Tuesday, March 24, 2020

1974 – Puterbaugh is Reading sprint car winner

Bill Puterbaugh (73) battles Jan Opperman (90) during their USAC sprint car encounter at the Reading Fairgrounds. Puterbaugh would win the 40-lapper. – John Mahoney Photo

Reading, Penn. (March 24, 1974) - Bill Puterbaugh of Indianapolis, Ind., scored his first USAC sprint feature victory since 1971 by prevailing in the first 40-lap event of the season at Reading Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon.

Starting in eighth place, Puterbaugh took the lead from Jan Opperman, Beaver Crossing, Neb., on the 23rd lap and then battled Duane Carter Jr., who finally submitted to a spinout that forced him to the back of the pack on the 36th lap.

Opperman salvaged second place, followed by Don Nordhorn, Wadesville, Ind.; Lebanon's Lee Osborne, and Mel Cornett of Milwaukee, Wis.

Heat winners were Sheldon Kinser, Bloomington, Ind.; Kramer Williamson, Mechanicsburg and Cornett.

Osborne captured the 10-lap semi-feature. George Snyder of Indianapolis clocked a 23.50 as fastest in the time trials.

Results –

1. Bill Puterbaugh
2. Jan Opperman
3. Don Nordhorn
4. Lee Osborne
5. Mel Cornett
6. Pancho Carter
7. Sam Sessions
8. Bill Cassella
9. Kramer Williamson
10.Rich Leavell
11.Greg Leffler
12.Bruce Walkup
13.Johnny Parsons
14.Mike Lloyd
15.Sheldon Kinser

Sunday, March 22, 2020

1959 – Lakewood Race to Beauchamp

Johnnie Beauchamp

Atlanta, Ga. (March 22, 1959) – Johnnie Beauchamp, who recently lost the Daytona 500 by a few inches and a reversal of the official’s decision, was somewhat luckier Sunday, as he won the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National auto race at Lakewood Speedway.

Beauchamp, a native of Harlan, Iowa, wheeled his 1959 Ford Thunderbird around the one-mile track in 1 hour, 19 minutes and 49 seconds for an average speed of 75 miles per hour.

Had the race lasted another couple of laps, it is quite possible luck would have frowned upon him again. His car’s rear end began to smoke as he went into the last lap.

Veteran Buck Baker of Spartansburg, S.C., in a 1959 Chevrolet, finished in second place, a mile or so back.

Trailing Beauchamp and Baker were Tom Pistone, Chicago, 1959 Thunderbird, Speedy Thompson, Monroe, N.C., 1957 Chevrolet, and Joe Eubanks, Spartansburg, S.C., 1958 Ford.

Although there were no serious mishaps, mechanical failure took a heavy toll of the starters. Among them was Lee Patty, the North Carolinian awarded late judgment over Beauchamp at Daytona. He was sitting on the back stretch with a broken axle when the race was won by Beauchamp.

Results –

1. Johnnie Beauchamp
2. Buck Baker
3. Tom Pistone
4. Speedy Thompson
5. Joe Eubanks
6. Shorty Rollins
7. Billy Carden
8. Fireball Roberts
9. Tiny Lund
10.Bob Welborn
11.Jim McGuirk
12.Sam Massey
13.Roscoe Thompson
14.Cotton Owens
15.J.C. Hendrix
16. Chet Barron
17.Lee Petty
18.Johnny Allen
19.Pete Kelly
20.Charles Griffith

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

1973 – Kunzman Wins USAC Opener at Salem

Lee "Stub" Kunzman

Salem, Ind. (March 18, 1973) – Lee Kunzman of Guttenberg, Iowa, and his immaculately-prepared R&B Racing Associates Chevy won the 1973 United States Auto Club sprint car season opener Sunday afternoon at Salem Speedway.

Kunzman had both the handling ability and the power of the Jack Steck wrenched car to zoom to the victory over the half-mile paved banks, however Greg Weld gave hm quite the struggle, especially in the last few laps.

After a lap 34 yellow dissipated a 10-second lead for Kunzman, Weld applied plenty of pressure for the balance of the race, making at least three attempts to take the top spot.

Kunzman would fend off all challenges by the Kansas City, Mo., pilot and win by four car lengths.

In a post-race interview with Weld, he said he could get around Kunzman but the back-end of his rear-engine beauty kept breaking loose causing him to lift from thee throttle before he wanted to.

The 40-lap A-main started with polesitter Benny Rapp leading thee first go-round before Jerry Poland passed him going down the backstretch. Don Nordhorn then took the lead on lap 6 with a same-place pass.

Finally, Kunzman, up from his sixth place starting position (having set fast time), roared around Nordhorn coming off the fourth turn and led the rest of the way.

Thee attrition rate was high with only nine of the 20 starters finishing. Among those out were early leader Rapp with handling problems and Larry Dickson in the rear-engine Gehlhausen with radiator issues.

Yellow flags unfurled three times during the feature but there were no accidents. In fact, the whole program was safely run, and speeds were exceptionally fast. No records were broken due as the cold weather affected the adhesion of the tires.

The cold weather, with snow the day before, kept the crowd down, but 3,000 diehard fans still showed up.

Finishing third behind Kunzman and Weld were Karl Busson, who started 14th. He was followed by Bill Puterbaugh and Nordhorn.

Defending USAC sprint car champion Sam Sessions was without his regular ride as the Amerling Special was stuck somewhere up north in a snowbank.

Results –

Heat #1 – Bob Kinser
Heat #2 – Karl Busson
Heat #3 – Cy Fairchild
Heat #4 – Greg Weld
Semi – Benny Rapp
Feature –
1. Lee Kunzman
2. Greg Weld
3. Karl Busson
4. Bill Puterbaugh
5. Don Nordhorn
6. Rollie Beale
7. Jerry Poland
8. Chuck Booth
9. Cy Fairchild
10. Sam Sessions
11. Tom Bigelow
12. Gary Bettenhausen
13. Duke Cook
14. Charlie Masters
15. Benny Rapp
16. Larry Cannon
17. Joe Saldana
18. Bob Kinser
19. Larry Dickson
20. Sonny Ates

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Remembering 1990: The Busch All Star Tour - Memorial Day Weekend

Ray Guss Jr. - Todd Healey Photo

By Lee Ackerman
Omaha, Neb. - By 1990, the NASCAR Busch All Star Tour was in its sixth year and was providing Midwest race fans with some great racing action. Starting in 1985 when they ran a short season of just six races that saw Iowa veteran Roger Dolan edge out Steve Kosiski by just one point for the title, the series had grown to 17 events in 1989 when Joe Kosiski won his third tour championship interrupted only by brother Steve’s title in 1987.

1990 would see 15 races go in the record books with the busiest weekend being over Memorial Day when the series ran four races in four days. Action would start on Friday night at Eagle Raceway outside Lincoln, Nebraska move to the Mid-Continent Raceway near Doniphan on Saturday night then back to Omaha’s venerable Sunset Speedway on Sunday night and finish up on Monday night at the West Liberty (Iowa) Raceway.

On Friday night at Eagle, 40 late models timed in with Steve Kosiski posting fast time at 15.46. Ironically, brother Joe was the following car to qualify and turned a 15.47 second lap. Story City, Iowa’s Bob Hill was third on the clock at 15.53. Fifteen-lap qualifiers would go to fourth starting Rick Wendling in qualifier one and sixth starting Ray Guss, Jr. in qualifier two. Johnny Saathoff would take the Race of Champions and then just before the consolation, there was light. Eagle Raceway turned on their new lighting system and the whole place lite up. Giltner, Nebraska’s Al Humphrey then stormed from his outside front row starting position and won the consolation.

At the drop of the green, Rollie Frink grabbed the lead from his outside pole position and appeared to be the car to beat, but sixth starting Steve Kosiski was working his way up to challenge and by lap 34 he was running side by side with Frink, on lap 36 Kosiski went to the front and despite giving it everything he could muster, Frink simply had to settle for second. Following Kosiski and Frink to the line were Bob Hill, Joe Kosiski and Sonny Findling.

Joe Kosiski - Jerry Adams Photo

On Saturday, the series moved to the Mid-Continent Raceway outside Doniphan, Nebraska for round two of weekend. When qualifying was over, the third Kosiski brother, Ed had set fast time at 20.04 seconds. Qualifying races went to Steve Fraise of Montrose, Iowa, with home track favorite Kent Tucker second and Bob Hill third. In the second qualifier it was Ray Guss, Jr. of Milan, Illinois picking up the win following by Rick Wendling and Gary Webb. Sonny Findling took the Race of Champions. The two consolation races were won by Jerry Wancewicz and Bubba Harvey.

The 50-lap feature ended up being a an all Kosiski show as Joe and Steve waged a fierce battle for the top spot with Steve gaining the lead on lap 30 and going on to win the race. Joe would finish second and Ed finished third. Steve Fraise and Gary Webb rounded out the top five.

“I saw him behind me and just tried to use as much racetrack as I could,” said Joe after the event, “but he had too much for everyone tonight.” 

Gary Webb - Todd Healey Photo

Round three on Sunday night would see the series move to Sunset Speedway on the northwest side of Omaha and things were about to change. Rollie Frink of Davenport would set fast time at 19.07 seconds. Gary Webb picked up the win in the Fierge Auto Parts Race of Champions while it was business as usual with Ed and Steve Kosiski picking up the Qualifying race wins. Rollie Frink would come back to win the consolation race.

In the 50-lap feature Ray Guss Jr. took the Precision Performance Camaro to the front on the third lap and would never give up the lead in taking home the win. There were however some fierce battles behind Guss. Sonny Findling would settle into second place but the battle for third was a war between Gary Webb, Pete Parker, Willy Kraft, Rick Wendling, Bob Hill and Steve and Joe Kosiski. That group would provide some great side by side, door to door racing that brought crowd to their feet a number of times.

Guss, however would be out by himself and despite a late lap 43 caution that bunched up the field nobody could mount a challenge on the restart that saw the top five at the finish include Guss, Findling, Webb, Parker and Kraft. “Our car was really hooked up tonight.” said Guss, after the race. “The track was slick and dry, but it made for a good racing surface and we’re happy the way the car performed.”

Steve Kosiski

The series moved to Eastern Iowa and the West Liberty Raceway for the four and final race of the four day Memorial Day swing and once again it was Ray Guss, Jr. in the Precision Performance #50 that would go to victory lane. Guss would grab the lead from his front row starting position at the outset of the event and never look back. The race would see only one caution during the 50 laps, that for Steve Johnson who blew a motor.

Guss would end up winning the event by nearly a straightaway with Rollie Frink, Steve Kosiski, Ed Kosiski and Willy Kraft rounding out the top 5. Gary Webb would pace the 48 car field in time trials with a lap of 21.30 seconds. Qualifying races went to Guss and Steve Kosiski with Joe Kosiski winning the Race of Champions and Steve Hennies the consolation race.

“We were looking forward to coming here tonight on the tour.” Guss commented. “West Liberty is our home track and we enjoy running here before our fans.”

The four-day swing would end with Steve Kosiski and Ray Guss, Jr. both picking up two wins. Kosiski would use his two wins and three more later in the 1990 season to nail down the 1990 Busch All Star Tour Championship, his second of what would be a career high seven tour championships.

Willy Kraft

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

1962 – Derr’s Pontiac wins Atlanta 100-miler

Ernie Derr

Atlanta, Ga. (March 4, 1962) - Drivers from the Midwest won the first three places in the 100-mile late mode auto race at Lakewood Speedway on Sunday.

Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, played it safe on the one-mile dirt oval and came In first with a 1962 Pontiac.

Iggy Katona of Willis, Mich., gambled and lost. He tried to go the 100 miles on one tank of gas but fell two laps short in his 1962 Ford.

Derr made a fuel stop on the 78th lap. The 40-year-old father of six children lost the lead at the time but he surged back and was out in front when it really counted - on the 100th and final lap

Victory in the race sanctioned by the Midwestern Association of Car Racing (MARC) was worth $1,000.

Dick Freeman of Dayton, Ohio, was second in a 1961 Chevrolet and received $650. Katona earned $500 by finishing third.

Jim Norton of Atlanta was fourth in a 1960 Ford and received $350. Tim Flock of Atlanta was fifth in a 1962 Ford and earned $75.

About 3,000 fans watched the race.

Phil Cronin of Houston, Tex., wrecked his 1961 Ford on the second lap when it slammed into a guardrail, but he was not hurt.

Veteran Curtis Turner of Roanoke, Va., was 10th, while Bob Welborn of Greensboro, N.C., finish 12th. Welborn is a former NASCAR driver who joined the MARC circuit for this race.

Results –

1. Ernie Derr
2. Dick Freeman
3. Iggy Katona
4. James Norton
5. Tim Flock
6. Ramo Stott
7. Harold Smith
8. Jimmy Lunsford
9. Charlie Glotzbach
10.Curtis Turner