Monday, November 23, 2020

The Good Old Days; Racin’ in Hamburg


Bud Aitkenhead

By Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - For many years when I thought of racing and Hamburg, Iowa, I thought of Terry Holliman whose career spanned 35+ years driving Late Models and Sprint Cars. Somewhere in that period, Terry’s son Tadd started racing Sprint Cars with him and hence, Hamburg, Iowa and racing = Holliman. Well sometime back I found out that I didn’t go back far enough when it came to Hollimans from Hamburg racing. So, to tell that story, I must tell you about the Hamburg Speedway.

It all started in 1952…

On May 18, 1952 the Hamburg Speedway held its first race. The crowd was decent with a crowd of over 1,000 fans, the car count not so much as only nine cars showed up for the inaugural event. Harold Douglas, President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce stated that they were pleased with the crowd but wished they had been able to attract more cars.

The spongy track slowed and cut thrills and spills to a minimum, but because it also caused radiators to boil over ten lap heat races were cut to five laps and the 25-lap feature to 15. Drivers said that the track was hardening up nicely by the end of the last race, and most of them said they would be back next week.

By June 8, things had gotten a lot better and race fans who attended that race said it was by far the best race of the season. The track was hard from the beginning and the speed picked up and there were three roll-overs. One interesting incident was that Atlantic, Iowa driver Carl Lilienthal was disqualified and banned from the Hamburg Speedway for trying to run down the flagmen. He missed the flagmen but destroyed the flag stand and flags.

It was also announced that the Jaycees who were promoting the races had purchased a complete set of lights and would be installing them soon with racing moving to every Wednesday or Thursday nights. It ended up being Thursday night.

Things improved and by July 3 the place was humming. A field of 26 cars was on hand for that event which was dominated by Harlan, Iowa’s Johnny Beauchamp driving the 8-Ball car. Beauchamp won his heat, the trophy dash and the feature. The 8-Ball was owned by the Williams Brothers of Shenandoah.

After the races the 2,000 fans who had attended the races and 2,000 more who were parked on various roads around the Speedway were treated to a free fireworks extravaganza co-sponsored by the Jaycees and the Hamburg Merchants.

By mid-July Ray Whitehead of Hamburg had a significant lead in the points race with 150 points followed by Marlin Crum of Nebraska City with 100, Gerald Kinnersley of Red Oak with 100 and Joe Lindsay of Red Oak with 74.

In late July, Omaha’s Bud Aitkenhead had joined the fray and he and Ralph Betts of Nehawka, Nebraska put on some of the best racing yet seen at the Speedway. After each had won their heat races, Aitkenhead brought his #1 home a half-car length ahead of Betts in the trophy dash as he turned the six laps in two minutes and 19 seconds.

In the 18 lap feature, Betts gained revenge spinning Aitkenhead out in the north turn and taking home the win. Two Red Oak drivers Gerald Kinnersley and Joe Lindsay chased Betts to the checkers.

In early September Betts wasn’t so lucky. At the September 4 races, Betts took the wildest ride seen at the race thus far. The accident totally destroyed his #71 machine and it took track workers at least ten minutes to extract him from the car. He was transported to the Hamburg hospital and it was reported he had a broken collarbone. The races were called complete at that point (14 laps) and Joe Lindsay of Red Oak was declared the winner.

Although not confirmed it is believed that Ray Whitehead won the track championship.

1953 would bring new challengers to the Hamburg Speedway but a driver when the dust settled at the end of the year it was an Omaha driver who had raced had Hamburg Speedway the latter part of 1952 that would walk away with the Track Championship.

By mid-July the Jaycees Racetrack Committee decided to switch from Thursday nights to Saturday nights. The committee said the move was three-fold. First, it was to attract more people to Hamburg to do their Saturday shopping and then attend the races. Secondly, to attract bigger race crowds and lastly to attract more stock cars for the races.

The early part of the season was a battle between Bud Aitkenhead and Merle Ravenstein of Omaha and Don Pash of Missouri Valley. By early July Aitkenhead held a slim lead over Ravenstein with Bash not far behind. In late July and early August Ravenstein charged to the points lead while Pash dropped from the action and did not race at the Hamburg Speedway the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Ray Whitehead had started the season late but had cracked the top ten.

Aitkenhead put on a late season charge while Ravenstein (most likely not racing all the remaining races) and ended up winning the season championship by over 100 points. Aitkenhead took the season finale with Whitehead second and that is how they finished in points even though Whitehead missed the first several races.

Aitkenhead finished with 368 points, Whitehead with 271 points, Hamburg’s Gene Holliman (remember I said at the start we would find another Holliman racing back in the day at Hamburg Speedway). Terry’s dad Gene finished third with 256, Ravenstein 249 points, with Johnny Carlson rounding out the top five at 233 points.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

1962 – Crash Halts Ball Race; Marshman Declared Winner


A somber Bobby Marshman after being declared the winner of the Bobby Ball Memorial. 

Phoenix, Ariz. (November 18, 1962) – Elmer George lost control of his speeding racer coming out of a rough north turn, flipped over the guardrail and into an overflow crowd of spectators, bringing an abrupt termination to the scheduled 100-mile Bobby Ball Memorial at the Arizona State Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon.

A crowd of 12,000 were party to a miracle.

George, of Speedway, Ind., was severely cut around the head and shoulders. Twenty-two spectators were treated for injuries at several area hospitals.

But no one was killed in a mishap that had all the ingredients to be one of racing’s greatest tragedies.

The accident occurred while the race was in the 49th lap. The flagman waved the field around for two more laps under the yellow caution flag to make the race official, then stopped the cars.

After George was dragged from his capsized racer and the injured removed, officials of the United States Auto Club and local promoter Mel Martin announced the race could not be continued in safety since the guardrail in front of the grandstand could not be repaired.

There were a few grumblings from the capacity crowd, but most fans agreed they’d watched a good race and accepted the short show as just part of racing luck.

Bobby Marshman of Pottstown, Penn., was declared the winner and collected the $4,800 first prize. Marshman, driving the Lindsey Hopkins Special, hustled his car into the forefront on lap 30 after a tight duel with Parnelli Jones of Torrance, Calif., and A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex.

The trio made a runaway of the early minutes of the race and had lapped most of the field by the 21st circuit around the one-mile dirt oval.

Foyt was running hot on Marshman’s tailpipe when the accident occurred. He took home approximately $3,000 for his runner-up effort.

Jones, last year’s Bobby Ball winner, turned in a 35.94 second qualifying time to win the pole position. He would get bogged down in traffic chasing Marshman and was some five seconds in back of Foyt – with three lapped cars in his way – when the race concluded.

Spectators had jammed the forebay in front of the grandstand in order to get a closer look at the action but USAC officials wouldn’t start the race until they stepped back from the flimsy fence that separated the track from the crowd area. They did – but moved back in after the race had started.

The safety rail circling the track was the same type used on highways. Where George’s car made impact, it was anchored in with 6x6 wood posts. But a few paces further in front of the grandstand area posts were only 2x4’s holding the guardrail level.

George’s car barely lost speed as it ripped through this area, flipped and landed upside down amid spectators standing in front of wood bleachers set against concrete grandstand front wall.

The abbreviated win was the first of the season for Marshman who noted in accepting the trophy, “I’m glad it was stopped. My car is worn, and it was a question of going all the way. I think the same applies to Foyt.”

Results –

1. Bobby Marshman, Pottstown, Penn.
2. A.J. Foyt, Houston, Tex.
3. Lloyd Ruby, Wichita Falls, Tex.
4. Parnelli Jones, Torrance, Calif.
5. Jim Hurtubise, New Lennox, Calif.
6. Roger McCluskey, Tucson, Ariz.
7. Troy Ruttman, Dearborn, Mich.
8. Don Branson, Champaign, Ill.
9. Len Sutton, Portland, Ore.
10.Chuck Hulse, Downey, Calif.
11.Johnny Rutherford, Ft. Worth, Tex.
12.Bobby Marvin, Columbus, Ohio
13.Ralph Liguori, Tampa, Fla.
14.Colby Scroggin, Eagle Rock, Calif.
15.Chuck Booth, Sacramento, Calif.

Rescue workers surround Elmer George's HOW Special and attend to injured spectators at the 1962 Bobby Ball Memorial. George crashed into the stands, on the 47th lap, injuring 23 race fans. The race was called after 51 circuits, and Bobby Marshman was declared the winner. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

1959 – Musgrave Grabs Ascot 100-Lapper


Gardena, Calif. (November 15, 1959) - Elmer Musgrave, Des Plaines, Illinois, drove a 1958 Pontiac to victory in the 100-lap USAC national stock car championship race before 5,500 fans at Ascot Stadium Sunday.

There were eight different leaders during the course of the race with Musgrave edging runner-up Roger Ward in a 1958 Ford by three seconds.

Ward claimed after the race that Musgrave had made up ground while a yellow accident flag was up, but his protest was disallowed.

Musgrave took the lead on the 38th lap and led for the remainder of the race despite challenges by Ward, Les Snow in a 1957 Pontiac and Hal Smith in a '59 Chevy.

Snow, Bloomington, Ill., finished third and Smith, Dayton, Ohio, fourth. Nelson Stacy, Maysville, Ky., grabbed fifth and John Rostek, Fort Collins, Colo., sixth.

The J.C. Agajanian-promotion grossed $8,500 with Musgrave taking home about $800.

Results –

1. Elmer Musgrave
2. Rodger Ward
3. Les Snow
4. Hal Smith
5. Nelson Stacy
6. John Rostek
7. Bill Cheesbourg
8. Bob Ross
9. Jack Bowsher
10.Dick Rathmann

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

1957 – Jimmy Bryan Wins Phoenix 100-Miler


With his trademark cigar, Jimmy Bryan accepts his trophy after winning the Bobby Ball Memorial at Phoenix. 

Phoenix, Ariz. (November 11, 1957) - Jimmy Bryan of Phoenix won the 100-mile Bobby Ball Memorial race today after a neck-to-neck duel with Pat O'Connor of North Vernon, Ind.

The victory earned Bryan $3,183 and undisputed possession of the United States Auto Club national championship for the third straight year.

His official time on the 100-lap dirt track at the State Fairground was 1 hour, 9 minutes and 46 seconds. Johnny Boyd of Fresno, Calif., who led on the first 34 laps, finished third, followed by Art Bisch of Phoenix.

Next in order were Johnny Tolan of Norwalk, Calif.; Jim Rathmann of Miami, Fla.; A. J. Foyt of Houston, Tex.; Bud Randall of New Orleans; Earl Motter of Oakland, Calif., and Bob Veith, also of Oakland.

Bryan took the lead on the 70th lap to break a deadlock between himself, O'Connor and defending champion George Amick of Venice, Calif.

O'Connor overtook him when Bryan went wide on the 98th turn. The two drivers dueled all the way to the finish line, Bryan finishing about a car length ahead.

No one was hurt in the race, although only 10 of 18 starters finished.

The victory gave Bryan 1,650 points, tops in the United States Auto Club standings. The husky, cigar chewing winner finished third at the Indianapolis Speedway and won the 500-mile race at Monza, Italy, earlier this year.

Results –

1. Jimmy Bryan
2. Pat O'Connor
3. Johnny Boyd
4. Art Bisch
5. Johnnie Tolan
6. Jim Rathmann
7. A.J Foyt
8. Bud Randall
9. Earl Motter
10. Bob Veith
11. George Amick
12. Jud Larson
13. Rodger Ward
14. Don Freeland
15. Bud Clemons
16. Elmer George
17. Len Sutton
18. Billy Garrett

Monday, November 9, 2020

1986 – Balough wins All-American 400


Gary Balough

Nashville, Tenn. (November 9, 1986) - After being rained out for the third time last Saturday night, the All Pro/ASA Miller All American 400 was finally run on Sunday afternoon at the Nashville (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Before a surprisingly large crowd, Gary Balough of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., became the first two-time winner in the six-year history of the event. Balough had previously won in 1984.

Balough took the early lead from his outside front-row starting spot and held on until being passed on lap 48 by pole-sitter Mike Alexander.

The order was then shuffled several times during yellow flag pit stops until Balough once again took command under yellow on lap 140.

He would hold the top spot until being passed by rising ASA star Bobby Dotter on lap 223. Balough and Dotter held sway until near disaster struck on lap 303. Alexander, while leading after a restart, made contact with the lapped car of Darrell Brown in turn two with both cars spinning.

Brown vaulted the inside guardrail and Alexander suffered extensive front end damage. Balough spun to avoid the others and backed into the stopped Alexander machine. 

Both leaders were able to continue and Balough actually took the lead at that point. Alexander, minus some body work, fell in at the tail of the lead lap, but was slowed by the damage and unable to maintain the pace.

The final restart came with 32 laps remaining. Balough, Dotter, Mark Martin and Butch Miller were the only ones left on the lead lap at that time. Balough left the others behind on the restart, but Dotter wasn’t out of it yet. He made up a nearly 4 second deficit in less than 10 laps, tried desperately to make a pass for the win, but fell short at the finish by less than a car length.

Martin, who had driven a flawless race, was slowed over the last 20 laps by a fading battery. He was credited with ninth place, and that was enough to gain him his fourth ASA points championship.

His closest rival for the title, Dick Trickle, finished the race in fifth, but it wasn’t enough to make up the points he needed to overtake Martin.

Results –

1.Gary Balough, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
2.Bobby Dotter, West Allis, Wis.
3.Butch Miller, Coopersville, Mich.
4.Mike Alexander, Franklin, Tenn.
5.Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
6.Steve Grissom, Gadsden, Ala.
7.Tom Jones, Northbrook, Ill.
8.Joe Shear, Beloit, Wis.
9.Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark.
10.Bobby Allison, Hueytown, Ala.
11.Bob Senneker, Dorr, Mich.
12.Billy Bigley, Jr., Naples, Fla.
13.Rusty Wallace, Trinity, N.C.
14. Alton Jones, Pleasant Grove, Ala.
15.Kent Stauffer, Elyria, Oh.
16.Mike Eddy, Midland, Mich.
17.Russ Urlin, London, Ont.
18. Gary St. Amant, Columbus, Oh.
19.Jody Ridley, Chatsworth, Ga.
20. Darrell Brown, Birmingham, Ala.
21. Kenny Wallace, St. Louis, Mo.
22.Tom Harrington, Hendersonville, Tenn.
23.Tommy Martin, Angie, La.
24.John Wilson, Springfield, Oh.
25.Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn.
26.Ron Jenkins, Antioch, Tenn.
27.Kenny Lund, Oregon, Wis.
28.Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C.
29.Tommy Evans, Eclectic, Ala.
30.Dick Anderson, Wildwood, Fla.
31.Harold Fair, Livonia, Mich.
32.Junior Hanley, Oakville, Ont.
33.Rick Crawford, Mobile, Ala.
34.Sterling Marlin, Spring Hill, Tenn.
35.Gene Harsch, Sharonville, Oh.
36.Mike Harmon, Mulga, Ala.
37.Chet Eosin, Inkster, Mich.
38.Daniel Keene, Tampa, Fla.
39.Mark Day, Clarksville, Tenn.
40.Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

1976 – Makara Zips in Midwest 300


Jerry Makara reaps the benefits of winning the Midwest 300 at Salem. 

Salem, Ind. (November 7, 1976) – For the first 25 laps of the 100-lap championship segment at Salem Speedway, Jerry Makara found himself racing his Camaro door-to-door with a Camaro driven by Randy Sweet as the pair battled for the lead.

Then a flat tire forced Sweet to the sidelines on lap 26. He would have to stop twice more for the same problem because, as the Portage, Mich., ace later found out, he had a bent wheel rim.

“When I saw Randy go into the pits with the first flat tire, I felt really confident,” Makara said.

He had good reason to…his car was performing flawlessly.

The Westland, Mich. Star never was seriously challenged as he stayed in front the rest of the way to pick up the $2,150 first prize money from a $11,750 purse.

Second place and $1,050 went to Rodney Combs of Mason, Ohio, who had to drop out of the first qualifying 100 when he had problems with his Camaro. He started 25th in the final 100-lapper.

Makara won the first heat easily after fast qualifier Mike Eddy of Kawkawlin, Mich., had tire problems. Dennis Caves of Salem escaped injury when his car flipped over the third turn guardrail during the second heat, which was won by Sweet.

Results –

Heat #1 –

1. Jerry Makara, Westland, Mich.
2. Vern Schrock, Middlebury, Ind.
3. Lonnie Breedlove, Indianapolis
4. Ellis Herbert, Rushville, Ind.
5. Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill.
6. Wayne Arnold, Indianapolis
7. Ray Fullen, Anderson, Ind.
8. Ray Barnard, Ann Arbor, Mich.
9. Gene Christie, Gaston, Ind.
10.Mike Eddy, Kawkawlin, Mich.

Heat #2 –

1. Randy Sweet, Portage, Mich.
2. Don Lamb, Milford, Ohio
3. Neal Sceva, Urbana, Ohio
4. Ray Young, Dolton, Ill.
5. Dave Sorg, Fort Wayne, Ind.
6. Jim Brandenburg, Springfield, Ohio
7. L.J. Lines, Greensboro, Ind.
8. Robin Schildknecht, Louisville, Ky.
9. Rick Knotts, Kalamazoo, Mich.
10.Warren Howard, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Championship –

1. Jerry Makara
2. Rodney Combs, Mason, Ohio
3. Don Lamb
4. Neal Sceva
5. L.J. Lines
6. Dave Sorg
7. Mike Eddy
8. Ellis Herbert
9. Wayne Arnold
10.Jim Brandenburg
11.Ray Fullen
12.Gene Christie
13.Ray Barnard
14.Lonnie Breedlove
15.Vern Schrock
16.Larry Schuler
17.Randy Sweet
18.Rick Knotts
19.Glenn Ohlmann, Louisville, Ky.
20.Robin Schildknecht
21.Ray Young
22.Junior Hanley, Burlington, Ont.
23.LaMarr Marshall, Louisville, Ky.
24.Bobby Davis, Louisville, Ky.
25.Warren Howard, Fort Wayne, Ind.
26.Dicky Howard, Owensboro, Ky.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

1967 - Unser's Hot Car Chills Track Mark


Bobby Unser

Tracy, Calif. (November 5, 1967) - Bobby Unser of Albuquerque, N.M., has a Ford-powered car that's too hot to handle.

Builder A. J. Watson chose to use alcohol instead of nitrated fuel in the $23,000 sprint car because the engine was too fast for the half-mile oval at the Altamont Speedway.

Unser still shattered the record for 30 laps yesterday by roaring to an easy win in the United States Auto Club championship sprint car race.

He averaged 90.769 miles an hour and finished more than 11 seconds ahead of Don Thomas of El Cajon in 9 minutes and 58.27 seconds.

Unser also set a record for an 8-lap heat race of 2 minutes and 36.15 seconds, exceeding the old mark set by Thomas last year by better than 3.5 seconds.

“It’s a hot car in more ways than one,” said the 32-year-old Unser. “I have never driven a car where my feet got a better roasting or in which I was more uncomfortable.”

Results –

1. Bobby Unser
2. Don Thomas
3. Sam Sessions
4. Hal Minyard
5. Wib Spaulding
6. Steve Kennick
7. Bud Tinglestad
8. Larry Dickson
9. Dale Burton
10.Greg Weld

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

1974 – Carman Wins Winchester ‘Snowball’

Marvin Carman accepts his trophy after winning the 50-lap feature for ASA sprint cars at Winchester. 

Winchester, Ind. (November 4, 1974) - Marv Carman, driving his own wedge-shaped roadster, won the American Speed Association supervised “Snowball 50” Sunday afternoon beating out a quartet of USAC regulars on the high banked paved half-mile oval.

Twenty-four of the nation’s finest super sprints - super modifieds took the green for the 50-lap -chase with Bill Brian of Beckley, West Virginia, taking, the lead going into the first turn. His lead was short lived, however, as Bruce Walkup put the Leyba Sprinter in front on lap 2 with Charlie Masters, another USAC runner, getting by Brian setting the scene for the first 20 laps.

Walkup led until lap 4 when Masters put the Leffler Sprinter into the lead with Walkup right on his tail. They zipped around the ultra-fast oval weaving in and out of traffic at speeds of over 100 miles per hour giving the fairly large crowd some real exciting racing until the 20th lap when they brushed wheels going into turn three, sending both into a hair raising slide that also involved fourth place runner Billy Cassella.

This mishap put Larry Dickson into the lead with Carman second and Brian third. Brian lasted only four more laps when his engine came apart in a trail of smoke giving third to Joe Saldana in the Smith Speed Shop car.

Dickson, driving the Ernie Ensign machine, couldn’t stop the hard charging Union City, Mich., veteran as Carman made his move on lap 33 setting the stage for a dramatic finish. Dickson made a final charge coming out of turn four on the final lap but lost by less than a car length.

Rich Leavell of Elwood, Ind., claimed third place with a daring move on the final lap getting by Joe Saldana. Leavell, driving the Virgil Welch Sprinter, started the race in ninth position while Carman started fifth, Dickson sixth and Saldana eighth.

Heat winners were Don Hewitt, Bill Heeney and Dick Gaines. The 15-lap semi-feature was taken by Heeney with Duane Spangler second, Dave Gable third, and Rocky Fisher fourth.

Larry Dickson was fast qualifier in the 55-car field with a clocking of 16.293 seconds which is just a tick slower than the record of 16.16 seconds held by Bruce Walkup.

Results –

1. Marvin Carman
2. Larry Dickson
3. Rich Leavell
4. Joe Saldana
5. Greg Leffler
6. Tommy Dickson
7. Dick Gaines
8. Doug Syer
9. Sonny Ates
10.Danny Landis