Tampa, Fla. – Emory Collins, the IMCA national champion from Le Mars, Iowa, opened defense of his auto racing title with a sensational victory in the 10-lap season opener at the Florida State Fair on Tuesday, February 4, before a crowd of 5,000.
Collins had to push his $15,000 Offenhauser the entire way to stay in front of Deb Snyder, the Kent, Ohio, driver who was runner-up to Collins in the national point standings. He won three events on the program, and Snyder, who set fast time when he turned the half-mile in 27.61 seconds, won two events.
Phil Mocca of St. Louis and Frank Luptow of Detroit were the other winners. “Big” Don Smith of Tampa pushed the leaders in all the races he entered with his Curtiss airplane-motored car and finished third in the main event.
The cars had to churn through a heavy track during qualifying and preliminary races, made soggy by several hours of hard rain prior to the afternoon event. By the time the feature came around, though, the track was near perfection.
When the 12 cars started the 10-lap feature, it was Collins who squeezed into the lead on the first turn and with some sensational driving, was able to stay ahead of Snyder. Smith stayed close with that duo for the last five laps, but it was really a battle between the two Offenhausers.
Twice in the closing laps, Snyder pulled even with Collins, but the champion’s big red racer forged ahead in the turns and in the final stretch for the checkered flag. At the finish line, Collins was a car length ahead of Snyder. Luptow outbattled another Detroit racer, Harry King, for fourth place.
The four-car, 3-lap invitational dash was the most sensational of the program. Smith, starting from the outside of the front row, got into the lead at the beginning and stayed in front until the last lap when Collins passed him on the backstretch with a terrific burst of speed.
It would be a change of scenery on Saturday, February 8, as Deb Snyder would splash mud into the face of Emory Collins in the 8-lap feature race before an estimated 10,000 fans. Florida State Fair officials claimed it was the biggest crowd ever to watch a speed event there.
Both Snyder and Collins took two wins each in the six-event program, with Collins beating Snyder in the special match race. Both drivers took their respective qualifying heat races. Leon “Cowboy” Hubble of Cleveland, Ohio, won the third heat and Wayne “Speed” Wynn of Tampa took the Australian Pursuit race.
Snyder’s break in the feature race came in the final turn of the last lap. As he and Collins swung out of the turn before the grandstand, Collins went into a partial spin and nudged the outside wall, losing speed and allowing Snyder to cross the finish line by scant inches. Wynn took third place, about a quarter of a lap back.
Due to a heavy rain on Friday, all of the races were slowed considerably. At the end of the first heat, the cars had churned the clay oval into a semblance of a plowed field with furrows a half a foot deep. The poor track favored the powerful Offenhauser's that Snyder, Collins, and Wynn operated.
A rough track forced officials to cut the feature race from its scheduled 10 laps to 7. Bouncing in the rutted turns, Collins registered an average speed of over 60 miles per hour, much slower than the fast laps turned in the opening day races.
A false start in the feature race drew the ire of the crowd down on starter Al Sweeney as Wynn plunged into the lead at the start. Sweeney later explained that several cars in the rear of the field were out of position. Regardless of explanation, the crowd sympathy was with Wynn, the local favorite, who had the jump on the out-of-town stars.
In the second start, the field took off in expected fashion with Collins, Snyder and Wynn holding the first three positions for the seven circuits.
Collins split honors of the day with his chief rival, Snyder, with the former winning the first heat and Snyder winning the three-car handicap race. Wynn won the second heat, George Lynch of Detroit was the third heat winner and Chick Smith of Frankfort, Ky., was the Australian Pursuit winner.
Chick Smith made the Australian Pursuit race the event that left the capacity crowd buzzing. Starting last in the field, Smith started eliminating cars on every lap, passing on turns and straightaways until only Kilroy, the mystery driver, was left. Smith took his only rival in a whirl of dirt before the grandstand with the fans in an uproar.
Collins was crowned the 1947 Winternational Sprints champion.