Cedar Rapids, Iowa (May 16, 1954) – Bob Johnson, an experienced young driver from Amery, Wis., was in serious condition at Mercy Hospital because of a series of accidents that accompanied Sunday’s 100-mile stock car race at Hawkeye Downs.Johnson survived an emergency operation Sunday night for a severe compression of the spinal cord, and he was to be taken off the critical list by Monday. He was still paralyzed from the injury, but his condition was greatly improving.
Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., won the first annual Corn Belt championship in a 1954 Hudson, but not before Johnson and two other drivers had been sent to the pit area by flips, while a dozen others were sidelined with broken wheels, blowouts, and overheated engines.
Johnson, who had been driving stock cars for five years, flipped his car three times in the first turn early in the race as the current leaders, Don White and Ernie Derr crowded him in a battle for the top spot.
He appeared to lose temporary control of the car near the post, and it turned sideways as it entered the curve and began its sensational roll. The top of the car was virtually ripped off the body as more than 6,000 fans looked on.
Jim Norton of Garnett, Kan., broke through the guardrail and flipped his car outside the track on the first turn of the first lap, resulting in a restart of the bulky field. He escaped without injury.
On the second restart, Gordon Howard of Aurora, Ill., flipped on the second turn, but he too, was uninjured.
Snow, a late entry who started in the 18th position, earned his victory with a steady performance that carried him to seventh place after 25 laps, into second place at the 65-lap mark and into the lead on lap 111 when he squeaked past Bill Harrison of Topeka, Kan.
Ernie Derr of Fort Madison, who led through much of the early going, was sidelined shortly after the halfway mark when his car overheated. Highly rated Don White of Keokuk, whose series of comebacks brought him the plaudits of the crowd, was in the pit area on several occasions, dropping out of the top-10 after only 25 laps.
White was in fourth after 65 laps and held that spot until lap 120, when he moved into third. He passed Bill Harrison on lap 160 and was less than a lap behind the winner when the checkered waved.
Bob “Doc” Narber of Cedar Rapids, driving in his first race of the season in a ’54 Ford, set a steady pace from the start and worked his way up to fourth place in the final 20 laps when he blew a tire and hung his car on the outside guardrail in the second turn.
1. Les Snow, Bloomington, Ill.
2. Don White, Keokuk
3. Bill Harrison, Topeka, Kan.
4. Roger Isaacson, Slater Bay, Wis.
5. Tubby Harrison, Topeka, Kan.
6. Chris Skadal, Des Moines
7. Bob Halston, Chicago, Ill.
8. Marvin Copple, Lincoln, Neb.
9. Robert Narber, Cedar Rapids
10.Whitey Traeder, Green Bay, Wis.
11.Dick Murrin, Minneapolis
12.Russ Gross, Quincy, Ill.
13.Mike Gleeman, Minneapolis
14.Art Schmidt, Somerset, Wis.
15.Ernie Derr, Fort Madison
16.Bob Potter, Duluth, Minn.
17.Bill Fitzgerald, Manitowoc, Wis.
18.Herb Shannon, Peoria, Ill.
19.Pete Petersen, Chicago, Ill.
20.Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids
21.Chug Montgomery, Springfield, Mo.
22.Bob Johnson, Amery, Wis.