Odessa, Mo. (March 20, 1977) – Joe Ruttman of Westland, Mich., led start to finish in the 100-lap main event at I-70 Speedway on Sunday afternoon to take the top prize in the first annual “Clear Skies 250”, which served as I-70 Speedway’s opening event as well as the first on this year’s schedule for the American Speed Association (ASA) “Circuit of Champions” late model stock car series.
Ruttman also won one of the 75-lap preliminary features and took home $2,275 for the afternoon’s work.
In the first 75-lapper, Ruttman jumped from the outside pole to lead the first lap but was overhauled by polesitter Tom Reffner of Rudolph, Wis., on the second round.
Reffner, had earned the pole position with a qualifying time of 17.74 seconds, identical to that of Tom Maier of Brea, Calif., Maier earned the pole position for the second preliminary.
Reffner would lead the next 37 circuits until his AMC Hornet experienced handling problems, which his pit crew traced to tire compound, and he retired after six more laps.
On the same lap, Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., took over the lead in his Camaro, but held it only two laps before Ruttman pushed his own Camaro back into the top spot. Phillips also developed engine problems and fell out of the running.
Ruttman would take a comfortable win with Don Gregory, Columbus, Ohio, placing second and Ed Hoffman, Niles, Ill., in third.
In the second 75-lap preliminary, Maier took the lead at the drop of the green but problems with a soft tire compound forced him to give up the top spot on lap 14 when Mike Eddy of Kawkawlin, Mich., put his Camaro in front.
Eddy went on to win handily, beating Maier to the checkered flag by seven seconds. Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., finished third in his Mustang.
Although Ruttman led every lap of the 100-lap main event and won by almost half a lap, he had a far from easy time of it.
For two-thirds of the race, it was the hard-charging Mike Eddy that kept the nearly 3,400 fans in attendance on the edge of their seats as he tried inside and outside in repeated attempts to get around Ruttman.
On lap 64, however, Eddy slowed visibly as the two frontrunners raced down the front straight of the banked half-mile, and on the next lap he was in the pit area with a blown engine.
Ruttman was left with a sizeable lead margin, with a half a lap lead on Ed Hoffman. Hoffman remained in second until lap 84 when he retired with an oil leak.
Don Gregory inherited second spot with Hoffman’s departure, but was too far back to mount any challenge to Ruttman. Trickle took third, better than half a lap behind the winner and the top three were the only cars on the lead lap.
Fourth went to Junior Hanley of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, a lap back, with Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., finishing fifth and being credited with 98 laps finished.
Maier was penalized three laps for using an air wench on a pit stop in the 100-lap final as was Ray Young of Dolton, Ill. ASA rules prohibit the use of an air wrench for tire changes during a race.
1. Joe Ruttman, Westland, Mich.
2. Don Gregory, Columbus, Ohio
3. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
4. Junior Hanley, Burlington, Ontario
5. Dave Watson, Milton, Wis.
6. Rusty Wallace, St. Louis
7. Wayne Woody, Marionville, Mo.
8. Harold Scott, New Castle, Ind.
9. Jim Behee of Independence, Mo.
10. Tom Maier, Brea, Mich.
11. Gary Truelove
12. Gene Christie
13. Willie Crane, Kansas City
14. Robbie Dean
15. Clayton Petersen Jr., Grand Island, Neb.
16. Dave Anderson
17. Ray Young, Dolton, Ill.
18. Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark.
19. Ed Hoffman, Niles, Ill.
20. Dave Bruggink, Sheboygan, Wis.
21. Mike Eddy, Kawkawlin, Mich.
22. Jack Constable, Trenton, Mo.
23. Joe Shear, South Beloit, Ill
24. Larry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.
25. Ferris Collier, Lampe, Mo.
26. Jimmy Pierson, Milton, Wis.
27. Axel Dahlberg, Mauston, Wis.
28. Tom Reffner, Rudolph, Wis.
29. Bill Crane, Kansas City
30. Jim Campbell
31. Tommy Edwards
32. Dave Roahrig, Plymouth, Ind.
33. Al Jones