Tuesday, September 6, 2022

1976 – Sanger wins Seymour ‘Champions of Champions’ 100-lapper

Seymour, Wis. (September 6, 1976) – Ed Sanger did nothing to spoil his reputation as the nation’s premier clay track pilot Sunday night at Paul’s Seymour Speedway, as the Waterloo, Iowa, pilot bested a strong field of local and imported talent in the 100-lap “Champions of Champions” feature event.

Sanger added the $1,500 top to the nearly $50,000 he has already banked this season.

The season’s closing event, viewed by a near capacity crowd, was delayed to an early Monday morning conclusion due in part to a long stoppage for a power failure and season-high seven feature red flags.

Working his way to the front from his third row starting position, Sanger claimed the top spot when race leader John Schultz of Shawano, was caught in the pit area following a yellow flag at the 52-lap mark.

Sanger’s most harrowing moment for the remaining 48 revolutions came five laps from the checkered. With the lapped Schultz directly on his rear bumper, Sanger slipped high in the west turn and tapped the retaining wall.

Keeping his foot on the pedal, Sanger avoided further contact with the railing as did Schultz. However, the second and third-place cars of fellow Hawkeye drivers Bill Beckman of Lisbon, Iowa, and Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa, crashed into the barrier at a high rate of speed. Both cars tumbled back down the banking in unison to complete a highly unusual double roll.

The crash triggered the race’s final caution flag as Beckman’s 1977 Nova did a snap roll back onto its wheels, but Niffenegger’s Camaro went over one and one-half times and landed on its roof. Neither driver was injured.

Beckman was towed back to the pit area where his crew replaced both left side tires and the Lisbon jockey was ready to go racing. Niffenegger was quite as fortunate as the Vince Fiala-owned machine was damaged beyond repair with entire left side demolished.

After the race’s completion, Sanger revealed that the racing groove from the backstretch into turn three was coated with water and caused the multi-car crash.

“I saw the water in time to hit the brakes before I went into turn three but Beckman and Niffenegger didn’t have time because they were running so close together,” he noted. “I knew I was going to hit the wall, so I just hit the gas as soon as I did.”

His preparation paid off handsomely with a fat paycheck and a straight race car.

Sanger easily outdistanced Beckman in the final five circuits to net his 41st victory of the season.

Shawano’s M.J. McBride came from his 15th starting position to finish third with Schultz, Al Presteen of Freedom and rookie late model driver Dave Bruggink of Sheboygan rounding out the top six finishers. Niffenegger was credited with the tenth spot.

Track champion and defending “Champions of Champions” winner Roger Regeth of Kimberly paced the 26-car field for the first 45 laps before snapping a shock absorber and spinning in the first turn.

Altoona’s Tom Steuding broke his own track record in qualifying when he turned the track’s first sub-25-second lap with a time of 24.947 seconds.

Results –

1. Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
2. Bill Beckman, Lisbon, Iowa
3. M.J. McBride, Shawano
4. John Schultz, Shawano
5. Al Presteen, Freedom
6. Dave Bruggink, Sheboygan
7. Pete Parker, Kaukauna
8. Wayne Reffers, Green Bay
9. Dennis Dietzen, Darby
10.Mike Niffenegger, Kalona, Iowa

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