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.

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