Monday, February 28, 2022

1975 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – The first program of the 55th and final Winternational Sprints was scheduled for February 5 but rained out, pushing the opener to February 8.

Three caution flags didn’t prevent Rick Ferkel of Bowling Green, Ohio, from winning by three-quarters of a lap over the rest of the field when the checkers waved on the 30-lapper. He finished ahead of Chuck Amati of Marion, Ill., and Greg Leffler of North Vernon, Ind.

Joe Saldana of Lincoln, Neb., set a new track record in winning the 15-lap consolation. He was timed in 6 minutes and 48.46 seconds, breaking Jud Larson’s mark of 6 minutes and 55.69 seconds set in 1969. Heat races were won by Roger Rager, Lincoln, Neb., Darryl Dawley, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Larry Kirkpatrick, Wood River, Ill.

The defending IMCA national sprint car champion, Bill Utz, Sedalia, Mo., would take starter Johnny Hick’s checkered flag first in the 30-lap feature on February 10. Utz had a little luck on his said as race leader Ralph Parkinson Jr., Kansas City, Mo., dropped out with only two laps to go in the race, handing Utz the win. Dick Tobias, Lebanon, Penn., finished second followed by Jan Opperman, Noxon, Mont.

Three hotly contested heat races were won by Butch Wilkerson of Indianapolis, Darryl Dawley, and Larry Kirkpatrick. Rick Ferkel, the Saturday’s feature winner, won the special match race while Chuck Amati won the consolation.

After a one-hour rain delay, Darryl Dawley scored his first career IMCA sprint car feature win on February 12. Ralph Parkinson Jr. would give Dawley a run for his money in the 30-lap main event but settle for second place while Joe Saldana finished third.

Jan Opperman, Rick Hood of Memphis, Tenn., and Doc Dawson of Lima, Ohio, were heat winners while Saldana won the consolation race.

Before a crowd of 7,517, Jan Opperman would win the fourth race of the Winternational Series, a 50-lap victory on February 15. Starting eighth in the field, Opperman didn’t make his move until late, yet won comfortably over Rick Ferkel and Dick Tobias. He found himself in a duel with race-long leader Bill Utz until lap 37 when Utz dropped out with mechanical issues. The victory earned him $1,000 plus $544 in lap money. Utz, who didn’t even finish in the top-10, but still earned $1,200 in lap money.

Opperman, Ferkel and Ed Lynch, Apollo, Penn., were heat winners and Cliff Cockrum, Carbondale, Ill., was the consolation winner.

The Winternational Series closed on February 16, with Jan Opperman winning his second IMCA sprint car feature in a row, winning the 30-lap feature in a race that was a near mirror-image of his Saturday victory. Dick Sutcliffe, Greenwood, Mo., took the early lead and was pulling away when Ralph Parkinson Jr., lost a wheel on lap 16 and caused a minor five-car pileup. When racing resumed, Opperman, who had been cruising in second place, wasted little time in taking command. He took the lead on lap 21 and roared home from there.

Sutcliffe hung on for second while Ray Lee Goodwin, Kansas City, came home in third. Lee Osborne of Alexandria, Va., Sutcliffe, and Kramer Williamson of Clearfield, Penn., were heat winners. Opperman won the match race, and Ralph Blackett of Des Moines won the consolation.

Opperman was crowned the 1975 Winternational Series champion.

Point Standings –

1. Jan Opperman – 800
2. Rick Ferkel – 545
3. Dick Tobias – 445
4. Bill Utz – 435
5. Ralph Blackett – 425
6. Darryl Dawley – 415
7. Ray Lee Goodwin – 400
8. Joe Saldana – 350
9. Ralph Parkinson Jr. – 325
10.Del Schmidt – 300

Sunday, February 27, 2022

1974 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – Th 54th annual Winternational Sprints kicked off on February 6 with Jan Opperman of Beaver Crossing, Neb., the 34-year-old scourge of the northeastern sprint car circuit, winning the 30-lap opener at Plant Field before 6,000 fans.

Opperman, driving “Speedy” Bill Smith’s Chevy, chased pole-sitter Larry Kirkpatrick of Wood River, Ill., before passing him on the far turn of lap 14. He won by a third of a lap over Kirkpatrick and Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City.

Leroy Felty of Jonestown, Penn., Opperman, Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa, were heat winners. Lee Osborne of Lebanon, Penn., won the match race and Ralph Parkinson Jr., of Kansas City scored the win in the consolation.

Opperman would win his second straight feature on February 9 but didn’t have an easy time of it. Duane “Pancho” Carter Jr., of Huntington Beach, Calif., who smacked the wall and caused a restart on the first lap, challenged Opperman from start to finish, even appearing to having a wheel in front at times. Experience prevailed, though, and Opperman pulled away in the final laps. Carter, who had the crowd on its feet with his hard-charging style, finished second while Jay Lyle, Warrensburg, Mo., came in a distant third.

Opperman would make it a clean sweep on February 10, winning his heat, match race and the 30-lap feature. But that wasn’t all – he set a new record in winning his heat and the match race. The only thing he didn’t win was the grandstand. That went to Duane “Pancho” Carter Jr., who once again worked his way in front of Opperman for a couple of laps, much to the delight of the 5,633 in attendance.

Unfortunately for Pancho, the track dried a bit and both Lee Osborne and Jay Lyle slipped by the young hot shoe to finish second and third, respectively, while Carter settled for fourth. Heat winners were Kirkpatrick, Opperman and Kenny Weld, Kansas City. Opperman won the match race and Lee Osborne won the consolation.

Kramer Williamson, a virtual unknown from Mechanicsburg, Penn., and competing in his first Winternationals, started on the pole, and led all 30 laps to score the victory ahead of Jan Opperman on February 13. But it was Duane Carter Jr., who stole the show again.

Ray Lee Goodwin, the 1972 IMCA national champion, set fast time and easily won the match race. But his hopes for a feature win were crushed after only one lap when Duane Carter lost control of his car on the front straight and Goodwin hit him. “I just made a mistake,” Carter said. “I tried a different groove and Ray Lee hit me.” Goodwin was finished but Carter’s car was undamaged. He restarted from the rear of the field.

Williamson was first pushed by Bubby Jones of Danville, Ill., until Jones exited with mechanical problems. Opperman took over where Jones left off and challenged Williamson but didn’t have the stability to keep up through the turns.

Meanwhile, the crowd-pleasing Carter roared from the back of the pack, getting by Larry Kirkpatrick for third place on lap 12 and then passing Opperman five laps later and making his bid for the lead, much to the delight of the fans. By lap 25, he pulled right up behind Williamson and threatened to take the lead. But with only three laps to go, the bottom of Carter’s radiator fell out, and he pulled out of the race.

Williamson, Ralph Blackett of Des Moines, Iowa, and Bobby Black of Kokomo, Ind., were heat winners. Goodwin won the match race and Larry Kirkpatrick won the consolation.

Lee Osborne won the battle, but Jan Opperman won the war as the Winternational Sprint Series came to a close on February 16. Racing before a near capacity crowd of 6,600, Osborne won the 50-lap finale, but it was Opperman with enough points to claim the overall title.

Bill Utz, Sedalia, Mo., who came from last position twice, once at the original start, and once on a restart after an accident, finished an impressive second while Ray Lee Goodwin was third. Goodwin protested afterwards that Utz didn’t go completely to the rear of the field, but IMCA officials ruled otherwise.

Ralph Blackett, Bubby Jones and Jerry Richert, Forest Lake, Minn., were heat winners and Thad Dosher, the defending IMCA national champion from Topeka, Kan., won the consolation.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

1973 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla – Jan Opperman of Beaver Crossing, Neb., made a shambles of the opening night of the 53rd annual Winternational Sprints by setting fast time, winning the trophy dash, his heat, and the 30-lap feature. Thad Dosher of Topeka, Kan., was second and Kenny Weld of York, Penn., took third.

A crowd of 5,500, the largest opening night crowd in Florida State Fair racing history, enjoyed a beautiful night of racing.

Opperman, Weld and Larry Miller of Bedford, Ind., won heat races. Opperman won the trophy dash and Harry Benjamin of Wysock, Penn., won the 10-lap consolation. Opperman’s qualifying time for the half-mile was 26 seconds flat. He was clocked on the front stretch by Joe Bell, an Iowa deputy sheriff, at 89.88 miles per hour.

The second day of the Winternational Sprints, February 10, was also a one-man show with Kenny Weld in the starring role. Weld won the 30-lap feature, 8-lap heat, and set a new record in winning the 6-lap trophy dash.

The weather was as cold as Weld was hot and the 5,200 brave fans in the grandstands were treated to the sight of snow falling during hot laps.

Bobby Adamson, also of York, Penn., finished second behind Weld with Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa, third. Opperman, Weld, and Roger Rager of Mound, Minn., were heat winners. Weld won the trophy dash and Darryl Dawley of Sioux Falls, S.D., was the winner of the consolation.

Jan Opperman, the opening night winner, set fast time and won his heat but got into the fence during feature time and damaged his car beyond repair.

After his crew replaced front tie and radius rods in his Bogar Chevy #99, Opperman would storm back on February 11, taking the immediate lead from his outside front row starting position and sailing to the easy victory in the 30-lapper. Wib Spaulding of Granite City, Ill., was second followed by Thad Dosher.

A crowd of 6,100 braved the chilly winds to watch Kenny Weld, Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., and Cliff Cockrum of Benton, Ill., win heat races. Opperman won the match race and Doc Dawson of Lima, Ohio, scored the victory in the consolation.

After the February 15 program, IMCA officials were considering changing the name of the Winternational Sprints to the “Jan & Kenny Show,” after Kenny Weld won his second feature of the series to match Opperman’s total of two wins.

Weld, who set quick time, started sixth because of the invert but was up front for good by lap 4. He dropped a cylinder early on in the race which actually helped him. “After I dropped the cylinder, I didn’t have the power, so I wasn’t spinning my wheels and the tires stayed cool.”

Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City, the defending IMCA national champion, took second and Opperman grabbed third. Tom Corbin, Farmington, Mo., Opperman, and Dean Shirley of Middleton, Ill., were heat winners while Weld won the match race and Goodwin was the consolation winner.

Bobby Adamson would break the “Jay & Kenny” stranglehold and win the 50-lap series finale on February 17. With his third-place finish, Kenny Weld was crowned Winternationals champion for 1973. Jan Opperman finished fourth in the feature and second in the point standings.

Adamson, driving a tough, narrow-grooved track, got by Thad Dosher with only five laps to go to register his first feature win of the ’73 series and fourth career Winternationals victory. Adamson, who competed in the Winternationals from 1968 to 1971 but snubbed by the association in ’72 because he ran no more races in ’71, said he was anxious to make a good showing to get back in good standing.

Heat wins went to Earl Wagner, Jan Opperman, and Cliff Cockrum while Adamson was also the consolation winner.

Friday, February 25, 2022

1972 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – The defending IMCA national sprint car champion, Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., kicked off the 52nd annual Winternational Sprints with a victory in the inaugural 25-lapper at Plant Field on February 2.

Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo., jumped out to the lead in the 25-lap main event but made an unexpected appointment with the wall in the first turn on lap 9. Blundy, who had started fifth, and was running second at the time, inherited the lead and despite some smoke coming from the car in the last few laps, took Johnny Hick’s checkered just ahead of a Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., and Bill Cassella of Weirton, W.Va. Blundy said afterwards a broken torsion bar was the cause of the smoke.

Heat wins went to Ron Perkins on Des Moines, Iowa, Jan Opperman of Hayward, Calif., and Doc Dawson of Lima, Ohio. The match race went to Kinser, and Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City won the consolation. Opperman set a new track record for eight laps in the second heat when he won in the time of 3 minutes and 37.89 seconds.

Jan Opperman, described by Tampa Tribune sportswriter Bob Smith as the “long-haired hippie,” out of Beaver Crossing, Neb., won the second leg of the Winternational Sprints on February 5, capturing the 30-lap feature, and thanking the Lord for the strength to finish the race.

“I give credit to the Lord,” Opperman said from victory lane. “I like to witness for Him. He sure has changed my life.” He needed the strength after his car began acting up only six laps from the finish. The car, Opperman remarked, “was beating me to death.”

To the fans, Opperman seemed in complete control after taking the lead on lap 6 from his 11th starting position, and then stretching it twice more when yellow flags appeared, bunching the field for restarts.

While Opperman rode serenely in the lead, Jerry Blundy and Chuck Amati carried on a dogfight for second and third. Amati finally got the advantage as Blundy dropped back but with two laps to go, track announcer Jim Riser sang out, “Oh, there’s something wrong with Amati.” He had run out of fuel.

Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., and Bill Cassella of Weirton, W.Va., moved past to finish second and third, respectively, while Blundy settled for fourth.

Amati was effective in winning the first heat, coming from his fourth starting position. Opperman won the second heat while Bill Utz of Sedalia, Mo., scored the victory in the third heat. Cassella won the match race and Blundy took home the win in the consolation.

Everything went wrong for Jerry Blundy when the third leg of the series took place before 7,800 race fans on February 6 – everything but the finish.

There were several false starts at the beginning, including one that caught Ron Fisher in the middle of bunching traffic that caused the Kansas City driver to roll his sprinter five times.

The field charged off of turn four onto the front stretch for the start of the 30-lapper, but starter Johnny Hicks caught a signal from assistant Woody Brinkman that the cars were not ready and withheld the green flag. The front cars started braking and those who followed squeezed up, caught Fisher’s car, and sent it into a series of rolls.

Shaken but unhurt, Fisher said, “I must have rolled five or six times, it just happened so fast.”

Once the race was restarted for the last time, Blundy tried to catch race leader Ralph Quarterson of Sharon, Penn., by riding the rim. But the track had dried, the surface was slick, and the groove was at the rail, not the rim. Blundy’s tire setup was for the cushion at the top of the track, but once he gave up on the top side and came down low in the corners, he started narrowing the gap between him and Quarterson.

By the eighth lap, he was challenging and on lap 14, slipped by Quarterson when he got trapped behind a slow-moving LeRoy Felty.

Once in front, Blundy had things going his way. After the race, he gave away everything but his cash winnings. He gave his victory kiss from Ms. JoAnn Jenkins to his buddy, Bill Utz.

“He always does my kissing for me,” Blundy joked afterwards in victory lane. “He seems to like that part and my wife doesn’t like that part at all.”

He finished ahead of Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City and a hard-charging Chuck Amati.

Heat winners were Amati, Ron Perkins of Des Moines and Quarterson. Quarterson also won the match race while Utz won the consolation.

It was a fast track for drivers who liked the inside groove. Two records were set – Perkins won the second heat in 3 minutes and 55 seconds and the 6-lap match race won by Quarterson ended in a time of 2 minutes and 42 seconds. Bob Kinser set fast time in qualifying, turning the half-mile in 25.370 seconds.

Billy Cassella would win the 50-lap main event on February 12 before another stellar crowd of 7,442. Cassella led from start to finish but gave the brush-off to speed queen JoAnn Jenkins when she offered a victory kiss.

“I just don’t go for that,” growled in explanation.

It was a long race, with seven caution flags slowing the pace but each time on the restart, Cassella would pull away and continue his domination.

In the final two laps, Ray Lee Goodwin and Jerry Blundy snuck up on Cassella’s bumper but could not get past, settling for second and third, respectively.

While there wasn’t much action at the front, Chuck Amati kept the crowd on its feet with his charges from the rear of the field twice. The first time he blew a tire and almost wrecked. But he changed the tire and came charging back out. Seven laps later as he was running in sixth, he got into the wall, brought out the yellow again, then rejoined the race, again at the tail of the field. He passed car after car and worked his way up to fourth, only to have his car unglued when he a broke a torsion bar. He would eventually finish seventh.

Opperman, Bob Kinser, and Clifford Jans of Evansville, Ind., were heat winners. Blundy won the consolation and in a novelty match race, Millard Newman of Tampa won the 5-lapper in a 1911 Rolls Royce.

It was a repeat performance the next day, February 13, for Cassella as he won the 30-lap finale, again leading start to finish. A paltry crowd of 2,500 witnessed the action as the curtain fell on the ’72 Winternational Sprint Series.

The feature race was the calmest of the five races, caused by a narrow groove that limited passing. Cassella admitted afterwards that the groove was indeed tight.

“I could only run in one spot,” he said. “There wasn’t any reason to move out it to find another place to run.”

Even Jan Opperman, who isn’t afraid to take risks to get by a fellow competitor, was content with following Cassella after making several attempts in the early going but settled back to claim second place. Ray Lee Goodwin was third and Jerry Blundy took fourth.

On Saturday he had scorned to kiss the race queen and drew a gasp from the grandstand when he pushed her aside as she offered him a victory kiss. This time he greeted JoAnn Jenkins a little more warmly and accepted a handshake.

In victory lane, Cassella posed for several photos while waiting for Blundy, the overall Winternationals champion, to show up but Blundy had already departed for the airport, heading back to his home base in Galesburg, Ill.

Ron Perkins led from start to finish to win the first heat, Cliff Cockrum of Benton, Ill., won the second heat, and Steve Schultz of Chillicothe, Mo., took the third heat. Chuck Amati was a double winner, charging from his sixth starting spot to win match race and also won the consolation.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

1971 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla – A crowd of 4,500, the largest gathering ever for a Wednesday night program, kicked off the 1971 Winternational Sprints. The experiment to go night racing during the mid-week, aided by beautiful warm weather, proved to be a success.

Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., took up right where he left off at the Florida State Fair last February by winning the opening night feature. He did it like a champion should, leading 19 of the final 25 laps, after establishing himself as the fastest man at the track with a top time of 25.71 seconds in time trials. Last year, he had won the finale of the series.

Blundy survived a first lap tangle with Buzz Barton of Tampa and Jim McCune of Toledo, Ohio, to come from his sixth starting position to gain the victory. The brush with Barton’s car caused him to lose his front bumper and grill work but did no serious damage.

Earlier, he blew a head gasket which caused him some minor trouble and gave him some doubts whether he would finish the feature. But finish he did, sailing along in front of the rest of the field after passing Amati on the sixth lap.

Behind him as he caught starter Johnny Hick’s checkered flag was Ron Perkins of Wood River, Ill., who passed Chuck Amati of Greenfield, Tenn., on the final lap to claim runner-up honors.

The lighting around the half-mile was poor, except for the frontstretch and the first turn, but Blundy claimed it wasn’t that great in turns three or four either. Despite that, he was satisfied with the experiment.

“It was better than daytime,” he remarked. “In the daytime, you have sun and all of that dust.”

Perkins and Amati were the hit of the opening night. The two staged a wheel-to-wheel battle in the middle to late stages of the feature that kept the fans on their feet. Amati, a newcomer to Tampa racing, won his heat and the 5-lap match race.

Heat races were won by Barton, Amati, and Dick Schmelyum of Westminster, Mich. Cliff Cockrum of Benton, Ill., who was badly burned during the races last year, came through to win the 10-lap consolation.

Before a turn away crowd of 8,200, Blundy followed up his opening night win with another victory on Saturday, February 6. It was Blundy’s second straight feature win and his third straight stretching back to the finale of the ’70 Winternational Sprints.

The capacity crowd was treated to a series of crashes, spins, and flips which brought out the yellow flag four times and the red flag once.

In the 30-lap main event, two cars came together in front of the grandstands, and one bounced into the pit area, smashing into two tow trucks. A spectator on one of the tow trucks was tossed into the air and landed on the ground. He suffered only bruises.

The consolation was almost as hectic, with four restarts before it could be waved off, once when Bill Roynon performed a slow roll coming out of turn two. Dick Schmelyum also did four rolls in the north turn but emerged only shaken.

Blundy’s dash to the front came just after that accident in the pit area, when the restart put him on the tailpipe of Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., and gave him a chance to change goggles.

“We had so many yellow flags, I used up all of the lenses in my goggles,” Blundy said. “I was trying to wipe them off, but they all smeared. I couldn’t see a thing.”

Blundy was using a smaller 302 cubic inch engine in Saturday’s races, expecting hard, slick track where a big motor causes wheel spins. But a hard rain on Friday night left the track heavy and caused the smaller engine to labor.

“Actually, I was under horse powered,” he admitted. “I couldn’t use much of the cushion at the top of the track.”

More than once, he got too deep in the in the piled-up clay cushion and his car bogged down.

Blundy didn’t get his lead until the 23rd circuit but there was still excitement left. Chuck Amati came up on Kinser and started a challenge for second place. Once, Amati hit a hole and bounced so high that his right rear wheel tore a hole in the metal fence atop the concrete wall.

On the final lap, Amati brought the crowd to its collective feet as he stormed past Kinser down the front straightaway to claim second place at the finish line.

Heat wins went to Kinser, David James of Arlington, Tex., and Jan Opperman of Hayward, Calif. Dick Gaines of Seymour, Ind., won the consolation and Amati won the match race.

Everything that could happen did in the feature, including a tow truck breaking down in the turn and calling for another tow truck for a push.

An argument developed in the pit area after two cars tangled, sending the machine of Jan Opperman into two tow trucks in front of the grandstand. Opperman threatened to punch Elmo Smalley of Waverly, Ohio accusing him of putting a wheel into his car and sending him spinning.

“If I had a quarter right now, I’d punch you,” an angry Opperman said to Smalley. “I would, but I just can’t afford it.”

J.D. Leas of would have been halfway home to Winterville, Penn., on Sunday, February 7, instead he was taking the checkered flag during the third leg of the Winternational Sprint Series.

Leas had crashed his sprinter on Saturday night and his car owner, W.J. Watson, wanted to go home. But the crew pitched in, straightened things out, and finished a couple of car lengths ahead of Jerry Blundy and Jay Woodside of Kansas City in the 30-lapper.

“You should have seen the car last night,” Leas said, pointing at his steaming machine after crawling out and receiving his victory kiss from Winternationals speed queen Barbara Clack. “It was a mess.”

“But everyone got busy and worked Saturday night and well into Sunday morning and got all of the pieces together.”

The day didn’t start out too well when Leas smashed into the wall during qualifying on his second lap and he was forced to take the first lap time, which incidentally, was eighth fastest in the field. Chuck Amati was fastest with a time of 26.504 second but missed the feature with a broke rear end.

Leas was challenged repeatedly by two-time winner Jerry Blundy during the late laps, but the Galesburg, Ill., speedster couldn’t get the momentum for a clean pass.

It was a completely different type of track that the sprinters enjoyed for the first two programs. The surface was packed and turned slick, with the groove down on the inside. The loose stuff at the top was too dry and light to give the rim riders a cushion to push their right wheels.

Heat races were won by Jim Murphy of South Haven, Mich., Jim McClean of Joliet, Ill., and Elmo Smalley of Waverly, Ohio. Bill Cassella of Weirton, W.Va., won the 6-lap match race and set a new track record in the process, finishing in 2 minutes and 44 seconds. The old time was 2 minutes and 46 seconds set by Leas two years ago. Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., started on the pole of the consolation and led from start to finish.

Eddie Leavitt, the gas man from Kearney, Mo., would apply the heat as he won the 25-lap sprint car feature at Plant Field on February 10. The 28-year-old propane salesman gunned his patched-up sprint car to victory on a frigid night as he flew by five sprint cars at the start of the feature and kept up the hot pace all the way to the checkered.

It was the only heat that night…

Temperatures in the low 30’s thinned the fans in the stands in what promoter Al Sweeney called a “record crowd.” Sweeney estimated that the crowd was maybe at 2,200.

“That’s the smallest crowd to watch an IMCA race in the 25 years I’ve been promoting races here,” Sweeney remarked. A half hour before the first race, Sweeney said he, “personally felt like shaking the hand of everyone that turned out to watch the races. They ought to be congratulated.”

Prior to qualifying, Leavitt tangled with two other cars during hot laps and badly damaged the rear end drive of his sprinter. A hasty patch job put Leavitt back on track in time to nab the fast time of the day, a 26.469 second clocking on the half-mile.

Leavitt started six spots off the pole position by but by lap 2 he had the lead all to himself. He went the entire distance unchallenged. It was two laps from the end that Bob Kinser nearly caught the flying Leavitt as they both entered heavy traffic. But the checkered flag fell with Leavitt almost two car lengths ahead.

Jerry Blundy finished third with Chuck Amati fourth and Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., fifth.

Most of the action happened in the consolation. The 10-lap race wasn’t even a lap old when six cars tangled in the third turn. There were no injuries in the pileup, but two machines, driven by Buzz Barton of Tampa and Cliff Cockrum, were out of the race. Gene Gennetten of Gladstone, Mo., eventually won the race.

Bill Cassella, Amati and Hank Albers of Bismarck, N.D., were heat winners while Bob Kinser won the match race.

After steady top-five finishes in the four previous programs, Bob Kinser picked an excellent time for his first victory of the series, winning the 50-lap finale on February 13. Kinser led from start to finish, earning the maximum $1,700.

Kinser not only battled the competition but had to give ground on five different occasions after building a comfortable lead as yellow flags came out for spinning cars. But each time on the restart, Kinser would set sail once again and re-built his comfortable margin.

The track was heavy from intermittent rains that once forced a stop to the program. There were delays as two trucks and a wrecker ironed out the surface and squeezed some moisture out of it. But it made for a lot of action and plenty of passing during the rest of the program.

Kinser was one happy driver in winning the big purse, $1,000 for the victory and $700 for every lap led.

“Happy?” he repeated a query. “You’re damn right.”

It was his first feature victory on the Tampa half-mile in three years.

Blundy, the defending IMCA national champion, had his troubles in the feature, although he finished third behind Dick Sutcliffe.

On the ninth lap, he stopped dead in the north turn, stalled by a nail in his tire. His crew made a quick change, but it demoted the car to the rear of the field. Then on the 26th lap, Herman Wise spun in the south turn, was rammed by Buzz Barton and Blundy slid to avoid them both and spun. Again, he was relegated to the rear of the field.

But in the final 24 laps of the race, Blundy picked car after car and moved into third place, garnering enough points to claim the ’71 Winternationals overall point title. He ended the five-race series with two feature wins, a second and two thirds.

Heat races were won by J.D. Leas, Buzz Barton and Jim Moughan of Springfield, Ill., and Ron Perkins took the consolation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

1970 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – Bobby Adamson of York, Penn., who always did his best on the final day of the Florida State Fair races, turned the tables around on the opening day of the ’70 Winternational Sprints on February 4, winning the 25-lap season opener.

For the final two years, Adamson had won the final feature of the series, but he ran a perfect race before a half-frozen crowd of 3,300 hard core race fans shivering in the grandstands.

It was a tough one to win, with six yellow flags slowing the race, bunching the field, and taking away the cushion Adamson kept building as a lead each time.

The lanky Adamson had trouble in hiss heat race because he had the wrong tires on the car, but all of that changed with the swapping of tires for the feature.

“The track was beautiful once we got the setup correct,” he grinned. “My car felt so good I can’t even explain it.”

He got the lead on the first turn, from his pole position, at the start and was never headed, not even threatened. Each time the field was released from the yellow flag, he roared away to open his lead again. The feature race was the most interrupted of the day, and about 15 of the 25 laps were run under caution.

While Adamson was comfortably leading, a dogfight ensued for second place between Bobby Allen of Miami, Kenny Weld of Kansas City, and Jan Opperman of Beaver Crossing, Neb., with those three drivers finishing in that order.

J.D. Leas of Winterville, Penn., turned the fastest lap of the afternoon, speeding around the half-mile dirt oval in 26.71 seconds. With a wet track in the morning, time trials were moved to the afternoon and cars were put on the track at the rate of two at a time to keep the program from lagging.

Once the surface was rolled and dried, it turned into a beautiful tacky, tire-gripping racing surface. The action was furious in all of the races, with grooves on the inside, the outside, and right down the middle.

Bill Utz of Sedalia, Mo., Bob Williams of Kansas City, and Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., were heat winners Adamson came back from his poor heat race to claim the 5-lap match race and Chuck Lynch pf Springfield, Ill., was the consolation winner.

Adamson saw a second feature win slip away three nights later on February 7 in a controversial feature. In a crowd-stirring stretch run, Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo., out-charged Adamson and won by the width of his front tire, and the two drivers continued down the track into the first turn, almost tangling before they could bring their cars under control.

The controversy came after the race when Adamson said a IMCA official, standing in the second turn, flashed the yellow flag at him with only two laps to go. “You saw him (Leavitt) pull away from me then,” Adamson recalled. “The yellow flag went out and I backed off the throttle. When I got down to the third turn, I saw that the green light was on.”

Adamson didn’t make an official protest of the race, shrugging it off as one of those things, “that goes with racing.”

Leavitt, who was in front of Adamson, did not see the incident and was thoroughly pleased with his victory, the kiss from race queen Diane Carol McCracken, the trophy and the fans who besieged him for his autograph.

It was Leavitt’s first career IMCA sprint car victory, even though he had won numerous modified victories throughout the Midwest.

“I was beginning to wonder if I was going to make it,” he said. “The motor started sputtering about halfway through the last lap. But it caught up on the front straightaway.”

It was Leavitt’s first trip to Tampa, but he learned the track quickly, using the cushion in the turns from which to kick off with his right rear tire.

Leavitt started on the pole after finishing fourth in the first heat race. He led from start to finish and was not threatened until midway through the race when Adamson got through traffic and up to make a challenge.

The drivers had a good track to race on, with plenty of passing to please the overflow crowd 8,250. The only serious incident was a slow roll by Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio, the defending IMCA national champion. He got high up in the loose dirt and climbed the wall.

Heat wins went to Don Mack of East Grand Forks, Minn., Jay Woodside of Kansas City, and Don Hewitt of Troy, Ohio. Adamson won the consolation on the last lap over Bobby Allen of Miami while Jan Opperman won the match race.

More than 8,000 fans saw sentimentality, heartbreak, and tragedy when the fourth segment of the Winternationals took place on Sunday, February 8.

It was sentimental victory for Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., the former four-time IMCA national champion, who was sidelined for most of ’69 after having surgery. It was his first win since last year’s opening day of the Winternationals.

The heartbreak was seeing Don Mack break an axle after leading the event for 22 laps. The potato farmer from Minnesota was enjoying a healthy lead and was only eight laps away from victory when his rear axle broke, forcing him out of the race.

The tragedy occurred when Cliff Cockrum of Benton, Ill., had to bail out of his flaming sprinter on the front straightway during the first heat race. Cockrum sustained second third degree burns on his hands and legs. His mount, a brand-new racer was totally demolished by fire which was not extinguished until a Tampa fire department was called from outside the fairgrounds.

For the feature winner, “it was the happiest day of my life.”

Less than six months ago, Richert underwent a major operation to remove a tumor from his chest. It was a healthy Richert, however, who dominated Plant Field on Sunday afternoon, and when it was all over, a happy man on top of it all.

J.D. Leas passed four other cars during the hard-fought feature to gain second behind Richert while Jerry Blundy finished third.

Bob Kinser won the tragedy-marred first heat while Jay Woodside won the second heat. Buzz Rose of Manhattan Beach, Calif., was the third heat winner while Richert won the consolation to qualify for the feature.

Patience would pay off for J.D. Leas on Wednesday, February 11. Making his third trip to Tampa for the Winternationals, Leas set a new track record in the 6-lap match race, then went out and won the 30-lap feature race, his first-ever at the Florida State Fair.

The drivers found a slick track during the afternoon with little cushion on to work with. Jerry Blundy set fast time with a lap 25.22 seconds, but he was the last man to use the cushion effectively, and the times started falling after that.

The track was so slick, there was one red flag and four yellow flags thrown by starter Johnny Hicks just during the consolation. Jerry Richert, Sunday’s feature winner, got into the wall and broke the front axle, putting him out of action for the day.

Leas trailed Russ Laursen of Cumberland, Wis., for the first 11 circuits as the two started on the front row. Once in front, Leas opened up a commanding lead until Bobby Adamson pulled up from his fourth place starting position and began to challenge.

The two front runners came through the fourth and final turn dead even on the last lap, but Leas got back into shape quicker to make the charge past the checkered flag first with Adamson mere feet behind him.

He had a record time in the match race, winning in 2 minutes and 46.5 seconds, eclipsing the old mark of 2 minutes and 47.4 seconds.

“My car was working real good,” Leas said from victory lane. “I’d like to do this again this Saturday (the series’ finale).”

Jan Opperman won the first heat while Bobby Adamson won the second heat after starting dead last. Dick Sutcliffe was the third heat winner and Jerry Blundy won the consolation.

Jerry Blundy, the “Mr. Steady” of the IMCA sprint car circuit, would win the 50-lap finale on Saturday, February 14, as the Winternational Sprints came to a close.

But just barely…

On the 50th and final lap, Bobby Adamson closed up on Blundy and almost caught him as Johnny Hicks dropped the checkered flag. Adamson winner of the series’ opener and “Mr. Consistent” himself through the five programs, was overall points leader at the end and received his giant trophy as the Winternational Sprints champion.

Blundy a rim rider to the end, ran out of cushion on the piled clay at the top of the track, and it was almost his undoing.

“It was getting awful thin,” he said. “But I could have run faster on the inside. My tires were set up to the run the pole, but my crew kept giving me the signal that I had a big lead.”

And that he did until the final two circuits, when Adamson came out of nowhere to make his charge at the leader.

But Blundy heard Adamson coming and planted his foot down hard on the gas pedal coming down the front stretch to shake off the challenge.

Blundy was presented his trophy by visiting Andy Granatelli, and in repeat of the scene when his own driver, Mario Andretti, won the Indy 500 last May, planted a kiss on the cheek of Blundy much to the delight of the crowd.

Blundy led all but four laps, giving him $460 in lap money plus the $1,000 first prize.

Eddie Leavitt, Bill Cassella, and Ray Lee Goodwin of Kansas City were heat winners. Jerry Richert won the match race and Bobby Allen of Miami won the consolation.

Sunday afternoon’s crowd was 8,900, by far the largest closing crowd ever in Florida State Fair history. For the five days of racing, in spite of two cold days, attendance hit 32,070, one of the largest draws ever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

1969 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., who first withdrew his car from the opening day of the Winternational Sprints, cooled his temper later, re-entered the races, and ran away with the 30-lap feature before 3,800 fans on February 5.

Richert almost missed the show in a dispute over what type of tire he was using on the rear wheels of his sprinter. When he was told by International Motor Contest Association officials that his tire was illegal, he announced he was withdrawing from competition. Later, he changed to a different tire which officials allowed and he re-entered.

Luckily, he did, because it became “Jerry Richert Day” at the annual Florida State Fair races. He managed to capture the second fastest time in qualifying, placed second in the 5-lap trophy dash, won his heat, and then copped top honors in the main event.

Finishing second behind Richert in the feature was Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn., and third was Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio.

Dick Gaines of Mitchell, Ind., was the first heat winner, Richert took the second heat and Harrison scored a victory in the third heat. Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., won the STP trophy dash and Gordon Woolley of Waco, Tex., won the consolation.

All of the events were run on a slippery track and almost all of the races were interrupted at least once to straighten out a spinout machine, but some of the drivers found the outside rim had enough piled clay to give them a cushion to kick off the turns.

Richert, starting in the fifth position in the reversed start, wasted little time in claiming the lead. He was fourth after one lap, third after two laps, second after four laps and rode high in the south turn to go out in front on the sixth circuit. After that, he put it in cruise control while the dogfights ensued behind him.

The “hard-luck” driver of the day was Don Mack of East Grand Forks, Minn., who battled his way from his 12th starting position to place third and was climbing into second place when his machine died.

“I blew a couple of spark plugs right out of the engine,” Mack said afterwards. “The engine’s gone now. It’s the second one this week. I blew the other won at Macon (Ga.).”

Russ Laursen of Cumberland, Wis., who “Never had any luck here,” won the 30-lap feature on Saturday, February 8. The 9,230 in attendance saw plenty of action on a good, tacky track but all of it was behind the polesitter Laursen.

Laursen was never in trouble in the 15-mile main event, running away at the start and hiding from the field, maintaining a quarter lap lead throughout the contest. He finished the race in 13 minutes and 54.15 seconds,

“I’ve been here twice before and never had any luck. I have my own car now and it’s a much better machine. It’s Red Amick’s old car he drove on the USAC trail.”

Bobby Adamson of Coraopolis, Penn., who crashed in the series opener, finished second and Dick Gaines placed third.

Some real hard charging was done by Darl Harrison and Don Mack. Harrison started in the 15th position and finished fourth and Mack, who blew an engine in the opener, started 10th, and rounded out the top-five finishers.

Heat wins were scored by Ralph Parkinson of Wichita Falls, Tex., Chuck Lynch of Springfield, Ill., and Don Nordhorn of Wadesville, Ind. Gordon Woolley won the match race and Jerry Blundy was tops in the consolation.

Darl Harrison would win one of the closest features in recent Winternational Sprints history when he scored the 30-lap victory on Sunday, February 9, before 7,590 chilled fans.

Harrison had learned enough about the narrow-grooved half-mile dirt track to out-fox the fox himself, Jerry Richert. At the finish, Richert finished third, after being passed on the four laps from the end of the race by Don Mack.

A battle developed between Harrison and Richert about midway through the main event and the two traded the lead multiple times with Harrison leading down the front chute and Richert taking charge on the backstretch.

On the 24th circuit, Harrison slipped under Richert on the inside of the south turn and came out too far ahead in the second turn for the Minnesota speedster to catch him. From that point on, Harrison pulled away and left the battle to Richert and the oncoming Mack. Mack got by Richert on lap 26 to take second. It was a magnificent run by Mack, who had started 12th.

Harrison found the track exactly to his liking, damp, loose and with a good cushion of clay at the rim.

“It looked best up there,” he said of his ride. “But it was pretty rough. I worried about the car holding together.”

Mack, Ron Perkins of Bethalto, Ill., and Dick Gaines were heat winners. Bob Kinser of Bloomington, Ind., won the match race and Richert was victorious in the consolation.

Don Mack would nearly clean house when the fourth leg of the Winternational Sprints took place on Wednesday, February 12. He not only won the 30-lap feature but also scored a victory in the consolation and placed second in the match race for the six fastest cars. It took a bit of doing in all three events.

Mack, who twice charged from back in 12th and 13th starting positions to place second, had to opportunity to start near the front of the field, with the fourth fastest qualifying run in time trials.

Mack would get a little bent up during a tangle with Russ Laursen in the second heat, bending his nerf bar. Problem was, he didn’t know it and ruined two tires before he discovered the problem.

“I was down to my last tire,” Mack said, grinning to well-wishers surrounding him In victory lane.

Mack said he had issues getting bite on the cushion like he had in time trials and was forced to go low on the track. But he was holding well in the turns and came up to pass up early race leader Dick Gaines on lap 8. He built up a good lead, only to have it wiped out when Ray Tilley spun, bringing out the yellow flag.

On the restart, however, Mack lit out again and was safely in front for the rest of the race. Darl Harrison, Sunday’s winner, would finish second followed by Bobby Adamson. The 30 laps were clocked in 19 minutes and 17.36 seconds because of three caution flags.

Bob Kinser was fastest in time trials, with a quick lap of 26.163 seconds. Adamson, Jay Woodside of Kansas City, and Steve Ungar of Garrettsville, Ohio, picked up heat wins. Bill Utz of Sedalia, Mo., won the 5-lap trophy dash while Mack took the consolation win over Ralph Quarterson.

In the Florida State Championship race, a little bit of a dogfight ensued between Jimmy Riddle and Bill Roynon, both of Tampa. Roynon, driving on the outside groove, tried to pinch Riddle, who was diving under him, and Riddle drove up and over Roynon’s left front tire and into the lead. Roynon was slowed and Wayne Reutimann of Zephyrhills slipped by to take second while Roynon settled for third.

Bobby Adamson’s gamble that a heavy, wet track would become slick before 50 laps were over, paid off in a victory in the finale of the Winternational Sprints on Sunday, February 16.

The Coraopolis, Penn., pilot drove up through the pack from his seventh starting position and took over when the lead car spun out and went on to finish ahead of Don Mack and Jerry Richert.

The Florida State Fair held a special charm for Adamson, who had won five IMCA-sanctioned races in his career, with three of them at Tampa. He copped two feature wins at last year’s event but saved his best win for Sunday to take home the $1,000 first prize.

“It was rough out there,” Adamson said, standing next to his steaming sprint car in the middle of the front straightaway. “Everyone who finished earned what they got.”

He explained that his crew geared his car to run good at the end of the race. “We figured it would get slick at the end, so we went with a higher gear.”

It was a tough day for Bill Utz, who started on the pole and took the lead on the first lap. He rode in front for 25 circuits until he spun in the north turn and dropped from the race. Adamson inherited the lead on the restart and pulled away from the field, winning by several car lengths.

Ted Wise of Burgettstown, Penn., won the first heat while Jay Woodside claimed the second heat. Hank Smith of Mt. Ayr, Iowa, had some luck, getting a position in the third heat when Jerry Richert failed to have his car ready and going on to win in front of Al Murie of Kansas City. Bob Kinser won the consolation race over Richert.

Darl Harrison claimed the points title for the five-race Winternational Sprints for 1969.

Monday, February 21, 2022

1968 Winternational Sprints


Tampa, Fla. – The five-event IMCA Winter National Sprints in February of 1968 would prove to be a two-man show as Bobby Adamson of Coraopolis, Penn., and Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., would split a pair of features at the Florida State Fairgrounds’ half-mile with Adamson, in his first trip down south, winning the overall title.

Richert, a three-time IMCA national sprint car champion, would win the series’ opener on Wednesday, February 7, winning the 30-lap feature and collecting $600 on a dusty afternoon at the Fairgrounds.

A gamble on the last restart proved to be the difference for Richert. The gamble was Richert could take the high road and fortunately there was just enough weight to the dirt to give him the acceleration to power his Frank Wagner Chevy past Jerry “Haircut” Lepinski of St. Paul, Minn.

Lepinski, the fastest qualifier at 27.86 seconds on the half-mile, settled for second while Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., took third. Ralph Parkinson Sr. of Wichita Falls, Tex., and Gus Linder of Pittsburgh would round out the top five.

Happy about the win, but not too pleased with track conditions, Richert said after his victory that he would, “sure like to see them let us use knobs so we could show the fans the way the races use to be”.

Heat winners were Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn., Earl Halquist of Sidney, N.Y., and Barry Kettering of St. Paul, Minn. Wayne Reutimann of Zephyr Hills, Fla., would win the consolation.

Richert would find the track to his liking again three days later, February 10, as he scored his second straight IMCA sprint car win. With a little better racing surface, Richert was winding the half-mile so tightly that he actually turned in times three seconds faster than the quickest laps turned in previous time trials.

At the end of the 30-lap event, Richert had a straightaway advantage over second-place car Gus Linder, the Pittsburgh flash, who had worked his way from his seventh starting position. Pole-sitter Jerry Lepinski took third followed by Bobby Adamson and Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio.

Richert started on the inside of the second row and quickly drifted to top of the track, where he turned loose every horse in his engine. He was in front, going down the backstretch and after that it was just a case of who was going to finish second.

There would be a close call when a caution flag would come out on lap 17, costing Richert his quarter-lap lead. Starter Johnny Hicks, thinking the track was clear, waved the green and the field charged towards the first turn, only to find two tow trucks still parked there. Richert narrowly avoided the trucks and when coming back down the homestretch, shook an accusing finger at Hicks for almost costing him the race.

Richert, Karl Busson of Toledo, Ohio, and Don Nordhorn of Mitchell, Ind., were heat winners Earl Halquist of Sidney, N.Y., won the consolation.

Bobby Adamson, who brought a great set of credentials with him on his first trip to Tampa, had a little “Lady Luck” to win the 30-lap feature on Sunday afternoon, February 11.

Adamson took the checkered with Jerry Richert charging at his tailpipes, and Ray Tilley right behind him.

Time trials turned everything topsy turvy, putting some of the favorites out of contention early. The fastest single lap was recorded by Richert at 27.22 seconds with Bill Roynon of Tampa second fastest at 27.24 seconds.

Roynon would take the lead at the start of the feature and once he was settled in, took the middle of a very narrow groove on the track. Richert would attempt to pass Roynon on the straights but was never able to get the nose of his car more than even with the rear tire of Roynon’s. As Roynon was receiving starter Johnny Hick’s cross flags signaling the halfway point of the race, the crankshaft on Roynon’s car broke.

As Roynon’s sprinter swerved, he nicked Richert, who swung to the outside on the backstretch and Adamson shot through on the inside to take over the lead. That was the end as far as the race was concerned. The groove was too narrow for anyone to pass on and Adamson cruised to victory.

“It looked to me that Jerry bumped him,” Adamson said, describing the incident afterwards. “Jerry swerved to the outside to avoid hitting Bill and I got past him on the inside. If Jerry had gotten in front right then, I would have never been able to get by him. The groove was just too narrow.”

It was a relatively quiet race day, lacking the flurry of spinouts like the first two days of racing. The quick development of the narrow groove provided little passing. Once the green flag waved and the cars cleared the first turn, they settled in, and the race took the shape of a parade.

Dale Reed of Wichita, Kan., Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., and Al Murie of Kansas City were heat winners while Bill Roynon took the consolation prize.

The only race that Adamson or Richert wouldn’t win would be the fourth event on Wednesday afternoon, February 14. Benny Rapp of Toledo, Ohio, normally right at home on pavement, showed ‘em he could win on dirt as well in winning the 30-lapper and a $600 paycheck.

It would be another dusty and rough afternoon for the drivers as the dry, rough surface would eliminate some of IMCA’s top sprint car stars. 1967 IMCA national champion Karl Busson, Buzz Barton, Wayne Reutimann and Bill Roynon weren’t even fast enough to qualify for the main event.

The 40-year-old Rapp would start on the pole, but it was two-time winner Jerry Richert jumping out to the lead from his outside starting front row position and leading the race for the first 15 laps. A broken drive line would send Richert to the pit area, giving Rapp, who had been choking on Richert’s dust, the top spot. Rapp stayed there without much challenge the rest of the way.

Gus Linder, who had passed more cars in the four meets to date, would finish second followed by Ralph Parkinson Sr, Bobby Black of Middletown, Ohio and Ray Tilley of Clearfield, Penn.

The tricky half-mile proved many a guesser wrong as it started out fast but ended up slow.

A filthy, dirty Rapp complained that he couldn’t see through the clouds of dust in the turns. In fact, the dust throughout the whole program became so bad that the consolation had to be red flagged after one lap and the water wagons would be sent out to re-water the track. The moisture wouldn’t last long, and the race had to be cut from 10 laps to 8.

Bobby Adamson, Darl Harrison of Tiffin, Ohio, and Jay Woodside of Kansas City scored heat wins while Gus Linder won the shortened consolation.

Bobby Adamson would win his second Winter National Sprints feature, the 50-lap finale that saw two drivers go to the local hospital with injuries.

The injured drivers were Ralph Parkinson Sr. and Hank Smith of Mt. Ayr, Iowa, both flipping on the second lap of the main event.

The wipeout of the first two cars in the feature put Jerry Richert in front of the field at the start where he would lead the first four circuits. Gus Linder would pass Richert on lap 5 and lead the next four laps before Adamson, who started in 11th, powered past him for the lead, and was ahead to stay for the remaining 40 laps.

It had been a slow start to the day for Adamson, who turned in poor times in qualifying, so he had to start a little farther back in the field. But his wheels were shod right before the feature, and he was able to blow by cars in what was his own private groove on the topside of a near-perfect track.

Adamson, Richert and Karl Busson grabbed heat wins and Don Nordhorn nabbed the consolation.

Al Sweeney, president of National Speedways, Inc., credited track superintendent Joe Aiken with finding the solution on the last day of racing. Water was applied all night and then three tons of calcium chloride was spread to keep it wet and dust free. Probably something today’s promoter wouldn’t be able to get away with.

Sweeney said total attendance for the five-day meet was 38,592, 105 below 1967’s all-time record attendance, but Sweeney mentioned that it was 10 degrees cooler than the previous year.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

1967 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. – Steve Ungar, a balding 39-year-old from Garrettsville, Ohio, turned several firsts into a first in the opening day program of the Winternational Sprints on February 12.

Ungar flipped while attempting his first qualifying run in the early afternoon but came back later to post the fastest time of the day with a lap of 26.77 seconds. Oddly enough, it was the first time behind the wheel of the Long Brothers #55 car he was driving and also his first time competing at the Florida State Fairgrounds’ half-mile.

He started on the pole and led all 30 laps of the main event, with Darl Harrison of Beltsville, Ohio, finishing second, followed by Dick Kelm of Clinton, Penn., Jerry Daniels of St. Paul, Minn., and Bill Puterbaugh of Roxana, Ill.

“I was wondering about even qualifying for the feature,” said a grinning Ungar, still carrying lipstick prints from the speed queen. The car was handling great, I didn’t have any trouble there.”

When he flipped in time trials, he explained that he tried to go too deep into the first turn and the car went into a drift. It was too far gone for him to correct, and he went over three times.

“When I flipped during time trials, that was defintely the driver, not the car,” he laughed.

Not so lucky was Bill Brown of Denville, N.J., who made five rolling, end over end, turns during the consolation. The car was demolished, and Brown was unconscious when lifted from the machine. A spokesman at the area hospital said x-rays showed no broken bones but he was held overnight for observation.

Heat winners during the afternoon were Buzz Barton of Tampa, Jerry Blundy of Galesburg, Ill., and Frank Riddle of Tampa. The unfortunate Brown won the match race and Darl Harrison won the consolation.

Rain had forced two postponements of the International Motor Contest Association season opener for sprint cars, but the weatherman cooperated on Saturday afternoon and a record single-day crowd of 10,658 enjoyed an action-packed day of racing.

Emmitt “Buzz” Barton lost a tire but won a feature race on the second day of the Winternational Sprints, and then played tit-for-tat with Karl Busson on Sunday afternoon, February 12.

It all began with the start of the feature race. Barton, a Tampa native and fan favorite, grabbed an early lead in the 30-lap contest and kept it to the checkered flag. After which, Barton collected a kiss from the speed queen, his trophy, and a protest from second-place finisher Karl Busson of Toledo, Ohio.

Busson’s claimed Barton’s tires didn’t meet IMCA standards, so officials pulled all four off of the Ford-powered sprint car and measured. Sure enough, Barton’s wheel measured over the maximum 10 inches prescribed by IMCA – but only by a fraction.

Since the measurement was close to regulations, officials decided to wait overnight and measure the wheel again on Monday morning. But when they asked Barton for his wheel a second time, the stocky pilot explained it had become, “lost.”

Barton then filed a protest against Busson, claiming his roll bar wasn’t up to snuff. Busson then withdrew his wheel measurement complaint and Barton quickly followed with his withdraw as well. All well that ends well.

It ended up Barton collected $550 for winning the event and laying claim to a new track record for 30 laps of 13 minutes and 36.27 seconds.

Besides Barton’s new 30-lap mark, Bill Puterbaugh set a new 10-lap record of 4 minutes and 23.89 seconds in winning the consolation, to lower the old standard of 4 minutes and 32.23 seconds set by Jerry Richert in 1964.

Other winners were Bruce Walkup of Downey, Calif., in the first heat; Tom Corbin of Carrollton, Mo., in the second heat; Grady Wade if Wichita, Kan., in the third heat, and Dick Kelm in the match race.

Jerry “Scratch” Daniels would ride the narrow groove to win the 30-lap feature during the third leg of the Winternational Sprints on February 15. A somewhat sparse crowd of 5,802 watched the action.

Starting on the pole position with the fastest qualifying time, Daniels jumped to the front at the start and was never in any serious trouble. Only a mental lapse could have beaten him on the one-groove track. Finishing second was Karl Busson and taking third was Bill Puterbaugh.

Daniels, who also won the consolation, said afterwards, “You really had to watch it out there today. One goof up and they would’ve had you.”

Jerry Richert of Forest Lake, Minn., the defending IMCA national sprint car champion, won the first heat but dropped out early in the feature. Gordon Woolley of Waco, Tex., the former one-time champ, won the second heat. Don Hewitt of Troy, Ohio, who slapped his Chevy into the wall on the second lap of his qualifying run, thus breaking his front axle, performed a quick welding job and then outran his competition to win the third heat. Tom Bigelow of Whitewater, Wis., finished first in the 5-lap match race.

Buzz Barton, who had carried the Winternationals’ point lead entering the program, got into a wheel-to-wheel, bumper-to-bumper battle with Gus Linder during the fourth heat that got a little hostile with both driver’s tempers getting heated after they tangled, causing each other to spin out, and eliminating them from the feature. Linder was fined $25 afterwards for aggressive driving by IMCA officials.

Daniels would score his second straight Winternationals victory on Saturday, February 18, but had to withstand the constant challenges of Jerry Poland of Sommerville, Ohio, for the full 50 laps.

It was Poland all over Daniels’ tailpipe as they sped under starter Johnny Hick’s checkered flag with Tom Bigelow a close third. The 25-mile race took 27 minutes and 16.57 seconds, slowed by 14 laps run under caution.

Darl Harrison and Gene Tallman of Clarksburg, W.Va., finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“It was a follow the leader type of track today,” Daniels said as he stood in victory circle. “Just like the last race, as long as you don’t goof up, they can’t get by.”

The first part of the feature was the most colorful as spinning cars brought out the caution three different times. On the second lap, Bill Puterbaugh and Gordon Woolley hooked up in a spin that caused no damage. Two laps later, Puterbaugh and Ralph Blackett of Leonard Wood, Mo., in the same turn and this time Puterbaugh was out with a broke wheel. After two more racing laps, Bobby Adamson of Coraopolis, Penn., lost a rear wheel in the fourth turn and brought out the yellow flag again.

Each time, Daniels was forced to gun hard at the restart to maintain his lead position but did so to perfection.

Jerry Richert won the first heat while Buzz Barton won the second heat and Rollie Beale of Toledo, Ohio, was the third heat winner. The consolation went to Karl Busson.

Saturday’s races gathered a paid crowd of 7,559.

Jerry Richert took the high road and Jerry Daniels took the low row during the 30-lap finale of the Winternational Sprints on Sunday, February 19. The “Minnesota Twins” planned to meet in front of the Plant Field grandstands where each hoped to collect the booty from the final day.

Only Daniels made the scene…

The 27-year-old plumber’s assistant gunned his Wagner Chevy to a new 30-lap track record to capture the feature race, his third straight win, and annex the overall point championship for the five days of competition.

Daniels broke Buzz Barton’s 30-lap record by more than a second. Barton’s record had stood since 1965.

Richert’s bid in the feature to run around the track’s high edge failed and the defending IMCA champion dropped out about midway through the race. His teammate and fellow Minnesota native Daniels stuck with the hard and slick inside groove of the dirt track and stretched his pole position leading to a comfortable winning margin.

After the race, Daniels collected an extra kiss from the speed queen - at his own insistence – and declared he wasn’t the celebrating type.

“I don’t guess I’ll do much celebrating tonight,” the crewcut father of three confided. “You see, I don’t drink.”

Sunday’s heats were won by Richert, Rollie Beale and Harold Leep of Wichita, Kan. Tom Bigelow won the match race and Karl Busson won the 10-lap Jud Larson Memorial race, honoring the former Tampa resident that perished in a crash In July of ’66.

There was another winner at the races as well. Al Sweeney, president of National Speedways, Inc., noted that the crowds that turned out for the ’67 Winternational Sprints as “near record turnouts.”

The 37,012 that witnessed the five days of racing was 1,700 less that the total crowd which saw the races last year. Sweeney blamed the rain that hit the first two days of scheduled racing but called the event “a success all down the line.”