway on Sunday afternoon.

York, starting on the outside of the front row, jumped into the lead at the wave of the green flag and was never headed. Don Mack, behind the wheel of the Campbell Chevy, took the checkered flag for second-place money. Third-place honors went to Florida’s Wayne Reutimann driving the Kash & Karry Chevrolet.

There was no time for the feature due to the caution laps. In one incident, Jan Opperman crashed into the second turn wall when he hit an oil slick after Jay Woodside blew an engine.

Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Jerry Blundy, Bob Kinser, Darl Harrison, Eddie Leavitt, Jerry Richert, Kenny Weld and Benny Rapp.

Reutimann turned in fast time on the day on the half-mile banked track with a one-lap clocking of 18.845 seconds. Harrison turned in second fastest time of 19.117 seconds.

Heat races were won by York, Blundy and Gene Gennetten. Woodside won the consolation with Mack taking the STP trophy dash.

Results –

Time trials – Wayne Reutimann (18.845)
STP Trophy Dash – Don Mack
First Heat – Tom York
Second Heat – Jerry Blundy
Third Heat – Gene Gennetten
Consolation – Jay Woodside
Feature –

1. Tom York
2. Don Mack
3. Wayne Reutimann
4. Jerry Blundy
5. Bob Kinser
6. Darl Harrison
7. Eddie Leavitt
8. Jerry Richert
9. Kenny Weld
10.Benny Rapp