Monday, January 31, 2022

1947 Winternational Sprints


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.

Collins would get his revenge and win the third and final leg of the Winternational Sprints a week later, Saturday, February 15, before another record-breaker of a crowd, 10,500. Deb Snyder finished a close second, and “Speed” Wynn was third, with the rest of the field a lap behind.

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.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

1946 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – Al Fleming, the veteran Richmond, Va., driver roared to an easy victory on the opening day of the Winternational Sprints on Tuesday, February 5, before the biggest opening day crowd, 10,000, ever at the Florida State Fair.

Fleming had a comparatively easy time in the 10-lap final event, getting out front at the drop of the green flag, and never being threatened for the remainder of the event. He finished 50 feet in front of “Bullet Joe” Garson, the Texas star who was a car length ahead of Jack Holmes, the daredevil pilot from Winter Haven, driving the car owned by Sgt. Lil’ Abner Anderson, the popular pre-war driver.

Herschel Buchanan, the fast timer, and a two-time winner in the program, broke the axle on his car, keeping him out of the money in the feature event, and no doubt, proving to be a major break in favor of Fleming, as the Shreveport, La., driver had figured to win any event he entered. Time of for the feature was a slow 5 minutes and 55 seconds, slower than the average for a 10-lap event.

The Florida State Fairgrounds half-mile was in sad shape, in use for the first time since the Army had taken it over early in the war. The rough racing surface slowed down speeds considerably but added to the thrills as the cars bounced around, swerving close to the retaining wall, and on several occasions, scraped wheels.

Only one major accident occurred when Frank Popp, the Detroit driver, spun around after hitting a big bump in the south turn during the feature. Popp was unhurt but his car was out of competition.

In the consolation race, Garson sped to an easy win. Driving the Jack Sheppard Special, he proved to be the class of the field, winning the 8-lapper in 4 minutes and 26 seconds. Buchanan, Jack Holmes, and Bill Mocca of St. Louis were heat winners.

Buchanan tore around the track in 1 minutes and 43 seconds to win the 3-lap match race by a car length over Popp. Popp had led most of the way but wasn’t able to withstand the veteran Louisiana driver in the home stretch.

Buchanan would return on Saturday, February 9, and kept another record crowd of 10,000 plus on their toes with a brilliant victory in the 10-lap feature. The Shreveporter sped around the rough and bumpy half-mile clay in the creditable time of 5 minutes and 6 seconds, finishing two car lengths ahead of opening day winner Al Fleming.

It was a bitterly contested race from the start, and the big crowd, jamming the aisles of the grandstand and bleachers, hanging precariously on the fences in the turns, standing on top of buildings on the backstretch, enjoyed every wild second of it.

Only once did Fleming pull up to the point where he could look Buchanan in the eye, but there was never a moment in the slippery ride around the track, that Buchanan could relax. Fleming made his bid on the 9th lap, pulling abreast of Buchanan in the north turn, but failing to get ahead of the future IMCA stock car champ as the hard-driving Louisianan stomped on the gas and never let up.

Finishing third was Frank Popp with Joe Garson taking fourth. Garson brought the big crowd to its feet in the final lap during his battle with Popp for third place. In attempt pass a slower-moving car at the top of the stretch, Garson car skidded briefly, almost overturning. For a brief moment, it appeared that he would crash into the line of mechanics and attendants at the inside rail, but he regained control, and sped over the finish line.

Johnny Hicks, the daring Tampa pilot, won the consolation of seven laps in 3 minutes and 51 seconds. In a match race of 3 laps, Buchanan beat Fleming in 1 minute and 34 seconds. Buchanan won a heat as did Fleming and Garson.

Frank Popp, the lead-footed driver from Detroit, would shock many when he would win the main event on Friday, February 15. Popp took advantage of several breaks and drove a masterful race at Plant Field before 7,500 fans. His victory in the 10-lap feature, was a two-car length triumph over Joe Garson.

The break in Popp’s favor came on lap 6 when Herschel Buchanan was forced to the pits with engine woes, after he and Popp had dueled hub to hub for more than half the race.

Garson, a Texan, but popular with the Tampa fans, ran a good race in the feature, picking up where Buchanan had left off, and challenging Popp late in the race. He nosed his car ahead of Popp’s but the midget driver lacked the finesse to keep his racer out front, and he lost a close battle in the final 200 yards.

Time for the race was 5 minutes and 42.40 seconds, fairly fast for the rough and slippery track, which was still suffering the effects from an all-day rain on Thursday.

Coming in third place was Jack Holmes of Indianapolis, and finishing fourth was the pride of New Haven, John “Lil’ Abner” Anderson, who was making his first public appearance after five years serving in the Army, the final two of them spent in the China-Burma-India theater.

Neither Holmes or Anderson challenged Popp or Garson, but they waged quite the battle for third place with the Indiana driver winning by 40 feet.

Popp was also the big noise in the consolation, winning the 7-lapper over Johnny Hicks of Tampa after a close duel. Popp was also the 3-lap match race winner, churning around the rough track to outdistance Herschel Buchanan by 10 feet at the finish. Buchanan, Anderson, and Al Fleming were heat winners.

Buchanan would survive a crash with Al Fleming to win the 10-lap feature during the fourth and final program of the Winternational Sprints on Sunday, February 16.

The crowd of 10,000 came to its feet on the 5th lap when Buchanan attempted to sneak past Fleming almost 300 feet away from the judge’s stand, smacked into the wall, then locked wheels with the Virginian’s car.

Fleming’s car was forced to the middle of the track as the interlocked wheels came apart, and almost overturned. Fleming, although dazed by the incident, righted the car, and stopped it several feet from the judge’s stand, after forcing a dozen mechanics and attendants to run for cover as he swerved towards them.

Neither driver was seriously hurt although Fleming required first aid after his car was towed to the pit area. Buchanan finished the race with a badly bruised arm and cuts on his cheek.

Buchanan claimed that Fleming was in the wrong and should have pulled to the center of the track when he tried to go past him. Fleming, afterwards, passed off the accident by saying, “It was just a case of bad racing luck for both of us.”

Frank Popp, Saturday’s winner, finished second to Buchanan, and three car lengths ahead of “Lil’ Abner” Anderson.

Speedy Wynn of Tampa was the consolation winner, coming from far behind to overhaul the leader, Johnny Hicks, on the last lap to win. Popp took the Australian Pursuit race and also won the second heat. Buchanan was the first heat winner and Joe Garson won the third heat.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Early IMCA Racing at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

Veteran Louis Disbrow (right) won the first IMCA-sanctioned auto race at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in 1915.

By Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - 1915 was the first year of the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) and the series would visit the Iowa State Fairgrounds on September 3, 1915, with Indianapolis driver Louis Disbrow taking home the win. Disbrow was a veteran of the first four Indianapolis 500’s and won many races across the country during his career.

On August 16, 1916, IMCA returned to the Iowa State Fairgrounds, and it turned out to be a dandy of a race. Fred Horey (future IMCA Champion in 1925 and 1926, the IMCA did not crown a champion until 1925) driving a Fiat would hold on for the win but just barely over Wild Bill Endicott (a three-time Indy 500 participant) in the Sweeney Special. Endicott would push Horey hard the last lap but to no avail.

The first 40 laps, the driver pushing Horey was George Clark in his Case, but disaster struck Clark when his right rear tire exploded sending him pit side. Despite losing 2.5 laps in the pits, Clark came back to finish third. Following Horey, Endicott and Clark to the line were Dave Koetzla in a Case, Juddy Kilpatrick in a Briscoe, LeCorq in a Briscoe, Striedel in a Stafford, and Fred Woodbury in a Duesenberg.

On September 1, 1916, George Clark overcame muddy track conditions to avenge his earlier fate and average 50 miles per hour in winning the International Race for Champions. His time was 30 minute and 9.1 seconds. His victory was due to the engine problems suffered by Fred Horey and Bill Endicott. Horey and Endicott dominated the first 35 laps passing each other at least five times before Endicott retired from the race on lap 39. One lap later Horey was gone from the race.

LeCocq, a former Des Moines resident took the lead but surrendered it to Clark on lap 43 who lead the rest of the way. In a two-mile dash between Clark, Endicott and Horey, Endicott would take the win with Clark second.

George Clark was a winner at Des Moines in 1916 and '17.

In 1917, IMCA returned to the Iowa State Fairgrounds for two races in August. On August 24, it was George Clark breaking the world record for 25 miles or 50 laps when he toured the half-mile in 29 minutes 43.20 seconds. The record could have been even lower if race leader Ray Lampkin had not suffered a flat tire on lap 31. Lampkin had a 300-yard lead at the time of his flat. Lampkin returned to the fray and finish third with Ben Giroux fourth and Rathburn fifth.

Fred Horey a winner the previous year dropped out on lap 41 with engine trouble, but he was never a factor.

On August 31, the fans at the Iowa State Fairgrounds were treated to a new world record and the near breaking of two necks all in one afternoon giving race fans ample thrills during the three-hour show.

The 25-mile race proved to be one of the best ever held at the Fairgrounds. Ray Lampkin, who lost a similar contest a week earlier to George Clark because of a flat tire turned the tables on Clark. Lampkin not only won the race but also took three seconds off the world record when he completed the 50 laps in 29 minutes and 40 seconds. Lampkin and Clark were both forced to pit during the race, Lampkin on lap 5 and Clark on lap 37. Clark’s slow pit stop was all Lampkin needed to take the lead and go on to win. Giroux would finish second and Clark third.

The other excitement of the day occurred on lap three when Rathburn’s Du Chesneau went throw the infield fence at the west end of the track. The second occurred on lap 41 at the opposite end of the track when Bowen’s Mercer spun and came to a stop. The spin sent mechanic Fred Wiley 10 feet into the air and Floyd Bowens went flying when the car turned over. Both were taken to the hospital with broken noses and a few bruises.

The IMCA would remain a stable of auto racing at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, especially during the Iowa State Fair until the demise of the original IMCA in 1977. The series with both Big Cars and Stock Cars would annually play to a sold-out grandstand and provide Iowa’s racing fans with some of the best racing in the country.

J. Alex Sloan was considered the father of auto racing in Iowa and the Midwest. He spearheaded the International Motor Contest Association. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Milwaukee Mile’s Fair Stock

1967 Program 

by Kyle Ealy

West Allis, Wis. – A Wisconsin State Fair tradition dating back to 1956, the Fair Stock 150 and 200, run at the historic Milwaukee Mile paved oval, is stilled talked about today although the race was last run in 1980.

Run under the sanctioning body of the United States Auto Club, the very best stock car drivers in the nation would converge upon Milwaukee and compete in back-to-back long-distance grinds in the heat of the August summer at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway.


The first contest, held on August 19, was dominated by West coast drivers with Johnny Mantz of Duarte, Calif., winning the 150-miler in a 1956 Ford, winning by 50 feet over runner-up Chuck Stevenson of Garden Grove, Calif.

Stevenson finished 35 feet ahead of Sam Hanks of Pacific Palisades, Calif., while open wheel ace Jimmy Bryan of Phoenix, Ariz., was fourth and Troy Ruttman of Lynwood, Calif., was fifth. Norm Nelson of Racine was the highest finishing “local” taking sixth.

A near-capacity crowd of 22,964 were in attendance.

Accidents and a post-race explosion marred the rain-shortened 200-miler on August 23, 1956. Sam Hanks and his 1956 Mercury were given the checkered flag after 194 miles and the last of a series of spins and crashes.

Like the 150-miler four days earlier, the race was dominated by Westerners, with Jimmy Bryan, Johnny Mantz and Chuck Stevenson rounding out the top four. NASCAR star Marshall Teague finished fifth.

The explosion, that injured two pit attendants, ripped a pressurized gasoline tank located on the south side of the track and blew the top of it over the grandstands, landing nearly 400 feet away in a children’s play area. Miraculously, none of the children in the area were injured. One of the two pit attendants lost his left arm in the accident.


For no reason given, the Wisconsin State Fair would host only one race at “The Mile” in 1957, the 200-miler held on August 22.

Ralph Moody, who had won a 150-mile race at Milwaukee only a month earlier on July 14, would continue his success on this day, taking the lead with 30 miles remaining and surging to a half-mile lead when the checkered dropped. Piloting a 1957 Ford, Moody drove an efficient race, only making three pit stops. Moody’s success would continue at Milwaukee the next month as well, with the up-and-coming NASCAR star winning the 250-miler on September 15. The driver of course would go on to further fame as one-half owner of the famous racing team, Holman and Moody.


Fred Lorenzen wheels to victory in the 150-miler. - Stan Kalwasinski Collection

1958 would bring back the two-race format with the 150-miler on August 17 and the 200-miler on August 21.

Another up-and-coming star in the stock car ranks would win the 150-miler as Fred Lorenzen of Elmhurst, Ill., would win by three laps over Marshall Teague of Daytona Beach, Fla., to take home the $3,560 winner’s share that day. It was Lorenzen’s second straight victory at Milwaukee, having won a 150-miler there on July 13. Lorenzen would go on to win the 1958 USAC stock car national championship.

A 32-year-old tavern owner from Chicago would grab the headlines at the 200-miler. Pat Flaherty, the 1956 Indianapolis 500 winner, and competing in his first auto race in nearly two years, guided his 1957 Chevrolet to victory before 15,540 on Thursday afternoon.

Flaherty, who nearly lost his life in a race-related accident at the Springfield (Ill.) Mile in August of 1956, won the race in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 6 seconds, collecting $2,882 of the $13,210 purse. He finished 63 seconds ahead of Mike Klapak of Toledo, Ohio.


The 1959 Fair Stock races would be co-sanctioned, with the United States Auto Club and the Mid-American Racing Club (MARC) officiating.

Rodger Ward of Indianapolis, fresh from his Indianapolis 500 victory in May, would dominate the 150-miler on August 23 while thunderstorms would reign supreme for the 200-miler on August 27.

Taking the lead from Fred Lorenzen on the 124th circuit, Ward would lead the last 26 miles in his 1958 Ford to take home the win, finishing seven seconds ahead of Lorenzen and his ’58 Ford. Nelson Stacy of Cincinnati, driving a 1957 Chevrolet, finished third.

Ward collected $2,874 from a total purse of $13,000. A small crowd of 6,098 witnessed the action, which was interrupted for nearly two hours by a rainstorm which caused 38 laps of “cautioned” driving.

Rain would be a factor on the day of the scheduled 200-miler with officials eventually canceling the event after waiting out morning and afternoon rain showers.


1960 Program 

After having up and down luck at the Milwaukee Mile the past few years, Norm Nelson of Racine would put it all together and win the Fair Stock 150 on August 21. Piloting the 1960 Zecol – Lubaid Ford, Nelson would only lead the final 11 laps but win by a staggering 51 seconds over his nearest competitor Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill. Paul Goldsmith of St. Clair Shore, Mich., Sunday afternoon’s fastest qualifier, was third.

Nelson pulled into the pits only once – on lap 90 – for refueling. His winning time was 1 hour, 44 minutes and 10.79 seconds. The victory netted him $3,344 and boosted his USAC national stock car point lead.

Open wheel star Tony Bettenhausen would show his skill behind the steering wheel of a full-bodied stock car, winning the Fair Stock 200 on August 25.

The Tinley Park, Ill., veteran averaged 87.37 miles per hour before a crowd of 11,844. He earned $2,664 for the victory. Norm Nelson, fresh from his 150-mile victory four days earlier, finished second, 5.3 seconds behind Bettenhausen.

Polesitter Rodger Ward would lead the first 78 circuits before dropping out with a broken pinion gear. Fellow front row starter Paul Goldsmith would inherit the top spot and lead for 86 laps before giving way to Bettenhausen, who would lead the final 36 miles. Goldsmith would settle for his second third-place finish in four days.


Norm Nelson would continue his hot streak at the Milwaukee Mile, successfully defending his Fair Stock 150 title with his second consecutive win on August 13. The defending USAC national stock car champion set a new track record in winning, averaging 89.419 miles per hour to break the old mark of 88.469 mph set by Paul Goldsmith last year.

A crowd of 19,921 watched as the Racine veteran led the last 34 laps to beat out Dick Rathmann of Roselle, Ill., by 26 seconds. Nelson collected $2,746 for the win.

Naturally, Nelson was considered the odds-on favorite when the Fair Stock 200 took place on August 17. But it wasn’t to be as an overheated engine after 90 laps sent Nelson to the pit area for the rest of the afternoon.

Eddie Sachs of Coopersburg, Penn., the renowned “Clown Prince of Racing,” was laughing all the way to the bank after winning the 200-miler on a hot and humid Thursday afternoon before 15,424 spectators.

Sachs “played it cool” so to speak, hanging back behind Nelson and Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, as the two battled it out. Nelson would drop out first and then White, taking a pit stop for gasoline on lap 193, killed his engine and all efforts to get him back in the race failed.

Sachs was simply in the right place and the right time and led the remaining seven circuits to take home the $2,509 winner’s share of the $11,565 purse. Dick Rathmann took runner-up honors while Troy Ruttman of Dearborn, Mich., was third.


Paul Goldsmith waves to the crowd during a victory lap for winning the 150-miler. 

After playing the bridesmaid role for the last few years, Paul Goldsmith’s luck finally turned at State Fair Speedway, winning the 150-miler on August 15.

Driving the Ray Nichels’ 1962 Pontiac, Goldsmith grabbed the lead from Rodger Ward with only 15 miles remaining and then brought the crowd of 21,037 to its feet as he fought off challenges from both Ward and Norm Nelson.

Don White, winner of the Milwaukee 200-miler on July 15, added another 200-mile win to his résumé, winning the Fair Stock 200 on August 16, 1962, in a race marred early by a 10-car pileup.

The accident on the third lap of the race took out eight cars, including Norm Nelson, Eddie Sachs, Whitey Gerken of Melrose Park, Ill., and A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex.

White bettered his own record he set back in July, averaging 89.823 miles per hour in his Vanda Hurst-owned 1962 Ford. The “Keokuk Komet” earned $2,825 for his efforts before a crowd of 16,863.

Finishing 13 seconds behind White was Paul Goldsmith. Driving a 1962 Pontiac, Goldsmith led the first 71 laps of the race. Dick Rathmann finished third, the only other driver besides White and Goldsmith to complete the 200 laps.


The 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, Parnelli Jones of Torrance, Calif., started in the pole position, took the lead on the first lap and stayed in front all the way to win the Fair Stock 150 on Sunday, August 11. His share of the $16,046 purse contributed by 21,614 fans, was $3,096.

So dominant was Jones, he finished 47 seconds and more than a lap ahead of second-place Norm Nelson. Driving a 1963 Mercury Marauder, Jones made only one pit stop for fuel. A check of his tires after the race showed only two miles left on his right rear.

Jones established track records of 93.76 miles per hour and 1 hour, 37 minutes and 18 seconds in winning the race. His qualifying speed of 97.429 miles per hour was also a record.

For a driver who had never won a stock car race until his victory in the 150-miler, Jones would prove to be a quick learner, winning the 200-miler five days later on Thursday, August 15. Like the Sunday before, Jones got out front early and stayed there – except for 7 miles of fueling during pit stops.

Jones was forced to compete a blistering pace as he was pressured by Don White throughout the race yet was well ahead by 12 seconds at the finish. The difference was in the pit stops as Jones’ pause for fuel and tires was 26 seconds. The time for White was 47 seconds while another contender, Whitey Gerken, took 54 seconds and A.J. Foyt was well over one minute.


Jones would continue his hot streak at Milwaukee, winning the 250-miler in September for his third consecutive win and then scoring his fourth straight win in the traditional 200-miler on July 12.

After his fifth consecutive victory in the 150-miler on August 16, people were starting to wonder if Jones was turning the Wisconsin State Fair Park’s one-mile oval into his own private racing strip.

Before a crowd of 26,221, Jones led all but four laps while averaging 91.647 miles per hour in his 1964 Mercury and earning the winner’s share of $3,995 of the $18,900 purse.

Lloyd Ruby of Wichita Falls, Tex., finished second, one lap and five second behind in a 1964 Plymouth. Bill Lutz of Chicago, driving a 1964 Ford, finished third and Len Sutton of Portland, Ore., was fourth in a 1964 Dodge.

Jones would score his sixth straight win at Milwaukee, but with a huge assist from Rodger Ward. Together, they would drive a 1964 Mercury to a record victory in the 200-miler on August 20.

Ward would qualify and start the car in the race, but Jones would take over with 105 miles remaining and was at the wheel at the finish. The car Jones had qualified and started, blew an engine on lap 88.

A controversy over who would be credited with the victory was resolved by director of competition for USAC, Emil Andres. He stated afterwards that Ward and Jones would “share alike” in the victory – “that’s the only fair way to handle it.”

The Ward-Jones duo set a track record for the 200 miles, averaging 94.189 miles per hour, breaking the old record Jones established a year ago. The win was worth $2,721 from a purse of $14,100, paid for by 17,942 race fans.

Jones, who went into the race as the USAC stock car point’s leader, would walk out of Milwaukee with a 700-point lead over Norm Nelson, who finished second in the race, thanks to Ward.


Norm Nelson drove a Plymouth Belvedere to the 200-mile win.

Winning streaks don’t last forever, and Paul Goldsmith made sure of that when he held off Jones in the 150-miler on August 15. Goldsmith, now of Munster, Ind., took the lead from Jim Hurtubise on lap 107 and then staved off several challenges by Jones to capture the win.

Goldsmith, a former motorcycle racing national champion, averaged 91.42 mile per hour in his 1965 Plymouth. Finishing behind Goldsmith and Jones was Chicago’s Sal Tovella, Mario Andretti of Nazareth, Penn., and Don White.

Sometimes, all you need is a break and that exactly what Norm Nelson got during the 200-miler on August 19. The “Great Dane” profited near the end of the race when leader Bobby Isaac of Catawba, N.C., ran out of gas and was forced to make a pit stop with only three laps to go. With 15,190 fans on their feet, Nelson flashed by Isaac and took the checkered nearly a lap ahead of runner-up A.J. Foyt. Isaac recouped and finished third.

Nelson earned the winner’s share of $3,697 and boosted his USAC national point lead over 150-mile winner Paul Goldsmith. It was Nelson’s second win of the season at Milwaukee, having won the 200-miler in July as well.


Norm Nelson, the defending USAC national stock car champion, would set a track speed record in winning the 150-miler on August 14. Nelson, the point’s leader, averaged 94.21 miles per hour, eclipsing the previous mark of 94.12 miles per hour set by Parnelli Jones in 1964. Nelson also hit 100.65 miles per hour in qualifying to break the 1964 record of 100.41 miles per hour.

Earning $4,455 for his triumph, Nelson finished nearly two laps ahead of runner Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio. Nelson drove a 1966 Plymouth while Bowsher piloted a 1965 Ford.

Nelson gained the lead on the 71st circuit from Don White, his most serious threat. White would eventually finish third in the contest. White made four pit stops while Nelson made only one.

After putting a new engine in his 1966 Plymouth, Nelson boasted that he would not be beaten by Don White in the 200-mile race on August 18. But White, driving a 1966 Dodge, averaged 90.88 miles per hour to soundly beat Nelson by 14 seconds at the finish.

White took the lead permanently on the 123rd lap after breaking the track’s qualifying record which Nelson had set a few days earlier in a 150-mile contest. White’s qualifying speed was 101.058 mile per hour.

White, who had visited the pits more frequently than Nelson during the 150-mile race, used the pits but twice in the Thursday race. It was White’s second win of the season at Milwaukee, winning the July 200-miler. He earned $4,013 out of the $17,055 purse before a crowd of 15,125.


Jack Bowsher accepts his trophy after winning the 150-miler. 

1967 brought big changes to the Milwaukee Mile, with the racing surface completely repaved. The quarter mile and half-mile dirt tracks were both closed to accommodate the new pit area and pit lane.

Jack Bowsher couldn’t drive the car he wanted to race in the 150-miler on August 13, but he couldn’t complain about the results he got with the one he did use. Bowsher brought two cars with him and was dissatisfied during practice runs with the one he had planned to drive. So, he made some adjustments on the dirt track 1967 Ford and used that for the race.

Bowsher got a measure of revenge, beating Don White by a full 20 seconds in the race. White had beaten out Bowsher in the July 200-miler. He took the lead on lap 92 when White made a pit stop, and led the rest of the way, averaging 86.78 miles per hour.

Bowsher’s car won the 200-mile race on August 17 as well, except it wasn’t Bowsher behind the wheel. An old face, who was all too familiar with victory lane at Milwaukee, took home the winner’s share of $4,606.

Parnelli Jones, who wrecked his car in a practice lap, accepted Bowsher's offer of his own second car to drive in the race. Then, he roared home in record time, beating Bowsher by 47 seconds. Jones wheeled around the newly repaved one-mile oval at an average of 95.77 mile per hour, completing the race in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 48.11 seconds, a new track record for the distance.


1968 Program

It wasn't much of a race at the end, but Jack Bowsher successfully defended his 150-mile title Sunday, August 11, in his 1968 Ford Torino.

The caution flag was out for 17 laps, including the last five, allowing only reduced speed and no passing, but Bowsher averaged 95.519 miles per hour. Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., was second and Norm Nelson was third.

Bowsher’s victory was assured when Bobby Unser’s engine blew, and he smacked the south wall. The caution flag kept everyone from passing Bowsher, who had already made his last pit stop for gas on lap 122.

Parnelli Jones took the early lead but finished dead last when the engine on his 1968 Ford let go. Bowsher took over but was passed by A.J. Foyt passed him and held the lead until lap 76 when he was forced to take a long pit stop. Bowsher took over and held it until the end. Foyt’s car finally gave up on the 93rd circuit but he borrowed Whitey Gerken’s car and finished a respectable fourth.

Don White gambled on the rain and won the 200-miler on Thursday, August 15. White, driving a 1968 Dodge Charger, passed up a chance for a pit stop during a yellow caution flag and captured the $5,156 first prize in the rain-shortened event. Butch Hartman of South Zanesville, Ohio, was second while Norm Nelson was third.

White averaged 82.47 miles per hour for the race, which was called after 156 miles. Forty-seven laps were run under the yellow caution flag because of a rash of minor accidents and the rain.

In addition to winning the 200-miler, White would also grab the 250-mile Governor’s Cup in September. That momentum would carry over in 1969.


1969 Program

White would dominate the 150-miler on August 10, leading most of the way in his 1969 Dodge Charger. White won the pole position with a record qualifying speed of 104.834 miles per hour and set another record by averaging 98.369 miles per hour for the 150-mile event.

White lost the lead only briefly when he made his first pit stop after 75 laps. Bobby Unser of Albuquerque, N.M., moved to the front in his 1969 Ford Torino. Then Jack Bowsher, also in a Torino, took over until White went ahead to stay on the 88th lap.

White, who pocketed $4,860 of the $27,260 purse, made a quick fuel stop later in the race but was out of the pit fast enough to avoid losing the lead to A.J. Foyt.

White finished 16 seconds - about half a lap - ahead of Foyt, who drove a Torino. Bowsher was third, Unser fourth, and Norm Nelson took fifth in a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner.

A new face in victory lane highlighted the 200-miler on August 14. Roger McCluskey overcame 134-degree track heat and capitalized on an efficient pit crew to claim his first-ever victory at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway.

The Tucson, Ariz., speedster, driving a 1969 Plymouth owned by Norm Nelson, survived a brilliant three-way duel to win the $3,386 first prize. He averaged 97.533 miles per hour in edging both Don White and A.J. Foyt – both of whom had run wheel to wheel in the early stages of the race.

McCluskey won the race in the pits, taking over for the first time after the first round of pit stops and repeating on the second. White lost two laps on one of his stops when his car developed some trouble and needed extra work. He charged back, however, and was closing the gap at the finish.

“I came into the pits after Foyt and White and I got out before they did,” McCluskey said. “The crew had me in and out in a hurry on both of my stops. They did a fabulous job, and the car ran beautifully.”


Pit stops would again be the difference again for the 150-miler on August 16, but this time it was Don White gaining the advantage as he won by 15 seconds over Roger McCluskey, the defending USAC stock car national champion.

White needed only 23 seconds to take on two right side tires and fuel on the 70th lap while McCluskey took 38 seconds for tires and gas on lap 64.

White battled with McCluskey, the pole sitter, before going up front on lap 101. White averaged 99.032 miles per hour, earning $5,324 of the $27,900 purse.

The team of A.J. Foyt and Jack Bowsher provided the one-two punch on August 20 for the 200-lapper. Foyt and Bowsher swapped the lead several times while keeping the rest of the field far behind them. Foyt would gain the lead on lap 178 for good and win by 19 seconds over his teammate.

Roger McCluskey, the pole winner and pre-race favorite, experienced handling issues all afternoon long, finishing 30 seconds behind Bowsher. Norm Nelson, owner of McCluskey’s car, also had handling issues and finished fourth.

After dealing with scorching heat for the 150-miler, the weather cooled for Thursday afternoon’s 200-mile race and Nelson admitted afterwards that they missed the set-up on both cars. Foyt and Bowsher drove Ford’s while McCluskey and Nelson piloted Plymouth’s.


1971 Program

Foyt would flaunt his moxie on Thursday August 19, winning the Fair Stock 150 before a meager crowd of 13,675. Foyt would take only one pit stop, on lap 70, which gave him 80 miles to race and only 75 miles of fuel by normal full-tank calculations.

Car owner Jack Bowsher and crew fidgeted in the pit area, sweating the last 20 laps and waiting for Foyt to signal for a fuel stop. With only 5 miles to go, Foyt flashed by his suffering mates, grinning and mockingly waving at them while running on fumes. Coming out of the final corner on the final lap, Foyt raised his red glove and signaled #1 to the cheering grandstand.

Butch Hartman, who made two pit stops for fuel, finished second, nearly 20 seconds behind Foyt at the finish. Dave Whitcomb of Valparaiso, Ind., finished third, Sal Tovella was fourth and Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took fifth.

It was a day for Plymouth’s on Sunday, August 22, as four of the top-five finishers drove Plymouth’s – led by Roger McCluskey in his 1970 Superbird.

McCluskey, the Tucson, Ariz., hard charger, grabbed the lead, his first of the day, with only 9 laps remaining and won by over a quarter of a lap. He averaged 96.468 miles per hour and collected $6,555 for his efforts.

He took over the top spot when race leader and teammate Norm Nelson experienced tire trouble. Nelson was leading comfortably when he felt the tire bust with 20 miles to go. “Even when I felt the tire go I figured I could nurse it because I had a half-mile lead,” Nelson remarked.

McCluskey was told by his pit crew that smoke was coming from Nelson’s car with 20 to go and it’s then he decided to, “to get after it.”

Gordon Blankenship of Keokuk, Iowa, also managed to get by Nelson and take runner-up honors while a disappointed Nelson settled for third after leading most of the race. Verlin Eaker was fourth followed by Sal Tovella.

A crowd of 21,480 contributed to a purse of $31,975.


1972 Program

A driver more noted for his success behind open-wheel cars steered a stock car to victory in the Fair Stock 150 on Thursday, August 18. Gordon Johncock, piloting a 1972 Chevelle, not only won the race but beat another open-wheeler, Bobby Unser, by a whopping 29 seconds to score his first career USAC stock car win.

For a while, however, it appeared that the race would end with confusion. The electrical scoreboard in the infield had Unser rather than Johncock leading the race until the error was corrected with only two laps to go. Johncock and Unser both realized that the board was in error the entire time and neither complained afterwards.

Unser, piloting a 1970 Plymouth, had dominated the race until a leaky tire sent him into the pits on lap 143. Johncock streaked to a lead of more than one lap while Unser spent 45 seconds taking on fuel and having a tire changed.

Johncock averaged 96.442 miles per hour and earned $3,809 out of the $20,000 plus purse.

It was a Sunday afternoon drive for Jack Bowsher in the 200-miler on August 20. “It was a great race and I didn’t have to worry about thing,” Bowsher said after picking up the winner’s share of $5,639 before 19,000 fans on the final day of the Wisconsin State Fair.

The Springfield, Ohio, veteran motored his 1971 Ford Torino under the checkered, nearly a mile ahead of runner-up Bobby Unser’s Plymouth. Bowsher’s winning speed was 96.743 mile per hour.

He pulled off the Mile for three pits stops but easily recaptured the lead each time with little trouble. “Our strategy was to make two pit stops but I made an unscheduled stop on lap 36 because rain was threatening and I figured we could get another one in before it rained,” Bowsher said.

Whitey Gerken of Villa Park, Ill., driving a Bowsher-prepared Ford, finished third. He had a chance to finish second until a soft tire slowed him down on lap 193, which allowed Unser to pass him for second place.


1973 Program

Larry “Butch” Hartman of South Zanesville, Ohio, would pad his USAC point’s lead by winning the 150-miler on August 16, finishing four seconds ahead of Roger McCluskey. McCluskey’s teammate Norm Nelson finished third.

Hartman took the lead from Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, on lap 103 and held it the rest of the way. Stott, who was second in points behind Hartman going into the contest, eventually faded to sixth-place.

Hartman averaged 87.508 miles per hour, nearly 12 mph under the track record for 150 miles, as eight caution flags were posted for a total of 54 laps.

“It was probably the easiest race I’ve ever driven,” Hartman said of his second straight win at the Mile. He won the Miller 200 in July after going winless on the one-mile paved oval since 1966.

Hartman would follow up his win with another in the 200-miler on August 19, edging Jack Bowsher by 2.9 seconds in a race that was inadvertently cut short at 199 laps by the flagman.

Flagman Duane Sweeney waved the white flag at the wrong time when Bob Brevak of Ashland, Wis., crashed into the wall after blowing a tire. “I was worried about the danger hazard, got excited and waved the white flag on the 198th mile. Then I came with the checkered flag on the next lap,” Sweeney explained. “It was a mistake. No one told me to cut it short. It was me and me alone.”

Bowsher felt he might be able to regain the lead had he been given one more lap. “They just gave him the race,” Bowsher said. “I’d have caught him. I was coming on strong and I could have won.”

Hartman collected $6,422 by averaging 92.421 miles per hour, although 26 circuits were slowed by a light rain and a total of 56 were run under the yellow flag.


Bobby Unser would post an easy victory with his 1974 Dodge Charger in the 150-miler on Thursday, August 15. He averaged 91.970 miles per hour and pocketed $4,003 of the $22,725 purse by finishing seven seconds ahead of Don White, who drove a 1972 Charger.

Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., charged late in the contest to finish third in his 1974 Chevelle, just ahead of Norm Nelson in a 1971 Plymouth.

Butch Hartman, who was aiming at his sixth consecutive stock car win at the Wisconsin State Fair Park paved oval, was hampered by an oil leak from the 43rd lap until the end and had to make three pit stops. He would hang on to finish seventh.

It was the kind of thriller even Butch Hartman said he wouldn’t have minded losing. Hartman took the lead on lap 197 and then nosed out both Dick Trickle and Bobby Unser by a little more than a car length to win the Fair Stock 200-miler on Sunday, August 18.

Hartman averaged 89.281 miles per hour in his 1973 Dodge Charger and earned $6,130 from a purse of $34,050 contributed by a crowd of 18,090.

“I don’t even mind finishing second when you’re in a good, hard race,” said Hartman. When you run away from the others, that’s not my kind of race. Today, everybody was running equal.”


The Fair Stock 150 and 200 for the ’75 season would be unique because for one reason or another, the races would be flipped-flopped, with the 200-miler being run before the 150-miler.

One of the best deals that Addison, Ill., used car salesman Sal Tovella ever made was a purchase, not a sale. He drove his 1972 Plymouth to victory in the 200-miler on Sunday afternoon, August 10.

“The car ran perfect,” Tovella said, after collecting $5,770 for winning his first race since 1966. “This is the best used car I’ve ever bought. I wouldn’t sell it for anything.”

Tovella led the race at various times but took the lead for good on lap 170 and finished five seconds ahead of runner-up Ramo Stott. He had not won a race since a 1966 road race at Mosport, Ont. He had never won on the paved State Fair Park Speedway one-mile oval in 18 years but finally did after purchasing a car from four-time USAC champion Norm Nelson.

Ramo Stott of Keokuk, Iowa, passed Butch Hartman with 15 laps to go and then held on to win 150-miler on August 14. With the victory, Stott closed the gap between himself and Hartman for the USAC point’s lead.

Stott, driving a 1975 Plymouth, battled Hartman bumper-to-bumper until he was able to open up a three-car-length lead which he held to the checkered. He averaged 91.084 miles per hour and won $3,824 from a $23,625 total purse. 

Hartman said afterwards that he had to ease up because the brakes on his 1974 Dodge Charger had been failing from the 80th lap on. “I could still run, but towards the end I was putting my foot to the floorboard before I was getting anything in the turns,” Hartman said.

The 200-mile winner, Sal Tovella, took third after a mid-race collision with Roger McCluskey. Tovella, who had led 66 laps in the race, had to pit after the accident which demolished McCluskey’s 1974 Dodge Charger. “It cost me the race,” he said afterwards. “I had the fastest car out there and was just playing with Ramo and Butch.”

Ralph Latham of Cincinnati took fourth in a 1975 Chevelle and Larry Moore of Dayton, Ohio, grabbed fifth in a 1974 Charger.


“It’s really nice to get a free one once in a while,” Ramo Stott said after winning the 200-mile USAC stock car race at State Fair Park Speedway on August 15. Stott and Butch Hartman had battled for the lead before the transmission went out in Hartman’s Camaro on lap 160

Stott’s Plymouth, averaging 80.569 miles per hour, finished about a half-minute ahead of runner-up Sal Tovella. The popular veteran from Keokuk, Iowa, collected $5,338 of a $33,500 purse.

Ron Hutcherson of Keokuk, Iowa, piloting a 1976 Volare, finished third while Gary Bowsher’s Torino took fourth.

Hartman, competing with a soon-to-be outlawed five-inch spoiler on his Camaro, would win the 150-miler on Thursday afternoon, August 20. He averaged 94.552 miles per hour and pocketing $3,603 of a $23,600 purse.

Hartman grabbed the lead from Sunday’s winner, Ramo Stott, on lap 114 and stayed there, finishing three seconds ahead of Roger McCluskey, who was driving Norm Nelson’s 1976 Volare. Don White, driving a 1976 Aspen, finished third and Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., piloting a 1976 Camaro, took fourth.

Bob Stroud, the USAC stock car supervisor had declared Hartman’s spoiler was too big for the Sunday afternoon, but Hartman won an argument over the interpretations of the rules and was allowed to compete. USAC decided that he could compete with his five-inch spoiler until September 1 when only three-inch spoilers would be allowed.


1977 Program

Birthday boy Sal Tovella gave himself the best present of all, squeezing by Dave Watson on the final turn of the final lap to win the USAC stock car 200-miler on Sunday afternoon, August 14.

Tovella, who turned 49 years old that day, had trailed by nearly three seconds when the yellow flag waved with 11 laps to go allowing him to close his Plymouth Volare up behind Watson’s Buick Skylark. Watson, aiming for his second straight win at the Mile, had led for 146 laps.

Except for the final lap, Tovella had not led since lap 60, when he was out front for a 10-lap stint. He had gambled on pit strategy and stayed on the track while everyone else made service stops during a caution. He stopped later under green and nearly lost a lap but made-up lost ground and was in second place by lap 148.

“I think if I had an advantage over Dave at the end, it was the tires,” said Tovella, after scoring his fourth career USAC victory. “We took on tires on the last pit stop, and I don’t believe he did.”

Watson would get his revenge in the 150-miler on August 18, but it was anything but easy. The last two laps provided a bumper-to-bumper duel with Sal Tovella before Watson was able to flash across the finish line, .61-seconds ahead of the Addison, Ill., veteran.

Watson, a rookie on the USAC trail, took the lead on lap 93 when Ramo Stott went to the pits for a tire change. Stott had led 91 off the 92 laps completed.

Watson led by more than three seconds when Paul Feldner and Gary Bowsher tangled in the first turn on lap 145. That caution set up the dramatic final five laps with Tovella on the one-mile oval where Watson had won the Miller 200 in July.


A.J. Foyt survived a collision and intense summer heat to win the USAC stock car 200-miler at State Fair Park Speedway on August 13.

Foyt’s 1978 Camaro was involved in a collision with Harold Fair’s 1978 Magnum. The engine in Fair’s car exploded, bounced off the wall and into the side of Foyt’s car. Foyt would use four brief pit stops during ensuing yellow flags to repair his car.

Foyt was back challenging for the lead by lap 60 and finished more than a lap ahead of Joe Ruttman of Upland, Calif., a West Coast short-track driver, was making his first appearance at State Fair Park. He battled with Foyt for the top spot for most of the afternoon.

Outside temperatures climbed into the low 90’s and temperatures inside of cockpits were reaching 140 degrees. “It was hot,” Foyt said. “It was no disgrace to fall out today. But I’ve never needed relief, and when I do, I’ll hang it up.”

Local favorite Dave Watson of Milton, Wis., held off Bobby Unser for the last 10 miles to win the Fair Stock 150 on Thursday, August 17. Watson, who started third, trailed pole winner A.J. Foyt and Unser for the first 106 miles before inching ahead for the lead.

Watson was concerned about his fuel supply with those last 10 miles. “We had it calculated and knew it’d be close,” he said. “I kept an eye on Bobby and knew how fast I had to go.” It was Watson’s third USAC triumph at State Fair Park Speedway and his second straight 150-mile victory.

Joe Ruttman was third, the last car to finish the 150 miles. Foyt, who set a track record of 110.974 miles per hour in qualifying, settled for fourth after an unscheduled pit stop for tires set him back.


Watson would successfully defend his title on Thursday, August 9, for his third consecutive win in the race. Driving a 1977 Buick Skylark, Watson finished two seconds ahead of Rusty Wallace of St. Louis, Mo.

It was Watson’s first USAC win of the season, and he cashed in on $3,810 of a $27,000 purse. A paltry crowd of 10,132 watched the action.

Watson had been running third behind Joe Ruttman and Wallace when he took the lead only six laps from the finish. That happened when Wallace, who was trying to pass Ruttman, tapped the rear of Ruttman’s bright yellow Pontiac, sending them both into a spin. Wallace’s red Pontiac brushed the wall as Watson sped by, but Ruttman fell back to eighth place.

Ruttman would eventually recoup and finish fifth while Wallace was later penalized for passing under yellow and credited with eighth.

Jim Sauter of Necedah, Wis., driving a 1978 Camaro was second and USAC points leader A.J. Foyt, driving a 1979 Camaro, came in third.

Joe Ruttman led the most laps (151) during the 200-miler on August 18, but it’s who leads the last lap that counts. And that was A.J. Foyt…

The race, rescheduled from August 5 because of rain, was delayed Saturday by a light, misty rain. After 136 laps, the cars were waved from the track and sat through a 38-minute delay. At that point, Ruttman, who had won the Miller 200 in July, had the lead followed by Rusty Wallace and Foyt.

When the race restarted, Wallace took an immediate pit stop leaving Ruttman and Foyt to battle it out. Foyt finally edged his way past Ruttman on lap 193, and he kept that slight edge to score the victory.

Five cars finished on the lead lap. Right behind Foyt and Ruttman were Dick Trickle, Jim Sauter and Iowa’s Terry Ryan.


1980 Program

With USAC stock car division slowly unraveling, there would only be one Fair Stock race in 1980, the 200-miler on Sunday afternoon, August 3. It would also be the last…

When Joe Ruttman won the pole position for the race, it was the fourth straight contest at the Milwaukee Mile in which the Upland, Calif., driver had won the pole position. But as Ruttman was quick to point out, “The pole? That doesn’t mean anything.”

Ruttman words would ring true as Rusty Wallace won his third consecutive USAC event at State Fair Park Speedway, having won the Governor’s Cup in September of ’79 and most recently, the Miller 200 in July.

Experiencing bad steering issues for the last 100 miles, Wallace stilled finished 9.2 seconds ahead of Ruttman when the checkered dropped. “It got so difficult to steer that I got blisters on my hand,” Wallace said afterwards.

Wallace, driving a Pontiac Firebird, jumped into the lead at the start and led for 51 laps. Ruttman, piloting a Pontiac Ventura, led from laps 52 to 66. The two battled it out until lap 127 when Wallace pitted for the final time. Ruttman decided to stay on the track.

It didn’t take long for Wallace to catch up to Ruttman and on lap 144, Ruttman made his final pit stop, giving the lead to Wallace, and he never relinquished it. Ruttman managed to close the lead to about six seconds but could never get any closer than that.

Sal Tovella finished third in a Volare, Bill Venturini took fourth in a Camaro and Bay Darnell of Deerfield, Ill., rounded out the top five, also in a Camaro.

Wallace took home $6,067 of a $36,250 purse. A crowd of 11,019 saw the race, down 1,500 from last year’s crowd of 12,621 and far below the average of 18,000.

There would be a 150-miler that year, on Thursday, August 7, but it would be sanctioned by an up and coming late model stock car series, the American Speed Association. Mark Martin of Batesville, Ark., would be the winner of the event.

While it never competed again as stand-alone division during the Wisconsin State Fair, the United States Auto Club stock cars would co-sanction with the Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA) for a couple of 200-milers in August of 1982 and ’83.

The Milwaukee Sentinel 200 on August 28, 1983 would be the last time the United States Auto Club stock car division would ever appear at Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The World Dirt Racing League (Part 2)

The "Marquette Missile" Kyle Berck would win the inaugural WDRL championship. - Lance Goins Photo

by Lee Ackerman 

Omaha, Neb. - Many of the WDRL Series regular drivers made the long pull to the Superior Speedway in Superior, Wisconsin on August 5, and when the dust had settled it was New Richmond, Wisconsin’s Pat Doar standing in victory lane.

Doar and his black number 11 started eighth in the 24-car, 50-lap main event which saw the caution flag wave seven times. At the drop of the green, it was Dave Eckrich taking the point with John Hampel, Don Copp and Ace Ihm in pursuit. Three laps into the action Mitch Johnson and John Anderson got together in turn two.

When the green waved Hampel and Berck battled for second behind Eckrich with Copp and Doar battling for fourth. Then Ihm spun in turn two bringing out caution number two. This time on the restart it was Eckrich, Berck and Doar moving into third up high. Shortly it was Berck to the point for a short time before Doar, still running high on the track, taking the lead.

Doar started to run away from the field and had a straightaway lead when Ed Kosiski spun with 31 laps remaining. Two laps after that caution, the yellow waved again with Copp going pit side. Then as the green waved Rusty Seaver spun bring out the yellow again.

Finally, with a clean restart Berck took a shot at Doar but to no avail and it did not take Doar long to catch the back of the back. At the half-way mark it was Doar, Berck, Hampel. Ihm and Ryan Aho. Following the final yellow, Berck took one last shot at Doar but came up short and Doar widened the gap on his way to the checkers.

At the line it was Doar, Berck, Ed Kosiski, Hampel and Donnie McClellan. Heats went to Todd Gehl, Eckrich, Ihm and Aho. Steve Laursen won the consolation event and Eckrich bested Hampel and Copp in the dash.

Gary Webb accepts his trophy for winning at West Union. - Scott Tjabring Photo

Two days later, on August 7 the Mr. Goodcents WDRL series visited the Fayette County Speedway in West Union, Iowa where Gary Webb of Blue Grass, Iowa picked up the win in the Mr. Goodcents 50.

Starting on the inside of the second row, Webb dove to the bottom at the drop on the green and shot under front row starters Denny Eckrich and Kyle Berck to grab the lead. The caution waved on lap two and on the restart Webb, Berck and Brian Birkhofer waged a wheel-to-wheel battle over the next 20 laps with Webb running low and Berck challenging on the high side.

On lap 22, Birkhofer got under Berck to claim second on the 3/8-mile oval but could never mount a serious challenge to Webb. Webb ran the bottom the entire length of the event and skillfully worked his way through traffic to pick up the win by ten car lengths over Birkhofer. Following Webb and Birkhofer to the line were Berck, Darren Miller and Chris Smyser.

“This is definitely the high point of the summer for us,” said Webb in victory lane. “We’ve kind of struggled a bit, so this is a good win. The win gave Webb a $6,000 payday.

“I knew we had a good car tonight, so I went to the bottom from the start,” added Webb. “I think Denny (Eckrich) washed out a little, and I think Kyle (Berck) challenging me on the outside, but I decided we were either going to win this thing or finish tenth, but we were going to stay on the bottom.”

Qualifying events went to Dave Eckrich of Oxford over Webb, Berck over Kevin Kile of West Liberty and Rob Toland of Hillsdale, Illinois over Birkhofer. Milan, Illinois Ray Guss, Jr. claimed the consolation event over Marshalltown’s Darrell DeFrance.

Dan Schlieper is shown in victory lane after winning the WDRL main event at Pecatonica. - Chuck Barton Photo

The following night the series traveled to the Winnebago County Speedway in Pecatonica, Illinois where “the Wisconsin Wildman” Dan Schlieper became the ninth different winner in 10 series events.

Starting on the outside front row Schlieper got the jump on pole sitter Brian Birkhofer when the green flag waved, but “Birky” stayed glued to Schlieper and took the lead in turn four of lap 4. Two circuits later and the pair were already in lapped traffic.

As the two cleared turn two on lap 8, Schlieper took back the point from Birkhofer but the two continued to stage wheel-to-wheel racing until lap 14, when a lapped car crashed into the tire barrier on the backstretch. Birkhofer was caught up in the crash and his car sustained front end damage that eliminated him from further competition.

When the green waved again, Schlieper took control of the event surviving several more caution flags and late race challenges from Dave and Denny Eckrich to secure the win. Following Schlieper to the line were Denny Eckrich, Gary Webb, Dave Eckrich and Brian Harris. Schlieper, Birkhofer, Ely, Iowa’s Terry Neal won qualifiers with Birkhofer taking the pole dash.

Forty-six late models were on hand when the series visited Nebraska Raceway Park near Greenwood, Nebraska for the Cornhusker Classic. When it was time for the 50-lap feature it was “the Thriller” Darren Miller of Chadwick, Illinois behind the wheel of his NAPA Auto Parts/MasterSbilt race car starting on the pole.

Early in the event Miller had to fight off the challenges of series point’s leader Kyle Berck before Berck retired from the race on lap 15. Following Berck’s exit from the race Henderson, Colorado’s Kelly Boen inherited the runner up spot until lap 35 when Iowa City’s Matt Furman roared off the bottom and into the position. Late in the race Miller’s big challenge was two restarts and he survived them both, holding off Furman for the win.

“A win over here feels really good,” said Miller following his win. “We’ve had a good year this year, but a win like this is overdue. Miller took home $5,000 for the win.

“The racetrack was pretty interesting tonight,” continued Miller. “It was super tacky at the start but by the end it got really slick. There was a bit of a cushion in turns one and two and when I went up there after the last start, I couldn’t believe how fast it was.”

A lap 43 restart gave Miller a real scare when before the green had waved Miller’s car got a nudge from behind that sent the field scattering. “I thought the leader could start the race at the pace he wanted.” noted Miller. “Boen got me turned sideways, and then somebody else came in from behind and got my rear wheels off the ground. I just slowed down because I knew the restart wasn’t going to stick.”

Furman crossed the finish line in second behind Miller, but his car failed a post-race inspection, and he was disqualified. The official order was Miller, Boen, Denny Eckrich, Skip Frey, and Delbert Smith.

Heat race wins went to Berck, Denny Eckrich, Boen and Furman. Consolation races went to Joe Kosiski and Todd Davis with Miller winning the pole dash.

Denny Eckrich would win the WDRL finale at Denison. - Speed Shots Photo

The following weekend was the finale for the Mr. Goodcents World Dirt Racing League when the series invaded the Crawford County Speedway in Denison, Iowa for the Hawkeye 100. The only 100-lap race of the season for the series turned out to be a great ending to the 2002 racing season as Denny Eckrich held off the charges of Ray Guss, Jr. John Seitz, and Brian Harris to take the win.

Eckrich became the 11th winner in 12 WDRL events. When the season had ended, 188 super late models had competed in series events with an average car count of 35.9 cars per event. 

“The Marquette Missile” Kyle Berck won the championship with 1,594 points, Joe Kosiski was second with 1,502, Ed Kosiski third with 1,312, Donnie McClellan fourth with 1,296 and Gary Webb fifth with 1,046.

The World Dirt Racing League would continue to provide outstanding racing throughout the Iowa and Nebraska and surrounding areas through the 2009 racing season.