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.
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.