Thursday, April 30, 2020

1976- Dolan gets star billing in Downs’ Late Show

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (April 30, 1976) - The "Late Show” at Hawkeye Downs Friday night certainly must have driven Johnny Carson's Nielsen ratings down.

Reason being, of course, the opening late model stock car program of the season on the refurbished half-mile oval and 3,670 paid customers stayed to watch Lisbon’s Roger Dolan roar to the 25-lap feature win that paid $500.

Rain had washed out the scheduled opener last week and threatening skies bode the same fare again Friday, but a serious parting of the heavens never came.

Time was of the essence, however, for new promoter Al Miller and his crew worked feverishly to get the track into running condition.

The extra manicuring set back the 7 p.m. time trials for over an hour but the crowd was surprisingly tolerant of the delay.

Even though the feature didn’t end until almost 10.30, action moved along smoothly once Miller and flagman Engel DeKock got the program underway.

The Downs has undergone a complete facelift since last season and despite some obvious flaws in the racing surface that cropped up during the evening, winner Dolan still praised the facility.

"One of the big reasons the drivers had become disenchanted with this track was the pattern of 'follow the leader’ that developed almost every week," explained Dolan.

"With the new banked turns and all, it was hoped passing would return and I think there was plenty of that tonight."

Vastly understated, Roger.

Even though a Downs laborer had neglected a water hose earlier in the day that had poured water onto the front stretch for two hours, the track was tacky enough to allow some heady maneuvering.

"When I first took my car onto the track for a couple of hot laps I thought the track was in awful shape,” added Dolan, "but by the feature it was in much better condition than I thought it could be.”

Dolan, in his tenth season of piloting racing machines, started in the front row on the outside and quickly sprinted into the lead ahead of polecat John Moss.

A restart was in the offing however, because Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids piled into the new wall coming out of the second turn of the initial lap. Verlin, driving Lem Blankenship's car, suffered a painful rap on the knee, and was through for the evening.

After the restart, Waterloo’s Bill Zwanziger overhauled Dolan on the fourth lap and held the lead until the Lisbon hotshoe maneuvered his 1975 Chevelle expertly through some tail-end traffic and bagged the lead on the eighth tour.

It was that way until 17 laps had been completed. A spinout then brought out the yellow flag but even after closing the gap, Zwanziger, who had set fast time with a 25.20 second lap, couldn’t squeeze in front of Dolan.

Billed as the "New Track”, Zwanziger’s 25.20 second qualifying lap becomes the new track record at The Downs.

"The car has been giving me some handling problems,” admitted last year's point champ at Eldon, "but it worked quite well tonight, despite some nasty bumps, especially on the back stretch.”

Results –

Heat #1 – Phil Larsen, Iowa City
Heat #2 – Stan Stover, Reinbeck
Heat #3 – Ron Prymek, Iowa City
Semi – Tom Stewart, Washington
Feature –
1. Roger Dolan, Lisbon
2. Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo
3. Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids
4. Curt Hansen, Dike
5. Don White, Keokuk
6. Ed Sanger, Waterloo
7. Jim Leverington, Freeport, Ill.
8. Ken Walton, Cedar Rapids,
9. Bill Rice, Des Moines
10.John Moss, Iowa City

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