Feature winner Jan Opperman poses alongside the 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 International Motor Contest Association 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.”
Heat #1 – Duane Carter
Heat #2 – Ray Lee Goodwin
Heat #3 – Darryl Dawley
Match race – Jan Opperman
Consolation – Lee Osborne
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