Wednesday, August 25, 2021

1959 – Richert Wins, Tragedy Mars Race

Starter Jake Bozony waves the checkers over Minnesota State Fair winner Jerry Richert. – Jack Albinson Collection

St. Paul, Minn. (August 25, 1959) – Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., drove to victory in the 25-lap feature race of the tragedy-marred Minnesota State Fair speedway car racing program on Saturday afternoon.

Don Johns, 28, of Bellflower, Calif., was killed and Harvey Konkel, 30, of West Allis, Wis., was hospitalized in critical condition with burns over 60% of his body.

The accident, which occurred during the third heat race, saw Konkel lose control of his racer as he entered fourth turn. The car slid into a five-foot wall west of the grandstand, which was filled with 11,200 spectators, bounded off and rolled into the path of Johns. Johns’ car struck the rear of Konkel’s machine, flipping both cars end over end.

The Konkel car, now in flames, slammed into the pit area near the judge’s stand, scattering officials and pit crews.

Two mechanics ran to Konkel’s car, tried to beat out the flames and rescued the driver.

Meanwhile, other mechanics wrenched Johns’ crushed body from his upended car in front of the grandstand. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Richert, a former state champion, nosed out Herschel Wagner of Hickman Hills, Mo., by two car lengths in the main event. Both drove Offenhauser’s.

Johnny White of Warren, Mich., also driving an Offenhauser, finished third.

Richert collected $800 in prize money, Wagner $650 and White $350.

Heat winners were Bill Horstmeyer, Stoughton, Wis., Bob Hogle, Buena Park, Calif., and Mickey Shaw, Berea, Ohio. Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., won the 10-lap semi-final.

Results –

1. Jerry Richert, Forest Lake, Minn.
2. Herschel Wagner, Hickman Hills, Mo.
3. Johnny White, Warren, Mich.
4. Jerry Daniels, St. Paul, Minn.
5. Dick Gaines, Mitchell, Ind.
6. Bill Horstmeyer, Stoughton, Wis.
7. Gordon Herring, Golden, Colo.
8. Harold Leep, Wichita, Kan.
9. Larry Dickson, Marietta, Ohio
10.Roger Lane, Blue Springs, Mo.

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