Monday, August 31, 2020

1974 - Utz outduels Wagner for Win

Bill Utz

Lincoln, Neb. (August 31, 1974) - Bill Utz fought off a threatening challenge from Earl Wagner to win the 30-lap feature at the Nebraska State Fair on Saturday afternoon.

Utz, of Sedalia, Mo., started eighth on the grid and worked his way into the lead on lap 7 when he flew by Jan Opperman, who could not regain the lead from last year’s Nebraska State Fair champion.

Wagner came from even farther back in the pack to a challenging position for the lead on the 15th lap and pressed Utz until the finish but could not get closer than one car length.

For Utz the win meant that he overtook first spot in the IMCA point standings from Larry Kirkpatrick who had just taken the top post from Utz last Sunday at the Iowa State Fair.

"This track is really tough, there are some holes and deep grooves which can throw you an over but if you stay high in the turns, the ride is smoother," said Utz.

Wagner, of Pleasantville, Iowa, also found the high groove to his liking but gathered so much flying dirt from Utz’s sprint car that he could not find the room to pass the leader.

“I got so much dirt in my eyes that I couldn't see any way around Utz, so I figured I would just hang back and wait for him to bobble,” said Wagner.

“This track has some strange parts to it,” Wagner continued, "some parts that are tacky and some slick, besides some deep grooves,” he concluded.

Many drivers found that the track took some, kid-gloved handling.

Ron Fisher suffered a broken kneecap in an accident in the first turn when his car caught a groove and flipped end over end landing upside down.

Later, in the feature race Jim McVay lost control in the same spot and flipped but suffered only minor injuries.

The consolation race took the heaviest toll of machinery as two National Guard jeeps and Dick Kinney's car met on the main straight as the cars were just getting

started for the race. Two National Guardsmen suffered minor injuries in the rear-end collision and Kinney’s car was out for the rest of the day.

Results –

Heat #1 – Ralph Blackett, Carlisle, Iowa
Heat #2 – Larry Kirkpatrick, Wood River, Ill.
Heat #3 – Bill Robison, Topeka, Kan.
Consolation – Ron Shuman, Tempe, Ariz.
Feature –
1. Bill Utz, Sedalia, Mo.
2. Earl Wagner, Pleasantville, Iowa
3. Jan Opperman, Beaver Crossing, Neb.
4. Roger Rager, Mound, Minn.
5. Ralph Blackett
6. Larry Kirkpatrick
7. Gene Gennetten, Gladstone, Mo.
8. Del Schmidt, Topeka, Kan.
9. Eddie Leavitt, Kearney, Mo.
10.Dick Forbrook, Morgan, Minn.

Friday, August 28, 2020

1966 – Stott beats Derr at State Fair

Ramo Stott accepts the STP trophy from IMCA secretary Bill Hitz as flagman Larry Shipley presents the checkers.

Des Moines, Iowa (August 28, 1966) - Ramo Stott of Keokuk drove his 1966 Plymouth to a record breaking victory Sunday night in the 250-lap late-model stock car feature before a crowd of 9,000 at the Iowa State Fair.

Stott whipped past Keokuk rival Ernie Derr on the 99th lap and went on to win by nearly a half lap. Derr was second, followed by Bob Jusola of Mound, Minn.

Despite two yellow flags, Stott shattered two track marks. He clocked in at 1 hour, 55 minutes and 49.97 seconds for the 125 miles, passing the 100-mile mark in 1 hour, 24 minutes and 14 seconds.

Derr charged in front at the start and hiked his lead to two laps when he caught Ramo napping on the 11th lap. The field up to that time had run five laps under a yellow flag.
Ramo pitted ahead of Derr and got out one lap later. However, Ramo later ran past Derr in a driving charge off the first corner of the 99th lap.

On the 126th lap both Ramo and Derr pitted for fuel. But Ramo got out first.

The big surprise was Bob Jusola's third place finish. The Mound, Minn., veteran, who just recently returned to racing, was six laps behind the two leaders in his 1964 Ford. Earlier, Jusola had been running right behind the two leaders before he made his mandatory pit stop.

Every car was required to stop 30 seconds in the pits.

Results – 

1. Ramo Stott, Keokuk
2. Ernie Derr, Keokuk
3. Bob Jusola, Mound, Minn. 
4. Lenny Funk, Otis, Kan.
5. John Mickey, Columbus Junction, Iowa
6. George Barton, Des Moines
7. Butch Hall, Russell, Minn.
8. Hank Melhorn, Kansas City
9. Ole Brua, Albert Lea, Minn. 
10. Bob Dishman, Des Moines
11. Dale Keeling, Waynesville, Mo. 
12. Roland Wilson, Bedford 
13. John Bolen, Topeka, Kan. 
14. Blaine Morrow, Joy, Ill. 
15. Tom Roller, Independence, Mo. 
16. Bill Gibson, Kansas City 
17. Hugh Krana, Rock Island, Ill.
18. Leonard McCall, Des Moines

Thursday, August 27, 2020

1959 – Folse Top Winner at Big Car Races

Pete Folse

Eldon, Iowa (August 27, 1959) – Pete Folse of Tampa, Fla., made an easy sweep of three auto races at the Wapello County Fair on Thursday.

He took the 15-lap main event in a time of 7 minutes and 59 seconds against 10 other cars.

Dale Reed of Wichita, Kan., struggled with Harold Leep, also of Wichita, Kan., for second place. Leep had trouble with his racer and eventually dropped out. Tommy Vardeman of Springfield, Mo., finished third.

Folse had to work for his lead in the American Handicap. Leep took second and Johnny Poulsen of Pasadena, Calif., was third.

The other win Folse captured was the Inaugural Dash, a 7-lap event. He broke into a quick lead and won the match without any competition in a time of 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Vardeman was second and Poulsen third.

An Australian pursuit brought first place for Jerry Pittman of Oakland, Calif. The race has the best qualifier in time trials starting in the rear and the other drivers ahead according to times scored. A driver is eliminated when passed.

Pittman’s winning time was 1 minute and 52 seconds. Duke Hindahl of Pekin, Ill., placed second in the event.

In the 7-lap American Triumph dash, Hindahl took first with a time of 3 minutes and 28 seconds. R.B. Hensley of Richmond, Ky., marked second place and Johnny Knox of Des Moines was third.

Dale Reed copped first place in the National Speedway dash with a time of 3 minutes and 23 seconds. Redd was followed by LeRoy Neumayer of Compton, Calif., and Harold Leep.

Two drivers were taken to the local hospital after accidents.

Bob Stokes of Newcastle, Ind., was admitted to Ottumwa, Iowa, hospital with a chipped bone in his neck and Paul Dorcic of Chicago was treated and released at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Dorcic had the wind knocked out of him when his car spun out in the National Speedway dash. Stokes was injured during time trials. He posted a time of 27.65 seconds and after he had passed the checkered flag, went into the turn, skidded and flipped. He was pinned under the car for a short while.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

1973 - Horn wins controversial State Fair 200

Fred Horn holds his trophy after being awarded the victory in the controversial 200-lap IMCA stock car feature at the Iowa State Fair.

Des Moines, Iowa (August 26, 1973) - Boos and cuss words filled the air. Fred Horn of Marion, Iowa, had to be restrained. Then victory in the 200-lap stock car race Sunday at the State Fair was taken from Mike Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, and awarded to Horn.

International Motor Contest Association officials had decided Derr was guilty of “rough driving” and had caused Horn to spin out on the final lap. Horn, driving a 1970 Plymouth, led for 136 of the 200 laps and was in charge from the 104th circuit on. Derr, 25, a teacher, had tried to pass several times in his 1970 Dodge, particularly during the last 40 laps.

Then came the final lap…

Mike started to pass on the inside as both drivers neared the end of the front chute and was still trying as they headed into the first turn. A short distance ahead, one of the slower cars - the 1970 Dodge driven by Mike Wallis of Gardner, Kan. - was running along inside the trek.

Mike was between Wallis and Horn. Suddenly Horn’s car was in a spin. Derr came on as the leader and took the checkered flag.

After Derr stopped to receive the trophy, Horn pulled up, obviously very angry, hopped out of his car and headed directly for Derr.

Race directory Woody Brinkman stepped in front of Horn and kept him away from Derr, who was still sitting in his car. “I’m not going to fight him,” Horn said. “I just want to talk to him.” Brinkman released him and Fred rushed to Derr’s car where he vehemently cussed him out.

Horn was pulled away and Mike stepped out and received the trophy amid some cheers that were drowned out by the chorus of boos from the crowd estimated at 8,000.

Derr walked away and would not comment. Horn and his pit crew gathered $50 and headed for IMCA Secretary Bill Hitz in the judges stand to protest the finish.

Hitz, Brinkman and other officials proceeded to hear other driver’s versions of what they saw take place and also called Derr to the stand to hear his side of the story.

After much discussion, Horn was declared the winner and awarded the $1,000 first prize. Derr was credited with second place and $750.

“Derr was driving too hard into that turn,” Horn remarked after he cooled off. “He was driving way over his head.”

“It’s the going thing in racing,” Horn added. “Whoever gets to the turn first get that spot; the other guy needs to let up on the gas.”

Derr contended he was more than half-way past Horn when they entered the turn. “Dad (12-time IMCA champion Ernie Derr) always told me that if the nose of your car is even with the other guy’s door, they should let up on the gas.”

Obviously, the mishap happened in the heat of competition. Officials lauded Derr for being a gentleman afterwards in discussing the episode. Derr and Horn would shake hands later and both would declare there were no hard feelings.

Time trials were canceled so the race could start at noon – two hours earlier than usual so the ground crew could prepare for the Elton John concert that evening.

Drivers drew for starting positions and Horn started the race on the pole position. He would be the leader when the green flag dropped.

Bill Wrich of Kennard, Neb., driving a 1972 Monte Carlo, would pass Horn on the lap 11 only to have Horn regain the top spot on lap 26. Horn would hold steady until lap 87 when Wrich would scoot by once again. Derr, meanwhile, had managed to work his way from his fourth row starting position to take third.

All three would take a pit stop on lap 104. Horn would be the first to exit, followed by Derr and then Wrich, who would eventually drop out 40 laps later with mechanical issues.

Results –

1. Fred Horn, Marion, Iowa
2. Mike Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
3. Bill Schwader, Riverdale, Iowa
4. Gordon Blankenship, Keokuk, Iowa
5. Bill Stahl, St. Paul, Minn.
6. Charles Benedict, Independence, Mo.
7. Mike Petrucci, St. Paul, Minn.
8. Larry Haney, Kansas City, Kan.
9. Vern Mondry, Lake Elmo, Minn.
10.Eddie Anderson, Grinnell, Iowa
11.Mike Wallis, Gardner, Kan.
12.Fred Kirk, Gardner, Kan.
13.Larry Lynch, Garland, Tex.
14.Tom Stewart, Washington, Iowa
15.Stan Stover, Reinbeck, Iowa
16.Jim Still, Topeka, Kan.
17.Bill Wrich, Kennard, Neb.
18.Bland Robinson, Des Moines, Iowa
19.Larry Snyder, Des Moines, Iowa
20.Martha Wideman, Lufkin, Tex.
21.Gary Brooks, Grand Prairie, Tex.
22.Ferris Collier, Lampe, Mo.
23.Bill Starks, Claremore, Okla.
24.Gerry Harrison, Topeka, Kan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

1967 - Don White beats Parnelli, Foyt at Indiana State Fairgrounds

Don White is surrounded by well-wishers after winning the Indiana State Fair Century. 

Indianapolis, Ind. (August 25, 1967) - Don White of Keokuk, Iowa. won his third straight stock car race on the Indiana State Fairgrounds track Friday night, beating Parnelli Jones and A. J. Foyt in the State Fair Century.

White averaged 83.979 miles per hour in a Dodge Charger and won $6,707. He took the lead for keeps on the seventieth mile of the 100-mile race.

The Iowa driver, who leads U.S. Auto Club stock car racing standings, set a qualifying record of 91.30 m.p.h. the old mark was 90.589, set last year by the late Billy Foster.

Foyt led the first 37 miles. Both White and Jones passed him during his compulsory pit stop. Foyt, who won the Indianapolis 500-mile race Memorial Day, crashed on the lap 83 when the front end of his car developed mechanical trouble. He was not hurt.

The race set records for the event with a crowd of 17,820 paid and a purse of $24,250.

Jones was second in a Ford Fairlane and won $3,405. Al Unser of Albuquerque, N.M., took third in a Dodge Charger, which he banged up in a practice in a collision with Bill Cheesbourg of Tucson, Ariz. Cheesbourg did not make the race.

Results –

1. Don White, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Parnelli Jones, Torrance, Calif.
3. Al Unser, Albuquerque, N.M.
4. Paul Goldsmith, Munster, Ind.
5. Norm Nelson, Racine, Wis.
6. Roger Regeth, West Allis, Wis.
7. Gary Bettenhausen, Tinley Park, Ill.
8. Whitey Gerken, Melrose, Ill.
9. Eddie Meyer, Glenview, Ill.
10. Sal Tovella, Addison, Ill.

Monday, August 24, 2020

1958 – Amick Wins Before 22,000

Des Moines, Iowa (August 24, 1958) – They’re probably still hunting for Bobby Grim at the Iowa State Fair track.

The three-time IMCA national champion wasn’t in sight when Richard “Red” Amick slammed across the finish line Sunday to win the first of four speedway sprint features scheduled at the half-mile dirt oval.

Grim, rated a heavy favorite after Don Carr of Indianapolis tore out a clutch in the first qualifying heat, was fifth in the 20-lap windup before a slightly surprised throng of 22,000 paid customers.

Amick wheeled his Chevrolet-powered sprinter to the front at the start from his inside third-row starting position. Grim, trapped high on the curves by Johnny Pouelson, the former Rolfe, Iowa, resident now living in Gardenia, Calif., didn’t get by Pouelson until the final lap.

By that time, Bob Cleburg, former Rio, Wis., driver now out of Tucson, Ariz., and newcomer Colby Scroggins of South Pasadena, Calif., had clinched second and third spots.

Ken Rubright of Lyndon, Ill., added insult to Grim’s injured pride when he nosed out thee Indianapolis star by a scant wheel to take fourth-place money.

The crowd, the largest in two years, got a chill when Al Sherman of Van Nuys, Calif., crashed into the west wall at the start of the third qualifying heat. The impact apparently stunned the 47-year-old driver as he bounced around the wall under full throttle until reaching the straightaway. It then veered into the pit area, crashing into Ken Gottschalk’s car. Sherman was released from an area hospital after examination.

Results –

1. Red Amick
2. Bob Cleburg
3. Colby Scroggins
4. Ken Rubright
5. Bobby Grim
6. Jerry Blundy
7. Johnny Pouelson
8. Herschel Wagner

Sunday, August 23, 2020

1975 – Mike Derr wins Missouri International

Sedalia, Mo. (August 23, 1975) – Before a capacity crowd in the main grandstands and a well-filled bleacher section, Mike Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, won the 100-lap feature on the one-mile track at the Missouri State Fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

Derr, the eldest son of 12-time IMCA stock car national champion Ernie Derr, timed in his dad’s 1969 Dodge Charge sixth fastest of the 39 qualifiers but drew the pole position at the start of the 100-mile race since the top six qualifiers were inverted in the lineup.

Derr would be the early pace-setter in the contest until “Super” Joe Wallace of Kansas City took over on lap 13. He would continue to lead until the 34th circuit when Derr soared past Wallace to the front of the pack.

On lap 58, Derr pulled into the pits for a quick refueling stop and benefited on that maneuver since a yellow flag waved at the same time, allowing Derr to keep his spot up front.

Wallace would remain in contention all the way and end up third, behind Derr and Jerry McCredie, also of Keokuk. Those three drivers completed all 100 laps.

Ferris Collier of Lampe, Mo., would take fourth and Russ Derr, driving a 1972 Chevy II, completed 99 laps and came in fifth.

Twenty of the original 32 starters were running when the checkered waved at approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes after the green flag was shown.

Results –

1. Mike Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Jerry McCredie, Keokuk, Iowa
3. Joe Wallace, Kansas City
4. Ferris Collier, Lampe, Mo.
5. Russ Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
6. Bill Myers, Grand Island, Neb.
7. John Oswalt, Kansas City
8. Ray Blohm, Arlington, Tex.
9. Jim Hager, Liberty, Mo.
10. Jim Hanson, Des Moines

Saturday, August 22, 2020

1970 - 11,200 watch Ernie Derr cruise at State Fair

Des Moines, Iowa (August 22, 1970) - Ernie Derr made it look easy as he wheeled his 1970 Dodge Charger to a one-lap victory in the 200-lap new model stock car race in record time at the Iowa State Fair Saturday afternoon.

The 48-year-old Keokuk veteran, who won the event, a year ago and had set the old course record in 1967, easily out-sped Ron Hutcherson of Keokuk and Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids before a crowd of 11,200.

Derr's time for the 100-mile test was 1 hour, 32 minutes 8.68 seconds, more than 2 and half minutes better than his old mark of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 44.07.

He took the lead for the first time on the 54th lap, moving ahead of Janey, and held it for all but eight laps after that.

Janey moved in front on the 92nd go-round but Derr passed him again at the start/finish line and held to the finish, not even losing his lead when he made a gas stop at the 126th lap.

Janey's time for the 100 laps of 45 minutes and 48.52 seconds broke the mark of 46 minutes and 4.82 seconds by Derr in 1967.

Derr also shattered a record in the time trials with a clocking of 25.23 seconds. Dick Hutcherson of Keokuk had set the old one of 25.83 seconds in 1967 and four others besides Derr were below that in the trials - Fred Horn of Marion, Ron Hutcherson, Janey and Mel Morris of West Liberty.

Morris was in front through much of the early going, losing the lead to Janey on the 47th lap.

The field was slowed for just two laps when Harlan Conn hit the wall and by a minor spin out.

With Derr far ahead of the pack in the last third of the race, Hutcherson and Janey put on a battle for second with Hutcherson moving ahead on the 73rd lap and holding it to the finish.

Results –

1. Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Ron Hutcherson, Keokuk, Iowa
3. Irv Janey, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
4. Mel Morris, West Liberty, Iowa
5. Mike Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
6. Gordon Blankenship, Keokuk, Iowa
7. Bill Wrich, Kennard, Neb.
8. Fred Horn, Marion, Iowa
9. Butch Hall, Russell, Minn.
10. Gerry Harrison, Topeka, Kan.
11. Tom Beck, Waterloo, Iowa
12. Gary Allensworth, Des Moines, Iowa
13. Bob Perry, Springfield, Mo.
14. Dale Roper, Fairgrove, Mo.
15. Bill Schwader, McCausland, Iowa
16. Dale Keeling, Dixon, Mo.
17. Shorty Selsor, Des Moines, Iowa
18. Vern Covert, Topeka, Kan.
19. Larry Sponsler, Des Moines, Iowa
20. Chuck Janey, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
21. Johnny Snow, Bolivar, Mo.
22. Sandy Sandstrom, Kansas City, Mo.
23. Morey Willis, Van Horne, Iowa
24. Roger Brown, Waverly, Iowa

Monday, August 10, 2020

1975 – Trickle Wins on Wausau Dirt

Wausau, Wis. (August 10, 1975) – Dick Trickle turned the tables on the dirt trackers at the Wisconsin Valley Fair Sunday afternoon in the seventh race of the Wisconsin Late Model Championship Series as he skated to victory on a dry slick track.

The race was a four-way battle most of the way between Trickle, Tom Steuding, Leon Plank and Red Steffen. Plank was leading until lap 19 when Trickle took over the top spot.

Steuding took over third on lap 23 and followed up three laps later by passing Plank for second. This ended all the passing by the top as positions did not change over the last 24 circuits.

The heat, dust and dry slick track conditions created many problems and combined mechanical issues that left only four cars on the same laps at the finish.

Trickle finished the feature with a cracked cylinder wall with Steuding smoking badly in second followed by Plank with overheating problems and an inoperative heating gauge, Steffen was also suffering from overheating problems as well.

Pet Parker followed in fifth one lap down with Ron Goss and Al Stepan sixth and seventh three laps down slowed by problems and Roger Ress six laps down in eighth.

Dave Morgan of Rice Lake, Wis., won the accident-marred semi-feature. No fewer than five yellow flag slowed the action in the 20-lap event. The most spectacular accident saw Rick Fox of Neillsville, Wis., put his 1973 Camaro through the backstretch fence.

No one was injured although the accident did cause a considerable delay in the racing program.

The day began with Steuding setting a new track record in qualifying with a time of 25.40 seconds. The time was bettered the time of 26.18 seconds set by Harold Mueller on Thursday night.

The previous Wisconsin Valley Fair track record was 26.59 second set by Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, in 1967.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

1964 - Grandpappy Branson Outlasts Foyt

Winner Don Branson receives his trophy from Terre Haute businessman Bill Niemeyer.

Terre Haute, Ind. (August 9, 1964) - “If that Foyt would have stayed on my tail, I don't know whether I could have kept him off.”

But A. J. Foyt couldn’t stay on his tail, and 44-year-old grandfather Don Branson sped to a grueling victory in the 30-lap feature USAC sprint race on the Vigo County Fairgrounds half-mile track Sunday afternoon.

Foyt dueled with Branson for 15 laps but the three-time national champion “just goofed” coming out of the second turn on the 16th lap and spun out, thus ending his hopes of repeating his June 14 victory on the Action Track.

Branson won $2,196, including $750 for leading every lap of the feature, in taking home the lion’s share of the $8,275 purse paid by an estimated 8,500 fans.

“I had to slow down several times, because my arms were getting tired,” Branson stated after the grind over a track that was in something less than perfect condition.

The Champaign, Ill., veteran, who took a commanding 445 to 349 lead over Foyt in the national sprint car standings, admitted afterwards that he almost lost control twice in the second turn.

But the tiring effort of Sunday’s action won’t slow down the battle-wise grandpappy. He’s slated to be at Indianapolis this week for tire testing and he’ll run two sprint races next week and Allentown, Penn., on Saturday and New Bremen, Ohio on Sunday.

Though the track was rough in all four turns, the adverse conditions separated the men from the boys and provided excellent dueling.

Probably the greatest piece of driving of the day came in the first heat when Foyt, who started on the inside of the second row behind fast qualifier Johnny Rutherford and Lloyd Ruby, shot low going into the first turn and passed both Rutherford and Ruby.

The Texan Tornado held his low ground to take the heat, but Branson gave a preview of the feature as he rode high near the rail to take second spot.

Though Foyt won using the low groove, it became obvious that the high road was the fast way around, and Branson, starting on the outside of the first row in the feature, held the best position.

As the field hit the first turn in the main, Foyt, with Branson riding high, stuck his nose low, with no place to go. When the pair came out of the second turn and onto the backstretch, Branson held a commanding lead which he opened up to 10 car lengths by the end of the first lap.

After three laps, Foyt moved up high to chase Branson, but the 1961 and 1964 Indianapolis 500-Mile race winner went back to the inside on the 12th lap, acknowledging that the low road held the only hope for catching his wily adversary.

For the next three laps, with Branson high and Foyt low, the pair ran virtually side-by-side through the turns, but Branson, with the better traction coming off the corners, held a five-car-length lead on the straights.

Then Foyt bobbled on the 16th lap, and by the time the green came out again, Branson had a third of a lap lead over Johnny Rutherford.

In all practicality, Foyt’s spin ended the race, as Branson parlayed his lead over Rutherford into an easy victory.

Finishing behind Branson and Rutherford was Jud Larson, Bud Tingelstad and Lloyd Ruby. Time for the feature was 13 minutes and 17 seconds.

Larson started dead last in the third heat, but the past master of dirt tracks, who is racing for the first year since his 1959 heart attack showed his old form.

He passed three cars on the first lap, took over second spot on the next lap, and was in first by the halfway point, as he gunned to a third of a lap victory over Tinglestad and Andretti.

Results –

1. Don Branson
2. Johnny Rutherford
3. Jud Larson
4. Bud Tingelstad
5. Lloyd Ruby
6. Bob Harkey
7. Mario Andretti
8. Mickey Rupp
9. Dee Jones
10.Chuck Engel
11.Don Bullock
12.Dave Norris
13.A.J. Foyt
14.Bud Randall

Saturday, August 8, 2020

1976 – Wisconsin man wins ARTGO Twinbill

Dave Watson accepts his trophy for winning the ARTGO Summer Classic Twin-50's. 

Morris, Ill. (August 8, 1976) - Dave Watson of Milton, Wis. was the big winner Sunday night at the Grundy County Speedway in the Twin 50-lap ARTGO Summer Classic which played before another full house under ideal weather conditions.

Watson won the first 50-lap feature by inheriting the lead from Jerry Kemperman in the 31st lap when Kemperman, who had led for 21 laps, suddenly dropped out.

Watson breezed home the winner in front of Bob Senneker of Dorr, Mich., Tom Reffner of Rudolph, Wis., Ray Young of Dolton, Joe Ruttman of Westland, Mich., and Joe Shear from South Beloit. Wis.

Bob Strait took the initial lead in the second 50-lap contest with Reffner running through the field on the outside groove Reffner passed Mike Miller for third in the 13th lap, edged Tom Musgrave for second in the 15th lap and overtook Strait in the 16th for the lead.

Reffner looked like a sure winner as he pulled away from the field but Senneker took second on the 24th just as the race’s only yellow flag was needed when Young spun and retired with mechanical problems.

The cars were bunched on the restart with Reffner leading followed by Senneker and Watson and the trio pulled away from the field. Watson took second on the 30th lap and started to close on Reffner.

Watson finally caught Reffner on the 41st lap and the final nine laps were among the wildest ever seen at the Grundy third-mile oval as Senneker joined the fray and the three weaved through heavy traffic.

Watson and Reffner raced wheel-to-wheel for several laps and then Watson pushed his Nielsen Enterprises into the lead for his 30th feature win of the season.

In the final scramble at the finish Senneker got by Reffner for second. Fourth was Ruttman and Jones won the hectic battle for fifth money over Miller, Kemperman and Musgrave.

Larry Schuler, who came into Sunday night’s show with 34 feature wins, tangled with Joe Shear in the 9th lap of the first 50-lapper and sailed into the pit wall, knocking his car out of the balance of the program.

Overall Results -

1. Dave Watson
2. Bob Senneker
3. Tom Reffner
4. Joe Ruttman
5. Tom Jones
6. Mike Miller
7. Jerry Kemperman
8. Tom Musgrave
9. Bob Strait
10. Ted Musgrave

Friday, August 7, 2020

1960 – Beauchamp wins as rain halts 200-miler

Johnny Beauchamp accepts his trophy for winning the rain-shortened 200-miler at Nashville. 

Nashville, Tenn. (August 7, 1960) – Only a car length separated winner Johnny Beauchamp and runner-up Rex White in a scheduled 200-mile late model stock car race at the Nashville Fairgrounds on Sunday.

The race was halted by rain after 166.5 miles (333 laps).

Buck Baker was third and Lee Petty of Randleman, N.C., finished fourth in a 1960 Plymouth. The first three finishers piloted 1960 Chevrolets.

Beauchamp, hailing from Harlan, Iowa, collected $3,666, including lap money. He covered the distance in 2 hours and 55 minutes for an average speed of 56.82 miles per hour.

White, from Spartanburg, S.C., picked up $2,390, while Baker, also of Spartanburg, took home $1,225.

White had earlier smashed the track record in qualifying, with a lap of 74.81 miles per hour.

The race was slowed by a number of caution flags, after crack-ups, but there were no serious injuries.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Joe Lee Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., Dick Petty of Randleman, N.C., Jim Paschal of High Point, N.C., Doug Yates of Chapel Hill, N.C., Roz Howard of Atlanta and G.S. Spencer of Inman, S.C.

Results –

1. Johnny Beauchamp
2. Rex White
3. Buck Baker
4. Lee Petty
5. Joe Lee Johnson
6. Dick Petty
7. Jim Paschal
8. Doug Yates
9. Roz Howard
10.G.C. Spencer
11.Tom Pistone
12.Herman Beam
13.James Norton
14.Bob Reuther
15.Curtis Crider
16.Paul Lewis
17.Chuck Tombs
18.Neil Castles
19.Wilbur Rakestraw
20.Ned Jarrett
21.Jimmy Pardue
22.Roy Tyner

Thursday, August 6, 2020

1966 – Stock Win to Kunzman at Downs

Lee Kunzman 

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (August 6, 1966) - Young Lee Kunzman finally made it a BIG night for himself by winning his first late model modified stock feature of the year Saturday night at Hawkeye Downs.

A crowd of 4,800 was on hand for the races and they witnessed some excellent driving the 25-lap feature.

Kunzman, 24-year-old from Guttenberg, started in eighth place in his 1966 Chevy convertible but closed the gap rapidly on leaders Ray Guss of Moline and Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids before grabbing the front spot on the 11th lap.

From there it was simply a battle for second - won by McDonough - with Darrell Dake charging across the finish line a mere headlight ahead of Guss for third.

Kunzman, who also copped the B Semi, was elated over the feature win. “It just felt great,” he said, adding, “Things finally got going right for a change.”

McDonough also enjoyed a big night for himself, although the popular driver is yet to win a feature at the Downs this year. Bill won the first heat and also the A semi besides taking second in the feature. 

Dake and Dean Montgomery of Milan, Ill., were other modified heat winners. 

Results –

Heat #1 – Bill McDonough, Cedar Rapids
Heat #2 – Dean Montgomery, Milan, Ill.
Heat #3 – Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids
A semi - Bill McDonough
B semi – Lee Kunzman, Guttenberg
Feature –
1. Lee Kunzman
2. Bill McDonough
3. Darrell Dake
4. Ray Guss
5. John Connolly, Delhi
6. Dean Montgomery
7. Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo
8. Ben Hofer, Rock Island, Ill.
9. Blackie Lyons, Cascade
10.Jerry Reinhart, Milan, Ill.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Racing Against Time

Heidelberg Raceway - Circa 1972

by Sam Ross Jr.
Carnegie, Pa. (August 5, 2006) - Mention Heidelberg Raceway to those whose frame of racing reference is measured in decades, not years, and the response is both reverential and wistful.

For those who were there - as fans, as competitors, as part of the operation before it closed following the 1973 season -- Heidelberg was an icon of greatness for the Pittsburgh racing scene. It also symbolizes paradise lost.

The Heidelberg facility, a half-mile oval that shared a front straight with a quarter-mile oval inside and later added a figure-eight track, was the crown jewel of Ed Witzberger and his Pittsburgh Racing Association empire, a track that hosted Indianapolis 500 winners as well as NASCAR races.

“There wasn’t a facility in Western Pennsylvania and very few in the country that matched its amenities,” said Larry Mattingly, the general manager at Jennerstown Speedway who worked in public relations at Heidelberg near the end. “The seating was state-of-the-art stuff. Witzberger had an electric scoreboard before anybody else had it. He had a press box with theater seating in it and it was air-conditioned.”

“That track then is probably better than 90 percent of the tracks that exist today. And that was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He was always very progressive at the short-track level.”

Today, Heidelberg, like many other tracks in Western Pennsylvania, has succumbed to various pressures and ceased to exist.

A shopping center, Raceway Plaza, now sits on the former track site, along Route 50 between Carnegie and Bridgeville.

Witzberger lost his appetite for running the track and leased it to driver Tom Colella for 1973. The track didn’t re-open in 1974.

“Tom declined to renew the lease because of the energy crisis,” said Don Gamble, a one-time Heidelberg racer and an avid racing historian. “Then some people offered Witzberger a bushel basket of money for the property. No one was running and knocking on the door to operate it as a track. The land was more valuable than running it as a racetrack. That happens at a lot of places. When the tracks are built, they're out in the sticks. Then towns grow out to meet them.”

If Red Miley needs a Heidelberg fix, he goes to Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, his half-mile dirt track at McDonald. There you will find the original Heidelberg grandstands and other track artifacts still in use.

“PMS is Heidelberg reborn,” Miley said. “When Heidelberg closed, Nick Garan, who was building PMS, was short on capital and he was trying to get stuff. They disassembled Heidelberg and took it lock, stock and barrel, down to the board trim around the main grandstand. When I went to paint it, I saw ‘Cold beer’ on the original boards.”

Other tracks... 

While Heidelberg lives on in memories, many other defunct area tracks are gone and largely forgotten.

• Greater Pittsburgh Speedway was a quarter-mile operation along Route 30 near Imperial that ran from 1958-70, going from dirt to paved in 1969 when Witzberger's PRA took over its operation. “Ed thought he needed another paved track to complement Heidelberg,” Gamble said.

Mattingly recalled Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille doing Sunday afternoon live broadcasts on WIIC-TV (now WPXI) from the track.

“As a dirt track, it flourished during the mid-60s,” Mattingly said. ‘It never seemed to be as popular as an asphalt track.”

• Green Valley, later re-christened North Hills Raceway, was a quarter-mile dirt oval in the I-79 area of Mount Nebo Road that operated from the late 1950s until the late 1970s.

“We used to go up there to run on dirt, but I-79 took it out,” Miley said. “We raced there because you had to be 18 to get in the pits at Heidelberg.”

• South Park Speedway was a quarter-mile dirt oval that operated from 1953-68 near the fairgrounds and was part of the PRA circuit running Saturday nights.

• Turnpike Speedway was a one-third mile dirt oval along Route 30 in East McKeesport that operated in the 1950s.

• Claridge Speedway was a one-third mile dirt oval in that Westmoreland County town that ran in the 1950s.

Area racing legend Blackie Watt recalled making his racing debut at a long-forgotten track near Ligonier.

“The guy who was supposed to drive the car for me didn't show up, so I drove it and did from then on,” Watt said. “They’d just scraped some grass off and hadn't watered the track. It was so dusty; I had to slow down and look out. When I saw I was on the grass, I knew I wasn't on the track anymore.”

Any attempt at trying to come up with a definitive list of defunct tracks is doomed to failure.

“There were many that came and went quickly,” Gamble said. “At one time, in order to have a racetrack, all you needed was a grader or something. You cut out some ground and you had a track.”

A special place... 

Heidelberg was several significant steps above the shoestring operations that have faded away.

Conceived as a horse-racing facility - hence the term “raceway” - it evolved into the top auto-racing facility in Western Pennsylvania.

“They raced on Thursday nights, which you could never do now, and were very successful,” Mattingly said. “They would bring in USAC sprint cars. I remember Bob Sweikert, who had won the Indy 500 in 1955, flying in there and landing in a helicopter. Jimmy Bryan, who won Indy in '58, was a competitor there. You could get big-name drivers.”

Heidelberg hosted several races in the infancy of NASCAR, in what then was Strictly Stock but has undergone name changes since to Grand National, Winston Cup, and currently, Nextel Cup.

“I did an interview about six or eight years ago with Lee Petty, who had won his first NASCAR race there in 1949 and the first thing he said was ‘Is Heidelberg still there?’” Gamble said. “It was known all over the country. It was the premier track on the East Coast.”

Heidelberg had begun as a NASCAR-sanctioned track, but that changed when Witzberger took over and, in 1954, founded the Pittsburgh Racing Association. The group ran five nights a week in an attempt to allow drivers more opportunities to win money.

“Witzberger was told NASCAR would run him out of the area in three weeks,” Gamble said. “Obviously, that didn't happen.”

Mattingly recalls sitting in the Heidelberg office one afternoon and taking a phone call for Witzberger from NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

“Back then, it was 1971, NASCAR had a huge schedule and would run mid-week races and tours up through New York,” Mattingly said. “Bill France Sr. wanted to come back and run at Heidelberg, but Witzberger said no. He said ‘I can't make any money on that deal.’”

Such a turndown of NASCAR by an area track would be unthinkable now. Not so in 1971.

“At that time, nobody paid much attention to NASCAR,” Mattingly said. “It had the redneck image. It was popular in the Southeast, but for most of the northern people, the serious racing was considered to be what ran at Indianapolis, the champ cars. Ed didn’t have a big affinity for NASCAR anyway.”

While Witzberger seems to have missed the boat on NASCAR, he is credited with being a forward thinker in other aspects.

“Ed became tired of trying to maintain a dirt track, which is not an easy deal, so in 1967 he paved everything at Heidelberg, which was a pretty radical idea for around here at that time,” Mattingly said. “He was always sort of a step ahead of his time. He was difficult to work for, but he was very pragmatic. He had a handle on the future. He got rid of the coupe cars and switched to late models when nobody around here thought about late models -- that term didn’t even exist. He seemed to be able to read trends.”

“One of the thoughts in his mind was NASCAR was going more and more pavement and so he thought ahead and wanted to take Heidelberg in that direction.”

“He was,” said Gamble, “way ahead of his time.”

They remember...

The big show at Heidelberg when it was a dirt track was the Tri-State 150, whose winners included Herb Scott (1958), Gus Linder (1959), Joe Mihalic (1963) and Norm Benning Sr. (1964).

"They paid a big $3,000 to win," said Benning, who is retired and living in Florida. "Today that would be nothing. It was big back then. I remember one time we had 186 cars for a weekend race. Heidelberg brought in cars from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana weekly. It was the best track and it paid the most money."

Heidelberg became a family affair for the Bennings when son Norm Jr. began his career running in the newly created figure-eight competition.

“I lied about my age; I was only 15,” the younger Benning said. “You had to be 18 to race. There were only like four races I didn’t win. They’d start me last because it was inverted based on points, but I won a lot of races in that old Ford with a 390 engine.”

“I never replaced anything except the left front fender all season. I was pretty good at crossing that intersection.”

Norm Jr. now races stock cars in ARCA. He’s run at Daytona, Michigan, Pocono and other prominent NASCAR facilities. Heidelberg retains a special place in his book of memories.

“I just couldn’t wait to get old enough to run the regular races there then they closed the place,” he said. “It was a great track with state-of-the-art lighting, a huge grandstand and people coming from 500 miles away to race there. It was just a special place.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

1973 – Kirkpatrick is Knox County Fair Winner

Larry Kirkpatrick guided Jim Utt's Chevrolet-powered sprint car to victory at the Knox County Fair. 

Knoxville, Ill. (August 4, 1973) – Larry Kirkpatrick of Wood River, Ill., driving the Jim Utt Chevrolet, won the 30-lap IMCA-sanctioned sprint car feature at the Knox County Fair.

Moving into the top spot from his sixth starting position, Bill Utz of Sedalia, Mo., held a comfortable lead over Buzz Rose of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Kirkpatrick for the first 23 circuits when the yellow flag waved, bunching the field.

When the green flag waved for the restart, Kirkpatrick took the high road up near the fence-line and got sufficient traction to move past Rose, and then Utz to grab the lead. Kirkpatrick would hold on to the lead for the final six laps with Utz right on his bumper at the finish.

Bill Utz set fast time in qualifying, racing around the half-mile in 25.08 seconds. Utz would also win the trophy dash and the first heat. Leonard McCarl of Bonaparte, Iowa and Ralph Blackett of Carlisle, Iowa won the second and third heats, respectively. Kirkpatrick was the 10-lap consolation winner.

Results –

1. Larry Kirkpatrick, Wood River, Ill.
2. Bill Utz, Sedalia, Mo.
3. Buzz Rose, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
4. Gene Gennetten, Gladstone, Mo.
5. Ralph Blackett, Carlisle, Iowa
6. Jerry Camfield, Argenta, Ill.
7. Chuck Amati, Freeman Spur, Ill.
8. Leonard McCarl, Bonaparte, Iowa
9. Thad Dosher, Topeka, Kan.
10. Dean Shirley, Middletown, Ill.

Monday, August 3, 2020

1965 – First IMCA Win for Fries at La Crosse

Dick Fries

La Crosse, Wis. (August 3, 1965) – Newcomer Dick Fries of San Diego, Calif., upset the field Tuesday night at on a rain-slickened La Crosse Inter-State Fair racetrack.

Fries, piloting a Chevrolet-powered big car, won the 20-lap grand championship feature event in the International Motor Contest Association-sanctioned action.

In the process, the California driver finished ahead of favorites Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., and Gordon Wooley of Waco, Tex.

Fries, the third-fastest qualifier behind Dale Reed of Wichita, Kan., and Richert, led the first two laps before losing the #1 position to the Minnesota driver.

Fries regained the pace on lap 9 and held it the rest of the way. Richert and Wooley, both driving Chevrolet-powered cars, held on to finish second and third respectively.

Ron Larson of White Bear Lake, Minn., after changing cars, roared off the backstretch on the first lap of the feature and 75 feet down an embankment. Neither he nor the car were hurt, and the race was stopped so he could re-enter.

Results –

Time Trials – Dale Reed, Wichita, Kan. (25.24 seconds)
Heat #1 – Tom Bigelow, Whitewater, Wis.
Heat #2 – Jerry Weld, Kansas City
Heat #3 – Ron Belland, St. Paul, Minn. 
Semi-Main – Ron Larson, White Bear Lake, Minn.
Feature –
1. Dick Fries, San Diego, Calif.
2. Jerry Richert, Forest Lake, Minn.
3. Gordon Wooley, Waco, Tex.
4. Dale Reed
5. John Hesselgrove, St. Paul, Minn.
6. Tom Bigelow
7. Jerry Weld
8. Ron Larson, Milltown, Wis.
9. Ron Belland
10.Don Guida, Moorhead, Minn.
11. Sonny McDaniel, Pasadena, Tex.
12. Buzz Gregory, Speedway, Ind.
13. Paul Dorcic, Chicago Ridge, Ill.
14. Lonnie Jensen, Lincoln, Neb.
15. Roger Lane, Blue Springs, Mo.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

1964 - Parnelli Wins at Salem Track

Parnelli Jones

Salem, Ind. (August 2, 1964)—Keeping up with Jones was impossible Sunday as Parnelli Jones won the United States Auto Club’s 30-lap sprint car race on the half-mile track here.

Jones, driving A. J. Foyt’s Traco Special sprint car, set fast time of 18:11, won the 8-lap heat in record time of 2 minutes and 26.20 seconds and topped the day off with the feature win.

Other heat winners were Johnny Rutherford and Arnie Knepper with Nolan Johncock winning the 10-lap consolation race in the record time of 3 minutes and 11:60 seconds.

Parnelli, winner of the 1963 “500”, led wire to wire to collect $950 of the $5,000 purse. This was Jones' first sprint car race this year and his first victory in a sprint car since last November.

Don Branson, current USAC sprint car point leader, finished a distant second. Since A. J. Foyt didn’t compete, Branson was able to widen his lead. Foyt returns to sprint car competition next Sunday at Terre Haute.

Mario Andretti and Jud Larson supplied some real racing while dueling for fourth place. They ran wheel to wheel for several laps.

Results –

1. Parnelli Jones
2. Don Branson
3. Bud Tingelstad
4. Jud Larson
5. Mario Andretti
6. Johnny Rutherford
7. Arnie Knepper
8. Gordon Johncock
9. Mickey Rupp
10.Dave Norris