Thursday, February 3, 2022

1949 Winternational Sprints

Tampa, Fla. - A spectacular crash in front of the grandstand at Plant Field, sent two drivers and a policeman to the hospital during the Winternational Sprints opener on Tuesday, February 1. Otherwise, it was business as usual for Tampa ace Frank Luptow as he won the 10-lap feature, beating highly touted star Deb Snyder of Kent, Ohio.

None of the trio figuring in the crash were seriously injured. Most of the crowd of 3,000 were focused on the leaders when cars driven by Red Bowen of Tampa and George Marshman of Collegeville, Penn., piled up in a rolling crash directly in front of the grandstand. A uniformed policeman, M.C. Baudry, was struck by Marshman’s car and knock unconscious. At the hospital, Bowen and Baudry were treated and released while Marshman was held overnight for observation.

Luptow made a clean sweep of racing honors, taking the favored pole position with the fast time of 26.10 seconds. He beat Snyder by six car lengths in the first heat and was about eight car lengths ahead of Cliff Griffin of Indianapolis in the main event.

Snyder dropped out of the feature race with a broken throttle after challenging the popular star for several laps. After Snyder’s exit, there wasn’t a car on the track that could touch Snyder’s powerful Offenhauser. Griffin did mount a bid for the lead on lap 7, but hit a hole in the south turn, sending his car bouncing. By the time he could recover, he lost valuable ground and couldn’t muster another challenge.

Jimmy Mayes of Indianapolis, Al Ketter of Buffalo, N.Y., and Wayne “Speedy” Wynn of Tampa rounded out the top-five finishers.

Al Flemming of Richmond, Va., and Wynn were also heat winners and Flemming also won a special match race with a photo finish victory over Phil Mocca of St. Louis. Marshman won the consolation.

Luptow would follow up his victory in the opener with another win on Saturday, February 5, on a soupy track that slowed the cars to a fast crawl during the 10-lap grind. In spite of the cold, overcast weather, an impressive turnout of 6,000 watched Luptow hand Deb Snyder his second straight defeat. Snyder would settle for second while Jimmy Mayes was third.

Speaking of Mayes, he and Harry King of Detroit proved to be the only excitement of the program with their aviation-motored Rangers. They were the only two cars who could get enough momentum to pass competitors in heat races and the special match race.

The heavy slush of the watery clay surface made for some dangerous driving, prompting promoter Gaylord White to call off the inverted starts in the heat races. With the fastest cars starting at the front, Luptow, Snyder and Bill Larimer of St. Petersburg had no issues winning their respective races easily.

The match race provided the most thrills as King passed both of his rivals on the first lap and went to win. He also copped the consolation.

Only once was Luptow in danger of losing his lead in the feature race. On lap 8, Luptow was forced to swing wide coming out of the north turn and his car lost some headway in the piled-up mud. Snyder came up fast and the two cars almost tangled wheels as they fishtailed down the straightaway, but Luptow recovered while Snyder was forced to brake his car to avoid hitting a slower car.

After that, Luptow widened his margin and finished about eight car lengths ahead at the finish. Luptow toured the 5 miles in 5 minutes and 16.09 seconds.

Deb Snyder would break Luptow’s stranglehold at the Winternational Sprints, by coming back Sunday, February 6, and winning the 10-lap feature race before a crowd of 4,500. The Ohioan’s polished red Offenhauser purred to the win in the fast time of 4 minutes and 53.66 seconds. At the finish, Snyder was about eight car lengths ahead of Cliff Griffin and Luptow.

Snyder also won the second heat race by a wide margin as did Luptow, who put on a terrific show in the first heat. Harry King took the third heat honors, Al Ketter won the match race and Griffin copped the consolation win.

A tangle between Jimmy Mayes and King interrupted the start of the feature when an accelerator rod on Mayes’ car broke, killing the motor, and King’s car ran up on him. Mayes limped to the pit area while King got back in line for the restart.

Snyder got the jump on the green flag and led Luptow into the first turn. He went on to increase his margin at almost every lap and was never threatened until Griffin passed Luptow on the next to last lap. Griffin quickly picked up on Snyder but simply ran out of laps to make a real challenge.

Luptow had run a distant second for most of the race but drifted high in the north turn on the 8th lap, allowing Griffin to slip through.

Snyder would even the score with Luptow with his second feature victory and the fourth and final program of the Winternational Sprints on Saturday, February 12. Another near-capacity crowd of 6,000 watched Snyder grab a decisive lead at the end of the first turn and go on to lengthen his advantage to 10 car lengths at the checkers.

Luptow finished second, about five car lengths ahead of Red Redmond of Atlanta, who barely beat Harry King for third place.

Snyder set a pace of 28.01 seconds per lap in winning the 10-lap race in 4 minutes and 40.11 seconds.

Luptow did beat Snyder in the 3-lap match race while Harry King took two of the three heat races, changing cars in between races. Redmond took the third heat and Cliff Griffin won the consolation.

The real tussle was between Redmond and King for third-place money. Both drivers had some trouble getting by Al Ketter but once they cleared, the battle was on. Redmond exceled in the turns in his brand-new Hal and King didn’t have enough power to get around on the outside with his brand-new Ranger.

Based on points, Luptow was crowned the 1949 Winternational Sprints champion.

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