Saturday, February 27, 2021

There's No 'Minnesota Nice' for Joe Frasson

Joe Frasson

By Trevor Williams 

Brainerd, Minn. (February 27, 2007) - "Lead, follow or get the heck out of my way."

That was the racing philosophy of Minnesota native and former NASCAR driver Joe Frasson. He is the most accomplished NASCAR driver from Minnesota, having raced in more than 100 events on what is now the Nextel circuit.

Frasson was born in south Minneapolis and grew up in Golden Valley. He began his career by racing sprint cars and roadsters.

He developed a reputation of being one of the more popular drivers at Elko Speedway during the 1960s. In one race he was dueling Blackie Wangerin, another Minnesotan who would later make it into NASCAR. After Frasson went up a lap, Wangerin decided to take Frasson out and spun both of their cars.

"I was pretty hot tempered back then," Frasson said. "I got out of the car and went after him. Some track officials tried to grab me. I guess I knocked Blackie down along with a couple officials. I didn't know I hit Blackie as hard as I did. I put him in the hospital with a concussion."

After the incident Frasson was barred from Elko, but because he was so popular, they eventually relented and let him back in.

"As a joke the next week I came back with a black hat since I'm the bad boy," Frasson said. "I wore that hat at the racetrack ever since. I guess the reputation has followed me. Any track I went to, short track, dirt, USAC (United States Auto Club), NASCAR, if you wanted to find Big Joe, find the black hat and the cigar."

In 1969 Frasson decided to move on to bigger things when racing legend A.J. Foyt, whom he raced with in USAC, talked him into going to Riverside, Calif. to try his luck at NASCAR.

"Foyt told me, 'Those NASCAR boys aren't so tough. We can whup 'em!'" Frasson said. "Boy was he wrong!"

Frasson had some small success, finishing in the top ten 19 times, but most NASCAR fans remember him only for being inadvertently part of the wild finish at the 1976 Daytona 500.

Way ahead of the rest of the field, Richard Petty and David Pearson went into the final lap first and second, respectively.

Pearson took the lead going into turn three by drafting Petty and then going inside. Petty was then able to get around Pearson in turn four to regain the lead. As they came out of turn four, Petty moved to the right of Pearson, trying to close the door on him but instead clipped Pearson, sending both of them spinning.

At the same time Frasson was running a lap down.

"I went to the bottom of the track to try to avoid it and David came down and hit me in the side," Frasson said. "That knocked him back toward the track. It knocked me down pit row."

While Pearson hit Frasson, Petty's car came to a dead stop, but his crew ran out toward his car.

Pearson had engaged the clutch during the melee to keep his car running. In first gear, at what some estimated between 20 to 30 mph, Pearson slowly drove toward the finish line, several hundred feet away. As Petty's crew reached his car and began pushing, Pearson puttered past Petty and won the race.

"It's taken from the day of the crash until last year to get David to finally admit to the press that if he hadn't hit me, which knocked him back toward the track, he wouldn't have won the race," Frasson laughed.

Frasson is also known for the aborted attempt in 1975 to get Pontiac back into racing. He was approached by NASCAR and a motor company to field Pontiac cars, but it didn't turn out as planned.

"NASCAR wouldn't let me have a spoiler on the back of the Pontiac," he said. "You couldn't drive it, you couldn't hold it straight. When I missed qualifying at Charlotte, it was time for the Pontiac to go."

Joe Frasson takes a tire iron to his Pontiac. 

Frustrated, he decided to destroy the car with a tire iron.

"I didn't hit anywhere around the carburetor, windshield or glass," he said. "I could use that to make a Chevrolet. If I didn't destroy it, the car would go back to the shop and we'd be using it for the next race.

"The press said, 'Good Lord! Why didn't you tell us you were going to do that? We would like to get some pictures.' I said, 'Gather round, we'll do it again.' So the press gathered around, I did it again and NASCAR fined me $1,000."

Outside of NASCAR, Frasson participated in the first two Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash races, which would later inspire the film "The Cannonball Run" with Burt Reynolds.

Bill Broderick of the Union Oil Co. convinced Frasson to drive a Travco motor home that someone wanted delivered from New York to California.

"By the time I reached California, the party was over," Frasson said.

The next year Broderick wanted Frasson to drive a motor home again, but Frasson declined. However, Broderick told Frasson that Travco would build the motor home any way he wanted.

"I'll drive on one condition they have a 426 Hemi, a four-speed road race transmission, a 327 gear and special shocks," Frasson told Broderick. "That crazy motor home ended up running 140 mph!"

As the 1970's progressed, Frasson raced less and less in NASCAR. He was making money as a short track driver, but the amount of money to keep his NASCAR car running was tying up his finances.

One of his major last races was in the Late Model Sportsman 300 at Daytona, the precursor to today's Busch Series Orbitz 300.

Frasson had his own car ready to go, yet decided not to drive, having a bad feeling about the race.

"But Marion 'Preacher' Cox called me and begged me to drive his car," he said. "I told him I had a bad feeling. He said, 'You're the only one who can make money on my car for me. I fired the driver and lost the sponsor.'

Reluctantly, Frasson took Cox's car. Surprisingly, it ran well and Frasson began moving up the pack.

Then tragedy struck.

A driver blew a clutch. Another driver who was driving Petty's car went low to avoid it but turned sideways and lost control of the car. Frasson had to choose between going straight into the spinning driver's side door or going into the wall. Frasson chose the wall. But it wasn't enough.

"I hit the wall and quarter panel of Petty's car so hard it spun him around," he said. "He came down on top of my hood and drove the left front wheel into the clutch and brake pedal.

"The car caught fire. I'm trying to get out of the car, taking off my seatbelts because the car is burning. I heard a voice that said, 'Joe - sit down!' So, I sat back down, snapped the lap belt back on. That's when a car driven by Don Williams, a rookie, who had gone through three caution lights, took the caution flag, but kept running wide open, slammed into the back of my car.

"Of course, the car exploded. It rolled end over end. And it happened so fast. For a moment I thought I had gone blind. My goggles had melted and ran down into my eyes. Amazingly, I had only some superficial burns, including half my beard burned off."

While Frasson walked away from the wreck, Williams went into a coma for 10 years before finally dying.

Soon afterward Frasson was out of NASCAR as a driver for good.

"I went back to open competition dirt Outlaw racing," he said. "That's where I was successful, and all my wins came. Racing Champions, this company that makes racing cards like baseball cards, they documented some 450 short track wins."

Frasson is not a fan of today's NASCAR. "It's not racing anymore," he said. "It's, 'Oh, don't you bump that car in front of you. We'll fine you and bar you!'

"What are we doing gentleman racing? Then let's not do it for money, let's do it for a glass of wine!"

"My favorite drivers are the guys I came up with, like Foyt, Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Bobby Unser. Those guys were race car drivers. We'd race speedways, short tracks, dirt tracks, stock cars, sprint cars, Indy cars. If there was a race, we were going to be there.

"These cats today, two-thirds of them are lost when they get on a road course. God help the crowd if they ever had to run an eighth-mile dirt track."

He shrugs off NASCAR's recent crackdown down on cheating. "If you don't cheat, you don't eat."

"But I have never cheated. I just have been a little more competitive than others!" Frasson said.

Friday, February 26, 2021

1961 - Daytona 500 Won by Marvin Panch

Marvin Panch waves to fans after winning the 1961 Daytona 500. 

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 26, 1961) - Marvin “Pancho” Panch drove a powerful black 1960 Pontiac at a world record breaking speed of 149.601 miles an hour to score a stirring, 15-second victory today in the Daytona 500 stock car race.

The 35-year-old Panch came on to win when Glenn “Fireball” Roberts dropped out with heartbreaking car failure after setting a pace of better than 150 m.p.h. until he was just 13 laps from the end of this grueling 200-lap grind.

Daytona International Speedway's high-banked turns invited unprecedented speeds and Panch easily topped the previous 500-mile world record of 138.767 set by Jim Rathmann of Miami in last year's Indianapolis race.

And he made the Daytona 500 record of 135.129, set two years ago by Lee Petty of Randleman, N.C., seem slow by comparison.

A throng of some 65,000 saw Panch of Daytona Beach come in for the checkered victory flag ahead of Joe Weatherly, another Pontiac pilot from Norfolk, Va.

Paul Goldsmith of St. Clair Shores, Mich., who was third in last year's Indianapolis 500, also was third today in still another of the Pontiacs which have dominated “Speed Week” events here.

For his victory, Panch collected $20,750 in this $98,145 event.

Despite the perilous speeds, the race was crash-free in refreshing comparison with Friday's two 100-milers, which were filled with numerous crashes.

Roberts was a full two and a half miles in front of the pack when he pulled into his pit, with his gold painted car smoking and the crowd groaning. A broken crankshaft was discovered, and he was pushed over to the infield.

It was a heartbreaking day also for Edwin (Banjo) Mathews of Asheville, N. C. His 1961 Ford was in second place when it was disabled in a spin off the east turn on the 183rd lap. He was the only one offering a challenge to the roaring Pontiacs.

At the same time, Darel Dieringer of Indianapolis spun out and limped in with front end smashed.

Bob “Junior” Johnson of North Wilkesboro, N. C., winner last year, was running first on the 42nd lap but was slowed by engine trouble and failed to finish.

The brutal pace started taking its toll of machines early. In the first five laps, four cars had to go into the pits for repair work. Only 30 of the 58 starters finished.

Roberts led for 12 laps, Mathews for the next three, then Nelson Stacy of Cincinnati for two in a 1961 Pontiac.

This trio continued to take turns in front until the 43rd lap when Roberts forged ahead to stay until his breakdown. At one time, at the end of the 30th lap, Roberts was driving at 152.456 miles an hour.

It was still a close battle at the 250-mile halfway mark, with Panch whittling away at Roberts’ lead until it was only seven seconds.

Then Fireball began to move out. By the 170th round, he had lapped Mathews and Panch and was two laps up on Weatherly and Goldsmith.

Some observers thought he would decide to begin coasting then. But he didn't and the demand was too much for his car.

Richard Petty of Randleman, N.C., made a surprise appearance in the race, sharing wheel time with Bob Welborn of Atlanta in a 1961 Pontiac. Petty was painfully injured Friday when his car went over the high west wall. His father, Lee, was badly hurt in another Friday race.

Results –

1. Marvin Panch, Daytona Beach, Fla.
2. Joe Weatherly, Norfolk, Va.
3. Paul Goldsmith, St. Clair Shore, Mich.
4. Fred Lorenzen, Elmhurst, Ill.
5. Cotton Owens, Spartanburg, S.C.
6. Jack Smith, Spartanburg, S.C.
7. Ned Jarrett, Newton, N.C.
8. Johnny Allen, Atlanta, Ga.
9. Buck Baker, Spartanburg, S.C.
10.Tom Pistone, Chicago
11.Bob Welborn, Atlanta, Ga.
12.Rex White Spartanburg, S.C.
13.Jim Reed, Peekskill, N.Y.
14.Sal Tovella, Addison, Ill.
15.Charlie Glotzbach, Edwardsville, Ind.
16.Darel Dieringer, Indianapolis
17.Tom Dill, Erie, Penn.
18.Emmanuel Zervakis, Richmond, Va.
19.Joe Kelly, Conshohocken, Penn.
20.Glenn Roberts, Daytona, Fla.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

1968 – Yarborough cops Daytona 500

Cale Yarborough is interviewed by Chris Economaki following his Daytona 500 victory. 

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 25, 1968) – Chunky Cale Yarborough won the Daytona 500 demolition derby by a scant 50 feet Sunday. That figure out to be $945 a foot.

In winning his second race in a row over the high-banked Daytona International Speedway, the blond driver from Charlotte, N.C., picked up a tidy sum of $42,250 in the richest stock car race in history.

Yarborough, who won the Firecracker 400 here last July 4, passed his sound-alike on the stock car circuit, LeeRoy Yarbrough, with only seven miles to go in the grinding 500-miler.

LeeRoy collected $17,525 for his second-place finish.

It was a one-two finish for the spiffy new Mercury Cyclones as Yarborough flashed by the finish line with Yarbrough a single second behind him

“My heart fell at least four times,” said Yarborough, as he sipped a soft drink and wiped the grime from his face afterwards. “It just seemed like we were always having a lot of pit stops and each time I felt like ‘this is it’.”

First it was a bad transformer, said Yarborough, the two stops for cut tires and a fourth stop for an overheating engine.

Fifty sparkling stock cars rolled under the green flag at 12:30 pm, but only 19 followed Yarborough across the finish line 3 hours, 23 minutes and 44 seconds later in a race marked by several wrecks in front of the grandstand.

Although the finish was one of the most exciting in stock car racing history, Yarborough failed to set an expected new record due to 11 caution flags, which were flown for 58 laps of thee race for wreck debris on the track.

His winning speed was 143.251 miles per hour compared to the official record of 154.334 set by Richard Petty in 1964.

The $200,000 race was watched by a crowd of nearly 100,000 racing fans and was seen on closed-circuit television in England, Europe and Japan.

Petty, the Randleman, N.C., flash who was one of thee favorites in his new Plymouth Roadrunner, took the lead briefly early in the race but had to make several unscheduled pit stops because of windshield trouble. He finished eighth, two laps behind Yarborough.

The first three cars were in the same lap with David Pearson of Spartanburg, S.C., in a 1968 Ford leading a pack of four other car a lap behind the leaders. Pearson finished fourth, followed by Paul Goldsmith of Munster, Ind., in a 1968 Plymouth; Darel Dieringer, Charlotte, N.C., 1968 Plymouth; and Al Unser, Albuquerque, N.M., 1968 Dodge.

Results –

1. Cale Yarborough
2. LeeRoy Yarbrough
3. Bobby Allison
4. David Pearson
5. Paul Goldsmith
6. Darel Dieringer
7. Al Unser
8. Richard Petty
9. Tiny Lund
10.Andy Hampton
11.Bob Pronger
12.A.J. Foyt
13.Bob Senneker
14.Clyde Lynn
15.Bill Seifert
16.Butch Hartman
17.Wendell Scott
18.Larry Manning
19.Henley Gray
20.Dave Marcis
21.Rod Eulenfield
22.Sam McQuagg
23.Charles Burnett
24.Frank Warren
25.Elmo Langley
26.Jabe Thomas
27.Jim Hurtubise
28.Don Biederman
29.Mario Andretti
30.Buddy Baker
31.John Sears
32.Charlie Glotzbach
33.Earl Brooks
34.Bill Champion
35.Dick Johnson
36.Bobby Isaac
37.Bobby Johns
38.Sonny Hutchins
39.Bob Cooper
40.Donnie Allison

Cale Yarborough (21) and Richard Petty lead the field to green for the 1968 Daytona 500. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Daytona 1964 – The Greatest Field in NASCAR History

By Mark Aumann 

Daytona, Fla. (February 23, 1964) - From a competitive standpoint, the 1964 Daytona 500 was nothing special. Richard Petty dominated the race, leading 184 laps, including the final 148 as the new Plymouths were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. 

However, a glance through the finishing order reveals a veritable Who’s Who of American auto racing. With no fewer than six current or future Cup champions, nine Daytona 500 winners, three Indianapolis 500 winners and two drivers with Formula One experience -- not to mention the patriarch of the Earnhardt racing clan and the only black driver to win a Cup race -- the 1964 Daytona 500 could be considered the greatest field in NASCAR history.

And sadly, five drivers who competed in that race would lose their lives in racing accidents before the racing world assembled at Daytona again the following winter.

Petty's success in both NASCAR and the Daytona 500 has been well-documented. He would go on to win the 500 six more times in the next 15 seasons and finish with 200 career victories and seven championships. Petty started the ‘64 race alongside pole-sitter Paul Goldsmith as Chrysler products -- featuring the new 426 cubic-inch Hemi engine -- captured eight of the top 10 starting positions.

And it didn't take long for Petty to show his superiority. He took the lead from Goldsmith on the second lap, and after Bobby Isaac led for three circuits, only gave up the lead as a result of an early round of green-flag pit stops. From that point on, Petty was unstoppable. He lapped the entire field, beating runner-up Jimmy Pardue to the checkered flag by one lap and 9 seconds.

But the real story of the 1964 Daytona 500 wasn't as much about what as who.

Driving as a teammate to Petty, two-time Cup champion Buck Baker finished 12th, six laps behind. Ned Jarrett, the 1961 champ -- who would win a second title the following season -- was involved in a mid-race crash and wound up 27th.

Future three-time champion David Pearson, whose name would be forever linked with Petty’s after the finish in the 1976 Daytona 500, also crashed out of the ‘64 race, finishing 30th. Isaac, who would wear the 1970 Cup crown, ran out of fuel late in the going and was credited with 15th place. And a young Cale Yarborough -- who wouldn't score his first Cup victory until the following season -- was one of only 20 of the 46-car field still running at the finish, as he wound up 17th.

In addition to Petty, Pearson and Yarborough, each winner of the previous four Daytona 500s took part in the '64 race. Starting third, 1960 winner Junior Johnson drove a steady race to finish ninth. Driving the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford, 1961 winner Marvin Panch wound up fourth. Daytona native Fireball Roberts, the 1962 winner, went out early with transmission troubles and was credited with 37th place. And Tiny Lund, who had pulled off a surprising upset in the 1963 race, was five laps down at the finish in 11th.

Two other drivers in the field would visit Daytona’s victory lane in future 500s. A.J. Foyt, better known for his four Indianapolis 500 victories, would win the Daytona 500 in 1972. And Buddy Baker, who always seemed to be the bridesmaid at Daytona, finally captured NASCAR’s crown jewel in 1980.

In addition to stock car’s finest, many of open-wheel’s top stars were also in attendance that day. Future three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford finished 26th in Bud Moore's Mercury, while 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones wound up 28th after the engine let go in his Mercury after 77 laps.

And making his third and final Daytona 500 appearance, sports-car legend Dan Gurney finished 14th in one of the Wood Brothers team cars.

Also worthy of mention: Ralph Earnhardt wound up 19th in his final Daytona 500 start, and Wendell Scott -- coming off a victory at Jacksonville two months earlier -- was credited with a 38th-place finish after his Chevy overheated just seven laps into the event. Frenchman Jo Schlesser drove Bondy Long's Ford to a 13th-place finish in what would be his only Daytona 500 appearance.

The 1964 Daytona 500 was also a prelude to what was a tragic season for racing in general.

In May, Roberts would be involved in a fiery accident during Charlotte's World 600 and die of his injuries one month later. One week later, sports-car ace Dave MacDonald -- who scored a top-10 finish at Daytona -- would crash on the first lap of the Indianapolis 500 in a horrific accident that claimed his life and that of Eddie Sachs.

Those two accidents would lead to major safety improvements in both NASCAR and USAC, including the eventual implementation of fuel cells and more fire-retardant driving suits and helmets.

Three other drivers would be killed in the next 12 months in tire-testing accidents. Pardue lost his life while doing tire testing for Goodyear at Charlotte in September when a tire blew and he lost control, crashing through the guardrail. Billy Wade, who finished sixth in the ’64 race, was killed in a crash at Daytona the following January during tire testing. And rising open-wheel star Bobby Marshman died of injuries sustained in a tire-testing accident at Phoenix in December.

Results –

1. Richard Petty
2. Jimmy Pardue
3. Paul Goldsmith
4. Marvin Panch
5. Jim Paschal
6. Billy Wade
7. Darel Dieringer
8. Larry Frank
9. Junior Johnson
10.Dave MacDonald
11.Tiny Lund
12.Buck Baker
13.Joe Schlesser
14.Dan Gurney
15.Bobby Isaac
16.Larry Thomas
17.Cale Yarborough
18.Doug Cooper
19.Ralph Earnhardt
20.Smokey Boutwell
21.Curtis Crider
22.Reb Wickersham
23.Sal Tovella
24. A.J. Foyt
25.Jim McElreath
26.Johnny Rutherford
27.Ned Jarrett
28.Parnelli Jones
29.Buddy Baker
30.David Pearson
31.Fred Lorenzen
32.Jack Anderson
33.G.C. Spencer
34.Ronnie Chumley
35.Booby Marshman
36.Bobby Johns
37.Fireball Roberts
38.Wendell Scott
39.Elmo Henderson
40.Joe Clark
41.Bill McMahan
42.Jim Bray
43.Bunkie Blackburn
44.Bob Cooper
45.Jim Cook
46.Neil Castles

Sunday, February 21, 2021

1970 - Lund is Big Man at Daytona

DeWayne "Tiny" Lund comes up big at Daytona. 

Daytona, Fla. (February 21, 1970) – The winner of Sunday’s Permatex 300 is a big man in auto racing circles.

They call him “Tiny,” but DeWayne Lund stands 6-feet-4 and carries 250 pounds on that well-muscled frame of his.

It was his extra beef and courage that led to his victory in the 1963 Daytona 500 and probably saved the life of Marvin Panch.

A few days before Panch was drive the Wood Brother’s Ford in the 500-mile classic, he crashed while practicing in a sports car and it burst into flames. Lund was johnny-on-the-spot, pulling the injured Panch from the fiery inferno in one of the most heroic acts ever witnessed at Daytona.

Panch was too seriously injured to drive to Glen and Leonard Wood asked Lund if he would fill in. Lund, carless at the time, grabbed the opportunity and piloted the Ford to victory a week later.

The now 40-year-old driver from Cross, S.C., won a split-second victory over another veteran, Red Farmer of Hueytown, Ala. A crowd of 51,300 were in attendance.

Driving a 1966 Ford that won last year’s Permatex 300, Lund averaged 133.116 miles per hour in a race that was run under caution for 35 circuits.

Ironically, the Bondy – Long owned car is the same one that Lee Roy Yarbrough drove to victory in last year’s 300-miler. And the next day, Lee Roy won the Daytona 500.

In what was described as one of the weirdest finishes ever seen on the 2.5-mile tri-oval, Lund was comfortably out front when a caution waved with four laps to go. Pieces of tire left from another car were on the track.

For three laps, they rode under the yellow and as the field came into sight of the starter, Lund and the rest of the field got the green “go” flag, which made it a quarter-lap dash for the checkered.

The final dash for the checkered made a difference of more than $4,000. Lund collected $11,850 while Farmer took home $7,735

“Boy!” said the breathless Lund afterwards. “That turned into a drag race at the end.”

Results –

1. Tiny Lund, Cross, S.C.
2. Red Farmer, Hueytown, Ala.
3. Donnie Allison, Hueytown, Ala.
4. Sonny Hutchins, Richmond, Va.
5. Hooker Hood, Memphis, Tenn.
6. Haskell Willingham, Columbia, S.C.
7. Jim Maires, Baltimore, Md.
8. Billy Bayles, West Monroe, La.
9. Lou Lazzaro, Utica, N.Y.
10.Phil Wendt, Irvington, Ala.
11.Butch Hirst, Orange City, Fla.
12.Rod Eulenfield, Jacksonville, Fla.
13. Glenn McDuffie, Sanford, N.C.
14.Sam Sommer, Savannah, Ga.
15.Ronnie Daniels, Lynchburg, Va.
16.Wayne Niedecken, Pensacola, Fla.
17.Bill Hollar, Burlington, N.C.
18.J.C. Spradley, Gloversville, S.C.
19.Jerry Churchill, Windsor, Ontario
20.Ray Walfenstein, Las Vegas, Nev.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

1966 – Low Tank Costly to Iowan

Daytona winner Jack Bowsher is joined by ARCA's John Marcum in victory lane. 

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 20, 1966) - Talk about Inflation - Ramo Stott stopped off to get a couple of gallons of gas at Daytona’s International Speedway on Sunday, and it cost him $2,100.

Stott, from Keokuk, Iowa, had to settle for second place and $3,350 in the Automobile Racing Club of America 250-mile championship when his pit crew sent him onto the track with less than a full lank of gas in his 1965 Plymouth after his second pit stop.

He had to make a third stop and Jack Bowsher, Springfield, Ohio - who made only two pit stops - drove his 1966 Ford to the championship and a prize of $5,450.

Bowsher beat Stott across the finish line by only 100 feet, and it was that third pit stop that made the difference. The stop lasted only five seconds - just enough to splash a couple of gallons in the tank, but the slowing down time let Bowsher get that 100-foot margin.

Bowsher’s speed was 164.053 miles an hour, the fastest 250 ever negotiated over the high-banked track. It beat the old ARCA record of 154.103 miles per hour set two years ago by Nelson Stacy driving a 1964 Ford and also topped the NASCAR 250-mile race record of 154.291, set by David Pearson July 4, 1961.

Two minor problems cost Bowsher a little extra pit time - an adjustment to his wedge, engine, and transmission trouble, He spent a total of 65 seconds at a dead stop. Stott had no mechanical delays; stopped only 27 seconds the first time and 15 seconds the second.

But with eight laps to go and leading about 25 seconds, he saw the fuel pressure bubbling. “When that bubbles, you know you don’t have enough gas to go more than two laps,” Stott said. “There was nothing to do but alert the pit crew the first time past and come in the next time.”

Bowsher said he could not go at top speed because of his bad transmission but he coaxed 168 miles an hour out of his car or, each of the last six laps and kept Stott from catching him.

There was not as much as a brush of fenders by the 33 contenders. The yellow caution flag was out for two laps when Phil Cronin of Houston, Tex., blew an engine, but it barely slowed the leaders as Cronin coasted into the pit.

Andy Hampton of Louisville, Ky., finished one lap back in third place in a 1965 Dodge and won $2,150. Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa was fourth in a 1966 Dodge for $1,125. Shad Wheeler of Fredericktown, Ohio was fifth in a 1961 Ford for $800.

Results –

1. Jack Bowsher
2. Ramo Stott
3. Andy Hampton
4. Ernie Derr
5. Shad Wheeler
6. Ralph Latham
7. Jack Purcell
8. Mel Gillett
9. Sal Tovella
10.Keith Ploughe
11.Clyde Parker
12.Harold Smith
13.Paul Wensink
14.Bob Coe
15.Hank Teeters
16.Wally Arkkelin
17.Ray Daniels
18.Kenny Benner
19.Jack Shanklin
20.Phil Cronin
21.Iggy Katona
22.Johnny Ditch
23.Homer Newland
24.Benny Parsons
25.Dick Dunlevy
26.Elmer Davis
27.Leon Van Atta
28.Daniel Warlick

Friday, February 19, 2021

1978 – Bobby Allison Wins at Daytona

Bobby Allison celebrates winning the 1978 Daytona 500, the first of three victories in "The Great American Race."

Daytona, Fla. (February 19, 1978) – Earthy ‘ol Bud Moore must have had extrasensory perception.

“The sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s fanny all the time,” the salty master mechanic from Spartanburg, S.C. said a week ago while mulling a question about a combined 118-race non-winning streak shared by him and veteran stock car driver Bobby Allison. “Me and Bobby are gonna get our turn one of these days.”

That occasion came no later than Sunday for new “Bud and Bobby Show.” The two basked their backsides considerably, like a couple of puppies out in the sun, by winning the sport’s biggest race, a Daytona 500 that was as bizarre as any in the event’s 20-year history.

Among the day’s developments –

· Three of stock car racing’s biggest stars – Richard Petty, David Pearson and Darrell Waltrip – all went out in a wild tangle while running away from the rest of the field.

· A.J. Foyt, the only man to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, took a scary, flipping ride down the front stretch and was hospitalized overnight for observation.

· Buddy Baker, who came within a few miles winning here so frequently, saw victory hopes dashed again when his Oldsmobile engine expired just five laps from the finish after he had led more laps – 75 – than any other competitor.

When Baker’s car blew, it meant Allison was home free to put Moore’s Thunderbird in victory lane, the first time that model has been there on NASCAR’s Winston Cup circuit since 1959.

Defending champion Cale Yarborough, who assumed the runner-up position after Baker exited, was experiencing engine issues with his Olds 442 and couldn’t threaten.

Allison thus cruised to a 33.2-second margin over the only other driver on the same lap with him on the 200th turn of the track that was jammed with a crowd estimated to be anywhere between 120,000 to 140,000.

Benny Parson finished third in an Oldsmobile, edging a Ron Hutcherson-driven Buick by eight inches in a photo finish for that position. Dick Brooks piloted a Mercury to a fifth-place finish.

“We had our share of luck to get here today,” conceded Allison, savoring victory for the first time since winning at Darlington in 1975.

The triumph was worth $56,300 to the Moore-Allison combo from a record purse of $457,000. The 40-year-old father of four took the Thunderbird around at an average speed of 159.730 miles per hour. He led five times for a total of 28 laps.

Results –

1. Bobby Allison
2. Cale Yarborough
3. Benny Parson
4. Ron Hutcherson
5. Dick Brooks
6. Dave Marcis
7. Buddy Baker
8. Bill Elliot
9. Ferrell Harris
10.Lennie Pond
11.Tighe Scott
12.Skip Manning
13.Richard Childress
14.Grant Adcox
15.Roger Hamby
16.Buddy Arrington
17.D.K. Ulrich
18.Dick May
19.Roland Wlodyka
20.Jerry Jolly
21.Cecil Gordon
22.Claude Ballot-Lena
23.Jimmy Lee Capps
24.Frank Warren
25.Tom Gale
26.Coo Coo Marlin
27.Neil Bonnett
28.Darrell Waltrip
29.Al Holbert
30.J.D. McDuffie
31.Joe Mihalic 
32.A.J. Foyt
33.Richard Petty
34.David Pearson
35.Jimmy Means
36.Ervin Wangerin
37.Ricky Rudd
38.Jim Vandiver
39.Donnie Allison
40.Morgan Shepherd
41.Harry Gant

Thursday, February 18, 2021

1962 - Fireball Roberts Wins Disputed Daytona 500

Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts celebrates in style after winning1962 Daytona 500.

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 18, 1962) - Fireball Roberts’ world record dash to victory in the Daytona 500-mile stock car classic undergoes a final challenge today but officials are expected to uphold his 152.529 miler per hour triumph.

Officials of NASCAR will review a protest field by runner-up Richard Petty of Randleman, N.C., who finished more than a half lap behind Roberts and his record-shattering 1962 Pontiac.

Petty charged that Roberts had more than the permitted six crew members over the wall on his last pit stop.

NASCAR officials pointed out that the rules call for such protests to be immediately, and if upheld. Robert would have been flagged from the race. Roberts made his final pit stop with 50 miles remaining and the protest was not lodged until an hour after it was over.

Roberts shrugged off the protest of his victory in the fastest 500-mile automobile race ever run.

The Daytona Beach native, driving the familiar #22 black and gold Pontiac, covered the distance in 3 hours, 10 minutes and 41 seconds to take down thee top purse of over $21,000.

There were only 21 of 48 starters running at the finish.

Petty, the only other driver to complete the 200 laps on the 2.5-mile high-banked Daytona International Speedway, piloted a 1962 Plymouth and Joe Weatherly of Norfolk, Va., was third in another 1962 Pontiac.

The only serious accident on the warm day was when veteran Buck Baker of Charlotte skidded into the retaining wall at the top of the sharply banked west turn. Baker, whose 1962 Chrysler tore down 50 feet of fence, suffered broken ribs and spinal injuries.

Roberts led for 144 laps or 350 miles during the afternoon. He took the lead on the second lap in a bid to capture the “One race I’ve always wanted to win”.

Roberts was pressed by Junior Johnson until the Tar Heel native was sidelined at the 180-mile mark with a blown engine. Cotton Owens of Spartanburg, S.C., was running strong when he left after 195 miles with a blown clutch. Defending champion Marvin Panch, driving a Dodge, was another who left early with mechanical issues.

Petty, who qualified his Plymouth a little over 150 miles per hour, “drafted” Roberts for 200 miles of the chase and was hitting speeds of 158 miles per hour during the course. Roberts said Petty’s drafting was one of the finest pieces of driving he had ever seen but added it didn’t bother him.

The disputed pit stop came with 50 miles to go and Roberts with a slight lead over Petty. He raced into the pit for gas and was back out in 20 seconds. Petty had already made his final pit stop but could not catch the speeding Roberts in the final 20 laps around the track.

Ralph Earnhardt of Kannapolis, N.C. went out early in the race with mechanical difficulty after working his way from 21st starting position to the 14th spot.

Pontiacs grabbed six of the top-10 places in the race. Besides Roberts and Weatherly in Pontiacs, Jack Smith was fourth, David Pearson sixth, Banjo Matthews eighth, and Bob Welborn in 10th.

Breaking up the Pontiac domination were Richard Petty in a Plymouth (second), Fred Lorenzen Ford (fifth), Rex White Chevrolet (seventh) and Ned Jarrett Chevrolet (ninth).

Results –

1. Fireball Roberts
2. Richard Petty
3. Joe Weatherly
4. Jack Smith
5. Fred Lorenzen
6. David Pearson
7. Rex White
8. Darel Dieringer
9. Ned Jarrett
10.Bob Welborn
11.Bill Wimble
12.Ernie Gahan
13.Bunkie Blackburn
14.Jim Paschal
15.Jim Cushman
16.Johnny Allen
17.Speedy Thompson
18.Bill Wade
19.Paul Burrow
20.Tom Cox
21.Art Brady
22.Herman Beam
23.Curtis Crider
24.Jim McGuirk
25.Gerald Duke
26.George Alsobrook
27.Dan Gurney
28.Buck Baker
29.Buddy Baker
30.Bobby Johns
31.Larry Thomas
32.Ed Livingston
33.Cotton Owens
34.Junior Johnson
35.Bob Burdick
36.Ralph Earnhardt
37.Wally Dallenbach
38.Charles Griffith
39.Sal Tovella
40.Red Farmer

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

1975 – Opperman Crowned Winternationals Champ

Jan Opperman of Noxon, Mont., receives the spoils of victory after nabbing the IMCA Winternationals Series title with two consecutive feature wins. Joining Opperman is starter Johnny Hicks (left), car owner Al Hamilton and Jan’s wife, Mary Lou. – Al Major Photo

Tampa, Fla. (February 16, 1975) – The IMCA Winternationals sprint car races, otherwise known as the Jan Opperman Show, came to a close on Sunday afternoon at the Florida State Fair the way it’s been going all along – with Opperman winning.

In a race that was a near-mirror image of Saturday’s come-from-behind 50-lap feature win, Opperman fell behind early, took advantage of a race-slowing caution, puled ahead and won the 30-lap finale going away. Dick Sutcliffe, who finished in second, was a full straightaway behind Opperman when the checkers waved.

The victory was the third feature win of the meet for Opperman and it gave him the point championship with an even 800 points. Ohio’s Rick Ferkel was second in the point standings with 545 and Dick Tobias as third.

In Sunday’s feature race, pole-sitter Sutcliffe got out to an early lead and was pulling away when Ralph Parkinson Jr., lost a wheel on lap 16 and a five-car pile-up ensued.

When racing resumed, Opperman, who had been cruising in second-place, wasted little time in assuming command. He took the lead on lap 21 and roared home from there.

Opperman, the self-styled “Christian Hippie”, pointed to a mistake by Sutcliffe as the turning point in the race.

“I was beat today,” he said. “In other races, I’ve beaten myself sometimes, but not today. He (Sutcliffe) just had a faster car but he made a mistake and I was able to take advantage of it. We were coming out of the turn at the top of the stretch and he gave me some room to pull up with him.”

The points championship was up for grabs between Opperman and Ferkel entering the feature race. Ferkel had to win and hope Opperman finished sixth-place or lower but the wish never got off the ground. Ferkel dropped back early and eventually left the race on lap 19 with mechanical problems.

Lee Osborne, Sutcliffe and Kramer Williamson captured heat races. Opperman took the 6-lap match race and Ralph Blackett nabbed the consolation.

A crowd of 3,051 watched the closing day action which was a makeup date of a earlier rainout.

Results –

Heat #1 – Lee Osborne, Alexandria, Va.
Heat #2 – Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo.
Heat #3 – Kramer Williamson, Clearfield, Penn.
Match race – Jan Opperman, Noxon, Mont.
Consolation – Ralph Blackett, Des Moines, Iowa
Feature –
1. Jan Opperman
2. Dick Sutcliffe
3. Ray Lee Goodwin, Kansas City
4. Bill Utz, Sedalia
5. Ralph Blackett
6. Ralph Parkinson Jr., Kansas City
7. Thad Dosher, Topeka, Kan.
8. Roger Rager, Lincoln, Neb.
9. Darryl Dawley, Sioux Falls, S.D.
10.Larry Kirkpatrick, Wood River, Ill.

Monday, February 15, 2021

1967 – Daniels Wins Third Leg of Winternationals

Jerry "Scratch" Daniels accepts his trophy after winning the 30-lap feature at the Winternationals. 

Tampa, Fla. (February 15, 1967) – Jerry Daniels of St. Paul, Minn., rode the tight turns of a narrow groove to win the 30-lap feature of the third of a series of
Winternationals Sprints at the Florida State Fair on Wednesday afternoon, after earning the pole position with the fastest qualifying lap.

Daniels also won the consolation, which was his entry as a qualifying race into the feature.

Starting on the inside of the front row, Daniels jumped into the lead at the start of the race and was never in serious trouble to the finish. Only a mental lapse could have beaten him on the one-groove track.

Finishing second was Karl Busson of Toledo, Ohio, and taking third was Bill Puterbaugh of Roxana, Ill.

Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., the defending IMCA national champion, won the first heat but dropped out early in the feature. Gordon Woolley, the one-time national champ from Waco, Tex., won the second heat and Don Hewitt of Troy, Ohio, was victorious in the third heat.

Tom Bigelow of Whitewater, Wis., proved to be the fastest in the 5-lap match race.

There was a lot of jockeying going on during the time trials. Some of the drivers were passing up their second of their two timed laps to get a crack at the track later in the day when they hoped it would get faster from a coating of rubber.

However, Daniels was one of the first out and he had a much faster time trial than anyone with a time of 26.03 seconds around the Plant Field half-mile.

Results –

Heat #1 – Jerry Richert
Heat #2 – Buzz Barton
Heat #3 – Rollie Beale
Consolation – Karl Busson
Feature –
1. Jerry Daniels
2. Karl Busson
3. Bill Puterbaugh
4. Tom Bigelow
5. Jay Woodside
6. Gus Linder
7. Dean Mast
8. Bobby Adamson
9. Bill Roynon
10.Ray Lee Goodwin

Sunday, February 14, 2021

1960 – Johnson Grabs Big Win at Daytona

Junior Johnson basks in the moment after winning the 1960 Daytona 500.

Daytona, Fla. (February 14, 1960) - A big, plumpish farmer from Ronda, N.C., is the new Daytona International Speedway 500 champion. 

Robert (Junior) Johnson won his title Sunday in the climactic event of a crash-punctuated weekend before 47,500 fans.

Johnson's average time for the late model stock car race was 124.740 miles per hour, compared to the 135.521 average made by Lee Petty of Randleman, N.C., in winning the 500 last year. But there were extenuating circumstances.

For 40 of the 200 laps on the 2.5-mile course, the yellow caution flag was fluttering because of mishaps, forcing the cars to a snail's pace.

Thirty-six of the 68 starting cars still were on the track as Johnson's 1959 Chevrolet got the checkered flag.

Behind Johnson and an apparent winner until the last eight laps, was Bobby Johns of Miami in a 1959 Pontiac. Johns lost his chance on the 192nd lap when he went into a spin on the backstretch.

Dick Petty of Randleman, N.C., finished third and his father Lee fourth. Both were driving 1960 Plymouths. Johnny Allen of Atlanta was fifth in a 1960 Chevrolet, followed by Ned Jarrett of Newton, N.C., in a 1960 Ford, Curtis Turner of Charlotte, N.C., in a 1960 Ford, Freddy Lorenzen of Elmhurst, Ill., in a 1960 Ford, Rex White of Spartanburg, S.C., in a 1960 Chevrolet, and Emanuel Zervakis of Richmond, Va., in a 1960 Chevrolet.

The only accident resulting in serious injury hospitalized Tommy Herbert of Miami with a broken rib and an eye injury.

Results –

1. Robert (Junior) Johnson, Ronda, N.C.
2. Bobby Johns, Miami, Fla.
3. Richard Petty, Randleman, N.C.
4. Lee Petty, Randleman, N.C.
5. Johnny Allen, Atlanta, Ga.
6. Ned Jarrett, Newton, N.C.
7. Curtis Turner, Charlotte, N.C.
8. Fred Lorenzen, Elmhurst, Ill.
9. Rex White. Spartanburg, S.C.
10.Emanuel Zervakis, Richmond, Va.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

1974 – First Time, First Win for Williamson

Kramer Williamson accepts his trophy from IMCA's Woody Brinkman as Ms. Winternationals joins in the celebration. 

Tampa, Fla. (February 13, 1974) – Who is Kramer Williamson?

Those 5,125 sitting in the Florida State Fair grandstand know now. He is the man who led from start to finish in the 30-lap feature of the IMCA Winternationals Sprints series program on Wednesday. He also the man who won the first heat but then his name was not so noticeable.

Williamson, who hail from Mechanicsburg, Penn., explained his anonymity.

This is his first year to race at the Florida State Fair and Winternationals Sprint Series. This was also the first time in International Motor Contest Association competition.

He had not been doing anything in earlier races of the series because he and his mechanic had not figured out the right combination.

“For a while there I thought we would never get in the ballpark,” Williamson said, after a kissing session with race queen Wanda Vetzel, the flash from the cameras in victory lane and the backslapping of congratulations.

But he and mechanic Joe Hamilton kept working and he survived a wreck the wreck strewn 30 laps and a late challenge by Duane “Pancho” Carter to win “his biggest race ever”.

“Pancho? Yeh I knew he was coming,” Williamson answered. “Then, I just started going faster.”

Carter once got his front wheels even with the leader but on the next lap his radiator hose blew, and he exited the track in a cloud of steam.

That allowed Jan Opperman, the Beaver Crossing, Neb., driver who had been dominating the Winternationals to date with three feature wins, to roll across the finish line in second behind Williamson. He was followed by Larry Kirkpatrick of Wood River, Ill.

That was the story of the race but not of the day.

The surprise of the day was the amazing performance of Ray Lee Goodwin in time trials. The Kansas City veteran wiped out the one-lap record of Bobby Grim that had stood since 1955. Grim’s time for a lap was 24.82 seconds, set in the days when the powerful Offenhauser were the winning cars and the knobby tires gave the Offy’s a great bite on dirt.

Goodwin’s time was 24.639 seconds around the half-mile dirt oval. He made it clear that his car was perfectly balanced and with a drive that was perfection.

There was a rash of spin and wrecks. The worst, one of three flips during time trials and warmups, was by Robert Smith of Gibsonton, Fla., who did a series of end-over-end flips coming out of the second turn. Fortunately, he was unhurt and returned as a spectator.

Results –

Time trial – Ray Lee Goodwin (24.639)
Heat #1 – Kramer Williamson
Heat #2 – Ralph Blackett
Heat #3 – Bobby Black
Match race – Ray Lee Goodwin
Consolation – Larry Kirkpatrick
Feature –
1. Kramer Williamson
2. Jan Opperman
3. Larry Kirkpatrick
4. Hank Albers
5. Eddie Leavitt
6. Del Schmidt
7. Thad Dosher
8. Jerry Richert
9. Ralph Blackett
10.Bobby Allen

Friday, February 12, 2021

1976 - Stott, Ryan lead Daytona 500 convoy

Iowan's Ramo Stott (right) and Terry Ryan (left) lead the field to the start of the 1976 Daytona 500. 

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 12, 1976) - Ramo Stott and Terry Ryan, who figured only to be cloaked in relative obscurity this week while preparing for the 18th annual Daytona 500, surprisingly have the limelight as Speed Weeks 1976 reaches its hectic climax the final four days of this week.

Stott, a Keokuk, Iowa, corn and bean farmer, and Ryan, a truck driver from nearby Davenport, each led a field of 34 cars to the start of twin 125-mile qualifying races today and will pace $1.4 million worth of high-speed machinery to the start of Sunday's $350,000 race.

“I’ve probably had more publicity out of this than anything else that's ever happened to me," said Stott, who won the United States Auto Club stock car championship last year. "The newspapers have really played it up here and my wife Judy, who keeps a scrap book of my career, is running all around the place buying up papers for the press clippings.”

While much of Stott's racing has been on short tracks in the Midwest, he has an impressive history of finishes in major NASCAR Grand National races, including having never finished out of the top 10 in any year he has competed in the Daytona 500.

Stott, a two-time Automobile Racing Club of America titlist who has been racing at Daytona since 1963, found himself the pole winner at 183.456 miles per hour after the three faster qualifiers - A.J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip and Dave Marcis - last Sunday had their times disallowed for using “nonapproved” equipment.

Having nothing to gain by additional practice, Stott considered parking his car until race time, but his car owner Norris Reed wanted more testing.

“In practice Wednesday, we got up to 186 m.p.h. before discovering that we had a fender rubbing against a tire,” Stott explained. “We’re glad we found that out in practice. It could have meant a blown tire in the race.”

Stott now believes his chances for victory Sunday are excellent, despite the ultracompetitive field of Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarbrough, Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons, Bobby Allison, Foyt, Waltrip and Marcis.

“I don't think I’m better than anyone here, but I’ve got thousands of miles on this track and I think I have as good a chance to win as anyone,” said Stott, who added he feels relaxed and confident.

Ryan, in his first NASCAR Grand National race, has more homework to do, Stott felt.

“The qualifying race should help,” he added.

Stott said he has spent time this week coaching Ryan in the fine art of drafting at 200 miles per hour.

More than 120,000 are expected for Sunday's annual running of the most prestigious of stock car races, which caps more than three weeks of racing worth more than $850,000.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

1959 – Pouelson Wins in Record Time

Johnny Pouelson

Tampa, Fla. (February 11,1959) – Johnny Pouelson of Gardena, Calif., pushed his black and white #3W Offenhauser to victory in the 20-lap Florida State Fair feature on Wednesday, riding a hard and slick racing surface to a new track record. 

Pouelson, pressed most of the way by Buzz Barton of Tampa, led field from the first lap and was clocked in 9 minutes and 12.13 seconds to erase the former record of 9 minutes and 20.24 seconds set by Bobby Grim in 1955.

The crowd of 4,700, the largest mid-week crowd ever to attend fair races, saw plenty of action in the International Motor Contest Association-sanctioned program.

The drivers started warm-ups with knob tires but found they couldn’t get a grip on the glass-like surface. Then the pits erupted into a bustle of tire changes as drivers and mechanics swapped to semi-knobs and slicks.

Apparently both Pouelson and Barton found the right combination and ran away from the rest of the field in the main event. Pouelson was about five car lengths in front of Barton as he caught starter Johnny Hick’s checkered flag.

Behind Pouelson and Barton were Jim Hurtubise of Gardena, Calif., Al “Cotton” Farmer of Fort Worth, Tex., and Red Amick of Muncie, Ind.

Bob Tattersall of Streator, Ill., won the first heat, Pouelson won the second heat and Colby Scroggins of Eagle Rock, Calif., was the third heat winner. Hurtubise won the 5-lap match race and Amick was the 8-lap consolation victor.

Results –

1. Johnny Pouelson, Gardena, Calif.
2. Buzz Barton, Tampa, Fla.
3. Jim Hurtubise, Gardena, Calif.
4. Cotton Farmer, Fort Worth, Tex.
5. Red Amick, Muncie, Ind.
6. Pete Folse, Tampa, Fla.
7. Don Carr, St. Petersburg, Fla.
8. Leon Hubble, Indianapolis
9. Johnny Roberts, Wheeler, Mich.
10.Al Chamberlain, Altoona, Penn

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

1973 – Weld Beats Flurries, Field at Florida State Fair

After winning the 30-lap main event, Kenny Weld accepts his trophy from Barbara Weeks and IMCA's Woody Brinkman. 

Tampa, Fla. (February 10, 1973) – Kenny Weld of York, Penn., played the starring role in the second program of the IMCA Winternationals Sprint series at the Florida State Fair on Wednesday evening, along with the first snow flurries in the Tampa in 18 years. 

The severe cold cut the crowd to an estimated 5,206 fans as Kenny, the third of the Weld brothers, won the heat, STP trophy dash and 30-lap feature driving the Weikert Livestock Special.

Jan Opperman, who turned the same trick on opening night, flipped during the feature and damaged the front end of his Bogar Chevy. Minute later, Tom Nordstrom flipped his sprinter in the same spot and was momentarily stunned. Neither driver was injured.

Finishing second to Weld was Bobbie Adamson of Coraopolis, Penn., and third was Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa.

Heat winners were Opperman, Weld and Roger Rager. Darryl Dawley was the consolation victor.

Opperman flipped as he and Thad Dosher were battling for second place in the feature. Opperman found himself caught between Dosher and the wall and his car nosed up the wall taking out about 20 feet of protection rustic fencing atop the concrete wall. It did a half roll and landed upside down.

By the fifth lap, Weld was well in front, but he was forced to surrender the ground gained, first when Chuck Amati spun, and then Dick Sutcliffe did a waltz. But only once was Weld seriously challenged when Adamson tried to squeeze by on the inside.

Results –

Heat #1 – Jan Opperman
Heat #2 – Kenny Weld
Heat #3 – Roger Rager
STP trophy dash – Kenny Weld
Consolation – Darryl Dawley
Feature –
1. Kenny Weld
2. Bobbie Adamson
3. Earl Wagner
4. Tom Corbin
5. Lee Osborne
6. Thad Dosher
7. Bobby Black
8. Cliff Cockrum
9. Larry Miller
10.Roger Rager

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

1969 – Harrison Rim Riding Rocket to Victory

Darl Harrison

Tampa, Fla. (February 9, 1969) – Driving a buckling, rocketing sprinter #44, Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio, won one of the more closely fought races at the Florida State Fair in many years before 7,590 fans. 

It was the third race of the IMCA Winter Sprint Series and apparently Harrison had learned enough about the narrow half-mile of dirt to outfox the fox himself, four-time IMCA champion Jerry Richert.

At the finish, Richert was in third-place after being passed by a hard-charging Don Mack four laps before the end of the 30-lap main event.

Mack won the first heat; Ron Perkins won the second and Dick Gaines took the third. Bob Kinser wo the 5-lap match race and Richert copped the 10-lap consolation.

A battle developed between leader Richert and Harrison about midway through the feature and the pair traded the lead back and forth, lap after lap, with Harrison going to the front down the backstretch and Richert takin it back as they swung out of turn four.

On the 24th lap, Harrison slipped under Richert on the inside on the south turn and came out of the second turn too far ahead of Richert. From that point on, Harrison pulled away, leaving the battle to Richert and the oncoming Mack.

Mack got by Richert on lap 26 to take second. It was a magnificent run by the hard-luck driver, who had blown two engines since leaving North Dakota. He moved from his 13th starting position for an impressive second-place finish. Saturday he had went from 12th to second before blowing his engine.

The race was run in 15 minutes and 42.61 seconds, slowed by two caution flags brought out by harmlessly spinning cars.

Harrison found the track exactly to his liking, damp, loose, and with a good cushion of clay at the rim.

“It looked best up there,” he said of his rim ride during his chase of Richert. “I worried about the car holding together. The turns were dug out pretty good.”

Results –

Heat #1 – Don Mack
Heat #2 – Ron Perkins
Heat #3 – Dick Gaines
Match race – Bob Kinser
Consolation – Jerry Richert
Feature –
1. Darl Harrison
2. Don Mack
3. Jerry Richert
4. Ted Wise
5. Ralph Quarterson
6. Jerry Blundy
7. Ron Perkins
8. Chuck Lynch
9. Bob Kinser
10.Russ Laursen

Monday, February 8, 2021

1976 - Pond Captures ARCA 200 at Daytona

Lennie Pond

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 8, 1976) - "It was the greatest race of my career," Lennie Pond said. "I couldn't believe it until I saw the checkered flag."

Pond stepped out of his familiar NASCAR Grand National circle Sunday afternoon to win the ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

For taking the checkered flag in the Automobile Club of America's biggest event, Pond picked up a pay check for $5,200,

"Everything just went perfect," the Petersburg driver explained, "I didn't have but one close call. I kept waiting for something to go wrong, but it never did."

Pond qualified his Pepsi Cola machine for the outside pole and enjoyed a comfortable lap and 23-second lead over Woody Fisher of Cincinnati, Ohio, at the finish.

"I hope I am starting a habit," Pond commented after his first of four races in eight days at the 2.5-mile tri-oval. This was my first victory ever at a super speedway and it is a great feeling."

Pond battled Ferrell Harris, who qualified at an amazing speed of over 188 miles per hour, and James Sauter in the early going. However, most of his competition retired early and Pond coasted to the big victory.

"There were four or five cars able to run about the same speed under racing conditions," the driver of the No. 54 Chevrolet remarked.

"They had trouble and we didn't," the happy Virginian added. "That was the real difference."

Harris, from Pikeville, Ky., jumped Pond at the start and the Petersburg native dropped all the way back to fourth after the first turn.

He slowly but surely worked his way back to the front averaging over 181 miles per hour for the first 25 miles, Pond passed with care as the lead pack roared by slower cars.

"I drove a very cautious race," the former five-time state late model sportsman champion admitted. "You don't win a race on the first lap…you win on the last lap."

Pond took the lead for the first lime about 75 miles into the event, but dropped back after the second caution of the race.

Driving the same car he finished sixth in a month ago at Riverside, Calif., Pond put the hammer down after Harris opened up a 200-yard lead.

Blitzing around the tri-oval, Pond shot under Harris in the third turn and took the lead on lap 41. Then, in heavy traffic, Pond was forced to let off the gas pedal and Harris re-gained the advantage.

Wasting little time, Pond, quickly moved back in front on lap 49 and led the rest of the way in the 200-mile event.

Pond's pit crew recorded a 19-second stop for gas and tires and then came through with a nine-second gem for gas late in the event.

With a commanding lead, Pond needed only two gallons of gas to finish the race with eight laps remaining. He returned to the track in time to hold his lap lead over Fisher.

"I didn't know I had that much of a lead," the Petersburg driver said. ''They told me that I had a lap lead with two laps to go. I knew I had the lead so I wasn't pushing the car hard."

The Pepsi driver received a real scare 58 laps into the race when Jim Hurtubise of Indianapolis blew the engine in his Plymouth in the fourth turn.

Pond was preparing to lap Hurtubise when a cloud of smoke erupted from under that car.

'"I slowed down almost to a stop," Pond commented. "I couldn’t see a thing…the track, the infield or the wall, I was just lucky nobody slammed me from behind."

Oddly, the ARCA officials didn't even drop the caution flag as Hurtubise gained control of his racer and headed for the pits.

Pond, who averaged 153.224 miles per hour, had just passed Jerry Mahle when he lost control and cracked the wall in the second turn.

"I was a good distance by him," Pond said. "I saw him hit the wall in the rearview mirror."

Pond made one adjustment to the chassis setup during the race after the rear end started to let loose in the turns. The crew quickly knew he needed adjustments under an early caution.

"I could run flat out with new tires," he stated, "after they heated up, I was a little loose, but not too bad."

The crowd favorite, Pond proved he can race at high speeds on a superspeedway. He turned some laps at over 184 miles per hour, in the high-speed draft.

Results –

1. Lennie Pond
2. Woody Fisher
3. Ferrel Harris
4. Dave Ecker
5. Delmar Clark
6. Joe Thurman
7. Glenn Gault
8. Salt Walther
9. Darrell Basham
10.Buck Newland
11.Buddy Fannon
12.Ralph Jones
13.Tony Schiller
14.Terry Ryan
15.John Banks
16.Jim Hurtubise
17.Ken Gross
18.Jerry Mable
19.Jim Fleming
20.Ed Negre
21.Bobby Wawak
22.Jim Sauter
23.Ramo Stott
24.Cleve Smith
25.John Anderson
26.Joey Holley
27.Grant Adcox
28.Bob Thomas
29.Hubert West
30.Jim Cox

Sunday, February 7, 2021

1971 – Leas Sticks Around and Wins

J.D. Leas

Tampa, Fla. (February 7, 1971) – J.D. Leas might have been halfway home to Winterville, Penn., Sunday afternoon instead of taking the checkered flag in the feature in the third of the series as the IMCA Winternationals Sprints won its race against the weather. 

Leas crashed his car at the Florida State Fair half-mile track on Saturday and the car’s owner, W.J. Watson, wanted to pack up and go home.

But the crew pitched in, straightened things out and gave Leas the opportunity to finish in front of Jerry Blundy, Galesburg, Ill., and Jay Woodside, Kansas City, in that order.

“You should have seen that thing last night,” Leas said, pointing to his steaming machine after crawling out and receiving his victory kiss from speed queen Barbara Clack. “It was a mess.”

“I got that wall over there,” pointing to the north end of the track. “shortened the car about three inches. The owner took a look at it and said, ‘Let’s go home’”

“But everyone got busy, worked through Saturday night and all Sunday morning and put the pieces back together. They worked so late in the morning they were almost shutout at the gate.”

Everything was just not right because Leas hit the wall again during the second lap of his time trial and was forced to take the first lap time, which, incidentally, was the eighth fastest of the day. Chuck Amati of Greenfield, Tenn., the sensation of the race meet, had the fastest lap, with a time of 26.504 seconds. Unfortunately, Amati would miss the feature with a broken rear end.

Leas was challenged repeatedly by Blundy in the late rounds of the 30-lap main event, but the latter couldn’t get the momentum for a pass.

It was a completely different track than what drivers enjoyed during the first two meets. The surface was packed and the turns slick, with the groove down on the inside. The loose stuff at the top of the track was too dry and light to give the rim riders any a cushion to push their right rear wheel.

Leas had a 350 cubic inch engine under his hood and Blundy only a 302 which might have been the reason Blundy could not get off the turns fast enough to catch Leas on the straights

Leas led from lap 3 when the two front cars, Cliff Cockrum, Mitchell, Ind., and Rich Schmelyum, Westminster, Md., tangled in the north turn. Cockrum ran his car right over the tail of Schmelyum while attempting to make a pass.

Results –

Heat #1 – Jim Murphy
Heat #2 – Jim McClean
Heat #3 – Elmo Smalley
Consolation – Bob Kinser
Match race – Billy Cassella
Feature –
1. J.D. Leas
2. Jerry Blundy
3. Jay Woodside
4. Billy Cassella
5. Darl Harrison
6. Dick Sutcliffe
7. Bob Kinser
8. Jim Murphy
9. Tom Corbin
10.Jim Moughan

Saturday, February 6, 2021

1965 - McCune Stars in Florida State Fair Race

Jim McCune

Tampa, Fla. (February 3, 1965) – More than 12,000 fans watched the second program of the week at the Florida State Fair on Saturday, and Jim McCune of Toledo, Ohio, driving the Smith Chevy, captured the action-packed 25-lap feature.

McCune, starting on the outside front row next to fast qualifier Gordon Woolley, ran second to the Waco, Tex., veteran in the opening laps, while Greg Weld was on the move from his fifth starting position.

A three-way battle soon developed as Woolley found Weld on the outside and McCune on the inside as they ran three-abreast going into the second turn. Weld, a member of the “Kansas City Mafia”, came dangerously close to the outside wall, but Woolley gave him just enough room and the 22-year-old took over the lead on the back chute.

Weld led until lap 16 when his machine, the former Chevy driven by Chuck Hulse, began to falter. It was determined later that lint in the injector nozzle caused fuel starvation.

McCune then took over and led all the way to the finish

Perhaps the best performance of the afternoon was turned in by Dave Lundy of Pittsburgh, Penn. Starting 12th, Lundy gambled on the outside of the hard, slick track and moved past car after car and finally scooted past Wooley for second spot on lap 23. Lundy also came from ninth to finish second in the consolation.

Preliminary winners were Jim Moughan, Larry Dickson, Carl Williams, Sam Sessions and Woolley.

Several Indianapolis-type cars were in competition here, including Darl Harrison’s Auxter Edsel, which is the former car driven by Tory Ruttman to a fourth place finish in the 1954 Indianapolis 500.

This was a special feature victory for McCune’s car, the new Ray Smith Special. Smith, confined to a wheelchair, built the entire car himself in six months. 

Results –

Heat #1 – Jim Moughan
Heat #2 – Larry Dickson
Heat #3 – Carl Williams
Match race – Sam Sessions
Consolation – Gordon Woolley
Feature –
1. Jim McCune
2. Dave Lundy
3. Gordon Woolley
4. Buzz Barton
5. Larry Dickson
6. Bill Brown
7. Jim Moughan
8. Walt McWhorter
9. Carl Williams
10.Ralph Quarterson
11.Larry Cannon
12.Ron Larson
13.Greg Weld
14.Wib Spaulding
15.Dick Gaines
16.Wally Dallenbach

Friday, February 5, 2021

1978 – Wolfgang Zips to Southern Title


Doug Wolfgang behind the wheel of the Speedway Motors 4X - Jim Carmichael Photo

Gibsonton, Fla. (February 5, 1978) – The talent of Mother Nature in the form of beautiful weather and the talent of Doug Wolfgang, winning his second feature in three days, made the Southern Sprint Nationals a comfortable and exciting event for some 3,600 spectators at East Bay Raceway Park.

Wolfgang held off strong challenges from Dick Tobias to win the A-main feature.

Wolfgang, from Lincoln, Neb., led from the start of the 50-lap race that brought him $3,000 in purse money plus another $150 in lap money. Tobias, of Lebanon, Penn., finished second and picked up $2,000 for his efforts.

Tobias passed Wolfgang on lap 27 when Rich Vogler of Glen Ellyn, Ill., spun, bringing out the yellow flag. Wolfgang contended he saw the yellow and slowed as Tobias sped by, but Tobias felt he would have had the lead.

“I saw the yellow,” Wolfgang said. “I really didn’t hold him ‘em (Tobias) off. He was faster, but you gotta be a lot of faster to pass on a (short) track like this.”

“We would’ve been leading coming off of turn four,” said Tobias of the 27th lap. Tobias assumed the lead on the back straightaway.

Tom Corbin of Carrollton, Mo., finished third and collected $1,000. Lealand McSpadden of Tempe, Ariz., and Ralph Parkinson Jr., of Kansas City, Mo., finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Dub May of Hanover, Penn., was the only driver to work his way from the C-main to the A-main. May won the opening race and took third in the B-main. Lenard McCarl of Des Moines, Iowa, was second and al Redman of Terre Haute, Ind., finished third.

Another Hanover, Penn., driver, Steve Smith, won the B-main with Mike Brooks of Knoxville, Iowa, second and May in third.

Wolfgang, 25, said the condition of the track was ‘alright’. “It was slick, but you can expect that from an afternoon race.”

Results –

1. Doug Wolfgang, Lincoln, Neb.
2. Dick Tobias, Lebanon, Penn.
3. Tom Corbin, Carrollton, Mo.
4. Lealand McSpadden, Tempe, Ariz.
5. Ralph Parkinson Jr., Kansas City, Mo.
6. Bobby Allen, Hanover, Penn.
7. Mike Brooks, Knoxville, Iowa
8. Bob Kinser, Bedford, Ind.
9. Gary Scott, Holts Summit, Mo.
10.Cliff Cockrum, Benton, Ill.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

1959 – Folse Wins; Loetscher Injured

"Pistol" Pete Folse 

Tampa, Fla. (February 4, 1959) – Eddie Loetscher of St. Louis was critically injured in a rolling crash during the first heat of the Florida State Fair auto races on Wednesday. Another driver was also hurt when he slid into Loetscher’s hurdling car. 

Loetscher’s Offenhauser skidded into the wall and turned over three times. The other car was driven by Mickey McCormick of Hutchinson, Kan., who suffered a broke nose and abrasions in the accident.

Loetscher underwent an operation for a spleen injury and was placed on the critical list. He also suffered a broken arm and fractured ribs.

Pete Folse of Tampa pushed the Honore Offenhauser to victory in the 15-lap feature race, driving the four-time IMCA national championship car in championship form.

Riding smoothly in spite of the hole-filled and slippery track, Folse drew the plaudits of the 4,200 in attendance by coming from last to first in his 7-lap heat race.

Winners of the other two heats were Buzz Barton of Tampa and Bob Tattersall of Streator, Ill. Barton also won the 5-lap match race while Johnny Roberts of Wheeler, Mich., won the 8-lap consolation.

Folse moved into the pole position for the main event when McCormick, the fastest in qualifying with a time of 25.25 seconds, was injured in the first heat melee.

Folse led the pack through the first turn and came out with the lead, with Barton trialing, driving in the whipped dirt. The lead duo rode close for the first five circuits, but Folse soon found the best combination between the groove and the holes and pulled away to a comfortable lead. He was a full straightaway in front when he caught the checkered flag.

Barton and Don Carr of St. Petersburg staged a battle in the final five laps and Carr passed Barton as they went into a thick traffic of cars being lapped. Barton settled for third while Red Amick of Muncie, Ind., was fourth and Leon Hubble of Indianapolis was fifth.

Results –

1. Pete Folse, Tampa
2. Don Carr, St. Petersburg
3. Buzz Barton, Tampa
4. Red Amick, Muncie, Ind.
5. Leon Hubble, Indianapolis
6. Johnny Roberts, Wheeler, Mich.
7. Bud Randall, Mitchell, Ind.
8. Colby Scroggins, Pasadena, Calif.
9. Bob Mathouser, Omaha, Neb.
10.Cotton Farmer, Dallas, Tex.