Thursday, December 22, 2022

Happy Holidays!

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Kyle Ealy & Lee Ackerman









Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The IMCA Stock Cars at the Nebraska State Fair

1959 Birds-Eye View of the Nebraska State Fairgrounds

by Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - While it is rumored that an IMCA Stock Car race may have been ran in 1947, it wasn’t until 1949 that the series held its first year of competition. One of the stops on the tour was the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln.

On September 9, the series visited Lincoln and Eddie Anderson of Grinnell, Iowa, drove away with the win in the 100-lap event. Anderson was unofficially crowned as the first IMCA Stock Car Champion at seasons end. An interesting fact was that Anderson driving a 1949 Mercury that he restored after the car was totaled in a traffic accident. The win was Anderson’s third straight win in the car.

Anderson took the lead on lap 63 and was never headed, despite driving with a loose rear fender, the result of a brush with the wall after entering one of the turns to fast. Anderson completed the 50-mile event in one hour and 35.1 minutes and took the $500 first prize of a $2,000 purse distributed to the first 12 finishers.

Omahan Wayne Selser led the event in his Ford from lap 9 until lap 63 when he suffered a blowout and had to head pit side. Selser’s crew made quick repairs and he was able to return to action and finish the event in third place.

Herschel Buchanan an ex-Big Car pilot and future IMCA Stock Car Champion finished second. The Shreveport, Louisiana chauffeur was driving a Nash. Multi-time IMCA Big Car Champion and winner of the Big Car event the day before at the Nebraska State Fair, Frank Luptow of Detroit finished fourth in an Oldsmobile.

Norm Horn of Great Bend, Kansas brought his Packard home in fifth, Lincoln’s Woody Brinkman (later an IMCA Official) was scored in sixth in his Ford, George Christensen of Chicago seventh in a Ford, H. L. Kapke of Lincoln eighth in a Buck, Larry Wheeler of Omaha ninth in a Ford and Stan Calloway of Miami rounded out the top-10 in a Chevy.

Eddie Anderson 

On September 8, 1950, before a crowd of 21,000 fans the series returned to Lincoln and the Nebraska State Fair and things picked up right where they left off as Anderson set fast time in time trials with a lap of 33.04 seconds.

For a major part of the race Anderson kept his 1950 Mercury out front holding off the challenges of Dick Howe of Chicago, Frank Trauer of Omaha, Don White of Keokuk, Iowa and Art Combs of Emporia, Kansas. One by one Anderson has his challengers fell by the wayside.

Things started to unravel for Anderson when he and Howe tangled in the east turn on lap 69 with both cars crashing through the inside fence. By the time the crumpled fenders were sledgehammered out, Anderson was down five laps and Howe three. Fighting back Anderson gained back a lap before spinning through the infield fence in the west turn on lap 89 and retired from the event.

Trauer now leading on lap 86 despite a near spin almost tagging the fence on the west turn saw his good run ended with a blowout. Meanwhile Minneapolis’ Wally Dahl had been hanging back in his Olds playing the waiting game and during the final laps battled it out with Marv Sams of Montezuma, Iowa in Mercury and Jim Morgan of Davenport, Iowa in a Nash holding off the challengers for the win. Sams and Morgan held on for second and third.

White’s chance of winning went away with a mid-race blowout while Combs spent 18 laps in the pits after hitting a spinning car on lap 62. Following Dahl, Sams and Morgan in the final standings were Herschel Buchanan in a Nash, Carl Lilienthal of Atlantic, Iowa in a Ford with Don White hanging on in his Mercury to finish sixth.

Twenty-nine cars entered the 1950 event with fastest 20 cars qualifying for the race. Patricia Sutton of Kansas driving a Dodge was one of the entries, but it is not known if she qualified for the race.

It was noted in the Lincoln papers coverage of the race that while the stock cars were no match for the speed of the Offys (Big Cars), it should have been a great day for folks who got their kicks watching the sheet metal bent. Of the 20 cars in the field many of them 1950 models were involved in accidents and were scarcely recognizable at the end of the event.

On September 7, 1951, future Indianapolis 500-star Dick Rathmann set a new track record in qualifying with a lap of 32.53 seconds, but his day was short lived as he lost a wheel on the first lap and never reentered the race.

Eddie Anderson the second fastest qualifier in a Chrysler took the lead on the restart of the event but also lost a wheel in the west turn on lap seven. Anderson reentered the race many laps down and later retired from the event.

Herschel Buchanan then took over the lead in his Nash, leading until lap 23 when "Wild" Bill Harrison of Topeka put his '49 out front, a position he stayed in during the rest of the 125-lap event. During the race Harrison actually turned laps faster than Rathmann’s qualifying effort, recording one at 32.16 seconds.

The 41-year-old Harrison, who has been driving stocks for the past three years said the track was well suited for his 49’ Plymouth coupe. “It was a Plymouth track,” He said. “Hard and slick.”

The advantages of the track conditions were evident in the later stages of the race when Harrison had to hold off the challenges of the previous year’s winner Wally Dahl. Dahl’ Olds made up ground down the straightaways, but Harrison’s coupe gained it back in the corners. During the final laps Dahl was on Harrison’s bumper but could not make the pass.

Buchanan held on for third, Chris Skadal of Des Moines was fourth in an Olds, Ernie Derr of Fort Madison, Iowa fifth in another Olds, Chug Montgomery of Springfield, Missouri sixth in an Olds, Tilman Husets of Brandon, South Dakota, seventh in a Plymouth, Carl Lilienthal eighth in a Ford and Lincoln’s Marv Copple ninth in a Chevy.

Several accidents marred the event. On two occasions potential winners went out of the race with broken axles which ended up in near flips, a third car was forced out when a collision damaged a cars radiator forcing the driver to retire.

It was reported that during the three IMCA race dates at the Nebraska State Fair (two Big Cars and the Stock Car event) that 58,000 had attended viewed the three programs. 20,000 for each of the Big Car shows and 18,000 for the Stock Cars.

No detailed results were found for the 1952 IMCA Stock Car show at the Nebraska State Fair, but IMCA records show that Dominic “Shorty” Perlick of Minneapolis, Minnesota won the 125-lap event on September 5, 1952, driving an Oldsmobile. Perlick went on to claim the 1952 IMCA Stock Car Championship.

Ernie Derr would earn his first win at Lincoln and his first IMCA championship in 1953. 

On September 11, 1953, a driver went to the winner’s circuit at the Nebraska State Fair that would become synonymous with IMCA Stock Car racing. Ernie Derr, now racing out of Keokuk, Iowa did not overpower the field that day as he would in later years.

Derr was actually three laps down to Bloomington, Illinois’ Les Snow on lap 101 when Snow’s ‘53 Hudson Hornet blew a tire sending him pit side. By the time Snow returned to action he was two laps down and trailing both Derr and Bill Harrison.

Following Derr, Harrison and Snow to line were Lincoln’s Marv Copple who pocketed $175 for fourth, Russell Gross of Quincy, Illinois fifth, Kansas City’s Jim Page sixth, Anita, Illinois Mel Krueger seventh and Doc Narber of Cedar Rapids, Iowa eight.

In qualifying Snow turned a lap of 34.06 seconds with Derr and Herschel Buchanan tripping the clock at 34.15, Bill Harrison at 34.34 and Marv Copple at 34.92 in his Olds.

Three other Nebraskans competed in the event including Ray Fallstead of Beatrice in ninth, Pete Hoffman of Omaha tenth and Gordie Shuck of Edgar 12th. Only 13 cars finished the event. Race time was 1 hour, 10 minutes and 11 seconds.

While we could not find any detailed results for 1954, we do have some details on the qualifying and finishing positions. Don White of Keokuk, Iowa set a new track record in qualifying when his Olds turned the circuit in 31.48 seconds. Herschel Buchanan in a Hudson was second at 32.35, Bill Harrison 32.62 in a Dodge, Bob Potter of Duluth, Minnesota 33.07 with Chris Skadal in an Olds turning a 33.43 second lap.

The race appears to have completed much like the cars started the 150-lap event. White picked up the win with Buchanan second, Chris Skadal third, Harrison fourth, Potter fifth, Doc Narber sixth, Mel Krueger seventh and Dick Jepson eighth. White won the 1954 IMCA Championship (the first of three) before moving on to USAC and becoming the winningest driver in USAC Stock Car history. Time of the Race 1 hour, 40 minutes, and 29.03 seconds.

Herschel Buchanan

In 1950 and 1951 veteran driver Herschel Buchanan of Shreveport, Louisiana won the IMCA Stock Car Championship driving a Nash. In 1954 Buchanan switched to a Hudson and finished third in IMCA Stock Car points. In 1955 he switched brands again and campaigned the new Ford Thunderbird. While he finished second to Don White in the 1955 season standing the car worked flawlessly on September 9, 1955, as he had the field at the Nebraska State Fair covered.

Buchanan was so dominant that he had built up a lead of several laps over second place Johnny Beauchamp, who had pitted earlier in the race. Buchanan finally went pit side on lap 185 of the 200-lap event when the yellow waved for a crash by Russ Gross. Coming out still two laps ahead of Beauchamp, Buchanan cruised to the win. Beauchamp on the other hand had to struggle to finish second with a blown motor in his 55’ Chevrolet. Tiny Lund, Don White, and Omahan Bud Burdick rounded out the top five.

Pointing to his shredded right rear tire changed in his only pit stop, Buchanan grinned and said. “I’ve been saving that one for the Nebraska State Fair and it paid off. This is the best one to win,” as he received the winner’s trophy from National Speedways President Al Sweeney.

Dale Swanson (left) and Johnny Beauchamp were a formidable duo.

On September 7, 1956, Johnny Beauchamp of Harlan, Iowa, returned to the Nebraska State Fair behind the wheel of Dale Swanson’s ’56 Chevrolet, would win the championship in a runaway scoring 38 IMCA feature wins in 1956 led the entire 200 laps but not without a challenge the first 60 laps by Omahan Bob Burdick. Burdick, who set fast time with a new track record of 30.12 seconds was all over Beauchamp the entire 60 laps as the two but on a Chevrolet versus Ford battle before Burdick retired with mechanical problems.

With Burdick gone, Beauchamp would continue to set a torrid pace and finish the 200-lap event in a record time of I hour, 48 minutes, and 47.74 seconds. National Speedway President Al Sweeney commented that “the track was the fastest he had ever seen at the State Fair.” The race was billed as an “International” because of the presence of two Jaguars in the 25-car field, but neither were a factor. Finishing behind Beauchamp were Don White, Bud Burdick, Chub Liebe, and Glenn “Doc” Narber.

Bob Burdick (right) is joined by his father Roy (center) and IMCA's Gene Van Winkle after Burdick won the IMCA stock car 200-lapper at Lincoln. 

The 1957 race would be another Ford versus Chevrolet battle once again between Bob Burdick and Johnny Beauchamp. The race, however, would finish with a disqualification. Burdick would start things off by setting a new track record of 29.70 seconds in his dad Roy’s 57 Ford.

At the start of the race, Burdick jumped into the lead with Ernie Derr, Beauchamp and Don White following closely for the first 25 laps. The leaders ran pretty much in that order until Burdick stopped for fuel on lap 125. Beauchamp assumed the lead and led until lap 183 when with Burdick on his rear bumper Beauchamp hit a soft spot and drifted high allowing Burdick to reassume the lead. Burdick would open up a six-car length lead when a late race caution flag bunched up the field again.

On lap 198 thinking the green had waved again Beauchamp passed Burdick and the two battled side by side for the last two laps with Beauchamp crossing the finish line a half car length ahead. In fact, starter Gene Van Winkle had given the white flag and then the checkered to Burdick declaring him the winner and setting Beauchamp back to second for jumping the start. The other race judges agreed with Van Winkle and Beauchamp accepted the officials ruling. Ernie Derr, Don White, and Shorty Eberts would round out the top five.

Mother Nature would win the 1958 IMCA Stock Car race at the Nebraska State Fair. A three-inch rain the night before the race and cloudy skies on race day made it impossible to get the track in condition despite a valiant effort from race officials and the race was called at 4:30 pm.

The 1959 event held on September 11 would be a duel between Ernie Derr and Darrell Dake.

Derr driving his 1957 Pontiac would use his driving skills, a fast pit crew and a little luck to win the 200-lap, 125-mile event in 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 38 seconds before a crowd of 9,000 fans.

Dake would take the lead at the start of the race and would have his ‘57 Chevy Convertible at the front of the race for 144 laps before making his pit stop. Derr, who had made a 10 second pit stop for refueling on lap 59 took the lead and with Dake’s pit stop being 30 seconds it appeared that Derr had clear sailing.

With less than 20 laps to remaining, Derr started signaling his pit crew that he was going to be making a pit stop because he was out of oil. Just as Derr was about to pit, Dake’s luck ran out and his rear end locked up in turn one. The yellow flew for Dake and Derr was able to make a casual pit stop.

Dake got rolling again but on lap 197 had to pit for gas (he had not taken on a full load under his previous pit stop) and that allowed Frank Lies to pass Dake for second. Ramo Stott made a gamble for second trying to make the whole race without a pit stop but ran out of gas on lap 194. Stott would still manage to finish fourth two laps down. The top five were Derr, Lies, Dake, Stott and Mert Williams.

IMCA's Al Sweeney (right) and Gene Van Winkle at the 1960 Nebraska State Fair. 

As Yogi Berra is famous for saying “It ain’t over, until it’s over” and perhaps Yogi’s biggest fan on September 9, 1960, was Ramo Stott. Stott ended up in victory lane at the conclusion of the annual 200 lap race despite being in third with only 10 laps to go. That’s when trouble started striking the leaders.

First on lap 192 third running Dick Hutcherson ran out of gas. Then with only 4 laps to go race leader Ernie Derr’s day came to end when he lost all the oil from his rear end. From there on it was clear sailing for Stott who finished three laps ahead of Hutcherson who was able to refuel and run one lap to finish ahead of Derr.

For the first 35 laps of the contest, it was Deer, Stott, Hutcherson, and Bob Kosiski battling it out up front. Derr lead for two laps and then gave way to other three. Hutcherson would maintain the lead until lap 24 when Kosiski took the point for 10 laps before tangling with a lapped car and spend four laps in the pits.

Hutcherson, Derr and Stott finally pitted under caution on lap 93. On the pit stop Derr was able to come out in second ahead of Stott. Hutcherson would open a nearly half lap lead over Derr with Stott further back. Derr and Stott would start closing the gap and with only 25 laps to go Hutcherson went high in the turn and Derr slipped under for the lead. A few laps later Stott got by Hutcherson for second.

Derr seemed to have the race in hand until he experienced his problems allowing Stott to take the lead and with Hutcherson in the pits Stott was able to cruise to the win. Stott led for only four laps to Hutcherson’s 161, Derr’s 25 and Kosiski’s 10 but they were the important ones. The top five were Stott, Hutcherson, Derr, Mert Williams and Kosiski.

Ernie Derr shows off his trophy after winning the 1961 race. 

On September 6, 1961, it was Ernie Derr in a Pontiac setting a new track record of 34.25 seconds around the big five-eighths mile oval. Lenny Funk of Otis, Kansas was second in a Ford at 34.84 seconds, Bob Reynolds of Edmond, Oklahoma third at 35.08 in his Ford.

Derr defeated fellow Keokuk resident Ramo Stott to win the first heat. Another Keokuk resident Dick Hutcherson drove his Ford to win over Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s Darrel Dake in the second heat. Lenny Funk took the third heat over Topeka’s Jerry Harrison in a Ford. Derr beat Hutcherson in the dash and Don Bowles in a SIMCA won the consolation event Newt Bartholomew.

In the 50-lap feature Derr needed 28 minutes and 56 seconds to pick up the win with Funk second, Stott third, Hutcherson fourth, Reynold fifth, Dake sixth, Bartholomew seventh and Reynolds eighth. Not only did a SIMCA win the consy, but Froggy Droz finished 11th in the feature in an Allard. The race was an International which allowed Sports Cars to compete.

Over 9,000 fans were on hand on September 5, 1962, as the IMCA Stock Cars returned to Lincoln. Dick Hutcherson of Keokuk, Iowa put his Ford on the pole with a lap of 35.94 seconds followed by another Keokuk driver and defending race winner Ernie Derr at 36.11 in his Pontiac. Otis, Kansas’ Lenny Funk was third at 36.42 in his Ford.

Hutcherson won the first 10-lap heat over fellow Keokuk driver Ramo Stott with Dallas, Texan Phil Cronin third. Derr grabbed heat two over Dick Johnson in a Chevy and Gerald Harrison in a Plymouth. The dash was all Keokuk with Stott winning followed by Derr and Hutcherson. Atlantic, Iowa’s Johnny Beauchamp in a Pontiac won the Australian Pursuit over John Mickey in a Pontiac.

In the 50-lap feature, Ernie Derr repeated but it was not without a fight. Derr grabbed the lead from polesitter Hutcherson but shortly in was Stott in second but the man on the move was ninth starting Bob Reynolds of Edmond, Oklahoma getting past Stott on lap 12 for second and then from lap 20 on battling it out with Derr for the remainder of the event.

Reynolds shortening the Derr’s lead in the corner’s and Derr lengthening the lead a bit down the smooth straights of the five eighths mile oval. At the end Derr turned the 50 laps in 29 minutes and 31.63 seconds which was 34 seconds slower than the year before. Reynolds finished second breaking up a potential 1-2-3 finish by Keokuk drivers as Stott finished third and Hutcherson fourth. Topeka’s Gerry Harrison rounded out the top five.

No details of the 1963 race are available but Dick Hutcherson in a Ford set fast time of 34.67 seconds and then won the 50-lap feature on his way to winning the 1963 IMCA Stock Car Championship. Not surprising it was a Keokuk sweep with Ramo Stott second in a Plymouth and Ernie Derr third in a Pontiac.

Making it worse was the fact that fourth place Jim Washburn was from Keokuk as well. Carlisle, Iowa’s Newt Bartholomew was fifth in a Plymouth with Ralph Wilhelm of Milwaukee, Wisconsin sixth in a Ford. Time of the event was 27 minutes 0.97 seconds.

Dick Hutcherson would score back-to-back wins at the Nebraska State Fair in 1963 and '64.

Dick Hutcherson returned in 1964 to back up his 1963 win. Driving a Ford prepared in the Holman and Moody shops in Charlotte, North Carolina, “Hutch” broke Ernie Derr’s qualifying time with a run of 33.91 seconds only to have it shattered later in qualifying by Lennie Funk’s Fund at 33.41 seconds.

Roland Wilson of Bedford, Iowa in a Plymouth won the first heat over Funk and Bob Jusola of Mound, Minnesota in a Ford. Hutcherson won heat two over Ole Brua of Albert Lea, Minnesota and Arthur Schmidt of St. Paul, Minnesota. All drove Fords.

Eddie Gray of Jefferson City, Missouri won heat three in a Triumph over Cliff Sealock of Hastings and Frank Sedoris of Lincoln, both in Fords. Hutcherson won the Challenge Race (Dash) over Jusola and Funk. Starting on the outside of the front row of the 50-lap main event, “Hutch” put his 64’ Ford out front and stayed there for the entire 50 laps. Funk finished second Jusola third, Wilson fourth and Schmidt fifth. It does not appear that Ernie Derr was in attendance.

The only accident of the day came in the feature when Ole Brua slide into the wooden fence on the east end of the track early in the race taking out two sections of the fence and ending up on the guard rail. Brua climbed from his car unhurt. Hutch turned the 50 laps in 33 minutes 35.92 seconds.

1964 was an interesting year in IMCA stock car racing. The series ran 56 races and ALL 56 were won by one of three drivers from Keokuk, Iowa. Dick Hutcherson, Ramo Stott or Ernie Derr. At the end of the 1964 season Hutcherson headed south to NASCAR and became a full-time competitor on that circuit.

In 1965 there were no IMCA sanctioned stock car races at the Nebraska State Fair. The September Modified Stock State Fair races featured local drivers with Bob Kosiski winning the 25-lap feature.

In 1966 the IMCA Stock Car races at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds was moved to Sunday afternoon, July 3. Lenny Funk set fast time of 28.44 seconds on the track which was once again a half mile. The race was once again a 200-lap event.

At the drop of the green, six-time series champion Ernie Derr jumped from his outside front row starting position grabbing the lead from polesitter Funk and driving to a relatively easy win in his 1966 Dodge. Derr’s toughest competition came from Ramo Stott. Stott got by Funk for second on the second lap and by the 72nd lap was the only car that Derr had not lapped.

On lap 143 Stott (then the current IMCA point leader) spun out in his Plymouth causing damage to the fenders and lost eight laps to Derr. The mishap left Stott behind Funk and Ed Negre of Monett, Missouri in a Plymouth.

Negre had passed Funk early in the race for third put spun out on lap 72, allowing Funk to regain the position. Stott was able to get going again and maintained fourth over Ole Brua in a Ford.

The top five at the line were Derr, Funk, Negre, Stott and Brua. The time of the event; 1 hour 32 minutes 17.78 seconds. After the event Stott led Derr by only 10 points in the IMCA Standings. Derr won the 1966 championship by 173 points.

The 1967 IMCA races at the State Fairgrounds were rained out.

On June 16, 1968, the series made its last appearance in Lincoln until the fair races of 1973. It looked for a while like defending series champion Ernie Derr might have his hands full with Ole Brua. Brua set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 28.93 second to Derr’s 29.15. Then in the first heat race Brua in his Ford outdistanced Derr in his Dodge Charger.

However, when it got to be 50-lap feature time Brua was quickly eliminated from competition in a four-car pileup in the first turn of lap one. Both Brua and Butch Hall were done for the day and Derr’s day became a lot easier.

On lap five of the feature, Derr took command of the race and held off the challenges of Shawnee Mission, Kansas driver Lewis Taylor who kept his red Plymouth on Derr’s tail most of the race but was never able to challenge for the lead.

Entering the race Derr and Ramo Stott were tied for the IMCA stock car points lead but Stott’s day turned bad early. After timing in seventh he pulled in during his heat race. He came back to race in heat three but retired with a broken transmission shaft and dropped out again. Stott returned to action to win the Australian Pursuit before making the feature.

Stott was able to finish third in the feature after fixing his transmission problems and changing spark plugs, but his factory-backed Plymouth definitely wasn’t up to par. Meanwhile, Derr was pleased with his car’s performance.

“It runs nice,” said the man with few words in victory lane. Asked if he was worried about Taylor, Derr responded. “Sure, you worry about everyone. When you quit worrying, that’s when they go around you.”

Another potential challenger for Derr, Lenny Funk had problems in warmups and dropped out of competition with an apparent cracked piston. Derr turned the 50 laps in 27 minutes 17.71 seconds with Taylor, Stott, Ron Larson of White Bear Lake, Minnesota in a Ford and Freddie Whisler of Independence, Kansas in a Ford rounding out the top five.

Joe Wade

IMCA Stock car action returned to the Nebraska State Fairgrounds on September 9, 1973. Derr and others had retired from the scene and the series was running fewer and fewer races. That being said it did not stop a local driver who was a late entry from scoring a big win.

25-year-old Lincolnite Joe Wade had to overcome two formable obstacles just get in the race. First, as a fireman he had to find someone to work in his place while he was racing and second when he got to the racetrack the car he was supposed to drive wasn’t there.

However, co-owner Ron Pullman of Clatonia soon showed up with a black 1972 Chevy Chevelle much to the relief of Wade and the other co-owner Phil Durst. Wade qualified for the feature by placing second in the third heat.

There were no time trials qualifying was done by heat races and consolation event. The results were’ First Heat won by Bob Kosiski of Omaha followed by Terry Richards of David City, John Oswalt of Kansas City, and Terry Holliman of Omaha. Second Heat won by Gerry Harrison of Topeka followed by Bill Schrader of Riverdale, Iowa, Jerri Wichman of Kansas City, and Jim Anderson of Kansas City. Third Heat won by Bill Wrich of Kennard, Wade, Galen Schafer of Topeka, and Jack Golder of Hooper.

Ferris Collier of Lampe, Missouri won the consolation followed by Jim Still of Topeka, Chuck Bosselman of Grand Island and Jim Hager of Liberty, Missouri.

In the 20-car, 50-lap feature event, Terry Richards led until lap 30 when he ran out of gas handing the lead to Wade who had come from back in the pack. Wade then drove away to the win. “Only when I saw the white flag, did I think I had the race won,” said Wade. “Because so many cars were dropping out of the race with mechanical problems. I just tried to save my engine after I got the lead and keep everything together.

Wade picked up $400 for the win and then went back to the fire station and back to work. Following Wader were Jim Still, Jack Golder, Bill Schwader, Jerry Wichman and Russ Derr of Keokuk, Iowa.

A detailed report of the 1974 race is not available but the results we do have are as follows. Bill Wrich set a new track record qualifying at 26.86 seconds. Heats were won by Wrich, defending IMCA Champion Gordon Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, and Thurman Lovejoy of Kansas City. Gary Lindgren of Ogden, Iowa won the consolation.

The 50-lap feature event was won by Grand Island’s Chuck Bosselman. Gordon Blankenship was second, Gary Lindgren third, Grand Island’s Billy Myers fourth and Terry Richards fifth.

"Super" Joe Wallace

On September 8, 1975, the IMCA Stock Cars made their last appearance at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds. Joe Wallace of Peyton, Colorado set a new track record in qualifying with a lap of 26.53 seconds with Aurora’s Kent Tucker second at 26.61. Wallace won the first heat, Larry Stromer of Grand Island the second heat and Thurman Lovejoy the third heat. Tucker came back to take the consolation event.

It took three restarts before the feature got underway but once underway Ferris Collier took the point passing front row starters Larry Stromer and Randy Sterner of Blair. But the man on the move was Wallace and he was challenging for second by lap four and was challenging Em Fretheim of Decorah, Iowa.

On lap five both Wallace and Stromer got past Fretheim and begin to close on Collier as Collier got into lapped traffic. On lap 15 Wallace pulled even with Collier and the two ran side-by-side for five laps before Collier slipped in turn four on lap 20 and Wallace went to the front and stayed there for the remainder of the race.

“Ferris (Collier) and I always have pretty good races,” said Wallace in victory lane. “It’s awful hard to pass on the track since it’s so slick, but he was getting on the accelerator too hard coming out of the turns and ended up sliding high. I was able to run a bit smoother and take the inside line to pass him.”

Collier commented. “I didn’t even know if I was going to run in the feature because the frame on the car was bent during a crash in the heat races, and my wrist was sprained. But I’m glad I ran the race.”

Following Wallace and Collier across the line were Fretheim, Dave Chase of Omaha and Tucker.

So ended the tradition of IMCA Stock Car races at the Nebraska State Fair that had started in the series first year 1949. The IMCA competed for just two more years before fading from the racing scene. One of the three owners of the IMCA when it folded was Hawkeye Racing News Editor Keith Knaack.

Knaack created a new IMCA featuring open wheel Modified and that series has grown into the nation’s largest sanctioning body for weekly shows. Ironically, sponsored by Speedway Motors the IMCA holds their annual banquet in Lincoln.

A big thanks goes out to racing guru Bob Mays who provided the author with a great deal of research on this subject. As always, thank you Bob.

Bill Beckman (1942 - 2022)

Bill Beckman of Monticello, Iowa, passed away December 5. Beckman, known as the "Lisbon Leadfoot," started his racing career in the late 1960's and competed at Eastern Iowa tracks for over 30 years. He was a member of the Hawkeye Downs Speedway Wall of Fame and recently inducted into the Iowa Racing Hall of Fame. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Pelican Race

Don White (1) and Jim Baker (52) lead the field to green for the start of the 1958 Pelican 300. 


By Kyle Ealy

Shreveport, La. – It was the traditional season-opener for the International Motor Contest Association stock car circuit. Run on the half-mile dirt oval of the Louisiana State Fairgrounds, the “Pelican” race would jump-start the IMCA stock car season before drivers and cars headed north for the Spring and Summer.

The Pelican race originated from the combined efforts of Louisiana State Fair and then IMCA president Joe Monsour and Auto Racing Inc’s Frank Winkley. Monsour was looking to give Shreveport racing “a shot in the arm” and put the call out to all promoters for any suitable ideas. Winkley had experimented with the Gopher 500 at the Minnesota State Fair the year before and struck gold, attracting more than 20,000 race fans to the event.

Winkley suggested to Monsour a race that would be along the same lines, except it would be 300 laps total with two 150-lap features. Drivers entered would compete for four separate purses. One share of the stake was for the fastest qualifier in time trials. Another share would go to the driver who crosses the finish line first in the first 150-lapper. Yet another would be for the winner of the second 150-lap contest. And the heftiest of the purse would go to the overall winner, from the best two finishes.

To prove that he was serious about luring the best stock car drivers in the nation to Shreveport, Monsour had his crew give the track a complete overhaul during the off-season. Load after load of fresh dirt was thrown on the half-mile track to significantly improve the racing surface. The wooden guardrails were replaced with all new steel guardrails to create greater safety conditions for drivers.

It was time to race…


Johnny Beauchamp from Harlan, Iowa, would win the first race billed as the “Pelican”, topping the scheduled 150-mile, 300-lap contest on March 31. The defending IMCA national stock car champion took advantage of Don White’s early-race breakdown and then make a runaway of it in the first 150-lap segment, beating Bob Burdick of Omaha, Neb. Starting dead last in the second 150-lap segment, Beauchamp was in second place by lap 2 and in first place by lap 5, well on his way to victory in a race that would be halted at 45 laps because of rain.

Harlan, Iowa's Johnny Beauchamp would win the first two Pelican races, in 1957 and '58.



Beauchamp would successfully defend his Pelican 300 title on March 31, blazing to victory in the $4,200 race. Beauchamp finished second to Don White in the first 150-lap segment and dominated the second 150-lapper to be declared overall winner of the event. A crowd of 8,500 watched the season opener.

White, driving a 1958 Ford, won the first race with Beauchamp hot on his heels but faded to eighth in the second race. Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., was runner-up to Beauchamp in the second race. Ernie Derr, driving a 1957 Pontiac, finished third in both races.


A capacity throng of 10,695 watch Dick Hutcherson of Keokuk, Iowa, score a smashing upset victory in the Pelican 300 on April 12. Hutcherson, making his first official IMCA start, took second place in the first half of the speed classic and then hot-footed his 1957 Pontiac home first in the last half to claim the overall title.

Sonny Morgan of Beaumont, Tex., roared home in first place in the opening half but a punctured crankcase forced his 1959 Plymouth out of competition in the second race.

Bruce Nystrom of Oshkosh, Wis., driving a 1957 Chrysler, was second overall, finishing third in the first half and second in the final portion.

Veteran Ernie Derr, an Ark-La-Tex favorite, led the early going until a broken axle ended his day on lap 95. Derr and his ’57 Pontiac were out of action for the rest of the day.


Ernie Derr receives his trophy from George Gallagher after winning the 1960 Pelican 250.

Defending national champion Ernie Derr chopped nearly half a minute off the world record for a half-mile as he wheeled his 1957 Pontiac to victory in the Pelican 250 on Sunday afternoon, April 12.

With neighbor Ramo Stott pushing him to the finish, Derr covered the 125 miles in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 49.68 seconds. The old mark 2 hours, 3 minutes and 13.12 seconds was set by Johnny Beauchamp at the Minnesota State Fair on September 30, 1956.

The crowd of 9,638 – the second largest in the history of the event – looked on as the 39-year-old Derr started from the rear of the 18-car field and steadily move to the front. He grabbed the lead on lap 133 when defending winner Dick Hutcherson ducked in for gas and never relinquished the lead after that.


Ramo Stott won the 1961 Pelican 200. 

Ramo Stott captured first place in the Pelican 200 at the Louisiana State Fair Speedway before 8,000 race fans on April 16. Stott, driving a 1961 Ford, clocked the feature in 1 hour, 49 minutes and 54 seconds for the 100-mile distance to take home the trophy and the $600 first prize.

Dick Hutcherson completed 199 laps in his 1961 Ford to take runner-up honors while Ernie Derr finished 198 laps, driving a 1961 Pontiac. Fourth place went to Lenny Funk in a 1959 Plymouth and Eddie Harrow of Corpus Christi, Tex., driving a 1961 Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.

Stott led the first 152 laps before pitting to refuel, giving the lead to Hutcherson. Little by little, Stott closed the gap on Hutcherson and on the 195th lap, got the break he was looking for when Hutcherson was forced to take on more fuel, relinquishing the lead and the win to the popular Stott.


An estimated crowd of 10,000 watch Ernie Derr take the lead on lap 2 and speed to victory in the Pelican 200 on April 29. Driving a 1962 Pontiac, Derr covered the 100-mile distance in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 45.61 seconds, and capturing the first-prize money of $800.

Defending race winner Ramo Stott finished second in his 1962 Ford. Only Derr and Stott completed the 200 laps. Stott, who made a late race bid for the lead, earned $550 for his day’s toil.

Bill Wade of Houston, Tex., finished third in a 1962 Pontiac while Bob Reynolds of Edmond, Okla., who led the first lap, finished fourth in a 1962 Ford. Les Flowers of an Antonio, Tex., rounded out the top five in a ’62 Pontiac.


1963 Pelican winner Dick Hutcherson is interviewed by IMCA secretary Mike Heffron as starter Bernie Carlson holds the checkers and promoter Frank Winkley looks on approvingly. 

Driving his 1963 “Fastback” Ford, Dick Hutcherson initiated the 1963 IMCA stock car campaign with the smell of exhaust smoke at the Louisiana State Fair Speedway as he wheeled his mount to victory in the annual Pelican 200 on April 21.

A canary yellow paint job, splashed with red stripes and blue lettering, Hutcherson’s powerful sedan showed its rear bumper to the rest of the 18-car field throughout the remaining 145 laps.

For the first 54 laps, Jerry Douglas of Wichita Falls, Tex., driving Ernie Derr’s championship Pontiac of 1962, gunned out to a tightly bunched lead. Hutcherson gradually jockeyed his way through the field and passed Douglas for the lead on lap 55. Even after dropping a tailpipe on lap 69, Hutcherson never let up on the gas. By lap 96, he had lapped the entire field.

Hutcherson, who pocketed $700 of the $4,000 purse, set fast time in qualifying, touring the half-mile in 27.57 seconds. The race was witnessed by a crowd estimated at 10,000 according to Auto Racing, Inc. promoter Frank Winkley.

Ramo Stott guide his pale blue ’63 Plymouth to second place while Lenny Funk, in a 1963 Ford, landed third. Eddie Harrow, in an orange and cream colored ’63 Chevrolet, finished fourth. Ernie Derr, the defending winner, experienced mechanical issues with his 1963 Pontiac and retired on lap 164.


Ernie Derr, the senior member of the famed “Keokuk Komets,” took State Fair Speedway by the throat and throttled it for a couple of hours, winning the Pelican 200 on Sunday, April 19.

Derr shook up the record crowd of 10,582 a little when he wheeled a brand-new 1964 Dodge onto the track since the 41-year-old veteran of 15 IMCA circuits was supposed to how up in a Plymouth. But delivery date on the new Plymouth was delayed so Ernie elected to go with a Dodge.

And go he did…

He roared into the lead on lap 56 and held it the rest of the way, save for a brief one-lap exchange with Ramo Stott and his ’64 Plymouth on lap 126. Derr’s time for the 100-mile distance around the half-mile dirt oval was 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6.97 seconds.

It was strictly a three-car race between Derr, Stott and defending race winner Dick Hutcherson, who was behind the wheel of a 1964 Ford and had earlier shredded the track qualifying record with a time of 26.81 seconds.

“Hutch” grabbed the lead from his pole position and gunned his car into a comfortable cushion through lap 55. He was then grounded in the pits by a balky condenser for the better part of eight laps and that would be his undoing. He finished in third, five laps out of first.

Stott’s fire-red Plymouth packed the most horsepower and showed more speed on the straightaways but could not maneuver the corners with sufficient dash. He also was being short-changed on fuel and made five pit stops on his way to a second-place finish.


Ernie Derr exits his car after winning the 1965 Pelican 200. Bernie Carlson presents the checkers. 

Ernie Derr, who saw a world record of his go down the drain to a fast-charging Ramo Stott, pushed out front on lap 96 and rolled home unchallenged to win his fourth Pelican 200 late model stock car race on April 4.

Stott set the 8,532 fans abuzz when he got the race off to a flying start. Seizing the lead on lap 13, the speedster established world marks for 25 and 50-lap marks. He stayed out front of Derr and Lenny Funk while breaking the 25-lap mark with a time of 10 minutes and 6.75 seconds, breaking the standard of 11 minutes and 6.08 seconds set at the same track by Dick Hutcherson in 1963. Ramo then took a bead on the 50-lap mark and broke that with a time of 20 minutes and 34.76 seconds which Derr had previously set at Knoxville, Iowa, in 1963 with a time of 21 minutes and 46.10 seconds.

But Stott did not hang around much longer, heading his chariot to the pits on lap 96 for much needed repairs. It turned out that his rear end was burned out and need replaced.

When Stott faltered, Derr and another Keokuk product, Don White in a ’65 Ford, moved into the lead with Funk who had survived a brush with the wall earlier, trailing behind in third place.

White would exit with on lap 145 when he lost his left front tire giving Funk second place.

But Derr was all alone in first place, two laps ahead of Funk and miles apart from the rest of the field. He took starter Bernie Carlson’s checkers 1 hour, 36 minutes and 42.15 seconds after he had roared from his sixth position. He earned $600 for his effort.


Not giving each other an inch, Ernie Derr (1) and Ramo Stott (0) compete in the 1966 Pelican 200. 

Ramo Stott, a guy who tried harder because he has been second for such a long time, gunned his 1965 Plymouth to the checkered flag in the Pelican 200 on April 3. Stott took the checkered flag in track record time, winning the 100-mile race in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 57 seconds. His record finish averaged out to 65 miles per hour and ground into red dust the old record of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 37 seconds set by Ernie Derr in 1961.

What made the record even more impressive to the crowd of 8,500 was that the 31-year-old dirt track veteran stashed away the record despite an enforced 30-second pit stop. The latest ruling was an innovation by IMCA officials to keep a starting cast within striking distance of each other.

But Ramo refused to follow the script. His red Plymouth set the pace for all but 21 of the 200 laps and he won by two laps at the finish. Ernie Derr nosed his ’65 Dodge in front on lap 67 when Ramo made his only pit stop. But Stott swept back into the lead on lap 88 when Ernie stopped for fuel.

Lenny Funk would pass Derr on the final lap when someone on Derr’s pit crew miscalculated his fuel consumption and Derr ran out as the checkers flew. Butch Hall of Russell, Minn., was fourth, and Ed Negre of Monett, Mo., took fifth.


Ernie Derr gets the checkered flag from starter Russ Brown to win the 1967 Pelican 200. 

Ernie Derr, the “King of the Road” from Shreveport to St. Paul, would roll his 1967 Dodge Coronet to a record-smashing victory in the annual Pelican 200 on April 16 before 8,500 spectators.

Derr, the 44-year-old marvel, engaged in a brief early exchange with a battered ’66 Ford piloted by Lenny Funk, the flying farmer out of Otis, Kan. But when Funk made his mandatory pit stop on lap 53, Ernie moved out front and stayed there the rest of the way.

Ramo Stott, the defending Pelican 200 champion behind the wheel of a 1967 Plymouth, finished second while Funk wheeled around to a third-place finish after catching Houston’s Phil Cronin on the 187th go-round on the half-mile dirt track.

Derr rubbed out three State Fair Speedway records en route to his impressive victory. First to fall was the 50-mile (100 laps) record of 40 minutes and 30.56 seconds set by Dick Hutcherson in 1963. Ernie chopped it down to 45 minutes and 4.61 seconds despite the 30-second mandatory pit stop.

Ernie then hit the 75-mile (150-lap) mark in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 58.36 seconds, busting up the old mark of 1 hour, 10 minutes and 44.25 seconds set by Ramo Stott during the State Fair last fall. And he took the checkered in 1 hour, 31 minutes and 39.42 seconds to lower his own track record from 1 hour, 34 minutes and 36.65 seconds, set in 1961.


Having won five season-openers already at Shreveport, including three of the last four, it came as no surprise that Ernie Derr was the odds-on favorite when the 12th annual event took place on Sunday March 31.

And Derr did not disappoint, winning the Pelican 200 in front of 6,500 spectators at State Fair Speedway. He drove his 1968 Dodge to victory in the time of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 25 seconds, taking the checkers a full lap ahead of Ramo Stott.

Derr completely dominated the event, leading 170 of the 200 laps around the half-mile dirt. When he was not at the head of the pack, Stott led laps 34 through 59.

Thirty drivers started the race but only 12 were still on the track at the finish. The victory for Derr was career win #212.


Ernie Derr is congratulated by promoter Verna Winkley after winning the 1969 Pelican 200. IMCA announcer Nick Nachicas joins in the festivities. 

Heavy rains all week leading up to the Pelican 200 on April 13, had officials and track crews scrambling the morning of the race to get the track in somewhat racing condition. Race day was overcast with sprinkles here and there, delaying the show nearly two hours but IMCA’s Bill Hitz and Nick Nachicas were determined to give the 6,500 fans who turned out in poor weather a show.

Ernie Derr would win his seventh Pelican 200, turning the 100 miles in 1 hour, 56 minutes and 3.3 seconds, a relatively slow time ordinarily but not terrible considering the track conditions.

Lewis Taylor of Shawnee, Kan., finished second and held that position most of the race. He even held the lead at one point when Derr took hiss mandatory 30-second pit stop.

A rookie out of Kansas City, Dave Wall, took third place in his very first IMCA-sanctioned race. Dale Keeling of Dixon, Mo., passed Ron Hutcherson of Keokuk, Iowa on the last lap to grab fourth.

Derr, driving a 1969 Dodge Charger, pocketed $750 for the victory, $100 for winning the trophy dash, $100 for an appearance as champion and another $100 for winning in a 1969 model car.


Ernie Derr unstraps his helmet after winning his eighth and final Pelican championship in 1970. 

State Fair Speedway and the Pelican race would go under changes in the off-season of ’69 and early 1970 as the racing surface would change from dirt to asphalt. What would not change, however, was the winner…

Ernie Derr would grab his eighth and final Pelican title on March 22. And he would do it in typical “Ernie” style, completely dominating the race. Derr left the combined opposition – 18 other cars that just showed up for a Sunday afternoon drive – strewn at least eight laps back of the exhaust pipes on his ’69 Dodge Charger.

Derr pocketed $1,066 of the $5,000 in prize money put up by IMCA promoter Bud Carson of Mar-Car Promotions of Oklahoma City.

Derr’s Dodge, rolling effortlessly under the power of a 426 cubic inch Hemi engine, covered the 100 miles in around the newly paved half-mile in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 20.54 seconds. That would be a new record of sorts since the race was the first run on the new track.

Gene Newsome of West Monroe, La., surviving game fully in his 1966 Chevelle, nabbed the $500 second place money. Finishing a close third, also on the 192nd lap, was Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, behind the wheel of a 1970 Plymouth.

But it was another Louisianan, Freddy Fryar of Baton Rouge, who would make the 6,100 in attendance stand up and take notice. Fryar, piloting a 1966 Chevelle, would run bumper-to-bumper with Derr for 136 laps – taking over the lead four times – before retiring with a smoking engine. Fryar had tied Irv Janey for fast time, clocking in at 22.56 seconds.


It wasn’t unusual for a car with the #1 emblazoned across the side panels to pull into victory lane for “Pelican Day” at State Fair Speedway over the years and Sunday, April 4 was no different.

As always, #1 pulled in front early, and then breezed to victory in the Pelican 300 before an estimated 4,500. But this time the numeral was stamped on a black and blue 1967 Chevelle steered by Ray Putnam of Baton Rouge. And what Putnam did to the rest of the field would long be remembered.

Not only because he led 298 of 300 laps and beat back Merle Bettenhausen of Tinley Park, Ill., - behind the wheel of a 1970 Chevelle - by 2.5 laps, but he established a new IMCA world record over a half-mile paved oval.

The 28-year-old Putnam covered the distance in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 38 seconds to batter Ramo Stott’s old standard of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 12.52 seconds set at the Minnesota State Fair in 1965.

The top five finishers, Putnam, Bettenhausen, Royce Whitlock of West Monroe, La., Texan Ronnie Chumley and Freddy Cook of West Monroe, all drove Chevelle’s of varying age spans, which is why Derr, the eight-time Pelican champion and 11-time IMCA national champion, pulled out of the Mar-Car, Inc., promoted event. Derr felt that Chevelle’s were “modified”.

The Chevelle domination was broken by Lewis Taylor of Shawnee, Kan., with a sixth-place finish in his 1970 Dodge.

Putnam, who was also the fastest qualifier in time trials, pocketed $850 of the $5,300 purse.


Putnam’s world mark would stand for a little more than a year until it was broken at the Pelican 300 on April 16 by Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Like Putnam, Janey would breeze to an easy win in the 150-miler, breaking the IMCA world mark by over a minute with a time of 1 hour, 58 minutes and 7.04 seconds. Janey would also establish a new 75-mile mark of 57 minutes and 57.1 seconds as well. That erased Ernie Derr’s mark of 58 minutes and 2 seconds set last year during the Louisiana State Fair finale on October 31.

After the win, Janey gave his pit crew all the credit after two fast pit stops got him and back on the track in apple pie order. The first pit stop on lap 125 took only 30 seconds. Not bad considering they filled up the gas tank and changed two right-side tires. The second pit stop, on lap 245, took a mere 20 seconds to fill the tank and clean the windshield. “They even gave me a drink of water,” he remarked.

Don Simpson of Kentwood, La., was second followed by Warren Hughes of Baton Rouge, who led early in the race. Gerry Harrison of Topeka, Kan., finished fourth despite not having any brakes in his 1971 Chevelle for over half the race.


Another local, and a rookie to boot, would win the 17th annual Pelican 300 on Sunday, April 1.

Competing in only his second race on pavement, Harlan Beene Jr., a 31-year-old plantation manager from Bossier City, La., would nose his 1970 Chevelle across the finish line first to score the victory. Beene collected $800 of the $5,000 prize money put up by Bud Carson and Mar-Car, Inc.

Not since 1959, when Dick Hutcherson won the Pelican, had a rookie won the annual spring inaugural. And not since 1952, when Shreveporter Herschel Buchanan won, had a local driver beaten back the big boys of the Midwest.

The race, minus defending champion Irv Janey, who was kept home by business, was a two-car duel between Beene and Freddy Cook of West Monroe.

Cook, who had overhauled Beene on lap 108, looked like a sure winner, despite a dragging air scoop under the front bumper, as late as the 180th circuit. Then, 10 miles from the finish, Cook spun out in turn three, and slammed into the guardrail, a victim of his left front tire catching a car he was lapping.

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

The pace of the race was slow and easy for the 4,700 that assembled to watch the race. “I knew I had a lot of laps to run, so I just took my time,” said Beene. “But it was still a long afternoon.”

Trailing the two front-runners were a pair of IMCA regulars, Gordon Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, in a 1970 Plymouth, and Gary Brooks of Grand Prairie, Tex., in a ’72 Monte Carlo.

Another page from history was inserted by Mrs. Martha Wideman of Lufkin, Tex., who became the first woman to compete in an IMCA event, dating back to 1915. Driving a lavender and white ’72 Monte Carlo, Wideman’s debut ended on lap 14 with a broken steering arm.

Harlan Beene Jr. won both the 1973 and '74 Pelican 300.


For the second straight year, Harlan Beene Jr. would take all the fun and games out of the International Motor Contest Association, taking his old faithful ’70 Chevelle and easily winning the annual Pelican before a paltry crowd of only 1,056.

Because of the energy crisis, the race was scaled back to 150 laps (75 miles) so Beene won the race in less than an hour – 59 minutes and 44.98 seconds to be exact.

Unlike last year, when he won the race in the closing laps, the 32-year-old stepped on the accelerator and won, in order – fast qualifier at 22.70 seconds, the 5-lap trophy dash in 1 minute and 56.15 seconds and the 150-lapper.

He cashed in on $525 of the $4,500 purse and added another $125 for racing with Firestone tires.

It was a Sunday driver for Beene – with only 11 cars taking the green flag. Heavy rains the previous day and that morning had kept several drivers like Houston’s Phil Cronin and Tony Barcelona from making the trip as well as ’72 Pelican champion Ray Putnam.

Don Coleman of Shreveport, running on asphalt for the first time, finished second ahead of Gordon Blankenship. Gerry Harrison took fourth and Glenn Schwabe of Austin, Tex., who had won 10 straight features in Austin and San Antonio, took fifth.


Mike Murray, a dirt track racer out of Beaumont, Tex., scored his first asphalt victory in the 19th and final Pelican 150 on Sunday afternoon, April 20.

Murray, driving a 1971 Camaro, swung into the lead on lap 70, held off a brief challenge from a fellow Texan, Dale Powell of Nederland, and turned the 75 miles in 59 minutes and 28.29 seconds, more than a minute off the record.

Two other world and track marks tumbled, however, as NASCAR driver Pete Hamilton of Northcross, Ga., turned a time trial lap of 21.24 seconds for the half-mile, bettering the 21.38 mark set by Marv Marzofka at the Minnesota State Fair in 1972.

Hamilton then came back and won the 5-lap trophy dash and clocked an International Motor Contest Association record of with a time of 1 minute and 49.40 seconds. The old mark of 1 minute and 49.72 seconds was set in Shreveport by Larry Phillip of Springfield, Mo., in October of 1971.

IMCA officials announced afterwards that neither record would be recognized because the front tires on Hamilton’s 1965 Chevelle exceed the two-inch limit extending from the front fenders.

Sixteen cars made up the field for the Pelican 150 with Hamilton on the pole position. He grabbed the lead immediately and led for the first 14 circuits but was overhauled by two-time and defending Pelican champion Harlan Beene Jr.

Hamilton’s mount was shelved on lap 22 when a borrowed driveshaft snapped, flew up and broke his brake line. Beene, now the man to beat, was gone on lap 69 with a broken radiator hose. That’s when, out of nowhere, came Murray.

Never in contention was ’74 IMCA point champion Bill Schwader of Riverdale, Iowa.

That would be the last Pelican race sanctioned by IMCA. The once thriving stock car circuit was running its course and in 1976, there would be only three sanctioned races with no appearances in Shreveport. In 1977, 12 sanctioned races would take place with small car counts and even smaller crowds, spelling the end for division and the International Motor Contest Association as a whole.

Editor’s Note – There would be a Pelican 200 in 1977, however, the race was sanctioned by Ed Hamblen and the North American Racing League. The race, postponed twice because of wet weather, finally took place on April 24. Ray Putnam, the 1971 Pelican champion, would win the contest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Three Special Events for Shelby County Speedway

By Lee Ackerman

Harlan, Iowa - The Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa has a long tradition of great racing. The town has produced several racing legends including Tiny Lund, Johnny Beauchamp, Dale Swanson, and Bob Parker just to name a few. Over the years the Shelby County Speedway has been the sight of many great races. One of the great eras in the tracks’ racing history was the late 60’s and early 70’s. This story highlights three racing specials held at the track from 1969 through 1971.

Despite the threat of rain, 3,306 fans turned out on July 28, 1969, at the Shelby County Speedway for the running of the Centennial 100. When the checkered flag waved it was Keokuk, Iowa’s Lem Blankenship, who had dominated the event, leading 95 of the 100 circuits and took home the win. Blankenship took the lead on the fourth circuit and held it until local star Bill Wrich of Kennard, Nebraska led laps 20 and 21 before Blankenship went to the front for good.

During the race Blankenship had to battle with Wrich, Jim Gawley, George Barton, and Bill Moyer. Wrich would retire on lap 35 with mechanical problems and not return to the event until past the middle of the event. George Barton of Boone would finish second, Don Christensen of Harlan third in the locally owned Orv Rocker Ford which had been a questionable entry up until race time, Milo Stodola of Fremont, Nebraska was fourth and Red Rollins of Carson, Iowa was fifth.

In addition to the $400 first prize, Blankenship would take home $95 of the $100 lap money put up by Swanson Automotive. Thirty-seven drivers were on hand hoping to make the 18-car field for the Centennial 100. The $2,000 guaranteed purse was the largest guaranteed purse at Harlan or in West Central Iowa racing history.

Bill Wrich accepts the Iowa – Nebraska Championship trophy from trophy girls Reggie Wright and Shari Schreiner. Flagman Larry Cook presents the checkered flag.


While Harlan would hold more than one stock car (late model) special in 1970 on September 20-21, 1970, they would hold the first annual Iowa-Nebraska Championship Race. In a similar race on July 22, 1970, at Sunset Speedway in Omaha, local hotshoes Bill Wrich and South Omahan Bud Burdick came away with first and second.

Sixty-two cars would compete in the two-day event. Burdick would set his sights on the pole position for the race by turning the fastest time in qualifying with a lap of 21.57 seconds. Ev Hutchinson of Sac City would turn in the second fast lap at 21.79 with Earl Tice of Ames clocking in at 21.80. Burdick would claim the pole for event by first winning the first heat race and then taking the speed dash over Randy Sterner of Blair, Nebraska, and Jerry LeCroy of Des Moines. Other heat winners were Dave Chase of Council Bluffs, LeCroy, Sterner and Don Davidson of Des Moines.

On Sunday, September 21, drivers had three more chances to make the feature. First in a 20-lap qualifying race which saw six more drivers qualify for the 50-lap feature, Earl Tice would pick up the win followed by Rich Lyons of Jefferson and John Beaman of Council Bluffs. The top two from the semi-final race would also make the feature and those two positions went to Eastern Iowan’s Stan Stover of Reinbeck and Ed Sanger of Waterloo. Sanger had to hustle as after starting in the middle of the pack, he spun and was sent to the back, but he roared through the field in the 15-lap event to grab the runner up spot and a transfer spot. Ankeny’s George Barton grabbed the final spot in the feature by winning the consolation event.

Pole sitter Bud Burdick quickly took the lead in the 50-lap feature that started with a three wide, eight-row deep, 24-car starting field. Burdick would control the early stages of the race but would soon have competition in the form of the tenth starting Bill Wrich. The two would wage a battle for 30 laps. On lap 42 Wrich made the pass and would cruise to a half lap win behind the wheel of Tom Gawley’s #180 in the 50-lap feature event. Burdick would retire from the race with a blown engine soon after being passed by Wrich.

Finishing behind Wrich were Don Davidson, Stan Stover, Lloyd Jorgensen, and Earl Tice.

Only 11 of the 24 starters were able to complete the race which paid a $6,130 purse with $1,100 going to Wrich. An estimated crowd of 3,200 was on hand for the finale.

In 1971 the big event at the Shelby County Speedway was the Midwest Championship races. The event would take place over two weeks with qualifying night being July 27 (the event scheduled for the previous night was rained out) and the feature races being held one week later on August 3. The purse would be very similar to the Iowa-Nebraska Championship races the year before with the winner taking home $1,100 of the over $6,000 total purse.

After qualifying action concluded it was Council Bluffs’ Dave Chase in his #31 that would set on the pole for the following weeks feature event. First, Chase would win one of the four heat races. Other heat race winners included Keith Leithoff of Omaha, Jim Wyman of Oakland, Iowa, and Bill Martin of Council Bluffs. Leithoff would win his heat race by a bumper of Council Bluffs Ron Tilley.

Chase then came back and won the Speed Dash to grab the pole. Following Chase in the Speed Dash were Leithoff, Ev Hutchinson, Tilley, Wyman, Scott Furstenberg of Omaha, Don Christensen, and Martin. The B Dash was won by George Peterson of Harlan followed by Earl Tice, Randy Sterner and Jack Golder of Hooper, Nebraska.

The Midwest Championship trophy is presented to Dave Chase after his win in the 50-lap feature. Trophy girl Judy Hansen makes the presentation and car owner Bob Williams enjoys the moment.


A record crowd of 4,917 fans with at least 100 turned away was on hand for the feature races on August 3. Dave Chase would start on the pole and dispose of early challengers Ev Hutchinson and Keith Leithoff and later hold off the efforts of Jim Wyman and Bill Martin to win the 50-lap feature event and pocket the $1,100 first prize. Following Chase to the line would be Wyman, Leithoff, Hutchinson and Christensen. During the event Chase turned a record setting lap at Harlan as he posted a lap of 85.31 mph.

Early in the evening Bill Wrich and Bud Burdick had won qualifying races and Omaha’s Dave Milbourne won the 20-lap consolation race following a brief power failure with Gene Behmer of Fremont, Rick Lyons of Jefferson, and Bob Kosiski of Omaha in two.

During the following years Harlan would continue to hold special events including the Cornhusker-Hawkeye Challenge in 1978, 1979, 1980, and in 1981 the special “Bobby Allison Night” would draw a crowd in excess of 5,000 fans.