Thursday, April 22, 2021

1972 - Morris in Columbus Junction Victory

Columbus Junction, Iowa (April 22, 1971) – The Mississippi Valley Speed Club kicked off an action packed season opener on Saturday evening at the Louisa County Fairgrounds. The evening was chilly, but the racing action was hot.

The 25-lap feature started off with defending track champion Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree, Iowa, taking the lead until he developed mechanical trouble. Ron Prymek of Iowa City, Iowa took over with Mel Morris stuck to his bumper. On the 21st circuit, Prymek would get high up on the track, allowing Morris to slip by for the lead. The West Liberty, Iowa, veteran would hold on for the remaining four laps to pick up the victory.

Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, started the evening off by turning in the fastest time of 26.85 seconds on the half-mile. Perry Beckler of Tiffin, Iowa, turned in the second fastest time of 27.02 seconds while Larry Jenkins of Wilton, Iowa, was third fastest with 27.08 seconds.

Jim Gerber off Long Grove, Iowa, would pick up the first trophy of the season, winning the 5-lap trophy dash. He would also win the first heat ahead of Hemsted and Bill Schwader of McCausland, Iowa.

As the green flag came out for the second heat, Ed Haase of Fort Madison, Iowa hit the cement retaining wall in front of thee grandstand. His car made several rolls before coming to a rest on its wheels. Haase was taken to a local hospital for minor cuts and bruises.

The restart brought a battle between Ron Prymek, Mel Morris and Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., with Prymek holding off the two tough competitors and taking thee checkered flag.

Ron Weedon would start at the rear of the field for the third heat but by lap 4 was out in front and won easily.

The start of the fourth heat brought out the red flag as Jack Prouty of Bettendorf, Iowa, lost control of his car in front of the grandstand and hit the cement retaining wall. He received a cut above his eye. After the restart, Don Morgan of Muscatine, Iowa,, grabbed the lead and held on to win the event.

Veteran Charlie Moffitt of Stanwood, Iowa, picked up the checkered flag in the semi-main event ahead of Bill Douglas of West Liberty, Iowa

Results –

Fast time – Ron Weedon, Pleasant Valley, Iowa (26.85)
Trophy dash – Jim Gerber, Long Grove, Iowa
Heat #1 – Jim Gerber
Heat #2 – Ron Prymek, Iowa City, Iowa
Heat #3 – Ron Weedon
Heat #4 – Don Morgan, Muscatine, Iowa
Semi-main – Charlie Moffitt, Stanwood, Iowa
Feature –
1. Mel Morris
2. Ray Guss, Milan, Ill.
3. Larry Jenkins, Wilton, Iowa
4. Bill Schwader, McCausland, Iowa
5. Ron Hemsted, Lone Tree, Iowa
6. Perry Beckler, Tiffin, Iowa
7. Jerry Reinhart, Moline, Ill.
8. Ed Mellecker, Iowa City, Iowa
9. Del Abney, Muscatine, Iowa
10.Walt Carney West Branch, Iowa

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

1974 - Maier takes Twin 100 at Odessa

Tom Maier is presented his trophy after sweeping the Twin-100's at Odessa. 

Odessa, Mo. (April 21, 1974) – Whether he started at the front or the rear, it was all Tom Maier on Sunday afternoon at I-70 Speedway as the Midland, Mich., driver wheeled his 1973 Camaro to victory in the Twin 100 season opener.

Maier, who drives a green colored car, supposedly an ill-fated color in racing circles, won what turned out to be easy back-to-back features. In the first 100-lapper, he outlasted Bob Senneker of Dorr, Mich., and in the second contest, he survived over Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., who provided some heroics by changing motors in between feature races.

The track opener attracted 43 late models and a crowd of 6,937 to the half-mile high-banked paved track.

Maier, who won the Springtime 200 here last year, and who also holds the one-lap qualifying record of 18.18 seconds, started the first feature in the second row. Jim Bickerstaff of Niles, Ohio, who set fast time in his ’73 Camaro, led the first lap. Then, Senneker, at the wheel of a ’73 Camaro, took over until a fuel pump fractured, and Maier, poised for the victory, was more than willing to take over.

In the second feature, when the field was inverted and Maier started dead last in the 30-car field, he steadily worked his way through traffic and a little commotion to better Phillips.

Phillips, driving a 1972 Camaro, was a front-row starter in the first race, but blew an engine on lap 20. During the running of the 20-lap Super Six Stock Car feature, Phillips and his crew changed motors and because of the low first-race finish, started on the front row for the second contest.

Phillips led most of the way, but Maier dashed through the field, overtook Phillips and won going away as Phillips’ second engine became ill. It finished with a hurting sound and it appear as though only seven pistons were working.

The first main event worked into a thing of beauty as Senneker, Bickerstaff, Maier, Dave Wall of Kansas City, Terry Bivins of Shawnee, Kan., and Fred Whisler of Independence, Mo., drove through traffic as If they were chained together.

Attrition, though, would take its toll and the front-runners narrowed down to Maier, Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and Bivins.

Trickle was driving a borrowed car. He had crashed Friday night in Madison, Wis., and again on Saturday in Rolla, Mo. He then commandeered a car he sold last year to Rolla owners. Trickle would finish with a second in the first race and a third-place in the second contest.

As is the pattern on this track, it was the out-of-towners who stole the show. Bivins did the best job of making it a race as he put on a late charge in the opener, but a sputtering engine halted his progress and he finished third. In the second feature, Bivins got tangled in a first-lap crash and switched mounts, but to no avail.

Maier collected $1,000 from each race of the $10,000 event. Trickle earned $1,007 for his second and third-place finishes.

“We were just guessing all the way, just shooting cold turkey,” Mair said from victory lane. “Our suspension was not set up, but we guessed right on the springs. It worked.”

As for the completely inverted start that placed him at the rear of the field for the second feature. “That was some tough driving through all of that junk. Maybe they could invert 10 or 15 cars, but not the whole damn field,” he remarked.

Maier, who said he won 78% of the features he entered last year, is 3 for 6 at I-70 Speedway.

Results –

Feature #1 –

1. Tom Maier, Midland, Mich.
2. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
3. Terry Bivins, Shawnee, Kan.
4. David Goldsberry, Bolivar, Mo.
5. Fred Whisler, Independence, Mo.
6. Joe Frasson, Golden Valley, Minn.
7. Joe Wallace, Peyton, Colo.
8. Ferris Collier, Lampe, Mo.
9. Terry Brumley, Springfield, Mo.
10.Willie Crane, Springfield, Mo.
11.Larry Ball, Springfield, Mo.
12.Doyle Dawe, Kansas City
13.Roy McClellan, Kansas City
14.Jerry Nussbaum, Oak Grove, Mo.
15.Bob Senneker, Dorr, Mich.

Feature #2 –

1. Tom Maier
2. Larry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.
3. Dick Trickle
4. Jim Bickerstaff, Niles, Ohio
5. Dave Wall
6. David Goldsberry
7. Terry Brumley
8. Joe Frasson
9. Larry Ball
10.Terry Bivins
11.Troy Petty, Rogers, Ark.
12.Rick Kimberling, Slater, Mo.
13.Doyle Dawe
14.Larry Briggs, Kansas City
15.Mike Lutkie, Wichita

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

1969 – Tri-County 100-Lapper to Don White

Don White

West Chester, Ohio (April 20, 1969) – Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, maneuvered his paved-track 1969 Dodge Charger to a five-car-length victory Sunday afternoon in the 100-lap United States Auto Club late model stock car feature at Tri-County Speedway.

White, driving the car over the half-mile dirt, took the lead on the 95th lap from Jerry Smith of Medina, Wis., who settled for second in a 1967 Plymouth.

Smith led for 11 laps after Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, spun out and lost three laps before returning. Eaker, who wound up third, was driving White’s dirt-track car that he just purchased. Eaker had paced the field of 20 drivers for 66 circuits.

A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and defending USAC stock car national champion, lost oil pressure in his 1969 Ford Torino and never made the race.

Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., finished fourth in a 1969 Plymouth and Paul Feldner of Colgate, Wis., was fifth in a 1967 Ford.

Results –

1. Don White
2. Jerry Smith
3. Verlin Eaker
4. Roger McCluskey
5. Paul Feldner
6. J.J. Smith
7. Jay Behimer
8. Glen Bradley
9. Dave Whitcomb
10.Lefty Robinson
11.Dave Hirschfield
12.Jack Knippel
13.Dale Jett
14.Butch Hartman
15.Baldy McLaren

Sunday, April 18, 2021

1976 - Record 6,271 fans witness Helfrich, Gaines victories

Tom Helfrich

Haubstadt, Ind. (April 18, 1976) - Dick Gaines, Floyd Knobs, Ind., and Haubstadt’s Tommy Helfrich each took home top money and a beautiful three-foot trophy for winning the Wright Motors-Don Jackson, Cliff Johns Memorial Twin 50’s at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt Sunday night.

As the gates opened on the 1976 season, one could see the fans coming from every direction. The stands filled early and still they came. By the time the final tally was taken, 6,271 eager racing fanatics had filed through the gates to witness the first race of the season. It was a record crowd at the Haubstadt oval with the previous best being 5,072 at last year’s opener.

The sprint car feature was the first of the twin 50’s. As starter Wayne Allen, Princeton, waved the green flag, 22 cars steered around the quarter-mile track. Gaines, starting sixth, advanced every lap and overtook early leader Bobby Marshall, Dallas Texas, on the 17th circuit.

At the halfway point Gaines held the top spot, followed by Chuck Amati, Marshall, Butch Wilkerson, driving the Centertown Motors car which Cliff Cockrum piloted to two straight championships at Tri-State, and Evansville's Larry Goad.

On lap 26 Rick Ferkel, the famous “outlaw” sprint car driver, moved in to fifth position, ahead of Goad. On the 35th circuit, Wilkerson worked his way past Marshall for third.

The yellow flag came out on lap 38 when a torsion arm came off Goad’s car and debris had to be removed from the racing surface in the first turn.

When the green flag dropped again Ferkel slipped by Marshall for fourth spot. With five laps to go Doug Wolfgang moved into fifth position ahead of the faltering Marshall.

The top five spots were unchanged from that point to the finish and Dick Gaines crossed the line first with Amati, Wilkerson, Ferkel and Wolfgang following.

Sprint heat winners were Rick Ferkel, Larry 'Buckwheat’ Gates, and Chet Johnson. Russ Racine won the 15-lap semi-feature which was red-flagged after 12 laps when 1975 ‘Rookie of the Year’ Tom Goad lost control of his car. Goad hit the turn three wall and flipped once. He was uninjured.

Bobby Marshall set fast time with a 14.979 second lap.

In the late model segment, it was all Tom Helfrich. The 'Haubstadt Hustler’ led from start to finish as he crossed the finish line waving to the huge crowd.

Helfrich started on the outside front row. He beat Wayne Coakley, Paducah, to the first turn and the 25-year-old chauffer really turned it on.

On the second lap Jerry Inman, Bruce, Miss., spun his D-7 car while running third. That allowed Jesse Ladd, also of Paducah, and Haubstadt’s Charlie Dewig to move up in the ranks. Dewig was followed by Jim Scales and Jerry McKinney.

On lap 14 Dewig lost control and spun in turn four, while Ladd was passing Coakley for second place. After 25 laps, or halfway, it was Helfrich, Ladd, Coakley, McKinney and Scales.

Scales, Chandler, spun his #98 Camaro in turn four on lap 30, dropping him back in the order. Frank Law, Algree, Ky., then moved into the top five for the first time of the evening.

Lap 36 saw McKinney move ahead of faltering Wayne Coakley. With 10 laps remaining, Doug McCammon, Palestine, Ill., began his late charge to the front. He m oved into fifth place behind Coakley.

On lap 42 McCammon passed Coakley and McKinney to capture third. On the 45th trip around, McCammon slipped under Ladd for second place and that’s where he ended up.

Buck Eden created some excitement by spinning down the front straightaway and brought out the yellow flag on lap 47. The yellow allowed the cars to close the gap on Helfrich. This gave McCammon his best chance for the lead with just two laps to go, but when the green flag came out again, the talent of Helfrich was too much for his foes and the three -time defending champion was the first under the checkered flag. Helfrich was followed by McCammon, Ladd, McKinney, and Fred Gerteisen.

Charlie Mounce, Russ Petro and Gary Kueling won the late model preliminary events. Helfrich ’s 17.295 second lap was the best in qualifications.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

1971 – Swanson cops Vinton ‘Spring Championship’

Vinton, Iowa (April 17, 1971) – Cal Swanson of Reinbeck, Iowa, bested some of the Midwest’s top late model stock car drivers Saturday night to capture the Spring Championship at the Benton County Fairgrounds’ dirt oval.

Swanson banked $350 for his feature win, his first and only checkered of the evening, as more than 2,100 fans watched the thrilling action on the renovated quarter-mile.

Many race fans were turned away on a perfect night for racing as the Cedar Valley Racing Association, sponsors of the first big race for 1971, posted “standing room only” signs outside the entrance a half hour before the program started.

Arlo Becker, the Atkins, Iowa, charger, squealed around the oval to capture second place, followed by Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa, and Waterloo, Iowa’s Bill Zwanziger rounding out the top five.

More than 35 late models signed in for the annual event, which saw Hansen, Glen Martin of Independence, Iowa and Zwanziger take checkered flags in heat races. Becker outran Bill Beckman of Lisbon, Iowa, to capture the semi-main. Cedar Rapids’ Bob Ballard won the consolation ahead of Larry Wasserfort of Waterloo.

Red Droste of Waterloo, always a threat in any race, was limited to a second place in the third heat, and blew a motor in the semi-main, keeping him out of the main event.

Results –

Heat #1 – Curt Hansen, Dike
Heat #2 – Glen Martin, Independence
Heat #3 – Bill Zwanziger, Waterloo
Semi-main – Arlo Becker, Atkins
Consolation – Bob Ballard, Cedar Rapids
Feature –

1. Cal Swanson, Reinbeck
2. Arlo Becker
3. Ed Sanger, Waterloo
4. Curt Hansen
5. Bill Zwanziger
6. Bill Beckman, Lisbon
7. Ron Lint, Cedar Rapids
8. Dan Nesteby, Waterloo
9. Larry Wasserfort, Waterloo
10.Max Overturf, Cedar Rapids

Friday, April 16, 2021

1967 – Derr Sets Three New Records

Ernie Derr is greeted by starter Russ Brown after winning the Pelican 200. 

Shreveport, La. (April 16, 1967) – Seven-time IMCA national champion Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa, demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the nation’s premier dirt track experts as he piloted his 1967 Dodge Coronet to three new track records en route to victory in the fastest Pelican 200 stock car classic in the history of the event.

Derr, a resident of Keokuk, Iowa, grabbed his first track mark in the time of 45 minutes and 4.61 seconds over 100 laps. He broke another track for 150 laps in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 44.25 seconds and his third standard were for 200 laps in 1 hour, 31 minutes and 39.42 seconds.

The champion withstood the challenges of Ramo Stott, the defending Pelican king, and Lenny Funk.

It was the official season opener for the International Motor Contest Association stock car season which will find the drivers competing throughout the Midwest and returning here in October for the season finale.

Derr said he made the final preparations to car in Keokuk before starting his trip to Shreveport. He didn’t touch the engine after arrival. Prior to the race, he took the car out for several test laps for testing of the gear ratio and engine. He said he felt secure in his bid for the title from the start of the race.

Instead of time trials, promoter Frank Winkley called for the top eight drivers in the final standings of the 1966 season to undergo a 10-lap preliminary heat for deciding starting positions. Seven other drivers who were newcomers to IMCA had a drawing spot for their positions.

Derr won the preliminary in 4 minutes and 34.55 seconds with Funk finishing second. Stott encountered trouble in his steering mechanism when he was involved in a smashup in the third turn.

Derr and Funk unreeled an early battle for the lead. Derr paced the first two laps, Funk pushed ahead on the third but Derr regained the top spot on the fourth and held forth until the Kansas wheat farmer overtook the Iowan on the seventh. Derr went back in front on the tenth with Funk and Stott trailing. Funk again pushed ahead on lap 15, Derr was back ahead on lap 17but Funk regained the pace on lap 23.

Derr went ahead on the 29th while touring the half-mile in 25.78 seconds and Funk nosed ahead on lap 30.

Tire trouble sent Ken Christie of Springfield, Mo., ramming his 1967 Dodge Charger into the guard rail on lap 39. Funk pitted for the required 30 seconds on lap 54 and returned to the pits on lap 68 while losing six laps to Derr and Stott.

Derr and Stott both went into the pits on the 92nd lap and after making the trek around the oval, Stott returned to the pits. Two laps later, Stott was back in the pits for a tire change and Derr pitted again on lap 97.

Lewis Taylor of Shawnee, Kan., driving a 1967 Plymouth, spun in the northeast corner on lap 102 and was sidelined with an engine cut in half. Funk experienced engine troubles of his own on lap 153, pitted and then returned to action.

Stott finished second behind Derr, two laps down to the leader. Funk finished third, five laps down.

Promoter Winkley said the crowd of 8,500 which overflowed into the infield was his second largest since inauguration of the Pelican race.

Results –

1. Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Ramo Stott, Keokuk, Iowa
3. Lenny Funk, Otis, Kan.
4. Phil Cronin, Houston, Tex.
5. Dale Keeling, Dixon, Mo.
6. Norm Hall, Russell, Minn.
7. George England, Dallas, Tex.
8. Ken Christie, Springfield, Mo.
9. Lewis Taylor, Shawnee, Kan.
10.Joe Melichar, Albuquerque, N.M.
11.J.J. Stubblefield, High Ridge, Mo.
12.Tony Barcelona, Houston, Tex.
13.Billy Bayles, Monroe, Lou.
14.Emory Fretheim, Decorah, Iowa
15.Paul Feldner, Colgate, Wis

Thursday, April 15, 2021

1978 - Niffenegger Wins Liberty's 'Spring Championship'

West Liberty, Iowa (April 15, 1978) – Over 6,000 race fans were at the West Liberty Fairgrounds Saturday evening for the annual ‘Spring Championship’, which opened with the weekly stock car season. A total of 54 late models from seven states were on hand, with drivers competing for a $10,000 purse.

Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, took home the $1,000 top prize by winning the 30-lap late model feature race. Gary Crawford of Independence, Iowa, earned $800 for finishing second. Niffenegger also finished second in his heat and was second fastest qualifier on the day.

The feature was made up of the 20 fastest qualifiers, with the top six inverted. Fastest qualifiers were Bob Kosiski of Omaha, Niffenegger, Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, and John Simenec of Rock Island, Ill. Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, had the pole with Simenec on the outside front row.

Simenec grabbed the lead at the drop of the green and held off his challengers for 17 circuits. On lap 18, Simenec’s “Tri-City Buggy” developed engine problems, forcing him to the pit area.

Niffenegger, who had been running second, took over the top spot and never relinquished for the final 13 laps, although he was given some very tough competition from Gary Crawford and Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Late model heat wins went to Duane Steffe of Colona, Ill., Jim Burbridge of Delhi, Iowa, Bill Martin, Curt Houge of Ames, Iowa, and Bill Breuer of Wapello, Iowa.

Results –

1. Mike Niffenegger, Kalona, Iowa
2. Gary Crawford, Independence, Iowa
3. Bill Martin, Council Bluffs, Iowa
4. Tom Hearst, Wilton, Iowa
5. Roger Dolan, Lisbon, Iowa
6. Ron Weedon, Pleasant Valley, Iowa
7. Duane Steffe, Colona, Ill.
8. Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
9. Bob Kosiski, Omaha
10. Ted Zieman, Mason City, Iowa
11. Steve Keppler, Marion, Iowa
12. Johnny Johnson, Morning Sun, Iowa
13. Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
14. John Simenec, Rock Island, Ill.
15. Del Schmidt, Topeka, Kan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

1974 - Bettenhausen Grabs Hulman Classic Title

Gary Bettenhausen tames Terre Haute.

Terre Haute, Ind. (April 14, 1974) - Gary Bettenhausen won the 4th annual Tony Hulman Classic for United States Auto Club sprint cars yesterday to cap a day’s furious racing activity at the Terre Haute Action Track. In doing so, he captured the record for number of consecutive feature wins in a sprinter, breaking out of a tie with Jim Hurtubise, who won an unprecedented 5 straight.

The Tinley Park, III., native who now drives out of Indianapolis, started 13th in the field, but worked his way through the field and finally got past George Snider, the winner of the inaugural Hulman Classic three years ago, on the 34th lap.

He held it the rest of the way, fending off challenges offered by Snider, Jan Opperman, and A.J. Foyt to take the 40-lap event.

Foyt put on one of the better showings in the Hulman as he found the high road to his liking and began passing easily from his 12th starting position.

But he could do no better than seventh through the latter stages of the rare until the 38th circuit, when a yellow was flagged for an accident.

Trying to get position to make a run for the crown and its big purse, he bolted to the outside barrier and was accused by USAC officials of passing under the yellow His apparent fourth place finish was declared foul and he was put 15th in the unofficial standings.

USAC officials were to make their decision on the outcome of Foyt’s appeal.

Jackie Howerton sped to the lead at the start and held that spot for the first 18 laps before making contact with the turn one wall, allowing Snider to slip by and take charge for the next 15 circuits.

Snider would build a slight lead until Bettenhausen made a daring move on lap 34 to get past him for the top spot. Opperman would also manage to get by Snider for second-place, setting up an exciting finish with Bettenhausen for the remaining six circuits.

Bettehausen, in addition to winning the feature, took the final heat race. He started dead last in that one and took the lead on the eighth and final lap. Other heat winners were Don Nordhorn, Mel Cornett and Lee Osborne. Bruce Walkup nipped Tom Bigelow in the 10-lap semi-main.

Bettenhausen earned approximately $7,000 from a $36,790 purse.

Results –

1. Gary Bettenhausen
2. Jan Opperman
3. George Snider
4. Duane Carter Jr.
5. Sheldon Kinser
6. Billy Cassella
7. Mel Cornett
8. Greg Leffler
9. Rollie Beale
10.Don Nordhorn
11.Tom Bigelow
12.Joe Saldana
13.Butch Wilkerson
14.Bruce Walkup
15.A.J. Foyt
16.Johnny Parsons
17.Jackie Howerton
18.Lee Osborne
19.Bill Puterbaugh
20.Chuck Booth

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

1969 – Snow Runs Away with Salem 100

Les Snow

Salem, Ind. (April 13, 1969) – Les Snow of Bloomington, Ind., capped a record-breaking Sunday afternoon at Salem Speedway with a half-lap victory over Bobby Watson in the 100-lap ARCA late model stock car feature.

Snow, driving a 1969 Plymouth, outjumped Benny Parson’s Ford Torino on the start and was never headed, coming home a runaway winner in 34 minutes and 32 seconds for the 50 miles on the high-banked half-mile paved oval.

Both Snow and Watson, who drove a ’69 Super Bee Dodge, finished a lap ahead of the 25-car field.

Snow’s clocking erased Parson’s year old mark of 34 minutes and 55 seconds. Earlier, Parsons broke his own one-lap qualifying record of 20.02 seconds with a new mark of 19.48 seconds, Parsons’ 1969 Ford Torino Cobra is fitted with a 427-wedge engine, the “Boss 429” power plant being an illegal engine on the ARCA Circuit.

Parsons ran second for the first 35 laps trailed by Andy Hampton in his 1969 Charger and Watson. On the 36th go-round, Watson got hot and zoomed by his two rivals to take second, but at the halfway mark popped a tire and the resulting pit stop dropped him deep in the field, moving Iggy Katona and his 1967 Charger into fourth place.

The only yellow flag of the day came on lap 85 when Forrest Haliburton blew a tire and hit the wall.

Katona finished fourth with Ramo Stott’s ’69 Plymouth in fifth place.

An interested spectator at Salem was Charlie Glotzbach, recently resigned from NASCAR racing.

Results –

1. Les Snow
2. Bobby Watson
3. Benny Parson
4. Iggy Katona
5. Ramo Stott
6. Dave Dayton
7. Elmer Davis
8. Bill Kimmel
9. Andy Hampton
10. Paul Sizemore

Monday, April 12, 2021

1964 – Foyt Cops Feature Race

Always one to draw a crowd,  A.J. Foyt has a audience as he changes a tire prior to race action. 

Mechanicsburg, Penn. (April 12, 1964) – A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., started slow but came on strong Sunday to win the 30-lap race for United States Auto Club sprint cars at Williams Grove Speedway.

Foyt, starting in the sixth spot as 4,700 fans looked on, took the lead on the 19th lap and came home a 15-length winner over Johnny White of Warren, Mich. Jimmy Maguire of Dunellen, N.J. was third.

Foyt’s winning time was 13 minutes and 24.51 seconds.

Foyt took the leaders one-by-one to slip ahead and pull away.

He moved into third place on the 10th lap while White was holding about a length-and-a-half margin on Maguire.

The Texas driver went by Maguire on the 14th lap and went to the outside on the 19th lap to pass White and race home a victor.

Results –

1. A.J. Foyt
2. Johnny White
3. Jim Maguire
4. Jud Larson
5. Gordon Johncock
6. Chuck Hulse
7. Bob Mathouser
8. Chuck Engel
9. Chuck Arnold
10. Mario Andretti

Sunday, April 11, 2021

1976 – Bivins to Victory Lane at I-70

Terry Bivins

Odessa, Mo. (April 11, 1976) – A flat tire put Terry Bivins out of contention in the feature event for the late model stock cars last week at I-70 Speedway, but the Shawnee, Kan., driver had everything in his favor Sunday afternoon as he put his 1976 Camaro into victory lane.

Terry Brumley, who started the feature on the pole, led the first few laps before Bivins took over. David Goldsberry, looking for his second straight feature victory, also made it past Brumley and with “Tiger” Bob Williams and Brumley, kept the heat on Bivins until Brumley went out with mechanical issues on lap 9.

Bivins stretched out his lead to about 100 yards at the finish. Goldsberry, Williams, Dave Klingsporn and Jerry Nussbaum rounded out the top five finishers.

Bivins competed last week in the 1974 Chevelle that he competed in last year but chose to run his new Camaro after running third at Tri-State Speedway in Pocola, Okla., Friday night.

“We bought the Camaro in Indiana,” Bivins said. “And rebuilt it over the winter. We tore it down to the bare frame and roll cage and “Bivinized” it.”

Bob Williams set fast time with a one-lap orbit of 18.85 seconds. Bivins won the trophy dash. Brumley was the winner in the fast heat while Klingsporn took the middle heat and Dick Turner nabbed the slow heat.

Results –

Time trials – Bob Williams, Independence, Mo.
Trophy dash – Terry Bivins, Shawnee, Kan.
Fast heat – Terry Brumley, Springfield, Mo.
Middle heat – David Klingsporn Monett, Mo
Slow heat – Dick Turner, Kansas City
Feature –
1. Terry Bivins
2. David Goldsberry, Bolivar, Mo.
3. Bob Williams
4. David Klingsporn
5. Jerry Nussbaum, Oak Grove, Mo.
6. Roger Arnhart, Kansas City
7. Denny Roberts, Independence, Mo.
8. Steve Privett, St. Charles, Mo.
9. Rod Hayes, Bates City, Mo.
10.Charlie Kinard, Vida, Mo.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

1982 - Phillips Class of 'World Championships'

Larry Phillips

Phoenix, Ariz. (April 10, 1982) – Missouri’s Larry Phillips was in a class by himself in the finals of the RC Cola/7-Up Western World Championships for late model stock cars at Manzanita Speedway.

Although the line-up for the 40-lap feature was studded with driving stars, no one could match Phillips and his lightning fast Camaro. Phillips started alongside Bill Cheesbourg but easily beat the Tucson veteran into the first turn. Even though he had to endure several cautions and a red flag for refueling purposes, Phillips still managed to lap all but nine cars en route to a $3,500 payday.

There was only one car that may have been able to run with Phillips. Don Hoffman of Des Moines, Iowa, made it into the feature by virtue of winning the 20-lap semi-main and was on his way to the front when disaster struck prior to the halfway point. Hoffman had moved his Camaro into fifth place and was challenging Cheesbourg for fourth when he jumped the cushion and slammed into the retaining wall, ending a beautiful drive.

While there was really no contest for the front spot, the action was hot and heavy behind Phillips. Throughout most of the race, there were six or seven cars in contention for the runner-up spot. Mike Gibson and Carl Trimmer swapped the second position two or three times and George Brazil Jr. was in the thick of the battle and finally took over that spot with only three laps remaining. However, tough luck that has plagued him the past two weeks struck again s he blew an engine on the white flag lap and pushed his car across the finish line in tenth.

Trimmer edged Charlie Swartz for second, Cheesbourg took fourth and Steve McGuire grabbed fifth.

Hoffman, who had problems during the qualifying races, was not seriously challenged in the semi. He started fifth and was in front before the first lap was completed.

The excitement in the semi was created by Roger Saathoff. The South Dakota driver started 15th and drove his way to second place even though he was losing his clutch in his Camaro. Gaylord Lippert finished third with his Thunderbird and qualified for the feature when Red Dralle scratched. However, Lippert had to scratch a well when his mount lost oil pressure. Saathoff would last only a few laps in the feature before his transmission went out.

Results –

1. Larry Phillips
2. Carl Trimmer
3. Charlie Swartz
4. Bill Cheesbourg
5. Steve McGuire
6. Mike Gibson
7. Ivan Russell
8. Bill Black
9. Buddy Murphy
10.George Brazil Jr.
11.Bill Brandon
12.Ken Hobson
13.Jim Maguire
14.H.D. Jackson
15.Herb Laing
16.Gary Thomas
17.Art Adams
18.Fred Lundock
19.Jerry McCurdy
20.Terry Green
21.Don Hoffman
22.Roger Saathoff

Friday, April 9, 2021

1972 - 'Big D' Struggles to Elko Victory

Dan Prizborowski

Elko, Minn. (April 9, 1972) – Although the weather that greeted race fans at Elko Speedway on Sunday afternoon was of the mid-winter variety, the type of racing presented was more like the heated competition of mid-summer.

Dan Prizborowski of Savage, Minn., took late model feature honors but not before Minneapolitan Dick Giles and Mert Williams of Rochester, Minn., issued a 22-lap challenge that forced the popular driver to go all out in his bid for the opening checkered flag ride of the season.

Giles, driving a sparkling new Ford, had won both his heat and the trophy dash while Williams was second in his heat and third in the dash. Prizborowski was fourth in his heat, but because the top heat winners were inverted for the main event, the defending track champion found himself on the pole position.

But, with only five laps gone, both Giles and Williams had already moved through traffic to touch Prziborowski’s bumper and from there on, the trio battled lap after lap, never more than a car length apart.

Despite constant pressure from Giles and Williams, though, Prizborowski was able to hold on, winning by a couple of car lengths at the checkers. Williams settled for second while Giles finish third. Dick Stang of Prior Lake was fourth and Larry Smith of Shakopee rounded out the top five.

Giles and Larry Behrens of Northfield were heat winners. Giles was also the trophy dash winner and Norm Setran of Bloomington was the consolation victor.

Meanwhile, 45 hobby stocks checked in and produced the same close-knit action. Joe Ritchie of Minneapolis was the feature winner followed by Dewey Gustafson of St. Paul and Al Pearson of Richfield.

Sunday’s doubleheader was accident free except in warmups when John Boegeman of Shakopee flipped his Superamerica Chevy but escaped injury.

The biggest surprise to track owner/operator Phil Stewart was the splendid turnout of fans, nearly 2,200 total.

“With the temperature around 35 degrees I anticipated maybe a quarter of this for fans but with 1,700 passing through the turnstiles plus the youngsters, I was pleasantly pleased,” Stewart said. “With warmer temps, we’ll be on our way.”

Results –

Late Model –

1. Dan Prizborowski
2. Mert Williams
3. Dick Stiles
4. Dick Stang
5. Larry Smith
6. Norm Setran
7. Mike Miller
8. Larry Behrens
9. Harry Bahr
10.Ray Forsythe
11.Mike Murgic
12.Dave Noble

Hobby Stocks –

1. Joe Ritchie
2. Dewey Gustafson
3. Al Pearson
4. Lynn Peterson
5. Mike Blass

Thursday, April 8, 2021

1956 – White Wins Gulf States Marathon

Don White

Shreveport, La. (April 8, 1956) – An Iowa speed demon looms as the favorite in the 1956 chase for the International Motor Contest Association stock car championship.

Don White, IMCA’s 1954 and ‘55 national champion, began defense of his crown Sunday afternoon by shattering a world’s IMCA 50-mile record while taking first place in the second annual Gulf States Championship race at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds.

White, the driver of a 1956 Dodge, finished the 100-lap marathon in 50 minutes and 8.15 seconds to shatter a previous record – 51 minutes and 51.25 seconds – which he established on September 1, 1955 at Sioux Falls, S.D.

The two-time national stock car champion annexed his latest triumph in what was one of the most exciting races promoted here in recent years. His Gulf States success climaxed a three-event program.

Johnny Beauchamp, driver of a 1956 Chevrolet from Harlan, Iowa, led the field to take the checkered flag in the opening 15-lap event, winning in 7 minutes and 57.8 seconds. He was followed by Newt Bartholomew of Carlisle, Iowa, Shreveport’s Roxy Dancy and Bobby Brown of Springfield, Mo.

The second 15-lapper was captured by White in 7 minutes and 39.8 seconds. Preacher Durr, driving Herschel Buchanan’s Ford Thunderbird, finished second ahead of Dick Houdek of Wichita, Kan.

Two drivers made trouble for White in the main event. Roxy Dancy grabbed the lead on the first lap and stayed ahead of the talented field for the first 48 trips around the half-mile dirt oval. Beauchamp overtook Dancy on lap 49 and he retained the lead until the 68th go-round when his car started overheating and White assumed command until the end.

White won his Gulf States crown before a capacity crowd which also had spectators watching the action from the infield.

Herschel Buchanan, Shreveport’s veteran driver, was fastest qualifier with a time of 30.65 seconds. Unfortunately, Buchanan was forced to withdraw from competition after timing his car, which gave the pole position to the second fastest qualifier, Roxy Dancy with a time of 30.91 seconds.

Results –

1. Don White, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Sonny Morgan, Beaumont, Tex.
3. Preacher Durr, Shreveport
4. Dick Houdek, Wichita, Kan.
5. Shorty Ebert, Kansas City, Mo.
6. Ralph Dyer, Shreveport
7. Roxy Dancy, Shreveport
8. Bobby Brown, Springfield, Mo.
9. Johnny Beauchamp, Harlan, Iowa
10.Doc Narber, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

1974 – Hinshaw Scores First ASA Victory

Winchester, Ind. (April 7, 1974) – Although he finished third in the series point standings last year on the American Speed Association “Circuit of Champions” late model stock car circuit, Shorty Hinshaw of Mooreland, Ind., had never been to victory lane in an ASA-sanctioned race.

Under cold, blustery skies, the diminutive, mustached driver baptized ahis new Camaro at Winchester Speedway with a wire to wire victory in the 50-lapper.

Hinshaw’s faultless drive netted him his first big win but he was followed to the checkers by a persevering Kenny Simpson of Bedford, Ind., the 1973 ASA “Rookie of the Year” who battled the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune all day.

Secure in the trophy dash with a third-fastest qualifying time, Simpson appeared to have the race won on the last lap when Conan “Moose” Myers, in a passing attempt, apparently broke a tie rod end that sent both cars into the backstretch wall of the half-mile. Myers’ car was damage extensively but Simpson was able to start his heat race, albeit with much flapping sheet metal.

Closely following Jim Hines and Mike Eddy in his heat, Simpson was sent headlong into the fence when the pair crashed, dislocating Simpson’s rear axle and necessitating non-stop work for him to join the feature field.

Hinshaw shot into an immediate lead in the 50-lap feature, out dragging Jim Hines into the first turn. In the early going, Hinshaw was pursued by Harold Scott and the two built a 3 second lead on a pack consisting of Hines, Gene Prosser, and Simpson, locked in a battle for the third spot.

Denny Miles brought out the first caution flag on lap 26 as he spun entering the first turn. With the order unchanged, all clear condition resumed at lap 28 only to have the yellow reappear on lap 32 when Gene Fullen spun entering the backstretch.

All the more determined after the constant misfortune of the day, Simpson immediately attacked Prosser when the green was displayed on lap 33, passing for fourth through the first two turns. Carrying his momentum, Simpson overhauled Hines on the same lap to secure third.

With Hinshaw conducting the pace from the lead, Simpson set out after Scott and hounded him incessantly until he commandeered second place on lap 39. Although attempting to catch Hinshaw boxed in slower traffic during the final 10 circuits and drawing to within 2 seconds of the leader, Simpson could not overhaul the flying Hinshaw who was not to be denied his first major win.

At the finish, Hinshaw and Simpson were followed by Scott in third; Hines in fourth; and Gene Prosser in fifth. Young Mike Eddy maintained a narrow lead a narrow lead in ASA points with a sixth place finish.

Results –

1. Shorty Hinshaw
2. Kenny Simpson
3. Harold Scott
4. Jim Hines
5. Gene Prosser
6. Mike Eddy
7. Ray Fullen
8. Jiggs Myers
9. Jackie Neal
10.Don Keevin
11.Ron North
12.Dennis Miles

Monday, April 5, 2021

1970 - I-70 Features to Blundy, Morris

Jerry Blundy

Odessa, Mo. (April 5, 1970) - Jerry Blundy, who made the long trip to I-70 Speedway Sunday afternoon from Galesburg, Ill., didn’t travel the distance for an afternoon joy ride around the half-mile asphalt oval.

Blundy copped one of the two heat events for the super-sprints as well as winning the sprint feature on a cool, windy afternoon.

Blundy took the lead on the eighth lap of the 20-lap feature and crossed the finish line ahead of Don Mack. Mack had earlier in the afternoon set a new season’s track record during the time trials by turning in a time of 18.56 seconds.

The East Grand Forks, Minn., driver had traveled the oval in a first-lap time in at 18.80 seconds.

Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo., ran third in the sprint car feature, while Ralph Parkinson of Kansas City finished fourth.

Sedalia’s Bill Utz tested the asphalt for the second time this season at I-70. The best he could muster was a fourth-place finish in the first sprint car heat race and an eighth-place finish in the feature.

The Sunday afternoon program at I-70 was another combined show of super-sprinters and late model stocks.

Mel Morris of West Liberty, Iowa, powered his 1970 Dodge Charger to the late model feature win. Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa, who had broken the old one-lap time trial record earlier in the day with a time of 20.48 seconds, finished second. Roy McClelland of Independence, Mo., was third, while Terry Bivins of Kansas City finished fourth.

Results –

Super Sprints - 

1. Jerry Blundy
2. Don Mack
3. Eddie Leavitt
4. Ralph Parkinson
5. Bob Williams
6. Jan Opperman
7. Dale McCarty
8. Bill Utz
9. Roy Hibbard
10.Daryl Dawley

Late Models -

1. Mel Morris
2. Ed Sanger
3. Roy McClelland
4. Terry Bivins
5. Dave Wall
6. Jim Still
7. Gary Martin
8. Jim Hager
9. Ray Littrell
10.Tom Stewart

Sunday, April 4, 2021

1965 – Derr Roars to Win in Pelican

Ernie Derr exits his car after winning the 1965 Pelican 200 at Shreveport. Derr’s mechanic offers up a cold beverage while starter Bernie Carlson presents the checkers. – Bill Causey Jr. Photo

Shreveport, La. (April 4, 1965) – Ernie Derr may be getting older but he still has the know-how when it comes to winning stock car classics as evidenced on Sunday afternoon when he chalked up his fourth championship in the Pelican 200 marathon before a crowd of 8,000 at State Fair Speedway.

The Pelican officially opened the Golden Anniversary season of the International Motor Contest Association and when the checkered flag was handed to Derr, the race had produced two new world records.

Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, finished in the 14th position, but was the man who grabbed the new marks while battling with Derr and a field of 18 drivers.

Four drivers alternated as leaders of the Pelican before the title was decided. Don White, the former three-time IMCA national champion and one-time USAC king, grabbed an early lead for three laps but was overtaken on the fourth by Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., who gave in to Stott on the 12th lap.

Stott, one of the “Keokuk Komets” and second in points for the 1964 season, set his first world standard when he finished 25 laps in 10 minutes and 6.73 seconds. He picked up another record for 50 laps with a time of 20 minutes and 34.76 seconds.

Derr forged to the front on lap 97 when Stott was forced to the pits because of rear-end troubles. Derr had made his pit stop for gas on lap 83.

Funk, riding in third place behind Derr and White, went to the pits for fuel on lap 117. Stott returned to the track on lap 131 after losing 38 laps due to repairs. Two laps later, he retired for good when he was forced to the pits again with his left front tire almost off the car.

The field, paced by Derr, completed the 200 laps in 1 hour and 36.42 seconds.

Results –

1. Ernie Derr, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Lenny Funk, Otis, Kan.
3. Ron Hutcherson, Keokuk, Iowa
4. Blaine Morrow, Mt. Joy, Ill.
5. Bill Gibson, Kansas City
6. Buzz McCann, St. Paul, Minn.
7. Bill Thomas, Lake Elmo, Minn.
8. Don White, Keokuk, Iowa
9. Ernie Shirley, Kansas City
10.Dean Huckaby, Kansas City
11.Jerry Spray, Grandview, Mo.
12.Dean Roper, Springfield, Mo.
13.Lewis Taylor, Shawnee, Kan.
14.Ramo Stott, Keokuk, Iowa
15.Leon Fellers, Flemington, Mo.
16.Roland Wilson, Bedford, Iowa
17.Bob Gray, Raytown, Mo.
18.Vic Elson, Ash Grove, Mo.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

1982 – Hearst Wins Sedalia Frost Buster

Tom Hearst

Sedalia, Mo. (April 3, 1982) - Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, made it two in a row in the late model division of the Frost Buster, winning the event for the second successive year as the 1982 Missouri State Fairgrounds racing season kicked off.

Hearst, a National Speedways Contest Association regular, passed Bill Moyer of Des Moines in turn one of lap 10 and was never really pressured for the rest of the 30-lap late model feature,

Ronnie Hoover of Fulton, Mo., jumped into the lead at the drop of the green flag, but was overtaken by Moyer on the second lap Moyer led for the next nine laps until he was passed by Hearst.

The real battle was for second spot, as Moyer fought to hold off Bill Martin of Council Bluffs. Iowa, and Kevin Gundaker of St Louis. Gundaker passed Martin on lap 15 to move into third.

Lap 18 almost proved disastrous for the leaders, as cars driven by Bill Breuer of Wapello, Iowa and Craig Spetman, Omaha, Neb., spun in turn two. Hearst, Moyer and Gundaker had to drive high to avoid the spin.

Gundaker passed Moyer on the 23rd lap to take over second place, but was unable to overhaul Hearst, who held on for the win.

After the race, Hearst said that he knew Gundaker was behind him but, “I felt I could outrun anyone today.”

In the first heat, Jim Turpin of Jefferson City, Mo., broke the frost for the 750 chilled fans, as he got up high in turn three and rolled his car over the guard rail.

The heat races were won by Richard Crane, Palmyra, Mo.; Mark Fleischman, Jefferson City; Martin and Ken Walton, Viola, Iowa.

Hearst had fast time for the afternoon, making the half-mile circuit in 24.32 seconds.

Results –

1. Tom Hearst
2. Kevin Gundaker
3. Billy Moyer
4. Roger Thompson
5. Vic Bentlage
6. Ronnie Hoover
7. Rick Beebe
8. Sam Jacobs
9. Andy Claiborne
10.Bill Martin
11.Joe Cobb
12.Richard Crane
13. Mark Fleishman
14.John Edwards
15.Mark Kutina
16.Jim Turpin
17.Bobby Goulden
18.Bill Breuer
19.Mike Klinkhammer
20.Ed Dixon
21.Keith White
22.Ken Walton
23.Craig Spetman

Thursday, April 1, 2021

1973 – Rookie Takes Pelican Checkers

Harlan Beene

Shreveport, La. (April 1, 1973) – Harlan Beene, a 31-year-old plantation manager from Bossier City, La., and a graduate of dirt track racing, nosed a 1970 Chevelle onto the asphalt pavement at State Fair Speedway and in less than one and a half hours, inscribed a mini-history on the 23rd annual Pelican 200 late model stock car classic.

Never had a rookie driver caught the checkered in the springtime inaugural of the International Motor Contest Association stock car circuit. And not since the early 50’s, when Herschel Buchanan of Shreveport had a “local” driver beaten back the big threats of the Midwest.

The Pelican 200, minus defending champion Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who was kept at home by business interests, developed into a two-car race between Chevelle’s.

Landing in second place, three car lengths back was snake bit Freddy Cook of West Monroe, La. Cook, who overhauled Beene, had led from lap 58 to 103, and looked like a sure winner, despite a dragging air scoop under the front bumper, as late as the 180th lap.

Then 10 miles from the finish, Cook spun out in the third turn and slammed into the guard rail – a victim of his left front wheel catching a car he was lapping.

“It knocked the steering wheel out of my hand,” a despondent Cook said.

Despite three false starts – two spinouts in the first turn that derailed a couple of green flags – the pace was slow and easy for the assembled 4,700 in attendance. 

“We knew we had a lot of laps to go,” said Beene, who first ran an asphalt track in Jackson, Miss., two weeks before. “We just took our time, both of us.”

Still, it was a long afternoon. Beene waved his hand over the hood of his #55 and laughed, “I don’t want to see one of these things for a week.”

Trailing thee two front-runners was Gordon Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, in a 1970 Plymouth and finishing fourth was Gary Brooks of Grand Prairie, Tex., in a 1972 Monte Carlo.

Gerry Harrison of Topeka, Kan., second only to Janey in the 1972 IMCA point’s standings, finished seventh.

Another page from history was inserted by Mrs. Martha Wideman of Lufkin, Tex., behind the wheel of a lavender-colored Monte Carlo. The first woman to compete in an IMCA event, dating back to 1915, Martha clocked 26.73 second back-to-back in the two-lap time trials. Unfortunately, a broken steering arm sent her to the pit area after only 14 laps of the main event.

Beene pocketed $800 of the $5,000 prize money put up by Mar-Car, Inc.

Results –

1. Harlan Beene, Bossier City, La.
2. Freddy Cook, West Monroe, La.
3. Gordon Blankenship, Keokuk, Iowa
4. Gary Brooks, Grand Prairie, Tex.
5. Vern Mondry, Lake Elmo, Minn.
6. Larry Lynch, Garland, Tex.
7. Gerry Harrison, Topeka, Kan.
8. Roy Dendy, Arlington, Tex.
9. Bill Renner, Topeka, Kan.
10.Ray Blohm, Arlington, Tex.
11.W.C. Smith, Shreveport, La.
12.Eddie Cook, Monroe, La.
13.Thurman Lovejoy, Kansas City
14.Tommy Taylor, Irving, Tex.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

1976 – Low Road Best for Kinser

Sheldon Kinser won the USAC season opener at Eldora. - Stan Kalwasinski Collection

Rossburg, Ohio (March 28, 1976) – The low road turned out to be the best road for Sheldon Kinser Sunday at a packed Eldora Speedway.

As a result, the Bloomington, Ind., veteran pocketed $3,150 from a $16,495 kitty at the opening United States Auto Club sprint car race of the season.

The usual $7,500 purse, as against a 40% of the gate, swelled to record proportions when an estimated 12,000 race-hungry fans poured into Earl Baltes’ half-mile, high-banked dirt playground.

It marked Kinser’s third career sprint car victory. He won at Terre Haute, Ind., in 1974 and Schererville, Ind., last season.

The record-smashing day also included Bill Englehart’s 17.551 second ride during time trials. His 102.55 mile per hour effort wiped out the previous record of 17.56 seconds, set by Lee Osborne in 1975.

Starting in eighth position, Kinser benefitted from four caution flags to keep within striking distance of Joe Saldana and Tom Bigelow, who actually dominated the race.

Both Saldana and Bigelow chose to run the fast lane up high. However, that route proved extremely hazardous, especially through the first and second turns.

When Saldana hit a rut entering turn one on the 22nd lap, Bigelow charged into the lead. When Bigelow returned the favor four laps later, Saldana took over.

Kinser patiently waited for his opening. It came on turn three on lap 38, and he waved bye-bye to Saldana, Bigelow, and the rest of the USAC gang.

Saldana finished second with Bubby Jones, Bigelow and James McElreath rounding out the top-five.

Results –

1. Sheldon Kinser
2. Joe Saldana
3. Bubby Jones
4. Tom Bigelow
5. James McElreath
6. Jan Opperman
7. Jackie Howerton
8. Steve Chassey
9. Larry Dickson
10.Gary Bettenhausen

Saturday, March 27, 2021

1966 – Larson Wins Reading Season Opener

Jud Larson

Reading, Penn. (March 27, 1966) – For the second straight year, Jud Larson of Speedway, Ind., has captured the sprint car season opener of the United States Auto Club.

Larson covered the 30-lap race Sunday afternoon in 14 minutes and 25.96 seconds.

One driver, Carl Williams of Kansas City, was shaken up in a mishap during the second qualifying heat race. His car flipped three times and landed on its top in the infield at the Reading Fairgrounds. Examined at a local hospital, he later returned to the track.

Red Riegel of Leesport, Penn., finished second. Arnold Knepper of Belleville, Il., was third, followed by Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., and Mario Andretti of Nazareth, Penn., the 1965 USAC sprint car national champion.

The total purse was $5,000.

Heat winners were McCluskey, Al Miller of Detroit and Larry Dickson of Marietta, Ohio.

Results –

1. Jud Larson
2. Red Riegel
3. Arnie Knepper
4. Roger McCluskey
5. Mario Andretti
6. Don Hewitt
7. Karl Busson
8. Dave Lundy
9. Chuck Allen
10.Bill Brown
11.Bobby Unser
12.Al Miller
13.Ronnie Duman
14.Larry Dickson
15.Sam Sessions

Friday, March 26, 2021

1961 – Burdick Wins Atlanta 500

Bob Burdick acknowledges the crowd after winning the Atlanta 500. His father Roy joins him in victory lane. 

Hampton, Ga. (March 26, 1961) – Cool-headed Bob Burdick of Omaha, Neb., let the fast boys burn up their cars and then drove his 1961 Pontiac to victory in the Atlanta 500 late model stock car race.

Burdick, who started seventh in a field of 46, was in contention the entire way, but he never seemed to try to take the lead.

Then on lap 292, Marvin Panch of Daytona Beach, Fla., was forced into the pits with a broken axle and Burdick moved to the front of the pack and stayed there until the he received the checkered.

His average time for the 344-lap event was 120.044 miles per hour, about three miles an hour faster than the average speed in last year’s race.

The 23-year-old Midwesterner finished a lap ahead o Ralph Earnhardt of Kannapolis, N.C. Earnhardt came in second in Cotton Owen’s 1961 Pontiac. Owens, a Spartanburg, S.C., racing veteran, has retired from racing.

Nelson Stacy of Cincinnati, Ohio, guided his 1961 Ford to third place, a whisker ahead of Rex White of Spartanburg, S.C., in a 1961 Chevrolet.

The victory was worth approximately $16,000 to Burdick.

The grueling NASCAR-sanctioned race took a terrific toll on machines with only 16 cars running at the end of the race. There were several accidents, but no one hurt seriously. Joe Lee Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., received treatment for a knee injury when his car was involved in a pileup on lap 126.

An estimated 43,000 race fans jammed into the two-year-old Atlanta International Raceway for the race, third in the history of the mile and a half asphalt track.

The weather was perfect for racing, a pleasant contrast to the cold temperatures and biting winds which had punished spectators in pre-race events.

An indication of what would follow came early as Fireball Roberts of Daytona Beach, Fla., was forced out of the race on lap 30 with a blown transmission after waging a terrific battle with Fred Lorenzen of Elmhurst, Ill.

Lorenzen had taken the lead from Roberts on lap 13, pouring it on in his 1961 Ford at a sizzling pace of 133 miles per hour. He was building up a sizeable lead when his right rear tire blew out and is car skidded into the guardrail, forcing him out of the race on lap 101.

Panch moved into the lead, followed by Banjo Matthews of Asheville, N.C., in a 1961 Ford.

Roberts, eager to get back in the race, got his chance when Joe Weatherly of Norfolk, Va., tired on lap 107. Roberts relieved Weatherly and immediately started pushing Weatherly’s Pontiac towards the front.

Curtis Turner of Roanoke, Va., took over the top spot in his 1961 Ford when Panch pulled in for a pit stop on lap 154. Pushing turner hard were Stacy, Jack Smith of Spartanburg, S.C., Roberts and Matthews.

The mechanical bugaboo struck Roberts again when his right rear tire blew on lap 177. He held the car well in control but had to go around the track on the rim and his car was knocked out of action when his wheel bolts broke in the pits.

Panch regained the lead on lap 187 when Turner made a stop for fuel. Turner got back in the race, but his car was over heating and he was soon forced out.

Matthews, who had nursed his car into second place, took the lead and held it for 32 laps when his car went out with mechanical issues.

Once again, Panch’s car took the lead but with Roberts behind the wheel. At the 293rd lap, Roberts pulled into the pits for a routine fueling stop and Panch slipped in behind the wheel again. Panch was still in the lead when he left the pits but six laps later his axle broke and he had to pull in for repairs.

Results –

1. Bob Burdick, Omaha, Neb.
2. Ralph Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C.
3. Nelson Stacy, Cincinnati, Ohio
4. Rex White, Spartanburg, S.C.
5. Ned Jarrett, Newton, N.C.
6. Marvin Panch, Daytona Beach, Fla.
7. Tom Pistone, Chicago
8. Emanuel Zervakis, Richmond, Va.
9. Bob Welborn, Atlanta
10. Tommy Irwin, Inman, S.C.
11.Jimmy Pardue, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
12.Buck Baker, Charlotte, N.C.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

When Indy Came to Cedar Rapids

An 1954 advertisement for the AAA Big Car races at Hawkeye Downs. 

By Kyle Ealy

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – The American Auto Association or as we know it today, AAA, was heavily involved in auto racing from 1904 to 1955. It was known as the AAA Contest Board. Modern day Indy-car racing traces its roots directly to it.

All the races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during that time were sanctioned by AAA, including the Indianapolis 500.

The majority of American Auto Association races were held on the East coast. Very rarely, did they cross the Mississippi River.

Starting in 1950, however, it was announced that two Midwestern tracks would play host to AAA-sanctioned auto race. One was the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, and the other, Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Hawkeye Downs race would take place during the popular All-Iowa Fair, August 12, 1950.

Sam Nunis

The promoter of the race was none other than Sam Nunis of Reading, Penn.

Nunis, who promoted approximately 75% of the auto racing programs sanctioned by AAA, would have 12 or 15 “big-name” drivers under contract each year, and wherever Nunis went, so did they. Chances were, one of those drivers was the Indianapolis 500 champion.

And who didn’t want to see the Indy 500 champion at your local track?

Sure enough, when cars and stars pulled into Cedar Rapids a few days early, the 1950 Indianapolis 500 champion, Johnnie Parsons of Van Nuys, Calif., was the driver drawing the most attention. Along with Parsons was Tommy Hinnershitz of Oley, Penn., Lee Wallard of Altamont, N.Y., who finished sixth in the 500, Duane Carter of Detroit, Mich., the “One-Legged Wonder” Bill Schindler of Freeport, N.Y., and Andy Linden of Los Angeles, Calif.

An estimated 5,200 jammed the grandstands despite threatening weather all day long. Parsons, the defending AAA national champion was picked to have a red-hot duel with Hinnershitz. Hinnershitz, the Eastern AAA champion, drove “Big Red”, a powerful Offenhauser which the late Ted Horn had piloted to 25 consecutive triumphs and 83 records.

But when the “racing bugs” were making their picks, no one mentioned a 20-year-old wild-driving speedster from Long Beach, Calif., Troy Ruttman.

Troy Ruttman

Racing one of the 13 Offenhauser’s in the field, Ruttman captured the fans’ attention when he finished second to Hinnershitz in his heat. The young Californian also had the fastest qualifying time of the 19 entrants, touring the half-mile in 23.95 seconds, a new Hawkeye Downs speed record.

The feature stared as expected with Parsons leading, Duane Carter in second, Hinnershitz in third and Ruttman in fourth for the first 11 circuits.

Ruttman made his bid on the next lap, passing Hinnershitz at the start/finish line and remaining there until lap 23. Then the youth shot ahead again, passing Carter on the curve to grab second and then sticking himself to Parsons’ tail.

Fate then played her hand as Parsons’ $14,000 Offenhauser developed rear-end trouble on lap 24 and had to drop out, only one lap from the finish. Ruttman had to only coast home to collect the top prize.

The fifth event of the afternoon, involving two cars in a match race, turned out to be a three-car race instead. The 19 drivers were assembled facing the grandstand, with two contestants to be picked by applause of the audience for each man.

The fans couldn’t decide between Parsons, Hinnershitz and Ruttman, so Sam Nunis gave in to public acclaim and let all three race. Ruttman also won this 3-lap event, coming from third to first on the last lap.

Joey Ray, the only known Negro in big car racing at the time, failed to make the feature as did Jerry Hoyt of Indianapolis. Hoyt, the youngest competitor at 21-years-old, drove the only racer in the field which had competed in the 500-mile event in May.

Johnnie Parsons

Headed by a parade of Indianapolis 500 stars, a field of 22 drivers were hand when they made their second appearance at the All-Iowa Fair on August 19, 1951. Of the 33 starters for the Memorial Day Classic, Sam Nunis had brought with him eight of the starters, including AAA point leader Bill Schindler, Midwestern champion Duane Carter, Joe James of Inglewood, Calif., Gene Force of Richmond, Ind., “Iron” Mike Nazaruk of East Meadows, N.Y., who took second in his first 500 start, Cal Niday of Los Angeles, Quentin Cowles and Johnnie Parsons.

Great weather brought a huge mass for the seven-event program, with Fair officials estimating the crowd at 7,800.

Joe Sostilio would get those spectators on their feet during qualifying as the Boston, Mass., speed merchant would set a new world’s record for a flat half-mile dirt track when he was clocked by the electric eye at 22.88 seconds. The former world record was 23 seconds flat, and the old Hawkeye Downs mark had been set by Ruttman the year before.

In addition, Sostilio would proceed to set a new Hawkeye Downs’ mark in the first heat, going 8 laps in 3 minutes and 16.48 seconds, breaking Johnnie Parsons’ one-year-old mark of 3 minutes and 20.57 seconds.

Parsons would win the second heat, Buzz Barton of Tulsa, Okla., the third heat while Sostilio would win the 3-lap match race. Gene Force would grab top honors in the consolation.

Unfortunately for Sostilio, the afternoon would end on a sour note. Having won everything that he entered, he was a heavy favorite to win the 25-lap Sweepstakes race and for the first 10 laps of that race, it appeared he would.

Sostilio was well ahead of his teammate Parsons when he began to slow considerably. Parsons sped by him as did Mike Nazaruk and Joe James. That’s when things took a turn for the worse…

Sostilio’s car suddenly caromed off the track, crashed through the two-foot-high retaining fence, and then smashed through the 10-foot wooden fence at the southwest corner of the track.

Fortunately, his car did not overturn, permitting the driver to suffer only a few skin burns. Sostilio was obviously shaken up-quite a bit by the accident. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital where he was treated and released.

Afterwards, Sam Nunis said the accident was caused by a faulty steering mechanism. Tire tracks on the west curve showed that Sostilio’s car never made the turn – there were no skid marks. Sostilio had a quarter of a lap to go when he crashed.

Parsons would take the victory followed by Nazaruk, James, Duane Carter and Ed Adams of Tampa, Fla. After Parsons had crossed the finish line and was circling the track, he stopped his car on the west curve and ran to help Sostilio.

Joey James

Joey James would win the 25-lap feature, but it was Troy Ruttman’s near-fatal accident that would grab the headlines when the big cars made their return to the All-Iowa Fair on August 17, 1952.

The 22-year-old, 250-pound Lynwood, Calif., driver, the latest winner of the Indianapolis 500, was taken to Mercy Hospital with a crushed right arm, head injuries and severe lacerations in an unusual accident that saw his Agajanian Special #98 crash over the guard rail on the East turn of the Hawkeye Downs track.

The accident occurred while the cars were preparing to start the second heat, and at a time when the big Offenhauser’s were moving only at a 15 mile an hour clip.

Heading into the backstretch, Ruttman’s car failed to make the turn, broke through the guard rail and plunged down an embankment, overturning.

The young man who survived 500 grueling miles earlier this year at Indianapolis, was pinned under the racer, and his boot was cut away before he could be removed.

Other serious crashes were narrowly avoided during the afternoon program on a track that was full of holes, caused by last week's 100-mile stock car race, and in generally bad condition because of the week’s irregular weather.

The condition of the track was such that it slowed down more than two full seconds during the time trial period. Cars that had been turning rounds in the 24-second bracket during hot laps driving couldn't get below 26 seconds during the trials.

Track conditions played havoc with some of the name drivers, including Pat O’Conner of North Vernon, Ind., and former IMCA champion Frank Luptow. Such veterans as Tommy Hinnershitz and Johnnie Parsons, narrowly avoided crashes when their cars rocketed out of bad holes on the treacherous turns.

James, who also competed in the 1952 Memorial Day classic, did a stellar job in the first heat as he worked to the front from the fifth spot. As a result, the Van Nuys, Calif., pilot found himself on the pole in the feature, and he never relinquished that spot.

Gene Force of Richmond, Ind. passed former national AAA champion Henry Banks of Compton, Calif., to take second place, but he lost ground all through the 25-lap feature to James.

Sadly, Joe James would lose his life a little over two months later in San Jose, Calif., race.

Bob Sweikert

When Nunis and his AAA promotion returned for the fourth time, on August 23, 1953, he promised the biggest array of stars and delivered. Nunis had lined up 24 drivers to appear, 14 of which competed in the Indianapolis 500.

Some new Midwestern dirt track stars such as Roy Newman and Paul Russo, both of Hammond, Ind., Ira Collins of Centerville, Ind., Larry Crockett of Columbus, Ind., Bill Earl and George Lynch, both of Indianapolis, had signed up to rival the “500” notables.

Eastern stars making their first appearance at Hawkeye Downs were Johnny Thomson of Springfield, Mass., and Wally Campbell of Trenton, N.J., and Eddie Sachs of Bryn Mawr, Penn.

A trio of youngsters had also signed up; Jimmy Daywalt of Wabash, Ind., who had finished sixth at the Memorial Day Classic; Jimmy Bryan of Phoenix, Ariz., and Bob Sweikert of Los Angeles.

Some of the tried-and-true favorites were back as well, including four-time Eastern AAA king Tommy Hinnershitz, former 500 winner Johnnie Parsons, Joe Sostilio, and Duane Carter driving the brand-new $15,000 Miracle Power Special.

When the big day finally came around, once again, it wasn’t the winner who stole the headlines…this time it was the promoter, Sam Nunis.

Minutes after Bob Sweikert rolled to victory in the 25-lap feature event, Nunis shocked everyone when he instructed race announcer Chris Economaki to inform fans that, because of poor support, that he and his promotion would not return to Hawkeye Downs in 1954.

Nunis’ complaint was 6,500 fans were not enough to support the Sunday afternoon field, which included 14 Indianapolis 500 drivers and a record-breaking 16 Offenhauser’s among 21 cars which timed.

All-Iowa Fair officials, AAA officials and the drivers themselves disgusted with the PA announcement, gave quick assurances that Nunis was speaking only for himself, and not for the Association.

Soon after, Johnnie Parsons, Duane Carter and Tommy Hinnershitz – three of the top stars – gave assurances to Fair officials that they were ready to return in 1954 – with or without a promoter.

“We don't want to give the fans the wrong impression about AAA,” Hinnershitz explained.

One official pointed out that Nunis had received his guarantee of $5,500 “which was what his own contract called for.” A report on Nunis' conduct has been forwarded to AAA offices in Washington, D.C.

Otherwise, Sunday's program was outstanding, despite a poor track that was built up under Nunis' direction. In the time trials, seven cars timed under 25 seconds and eight more were in the 25 second bracket.

Even in the final 25-lap event, with the track slowing noticeably under the effects of the week's hottest afternoon sun, Sweikert averaged 27.4 seconds a lap.

Sweikert, an up-and-coming young star, started outside in the front row, but fell off the pace in the early laps. He had to pass Jerry Hoyt a third of the way along for the victory. Jimmy Bryant, moving up last, wound up in third place.

Jimmy Daywalt, fresh off his Rookie-of-the-Year performance at the Indy 500, had his troubles with the Agajanian #98, the same car which Troy Ruttman was seriously injured at the Downs the year before. He failed to place in heat race, and then lost out to Duane Carter in the consolation. As a result, he didn't qualify for the feature.

Don Freeland

In October of 1953, All-Iowa Fair manager Andy Hanson and Superintendent of Speed, R.K. “Doc” Hunter announced that a new promotional duo would supervise the races when the AAA stars and cars returned on August 22, 1954.

Former 500 champ, Johnnie Parsons, had first approached Fair officials about promoting the races the same day that Nunis had announced he wasn’t returning. After some negotiation with officials and permission from the AAA Contest Board, it was announced that Parsons and his new partner, newspaper editor Bob McGovern of Elizabethtown, N.J., would be in charge.

Jim Lamb, secretary of the AAA Contest Board told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “This new promotion team knows a lot about racing and is enthusiastic. I’m certain that Parsons and McGovern will give the fans a creditable performance.”

Parsons would show up August 17, 1954, five days before the big event for some pre-race publicity. The soft-spoken Parsons had promised a star-studded field for the race and indeed, he would deliver.

Back again were veterans Tommy Hinnershitz, Duane Carter, Mike Nazaruk, Pat O’Conner, Eddie Sachs, Bob Sweikert and Jimmy Bryan, the runner-up in the ’54 Indianapolis 500.

A trio of newcomers would join the field, Duke Nalon of Chicago, one of the big names in Indianapolis 500 history as the driver of the famed Novi Special. Ed Elisian of Oakland, Calif., was another Indy standout as was Elmer George of Speedway, Ind.

Also entered was Danny Kladis of Chicago. Kladis, who was a relief driver in Indianapolis Speedway testing, but was better known in Eastern Iowa for his midget driving. Kladis won several Midwest Midget Auto Racing Association (MMARA) titles in the famed Lund #39 midget.

All in all, 19 Indianapolis 500 drivers were in attendance with 14 Offenhauser’s competing.

When Parsons was asked if, he too, would compete in the Sunday afternoon races, he replied, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive Sunday. This promoting gig is more of a job than you’d think.”

Parsons would be well-rewarded as 8,500 race fans packed the grandstands, appreciative that the popular star had brought racing back to the All-Iowa Fair.

Even a three-hour wait as the muddy track was worked into racing condition, couldn’t deter their enthusiasm. The long wait would be well worth it as 14 cars put on one of the greatest features ever witnessed in Eastern Iowa.

A standing room only crowd watched Don Freeland, a 29-year-old driver from Los Angeles, win the 25-lap feature in the last 100 feet.

Veteran Tommy Hinnershitz, the four-time Eastern AAA champion, jumped into the led on the first lap and held it for more than 24 circuits before Freeland virtually threw his Offenhauser into the lead and won by three yards.

Freeland and three other AAA stars - Bob Sweikert, who won the title a year ago: Andy Linden and Jerry Hoyt - all fought Hinnershitz for the lead in a great five-car battle on a mud-logged track.

The fight for third and fourth were just as heated as Freeland led home the field of Offenhauser’s in 11 minutes and 3.51 seconds.

The soggy track, which produced a half dozen spinouts and considerable motor trouble, kept preliminary events from being good races. The preliminaries were such that few fans were prepared for the tremendous feature race that took place in the gathering darkness.

Besides the field of 14 “500” stars signed by Parsons and McGovern, Joe Sostilio and former Speedway winner Troy Ruttman were on hand for the races. Also, in attendance was Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, whose car was in the field, driven by Eddie Sachs.

Parsons was pleased to say the least with his first promotional effort and immediately afterwards, told Fair officials that he would return for the 1955 All-Iowa Fair.

Bob Sweikert, ’55 Indianapolis 500 winner, would headline the AAA races on August 21, 1955.

Sweikert, who had won the All-Iowa Fair title in 1953, would be joined by familiar cast, including Tommy Hinnershitz, Duane Carter, Pat O’Conner, and Andy Linden, who had finished sixth in the “500”.

Eddie Sachs of Greensboro, N.C., was also another driver returning. Sachs, as colorful off the track as he was on it, would be behind the wheel of Mari Hulman’s “Pink Deuce”. The 26-year-old speedster was quickly becoming one of the top-rated drivers on the AAA circuit.

A trio of newcomers would be making their first appearance at Hawkeye Downs as well. Jack Turner of Seattle, Wash., who had dominated racing on the West coast and was the 1955 AAA national midget champion would be there as well as the Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year Al Herman of Allentown, Penn. Herman finished seventh in the Memorial Day Classic. George Amick of Los Angeles would be also be in the field, driving the Bob Estes Offy. Amick was subbing for the defending winner, Don Freeland, who injured his hand in a racing incident a few weeks earlier.

Eddie Sachs

Once again, Parsons was richly awarded as over 8,000 spectators turned out for the seven-event program.

Eddie Sachs would start on the pole position, take the lead on the initial lap, and lead the rest of the way in the 25-lap main event. Sachs’ winning time was 11 minutes and 47.50 seconds behind the wheel of the Cheesman Offy.

Sachs was followed home by Bob Sweikert who pulled out all the stops in an effort to get by Sachs but could never get closer than a few car lengths.

Sachs, who gained his pole position by winning the first heat, started out like he was going to make a runaway of the feature. He built up a good lead during the first five laps, but from then on Sweikert began to slowly whittle down his advantage.

Sachs smartly kept his car as far inside as possible so as not to give any ground to Sweikert. When it looked as though Sachs might lose his lead, he just opened up the throttle a little more and asserted his authority.

Tommy Hinnershitz would start eighth but quickly make his way to the front. He shot into third place on lap 13 and it appeared that he was well on his way to passing both Sweikert and Sachs, but the hardware store operator couldn’t catch either and stayed right there in third.

Newcomer Buddy Cagle of Tulsa, Okla., was fourth and Jack Turner, who set the quickest time of the day with a 23.68 second clocking, finished fifth.

Unfortunately, 1955 would be the end for the American Auto Association. Their biggest star, Bill Vukovich, died at the ’55 Indianapolis 500 and after a tragic accident at the Le Mans Grand Prix the same year that killed 83 spectators and injured 170 more, AAA dissolved their Contest Board and decided to focus solely on the safety aspect of the company.

Starting in 1956, Frank Winkley and his Auto Racing, Inc., promotion would supervise races at the All-Iowa Fair under the International Motor Contest Association banner.

AAA All-Iowa Fair Winners

1950 - Troy Ruttman, Long Beach, Calif.

1951 - Johnnie Parsons, Van Nuys, Calif.

1952 - Joe James, Van Nuys, Calif.

1953 - Bob Sweikert, Hayward, Calif.

1954 - Don Freeland, Redondo Beach, Calif.

1955 – Eddie Sachs, Greensboro, N.C.