Friday, October 28, 2022

The National Dirt Track Championships

Lem Blankenship (18) makes his way through the field, enroute to winning the 1969 National Dirt Track Championship. Red Droste (31) and Roger Dolan (51) make every attempt to impede his path to victory. 

By Kyle Ealy

Davenport, Iowa – From 1969 to 1977, the National Dirt Track Championships was considered one of the biggest late model stock car contests in the area. Sanctioned by the Mid-Continent Racing Association and held annually during the chilly months of September and October, the contest was noted for being one of the final stops of the Midwest racing season.

The rich-paying program attracted drivers from Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in search of that one last payday before putting the equipment away for the winter months. Any money collected would be well-earned; drivers battled on the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds’ big half-mile; it would be the final test of man and machine.

The first such contest would be held on Sunday afternoon, October 5, 1969. Thirty cars lined up for the 50-mile grind and it would turn out to be a competitive feature with an exciting finish.

Don Bohlander of Glasford, Ill., held the top spot throughout most of the feature and it appeared that an easy payday awaited him, but on the 97th tour, Bohlander’s car suddenly pushed high on to the track, going over the edge and allowing Lem Blankenship to slip past him into the lead. Blankenship would comfortably lead the final two laps and take the victory.

An overheated rear wheel bearing on Bohlander’s car was the reason for his unscheduled exit from the track.

Lem Blankenship receives his trophy from promoter Homer Melton (left) after winning the inaugural National Dirt Track Championship. Joining them is Verne Melton. 

While Bohlander had spent much of his afternoon out in front, Blankenship had to work for his dinner. The Keokuk, Iowa youngster started 23rd in the 28-car field and on a dry, slick racing surface, methodically made his way to the front to put himself in position to win. It paid off…

John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa would claim runner-up honors, Dean Montgomery of Milan, Ill., would take third, Karl Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa earned fourth and Jim Gerber of Mt. Joy, Iowa rounded out the top five.

Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa would set fast time on the day with a time of 26.35 seconds. Heat races were won by Jim Havill, Herb Shannon, Bob Helm, and Roger Dolan. Ernie Speth won the 20-lap consolation and Bohlander would win a special 10-car, 25-lap Race of Champions, which included Curt Hansen, Ed Sanger, Roger Dolan, Joe Schaefer, Ron Weedon, Bill McDonough, John Connolly, Paul Fitzpatrick, and Jim Havill.

Ernie Derr receives congratulations and a large trophy from Bob Erickson of Erickson Chevrolet after winning the 1970 National Dirt Track Championship. Flagman Gus Henrichs joins them in victory lane. - Roger Meier Photo

The second annual event, held on Saturday, October 17, 1970, would prove to have a similar outcome to the first, with a long-time leader giving up the top spot and victory to someone from Keokuk, Iowa.

Bill Beckman of Lisbon, Iowa, set fast time (27.02 seconds), started on the pole and was off to the races at the start. Comfortably lead through most of the feature, it appeared that the young hot shoe would be collecting a big check, a tall trophy, and a kiss in victory lane.

But as history has always told us, if Ernie Derr of Keokuk, Iowa is entered in the race, it’s over when Ernie Derr says it’s over. With 30 laps left, the Ol’ Fox started his move to the front and with 20 circuits to go, he was all over Beckman’s rear bumper. On lap 88, Derr maneuvered his hemi-powered Dodge past a helpless Beckman and ran untouched the remaining 12 laps to victory lane.

A disappointed Beckman settled for second while Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa took third, Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa fourth and Dean Montgomery grabbed fifth.

Bob Helm of Rochester, Iowa, won the trophy dash, Ray Guss, Mel Morris, Helm and Beckman were heat winners and John Connolly won the consolation. Ernie Derr easily won the Race of Champions, which also included Darrell Dake, Dean Montgomery, Don Bohlander, Beckman, Jim Gerber, Mel Morris, Stan Stover of Reinbeck, Iowa, Larry Fabris of Sycamore, Ill. and Tom Hughes of Monticello, Iowa.

Despite protests, Ernie Derr would successfully defend his title in the 1971 race. He's joined in victory lane by promoter Homer Melton (left) and flagman Johnny Beauchamp (right). - Roger Meier Photo

Derr would defend his National Dirt Track Championship title the next year but in a race that would be disputed. On Saturday, October 1, 1971, Derr would head to victory lane again at the end of the 100-lap championship race but not without some discrepancy.

The feature started out with Dean Montgomery leading the race for the first 42 circuits. Waterloo, Iowa’s Ed Sanger muscled past Montgomery on the following lap and led all the way until the 91st lap when a pile up in turns three and four brought out the yellow flag….and that is where the controversy started.

Sanger, in trying to avoid the messy situation, brought his car to a complete stop as did Verlin Eaker and Fred Horn, who were running in second and third at the time. Ernie Derr, who was running fourth, swerved around all three drivers and assumed the front position. Despite pleas from Sanger, Eaker, Horn that Derr had passed all of them after the yellow flag was waved, track officials gave Derr the front spot when the race was restarted. The officials in charge based their reasoning on a pre-race meeting stating that the race would not be stopped for any reason.

Derr would lead the last 9 laps of the race and was awarded the win by promoter Homer Melton despite the post-race protests of several drivers and the angry mob of fans that had converged on them after the feature. Sanger was so irate after the race, he was asked, then told to leave the fairgrounds by Melton and his officials.

Sanger, Eaker, Horn and John Connolly were scored as the rest of the top five finishers behind Derr in the race. Bob Current, Larry Fabris, Jerry Reeder of Peoria, Ill., and Eaker scored heat race wins and Fabris won the consolation. Montgomery was fast qualifier on the day.

Sixty-nine of the best late model stock cars checked in for the 4th annual National Dirt Track Championships on September 23, 1972. There was no controversy this time out, just total domination. Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, driving a Dale Snyder prepared Chevy Nova, started on the outside of the front row, and put on a masterful performance as he led all 50 laps (the race had been cut in half) to score top honors and cash in on the $1,000 payday. Fred Horn of Marion, Iowa finished second, nearly a half lap behind Eaker. Steve Lance of Peoria, Ill., would finish third followed by Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., and Bill McDonough of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Joe Schaefer of Waterloo, Iowa, Ed Sanger, Pokey West of West Chester, Iowa and Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa took heat wins, which was quite the accomplishment itself, considering each heat had anywhere from 16 to 18 cars racing (a feature in itself). In the 20-lap consolation, Sanger would have the most impressive run of all, passing an amazing 25 cars to score the victory. Larry Fabris was fast qualifier on the day with a time of 26.69 seconds around the massive half-mile.

The 1973 National Dirt Track Championships seemed like it would never get off the ground. Originally scheduled for September 21, it got rained out and postponed until the following week, September 28. Mother Nature was not kind that weekend either and it was again postponed.

The third time was the charm and despite chilly, wet weather, the event finally took place on Friday night, October 5, with Curt Hansen of Dike capturing one of the biggest wins of his career to date.

“It was my first big win in racing,” Hansen recalled. “The car I drove that year was called the “Chevorino,” because in the middle of the season Ford dropped out of racing so I converted my Ford Torino into a Chevy by putting a Chevelle body and a 454-cubic inch Chevrolet engine in my Torino. I finished out the season with that setup which was immediately banned the next season. That car was extremely strong and easy to drive. Our Ford chassis and Chevy power was a good combination for us.”

Hansen had to fend off the both of the Sanger boys, Ed, and Karl, to capture the 50-lap main event and collect the $1,000 payday. John Connolly finished fourth and Bill McDonough was fifth.

Gary Oliver of Moline, Ill., Jim Burbridge of Delhi, Bob Stogdell of Silvis, Ill., and Bill McDonough were heat winners and Burbridge also won the consolation.

Ray Guss would win the Kentucky Fried Chicken-sponsored National Dirt Track Championships in 1974. Promoter Homer Melton (far left) and flagman Chris Christensen (second from right) are joined by KFC dignitaries in the winner's circle. - Bernie Tappa Photo 

After years of seeing an Iowan in victory lane, a driver from the Land of Lincoln would finally grace victory lane in the National Dirt Track Championships. Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., would win the 50-lap championship feature on September 27, 1974. Guss, driving a car owned by fellow competitor Ronnie Weedon, set fast time of 26.82 seconds, and then starting from the fourth starting position, grabbed the lead early and went untouched from there to collect a $1,200 check.

A photo finish as the checkers waved between Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa and Curt Hansen resulted in second place money being split evenly between the two hot shoes with Ed Sanger taking fourth and Ernie Derr rounding out the top five.

Kentucky Fried Chicken, the sponsors of the event, paid out $100 to heat winners Mike McGrew, Mike Bardoel, Jerry Wollen and Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa. The semi-main was won by Russ Hughes of Monticello, Iowa.

The Illinois stronghold on the title would last only one year as Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, would grab the win on September 26, 1975. The sixth annual event would see the long-time racing veteran win a beautiful trophy and a check for $1,000 for the hard-fought 50-lap victory.

Dake, who started on the outside of the second row, quickly move up to the second spot behind leader Curt Hansen. Hansen’s title hopes went out of the window when the rear end of his car broke down on lap 14, giving Dake the opportunity to snatch the top spot. Dake, despite multiple caution flags and a late challenge from Roger Dolan, held on for the win.

Dolan had no challengers in taking runner-up honors, while Joe Merryfield of Des Moines, Bill McArdle of Shullsburg, Wis., and Bill Zwanziger of Waterloo, Iowa rounded out the top five finishers.

Hansen would break the track record in qualifying with a time of 25.78 seconds while Em Fretheim of Decorah, Iowa, McArdle, Don Hoffman of Des Moines, and defending champion Ray Guss collected heat wins. Dick Schiltz of Waterloo, Iowa would win the 20-lap consolation.

Don Hoffman can't help but smile after winning the 1976 National Dirt Track Championships. Homer Melton presents the checkers. - B.E. Tappa Photo

Don Hoffman would win the 7th annual National Dirt Track Championships on October 1, 1976, that saw the Des Moines driver battle Joe Merryfield, also of Des Moines, early on and then fight off Duane Steffe at the end to secure the top prize.

Hoffman would start on the pole by virtue of setting fast time in qualifying, pacing the half-mile in 26.02 seconds. A 28-car field would take the green with Hoffman shooting out to the lead and for the first half of the 50-lap feature, leading comfortably.

Merryfield, who started on the fourth row, methodically moved up through the pack and with 20 laps left, was knocking on Hoffman’s door. Merryfield gave Hoffman everything he had and a little more but couldn’t make the pass. Merryfield made one last effort to squeeze past Hoffman, but spun slightly and was unable to recover, losing several positions.

Duane Steffe of Moline, Ill., would pick up where Merryfield left off and give chase. Steffe hung to Hoffman’s bumper for the last few laps but was unable to get by.

Hoffman hung on for the victory and the $1,000 check. Steffe would have to settle for second while Ronnie Weedon took third. Roger Dolan outlasted Tom Stueding of Altoona, Wis., for the fourth spot.

Gail Brenner, Jim Livingston, Weedon and Mike Niffenegger won heat races and Gary Crawford of Independence, Iowa was victorious in the semi-main over Brenner.

On Saturday night, October 15, 1977, at the close of the two-day National Dirt Track Championships, Don Hoffman of Des Moines would successfully defend his title, taking the checkered flag in the feature event, which had one of the most spectacular finishes witnessed at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in many years.

Bill Rice, also of Des Moines, fought Hoffman nearly even through the final 10 laps. Meanwhile, Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, was hot on their heels and John Simenec, the Rock Island, Ill., firefighter, followed them closely behind.

Coming out of the fourth turn on the last lap, Rice and Dolan got tangled up and both momentarily spun out, giving rookie driver Simenec his chance to go across the finish line in second place, only a couple of feet behind Hoffman.

Rice's car came to a stop sideways on the track just across the finish line and then was hit twice broadside by trailing cars. Fortunately, he got out of the mishap unhurt, although his racer was severely damaged.

Tom Hearst of Wilton was in contention for the checkered flag until he spun on lap 35. He was never able to recover after that.

Less than 2,000 fans, all wearing heavy coats in order to combat the near-freezing temperatures, were in attendance.

Curt Hansen of Dike, Iowa, set fast time at the 1969 National Dirt Track Championships. 

Don Bohlander (57) led for most of the 1969 National Dirt Track Championships but dropped out with only three laps to go. He's shown here putting Herb Shannon (50) a lap down. 

Ernie Speth of Davenport won the consolation at the 1969 National Dirt Track Championships, giving him a starting spot in the main event. 

Bill Beckman of Lisbon, Iowa, set fast time at the 1970 National Dirt Track Championships and led for most of the race. He's shown here accepting his fast time trophy from Bob Bartel, owner of Cordova (Ill.) Dragway. - Roger Meier Photo

Ron Weedon accepts congratulations from KWNT radio announcer Phil Roberts after winning a heat race during the 1976 National Dirt Track Championships. - B.E. Tappa Photo

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

1953 – Vito Calia Winner of Big Car Event

Kansas City’s Vito Calia, driving Tom Randol’s Offenhauser, won the IMCA big car season finale at Shreveport.

Shreveport, La. (October 25, 1953) - Vito Calia, a 42-year-old Italian driving star from Kansas City, served notice on the rest of the International Motor Contest Association big car field that he’ll be someone to watch for the 1954 season by capturing the final race of the season at the Louisiana State Fair on Sunday.

Vito Calia, who was born in Turin, Italy, but has done his racing in midgets car events in the Kansas City area for the past few years, drove a flawless 20 laps in the main event, setting a new track record in the process.

Calia took the lead from Saturday’s winner, Bobby Grim of Indianapolis, at the start and was never headed. His time of 8 minutes and 37.06 seconds for the 10-mile distance as nearly half a minute faster than the previous mark.

A near-capacity crowd of 6,100 fans saw Grim finish second in two events. This was a reversal of form from his efforts of the previous day when he won three events and set two records.

For Calia, who finished second on Saturday, it was his second feature win of the season. He powered his Randol Offenhauser to victory two weeks ago at the Alabama State Fair in Birmingham. Until six weeks ago, he had never driven a big car. The form which enabled him to capture six midget driving crowns in the tough Kansas City circuit has finally shone through.

Grim’s runner-up finish in the Bardahl Offenhauser kept him from overtaking Bob Slater of Redfield, Kan., in the race for the National Speedways point championship. Slater, whose own Offenhauser was out of action for the second day with valve trouble, protected his margin by taking over Jimmy Campbell’s car for the feature race and finishing fifth, good for 100 points.

Campbell, the flying farmer from Bates City, Mo., turned his Offy over to Slater after he had safeguarded third place in the season’s rankings with a victory in the second heat and match race. Campbell won the National Speedways point battle last year.

Calia edged out another former midget ace, Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., in the opening heat race. Then, Campbell topped Wayne Selzer of Omaha in the second heat. Herschel Wagner of Hickman Hills, Mo., outlasted Grim in the third heat with Campbell whipping Branson and Calia in the 3-lap trophy dash.

The Australian Pursuit saw 24-year-old Don Hutchinson of Kansas City getting his first big car victory of his career, squeezing past Fritz Tegtmeier of Elgin, Ill., in the 10-lap race.

Branson wound up third in the feature with Selzer taking fourth. The Omaha speedster got into the lineup at the last minute, after completing repairs on a broken radius rod. He started in the 14th position but aggressively moved up through the field to finish ahead of Slater.

Results –

Heat #1 – Vito Calia, Kansas City
Heat #2 – Jimmy Campbell, Bates City, Mo.
Heat #3 - Herschel Wagner, Hickman Hills, Mo.
Trophy dash – Don Branson, Champaign, Ill.
Australian Pursuit – Don Hutchinson, Kansas City
Feature –
1. Vito Calia
2. Bobby Grim, Indianapolis
3. Don Branson
4. Wayne Selzer
5. Bob Slater, Redfield, Kan.
6. Don Hutchinson
7. Andy Anderson, Hastings, Neb.
8. Herschel Wagner
9. Ed Loetscher, St. Louis
10.Fritz Tegtmeier, Elgin, Ill.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

1967 – Derr Outduels Stott in State Fair Race

Starter Russ Brown waves the checkers for Ernie Derr in the 100-lap IMCA stock car race at Shreveport. 

Shreveport, La. (October 22, 1967) – Ernie Derr, a man who cut his teeth on piston rings, continued his bid for an unprecedented eighth International Motor Contest Association stock car championship by nosing out Ramo Stott in the 100-lap feature at the Louisiana State Fair on Sunday afternoon.

Derr, of Keokuk, Iowa, the only leader through the first half of the main event, relinquished the top spot to Stott when he spun out on lap 51.

But Derr commandeered the lead once again when only two and a half miles remained in the endurance test.

It was strictly Derr and Stott all the way as the other 20 competitors resembled a circus carousel - going round and round but never showing any forward gain.

Virtually assured of his eighth stock car crown, Derr only needs a mild showing next weekend in the final two State Fair programs. Derr’s seven national championships have him tied with the immortal Gus Schrader, who also won seven titles in the sprint car division.

Stott, of the famed Keokuk Komets, and Saturday’s feature winner, battled Derr down to the wire before losing by six car lengths. Ernie was powering a 1967 Dodge Charger and Stott a ’67 Plymouth.

Five laps back, Butch Hall of Russell, Minn., outdueled Ralph Dyer of Shreveport for third place honors. Dyer came out retirement for the classic and was wheeling Derr’s backup car.

Tony Barcelona of Houston, Tex., finished fifth followed by Dick Johnson of St. Paul, Minn.

Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., fourth in the national standings, blew his engine in prelims and piloted Stott’s backup Plymouth in the 100-lapper. He would finish 16th.

The race, which was slowed by two yellow flags, found Derr out front at the start. He won the pole position with a time of 24.74 seconds in the one-lap qualifying runs.

A spinout on lap 51 by Der gave Stott his big break of the day. He had loomed behind Derr several car lengths throughout the first half of the 50-miler.

Ramo stayed in the lead for 39 circuits before Derr, who was steadily closing the gap created by his miscue, regained leadership. Derr was riding Ramo’s bumper the final three miles, and on the 91st lap, Ramo skidded high in the curve, giving the champ the break he needed.

Results –

1. Ernie Derr
2. Ramo Stott
3. Butch Hall
4. Ralph Dyer
5. Tony Barcelona
6. Dick Johnson
7. Vic Elson
8. Leon Bowman
9. Ole Brua
10.Bob Foster
11.Lewis Taylor
12.Karl Stouffer
13.Joe Melichar
14.Paul Feldner
15.George England
16.Lenny Funk
17.Tom Roller
18.John Ziehm
19.Chuck Arnold
20.Dale Keeling
21.Willie Crane
22.Royce Whitlock

Friday, October 21, 2022

1979 – Martin Runs Off With World Cup

Mark Martin, the young phenom from Batesville, Ark., won the prestigious World Cup at I-70 Speedway. Joining Martin in victory lane is “Little Miss Missouri” Rylina Danley. – Al Steinberg Photo

Odessa, Mo. (October 21, 1979) – Jockey-sized Mark Martin stood out larger than a grain elevator in a small Kansas town when he drove to a convincing victory Sunday afternoon in the fourth annual World Cup 400 stock car race at I-70 Speedway.

Martin, a 20-year-old who tips the scales at 120 pounds, outdrove and outlasted man-sized Bob Senneker and Mike Eddy in winning for the third time on the American Speed Association Circuit of Champions tour.

On a unseasonably hot and windy afternoon, Senneker and Eddy complained of fatigue, while Martin enjoyed the luxury of having cooling champagne poured over his head.

The race appeared to be close, with Martin and Senneker dueling almost bumper-to-bumper the final 20 laps before Martin finally earned the checkered flag by three car lengths.

It turned out, though, that Martin was on a Sunday afternoon drive because Senneker was held in the pits for one lap for passing a car the lead car (Martin) on a caution lap, and then penalized one lap for running a stop sign while leaving the pits.

Martin finished all 400 laps to 399 for Senneker and Eddy.

“The car was working, we had the speed, I felt it was working,” Martin said. “The race was fast, but I expected it to be fast.”

Martin started on the pole because he set a new I-70 record of 16.83 seconds in time trials. But, Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., the ’78 World Cup winner, shot into the lead and held it for the first 53 laps.

Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill., then led for 46 laps before Martin surged in front for the first time.

Don Gregory of Columbus, Ohio, was in front while many drivers pitted for fuel and tires, then Shear took over again for laps 177 to 210.

Trickle, the favorite of the crowd of 5,447, got in front again, but blew a water gasket.

“It was a 5-cent water pump housing gasket,” said Trickle of the problem.

Eddy, a two-time ASA champion, was in front on lap 216 and divided first place until the 343rd lap, when Martin took it home from there.

Martin collected $8,000 of the $50,000 purse, while Senneker took home $4,000 for his runner-up effort. Eddy won $3,500 for his third-place finish.

Shear was fourth followed by veteran Ray Young of Dolton, Ill.

This was the first World Cup 400 not won by a Wisconsin driver. Tom Reffner of Rudolph and Larry Detjens of Wausau won the first two.

Results –

1. Mark Martin
2. Bob Senneker
3. Mike Eddy
4. Joe Shear
5. Ray Young
6. Bob Sensiba
7. Dave Roahrig
8. Don Gregory
9. Buddy Cole
10.Ray Barnard
11.Wayne Woody
12.Lonnie Breedlove
13.Dave Jensen
14.Don Ely
15.Greg Webb
16.Johnny McPartlin
17.Bob Strait
18.Randy Sweet
19.Donnie Cooper
20.Roger Anhalt
21.Harold Scott
22.Ed Hoffman
23.Rick Knotts
24.John Martin

Thursday, October 20, 2022

1974 – Wild finish leaves Sceva #1; Ruttman suspended

Neal Sceva (51) and Joe Ruttman (44) duel in the closing laps of the Midwest 300. Sceva would take the win while Ruttman got suspended for rough driving. - Wayne Doebling Collection

Salem, Ind. (October 20, 1974) – There probably hasn’t been a race on Salem’s high-banked, half-mile track to equal Sunday’s Midwest 300 since the early 1950’s when 1952 Indianapolis 500 Troy Ruttman was the perennial Salem kingpin.

Ironically, Troy’s younger brother, Joe Ruttman of Dearborn, Mich., was very much involved in Sunday’s spectacular action. But he was not a popular figure by any means.

Ruttman, in fact, was dropped from first place to eight place by American Speed Association officials who ruled that he merited a five-lap penalty for his conduct in the bizarre climax of the championship feature, which was the last of the three 100-lap races.

Ruttman was also suspended from ASA competition for one year, and the ruling cost him $1,100 in prize money. Neal Sceva of Urbana, Ohio, got the victory and the $1,565 first place prize money.

This is what happened in the final 100-lap leg, which had the crowd of 3,518 in an uproar.

Ruttman took the early lead but dueled with defending race champion John Anderson of Detroit, who passed him on the 17th lap, then relinquished the lead back to Ruttman on lap 47.

When a blown tire took Anderson out of the chase 13 laps later, Ruttman settled into a comfortable lead over Dave Sorg. But Sceva, who had been fifth most of the way, began to mount a furious charge that swept him past Sorg and into second place on lap 74.

However, he was still one-third of a lap behind Ruttman.

Somehow, Sceva made up the formidable margin over the final 25 circuits. With two laps to go, he drew even with Ruttman and was about to complete a passing maneuver when Ruttman swerved over and blocked him.

Fenders bumping, the two drivers sped into the second turn on the final lap and Sceva began to pass Ruttman once again. Again, Ruttman blocked him.

Sparks flew as the cars, now side-by-side, bounced off of each other. Then on the straightaway heading for the checkered flag, they collided, spun, and crashed into the inner guardrail.

With parts flying off, the pair crossed the finish line - one sideways, one backwards – Ruttman first, Sceva second.

Ruttman was declared guilty of “driving in an unsportsmanlike manner.”

“That’s an understatement,” a track official remarked.

Results –

1. Neil Sceva, Urbana, Ohio
2. Carl Smith, West Jefferson, Ohio
3. Dave Dayton, Indianapolis
4. Gene Christie, Gaston, Ind.
5. Neal Neds, Columbus, Ohio
6. Larry Moore, Dayton, Ohio
7. A. Arnold, Brooks, Ky.
8. Joe Ruttman, Dearborn, Mich.
9. Jerry Norris, Louisville
10.Ray Fullen, Anderson, Ind.
11.Leonard Blanchard, Louisville
12.LaMarr Marshall, Louisville
13.Bobby Jacks, Dayton, Ohio
14.Ellis Herbert, Rushville, Ind.
15.Darrell Basham, Clarksville, Ind.
16.Andy Vertrees, Louisville
17.Dave Sorg, Fort Wayne, Ind.
18.Denny Miles, Muncie, Ind.
19.Don Wilbur, West Carrolton, Ohio
20.John Anderson, Detroit
21.Neal Thomas, Columbus, Ohio
22.John Sommerville, Clarksville, Ind.
23.Vern Schrock, Middlebury, Ind.
24.Ed Webb, West Chester, Ohio

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

1952 – Slater Tops at Fairground Races

Kansas City's Bob Slater scored an IMCA big car victory at Shreveport. 

Shreveport, La. (October 18, 1952) – Bob Slater, a gangling thin man from Kansas City, grabbed a first day Louisiana State Fair auto racing victory on Saturday afternoon as he out-sped a 17-car field of rivals to win before an estimated 4,500 cheering race fans.

Slater’s triumph came after both Missouri contenders had smashed the official track record of 25.03 seconds set by Bobby Grim of Indianapolis in 1951. Slater shaved this mark to 24.50 seconds in his yellow Offenhauser and Jimmy Campbell of Bates City, Mo., also wheeling an Offy, successfully lowered the track record to a sizzling 24.19 seconds during his qualifying efforts.

Slater’s feature victory raised his season total to 11 for the year but he Kansas City star, a newcomer to Shreveport fans, still trails Campbell and Grim in the National Speedways circuit point standings.

Eight Offenhauser-powered mounts rolled out Saturday afternoon and the accelerated action was in keeping with this record entry of powerful racing engines.

Slater’s triumph in the 15-lap main event was registered only after four other contenders had challenged him fiercely for the lead. Grim, Jud Larson of Oklahoma City, Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., and Bill Holland of Reading, Penn., had all traveled several laps in second place before the checkered flag was dropped.

Slater served notice of his winning intentions in the 5-lap second race, when he leadfooted his way to the finish ahead of a six-car field that included Larson and Stan Callaway of Miami, Fla.

Results –

1. Bob Slater
2. Don Branson
3. Bill Holland
4. Bobby Grim
5. Stan Callaway
6. Jimmy Campbell
7. Herschel Wagner
8. Fritz Tegtmeier
9. Phil Mocca

Monday, October 17, 2022

1965 – Branson Breezes to Victory at Eldora

USAC sprint car winner Don Branson is surrounded by well-wishers after his triumph at Eldora.

Rossburg, Ohio (October 17, 1965) – Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., in a “slump” all season long, drove to an easy victory in Sunday’s 30-lap USAC sprint car feature at Eldora.

With 5,000 fans on hand, the final racing show at the Darke County half-mile saw Branson clip five seconds off the track record in winning only his fourth feature of the season.

His time of 9 minutes and 44.59 seconds eclipsed the old mark of 9 minutes and 49.58 seconds set by Red Riegel on July 3.

Johnny Rutherford of Fort Worth, Tex., continuing his drive towards the USAC sprint car championship, finished second followed by Roger McCluskey of Tuscon, Ariz.

The division's point leader, Greg Weld of Kansas City, picked up 16 points by finishing fourth but his lead dwindled to six points over Rutherford, 481.5 – 475. Rutherford claimed 24 points for his second-place finish.

“I feel wonderful about winning,” said Branson, who moved into fifth place in the standings. “I almost forgot how it felt to win.”

The Illinois veteran has won only four races this season, two in championship (Indy-type cars) and two in sprints. The victory was also his first at Eldora in eight attempts.

“Tires were the difference,” explained Branson. “I looked at the tires I had on and then I looked at the tires everyone else was using and I knew I was going to win.”

Rutherford’s right rear tire was worn out, and his main concern was finishing the race. “I might have caught Branson, but the tires were going, and my engine was running hot, so I was content to stay in second.”

In time trials, Rutherford toured the oval in a record-breaking 17.92 seconds or 100.466 miles per hour. That passed the previous low of 18.17 seconds set last year by Jud Larson.

Results –

1. Don Branson, Champaign, Ill.
2. Johnny Rutherford, Fort Worth, Tex.
3. Roger McCluskey, Tucson, Ariz.
4. Greg Weld, Kansas City
5. Larry Dickson, Marietta, Ohio
6. Bobby Unser, Albuquerque, N.M.
7. Carl Williams, Kansas City
8. Chuck Engel, Columbus, Ohio
9. Bobby Black, Columbus, Ohio
10.Arnie Knepper, Belleville, Ill.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

1977 – Outlaws Rule as Eddy Wins Robbins 500

Mike Eddy (3) races with Bob Senneker (84) in the inaugural Marty Robbins World 500 at Nashville. Eddy would win the event with Senneker finishing third, two laps behind the winner. - Wayne Kindness Photo

Nashville, Tenn. (October 16, 1977) – Mike Eddy of Midland, Mich., and a bunch of his Yankee buddies left some of the South’s top stock car drivers singing the outlaw blues on Saturday afternoon at Nashville Speedway.

Eddy held off a desperate charge by Larry Detjens of Wausau, Wis., to win the Marty Robbins World Open 500 stock car race before a shivering crowd of 18,000.

Eight of the top-10 finishers were from the so-called “outlaw” tracks, driving “outlaw” cars. The term simply means they are not sanctioned by NASCAR, which lays down the racing laws on most southern tracks.

Only Morgan Shepherd of Conover, N.C., and Steve Spencer of Nashville managed to represent NASCAR in the top-10. Shepherd finished sixth while Spencer was credited with ninth place.

Most of the big-name NASCAR drivers fell out early. Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dick Brooks were never a factor in the race. L.D. Ottinger, a two-time NASCAR late model sportsman national champion from Newport, Tenn., made a strong bid for the lead until dropping out with mechanical issues on lap 296.

Polesitter Bob Senneker of Dorr, Mich., the polesitter, finished third. Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., who had gone into the race as the country’s winningest short-track driver, had started second but ran into mechanical problems, lost 40 laps, and was never able to make a serious bid after that.

“Everything went perfectly for me all day,” said the 25-year-old Eddy, minutes after he zipped across the finish line ahead of Detjens. “The car (Camaro) ran strong from start to finish.”

Eddy’s car was dark green – a color considered taboo in stock car racing – and he occupied the #13 pit stall. “No,” he grinned. “I’m not a bit superstitious.”

Eddy said the race was the longest he had ever run but stated he wasn’t especially tired when it was over. The length of the race was supposed to be give NASCAR drivers, who are used to lengthy races, a slight edge – or at least equalize the advantage the outlaw drivers had by being accustomed to the lighter, faster cars driven in open competition races.

But even with country/western singer Webb Pierce singing the national anthem and Johnny Cash cheering in their corner, the good ‘ol boys couldn’t keep up.

The race was run in 3 hours, 27 minutes and 20 seconds. Eddy earned $11,300 for his afternoon’s work. The purse of $88,000 was the richest ever for a short-track race.

Results –

1. Mike Eddy
2. Larry Detjens
3. Bob Senneker
4. Bob Sensiba
5. Joe Shear
6. Morgan Shepherd
7. Mike Miller
8. Ray Young
9. Steve Spencer
10.Tom Reffner
11.Dennis Wiser
12.Dick Trickle
13.Terry Brumley
14.Wayne Niedecken
15.Rusty Wallace
16.Alton Jones
17.Jody Ridley
18.Mark Martin
19.Don Gregory
20.David Goldsberry
21.Ronnie Sanders
22.L.D. Ottinger
23.Sterling Marlin
24.Dave Roahrig
25.Johnny Ziegler
26.Alan West
27.Steve Burgess
28.Jerry Goodwin
29.Jack Ingram
30.Dick Brooks
31.Danny Byrd
32.Rodney Combs
33.Mike Alexander
34.Neil Bonnett
35.Jerry Lawley

Saturday, October 15, 2022

1972 – Hutcherson over Glotzbach in Salem 500

Charlie Glotzbach is shown accepting the trophy from John Marcum after capturing the Salem 500. However, after a re-check by ARCA officials, Ron Hutcherson was awarded the win.

Salem, Ind. (October 15, 1972) – It took Automobile Racing Club of America officials some three hours after the race had ended to declare a winner, but after all the checking and rechecking was finished, Ron Hutcherson of Keokuk, Iowa, was declare the victor of the Salem 500 late model stock car race on Sunday afternoon.

Hutcherson appeared headed to a second-place finish in the annual ARCA-sanctioned event, finishing about five car lengths behind Charlie Glotzbach of Edwardsville, Ind.

However, Hutcherson protested the judge’s ruling that Glotzbach had won the race, saying he had completed one more lap than necessary.

After checking individual score sheets, officials ruled that he had completed the race one lap ahead of Glotzbach, and he was ruled the winner.

Hutcherson won the race driving a 1971 Mercury while Glotzbach was competing in a 1972 Chevelle in the 3 hour and 26-minute marathon.

Dave Sorg of Fort Wayne, Ind., driving a 1972 Chevelle, finished third, four laps behind the winner.

Glotzbach, upon hearing the final ruling, protested the decision, but ARCA officials ruled the verdict final, and that Hutcherson was the rightful winner.

Results –

1. Ron Hutcherson, Keokuk, Iowa
2. Charlie Glotzbach, Edwardsville, Ind.
3. Dave Sorg, Fort Wayne, Ind.
4. Dave Kulmer, Brooks, Ky.
5. Ed Richardson, Temperance, Mich.
6. Bill Clemons, New Albany, Ind.
7. N.D. Copley, Hedgesville, Ky.
8. Iggy Katona, Willis, Mich.
9. Kenny Black, Indianapolis
10.Mike Johnson, Martinsburg, Ind.
11.Bruce Jacobi, Indianapolis
12.Ron Hayes, Indianapolis

Friday, October 14, 2022

1972 – Opperman Sprints to Western Title

Western United States Sprint Car Championship winner Jan Opperman (center) is joined by runner-up Buddy Taylor (far right), third-place finisher Kenny Weld (second from left) and promoter Keith Hall (far left).

Phoenix, Ariz. (October 14, 1972) – The greatest sprint car driver in the country?

Easy; Jan Opperman of Beaver Springs, Penn.

Opperman became the first two-time winner in the fifth annual Western United States Sprint Car Championships before the largest crowd in Manzanita Speedway history on Saturday night, an estimated 10,000.

The 50-lap main event was a near instant replay of last year’s 1-2 finish when Albuquerque’s Buddy Taylor took runner-up honors.

The Western was billed as “the world series of sprint car racing” – and it lived up to that and more.

Like last year, Opperman started in the fifth row, waited until late before making his move to the front of the pack.

Taylor, perhaps driving the finest race of his career, led the first 39 laps, using nearly every trick in his extensive bag to hold back both Opperman and Knoxville Nationals champion Kenny Weld.

At one point, Opperman, Taylor and Weld were going three-abreast through the turns.

But once Opperman pulled inside of Taylor going into turn two, he gradually began lengthening his lead to about 30 yards at the finish.

Taylor managed to hold off Weld by less than a car length to finish second.

Fourth went to Billy Shuman of Tempe, Ariz., who never did contend for the lead but beat more than his fair share of drivers.

Fifth was Darrell Dockery, who stayed close until the late going after starting in the front row next to Weld. Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., finished sixth, a lap down.

For Opperman, it was his 40th feature win of the season. The $10,000 or so he earned in purse and accessory prizes boosted him to over $60,00 in earnings for the season.

The race started out like it would never finish.

After Taylor brilliantly grabbed the lead from his second row starting spot, before the first lap was even completed, 14 cars crunched, flipped and spun coming out of turn two on lap 3. The smashup delayed the race for 25 minutes.

Knocked out of the mishap was Bob Moore, Frank McDaniel, Larry Clark, Eddie Leavitt, Jon Backlund, Duane Taylor and Shawkeet Hindi.

One of the pre-race favorites, former winner Jerry McClung, lost a bearing in warmups and had to scratch from the main.

Results –

1. Jan Opperman
2. Buddy Taylor
3. Kenny Weld
4. Billy Shuman
5. Darrell Dockery
6. Dick Sutcliffe
7. Bobby Adamson
8. Dennis Matousek
9. Bill Thrasher
10. Edd French
11. Jerry Miller
12. Gene Brown
13. Dick Zimmerman
14. Ken Slaybaugh
15. Don Hamilton

Thursday, October 13, 2022

1968 – Hoag Wins Fifth Open at Langhorne

Dutch Hoag is joined by Langhorne Speedway co-promoters Irv Fried (left) and Joe Gerber (right) and Miss Langhorne Speedway in victory lane.

Middletown Township, Penn. (October 13, 1968) – A crowd of more than 40,000 watched Dutch Hoag of Bath, N.Y., streak to his fifth career victory in the National Open Championship for modified stock cars.

Hoag averaged 92.339 miles per hour for the 200-mile race. Six accidents held him below the record 105.509 miles per hour set by Will Cagle in 1966.

Hoag started in the sixth position after setting a track record of 113.332 miles per hour in Saturday’s time trials. He took the lead for keeps on lap 99.

Hoag drove a 1936 Chevrolet with a 427 cubic inch engine. Only once did he experience trouble. His right front tire began to blister early on in the contest, forcing him to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 51.

Bobby Gerhart of Lebanon, Penn., was second, more than a lap behind Hoag at the finish.

Gerhart, the Reading champion, who also drove a 1936 Chevy, started 43rd in the 45-car field.

Results –

1. Dutch Hoag, Bath, N.Y.
2. Bobby Gerhart, Lebanon, Penn.
3. Chuck Boos, Lewistown, N.J.
4. Bugs Stevens, Rehoboth, Mass.
5. Gene Bergen, Manchester, Conn.
6. Don McTavish, Dover, N.H.
7. Sam Beavers, White House Station, N.J.
8. Bill Strosahl, Cando, N.Y.
9. Al Tasnady, Vineland, N.J.
10.Roger Treicher, North Tonawanda, N.Y.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

1975 - J.J. Smith Dominates ACC Finale

J.J. Smith (center) won the 40-lap late model feature at the Autumn Countdown Classic at Luxemburg. He’s flanked by runner-up Dave Valentyne (left) and third-place finisher Stu Nitzke (right). – Dick Jepsen Photo

Luxemburg, Wis. (October 12, 1975) – Racing’s colorful J.J. Smith wrapped up the first annual Autumn Countdown Classic on a blustery fall afternoon to cap off what he described as his most successful season ever in 15 years of stock car racing.

Starting in the sixth row, the streaking Smith lost little time in “picking off” the field, moved to the lead on lap 6, and stayed out front the rest of the way until the conclusion of the 40-lap late model championship race.

“The track was in excellent condition, giving me plenty of bite,” related a smiling Smith, who was mobbed by autograph seekers after his smashing victory.

Hundreds of hearty fans braved miserably cold, windy weather to see Smith do his thing and he didn’t disappoint them. Maneuvering his 1975 Camaro with all the skill and precision that brought him national honors two weeks hence at the National Clay Track Championships, Smith made it look easy as he passed car after car on the outside on both curves and the straightaways. Only a series of restarts due to other driver’s mistakes prevented him from making it a complete rout.

As it turned out, Smith’s brother-in-law, Dave Valentyne of Kimberly, fought his way to a respectable second place, all the way from an original seeding in the consolation bracket. By taking second in that event, Valentyne qualified to start at the rear of the field for the title race.

Valentyne then put on quite the show in his wailing Mustang but Smith was not to be denied. Stu Nitzke of Berlin annexed third place despite spinning out early on in the race, while hometown favorite Irv Ettien drove a steady race to take fourth.

Omro’s Terry Baldy, the late model point champion there, failed to finish in the championship race due to damage on his car.

Scott Hanson of Green Bay took consolation honors.

Results –

1. J.J. Smith, Appleton
2. Dave Valentyne, Kimberly
3. Stu Nitzke, Berlin
4. Irv Ettien, Luxemburg
5. Les LeCaptain, Green Bay
6. Scott Hanson, Green Bay
7. Jerry Jonet, Green Bay
8. Don Mahlberg, New Holstein
9. Mark Haskins, Green Bay
10.Mike Panure, Green Bay
11.Bobby Schmelzer, Forestville
12.Gayl Dillon, Two Rivers

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

1969 – Huebner wins Western finale

Bob Huebner

Phoenix, Ariz. (October 11, 1969) – It was “Home Sweet Home” for three of Arizona’s finest at the $12,500 Western United States Championships for sprint cars before a packed house at Manzanita Speedway on Saturday night.

Bob Huebner started on the pole and led from start to finish in the 50-lap headliner, although feeling pressure from runner-up Bob Cleburg.

Jerry McClung grabbed third, right behind Cleburg. Both had to come from the rear of the talented field.

Paul Jones of Torrance, Calif., finished fourth while Don Hamilton of El Cajon, Calif., rounded out the top five.

Huebner finished dead last in last year’s Western but took home the $2,200 winner’s share this time around, in addition to lap money and accessories.

The Tucson flash had the lead virtually from the first turn but Dick Sutcliffe of Greenwood, Mo., kept the pressure on, staying two or three car lengths behind until the 34th circuit.

Sutcliffe grazed the wall coming out of turn two and fell back to fourth with McClung taking second and Cleburg inheriting third place.

The slight mishap eventually caused Sutcliffe to exit the race on lap 39.

Then, on the 40th lap, Cleburg slipped around McClung and the two Arizonians dueled for the remaining 10 laps.

Huebner, however, never wavered despite four caution flags which allowed the rest of the field to catch up.

The Tucson driver finished about four car lengths in front of Cleburg, the inaugural winner of the event.

The only serious accident came on lap 6 when Jan Opperman of Lincoln, Neb., lost control coming out of turn four and was hit broadside. Opperman was able to walk away from the accident.

Results –

1. Bob Huebner
2. Bob Cleburg
3. Jerry MClung
4. Paul Jones
5. Don Hamilton
6. Benton Burns
7. Gene Brown
8. Buddy Taylor
9. Billy Wilkerson
10.Ralph Parkinson

Monday, October 10, 2022

1971 – Howe Captures Heidelberg ‘250’

Ed Howe is presented his Heidelberg 250 trophy by John Googer, representative for Gulf Oil Company. 

Carnegie, Penn. (October 10, 1971) – The Pittsburgh Racing Association ran off its 250-lap late model stock car championship on Sunday afternoon and Ed Howe ran faster than the other contenders.

The Beaverton, Mich., driver took the lead on the 140th lap and held it the rest of the way to win the $20,000 first prize and the Gulf-PRA title before 9,600 racing fans at Heidelberg Raceway.

Tom Colella of Whitehall had the pole position and led from the start until he hit the wall on lap 139. Howe, who was running a distant second, inherited the top spot and maintained it until the checkered flag.

Augie Sandman of Coraopolis, Penn., Bob Senneker of Grand Rapids, Mich., Tom Maier of Midland, Mich., and Joe Ruttman of Dearborn Heights, Mich., rounded out the top five finishers.

Jim Roberts of Coleman, Mich., and Bruce Gould of Milford, Ohio, won preliminary races.

Results –

1. Ed Howe
2. Augie Sandman
3. Bob Senneker
4. Tom Maier
5. Joe Ruttman
6. Dick Trickle
7. Jim Bickerstaff
8. Bill Maier
9. Larry Moore
10.Jeep Iacobacci
11.John Anderson
12.Tony Diano
13.Dick Freeman
14.Jim Roberts

Sunday, October 9, 2022

1971 - Final Feature to Morris, Hemsted is MVSC Champ

Ron Hemsted in victory lane after winning the MVSC season championship at Columbus Junction. - Dick Kleindolph Photo

Columbus Junction, Iowa (October 9, 1971) – Mel Morris of Atalissa took the lead from John Moss of Iowa City on lap 22 of the 50-lap feature and held it from there to win the season championship at the Louisa County Fairgrounds on Saturday to close out the Mississippi Valley Speed Club season.

Ron Hemsted of Lone Tree, the point leader for most of the season, finished sixth in the feature and wound up with 212 points, good for first place in the MVSC point standings for 1971. Moss, with his third-place finish in the feature, finished second in the point standings with 183. Pokey West of Westchester, who finished second in the feature, wound up third in the point standings with 181.

Bryan Buchele of Muscatine won the 5-lap trophy dash. Heat wins went to Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., Morris, and Larry Jenkins of Wilton Junction. Bud Darting of Wilton Junction won the fourth heat while Perry Beckler of Tiffin won the semi-main.

Results – 

Trophy dash – Bryan Buchele, Muscatine
Heat #1 – Ray Guss, Milan, Ill.
Heat #2 – Mel Morris, Atalissa
Heat #3 – Larry Jenkins, Wilton Junction
Heat #4 – Bud Darting, Wilton Junction
Semi-main – Perry Beckler, Tiffin
Feature –
1. Mel Morris
2. Pokey West, Westchester
3. John Moss, Iowa City
4. Bill Newman, Burlington
5. Ron Prymek, Iowa City
6. Ron Hemsted, Lone Tree
7. Jim Gerber, Long Grove
8. Bud Darting
9. Larry Jenkins
10.Ron Perdock, Washington

Saturday, October 8, 2022

1972 – Ruttman Winner of Bettenhausen 100

Joe Ruttman is joined by starter Art Kelly (left), assistant starter Bob Adams, and the trophy girl after winning the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100. 

Schererville, Ind. (October 8, 1972) – Joe Ruttman eased home with a near-flat right front tire to win the 11th annual Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 late model stock car classic.

Ruttman, of Dearborn, Mich., had his Chevelle six-car-lengths ahead of second-place Rich Davis of Waukegan, Ill, who was driving a Ford Torino.

Ruttman, whose older brother Troy won the inaugural running of the event 10 years after winning the 1952 Indianapolis 500, led for 70 of thee 100 laps on the quarter-mile asphalt track on Sunday afternoon. Ruttman was the third fastest qualifier.

Results –

1. Joe Ruttman, Dearborn, Mich.
2. Rich Davis, Waukegan, Ill.
3. Randy Sweet, Grand Rapids, Mich.
4. Ray Freeman, Crete, Ill.
5. Jerry Kemperman, Blue Island, Ill.
6. Jerry Peterson, Marseilles, Ill.
7. Rick Kleich, Chicago
8. Bob Meyers, Schaumburg, Ill.
9. Tom Jones, Northbrook, Ill.
10.Bill McEnery, Evergreen Park, Ill.

Friday, October 7, 2022

1967 – Hume wins Oktoberfest Special

Eddie Hume of Madison, Wis., won the 100-lap Oktoberfest Special race at North La Crosse Speedway. Joining Hume are track owners Allan Ness (left) and Howard Tralmer (right) – Beetle Bailey Photo

La Crosse, Wis. (October 7, 1967) – Madison’s Eddie Hume and Bill Parrott of Northfield, Minn., won feature races at the Oktoberfest Special 100 at the North La Crosse Speedway on Saturday night.

Hume took the win in the 100-lap main event, edging Everett Black of Black River Falls.

Parrott drove to first place in the 50-lap feature besting Osseo’s Wayne Kittleson.

La Crosse area drivers dominated the hobby stock feature, won by Jay Hauser of La Crosse.

George Gleason, Dick Huber, and Bill Finch, all of La Crosse, finished second, third and fourth, respectively in the hobby stock main event.

Results –

50-Lap –

1. Bill Parrott, Northfield, Minn.
2. Wayne Kittleson, Osseo
3. John Brevak, Fairchild
4. Dale Pennell, La Crosse
5. Robert Bowen, Sparta

Hobby Stock –

1. Jay Hauser, La Crosse
2. George Gleason, La Crosse
3. Dick Huber, La Crosse
4. Bill Finch, La Crosse
5. Dexter Groves, Viroqua

100-Lap - 

1. Eddie Hume, Madison
2. Everett Fox, Black River Falls
3. Les Katzner, Wisconsin Rapids
4. Jim Back, Vesper
5. Tom Reffner, Rudolph

Thursday, October 6, 2022

1979 – Weedon wins Bernice Rogers Special at Blue Grass

Ron Weedon won the 40-lap Bernice Rogers Special at Hawkeye Speedway in Blue Grass. Bernice Rogers presents Weedon the trophy. – Eugene Studios Photo

Blue Grass, Iowa (October 6, 1979) – Despite the cold weather, a good crowd turned out for the first annual Bernice Rogers Special on Saturday night at Hawkeye Speedway.

Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, sped to victory in the 40-lap main event and not only picked up the checkered flag but a beautiful seven-foot-tall trophy for his efforts, which was presented to him by Bernice Rogers.

Jim Sandusky of Coal Valley, Ill., finished second, Denny Stewart of Davenport, Iowa, was third, Jim Gerber of Long Grove, Iowa, was fourth, and Randy Sells was fifth.

Heat wins went to Jerry Conners of Pleasant Valley, Denny Stewart of Davenport, and John Scherer of Davenport. Weedon also won the semi-feature.

Ron Hopper of Davenport won the sportsman feature with Ron Gustaf of East Moline, Ill., second and Lee Thomas of Moline, Ill., taking third.

Results –

1. Ron Weedon, Pleasant Valley
2. Jim Sandusky, Coal Valley, Ill.
3. Denny Stewart, Davenport, Iowa
4. Jim Gerber, Long Grove, Iowa
5. Randy Sells
6. Bob Helm, Andalusia, Iowa

1974 – Grove 150 Checkered to Smith

National Open winner Steve Smith is joined by car sponsor O.J. Myers in victory lane.

Mechanicsburg, Penn. (October 6, 1974) – When Steve Smith scored his initial victory at Williams Grove a couple of weeks ago, there were a few snickers in the crowd because Kenny Weld and Jan Opperman were up in New York running with the modifieds.

But Weld was back on the scene and so was Opperman and just about everyone else who is anybody in super-sprint competition when The Grove held its annual National Open on Sunday afternoon and right there in victory lane in front of 11,500 cheering fans was none other than that same Steve Smith kid.

Smith capped off his finest season of a promising career by winning the 150-lap encounter over Bobby Allen in a 1-2 finish for Hanover, Penn., based drivers.

Smith brought a big smile to the face of sponsor O.J. Myers when he pushed the O.J. #19 into the lead on lap 85, then held off the best that Paul Pitzer had to offer and then beat his old buddy from Florida, Allen, by 2.5 seconds at the checkered.

Allen slipped into the runner-up position after Pitzer lost control of his Weikert #29X with only nine laps to go in the contest.

Pitzer fell all the way back to fourth as Smokey Snellbaker claimed third place even though he didn’t have any brakes for the late going. Lynn Paxton rounded out the top five finishers.

Smith’s victory was worth $2,500. He also picked up $660 in lap money and added $150 to his winnings for having third fastest time in qualifying on Saturday.

As for Weld, winner of this event the past three years and logical favorite to repeat, he gave it his best only to have the rear end of his Weikert #29 let go on the 52nd circuit. He wound up being credited with 31st place out of the 35-car field.

Weld started on the outside of Paxton on the front row as a result of time trials in which Paxton set quick time of 24.34 seconds and Weld was clocked in 24.50 seconds.

Except for a brief period on the first go-round, Paxton led right up to the 75-lap fuel-up period, and then kept the upper hand through 10 more laps when racing resumed. It was then that Smith, who had a 24.62 second time trials, took command moving down the backstretch and Pitzer, running with tires planned for use on Weld’s car, dove past Paxton in the third turn.

Pitzer gave Smith all he could handle before his slight miscue on lap 141 cost him dearly.

Smith noted after the race that he was willing to sit back and wait for his opportunity.

“We weren’t running well for the first 75 laps,” he remarked. “But the crew really put it together for the last 75. I was praying during those last 10 laps that the car would stay together, and it sure did.”

Results –

1. Steve Smith
2. Bobby Allen
3. Smokey Snellbaker
4. Paul Pitzer
5. Lynn Paxton
6. Bob Kinser
7. Bobby Weaver
8. Jan Opperman
9. Randy Ruth
10.Johnny Grum

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

1969 - A.J. Rallies to Win at New Bremen

Anthony Joseph Foyt

New Bremen, Ohio (October 5, 1968) - A. J. Foyt was there for the entire route and he carried off the top prize in the United States Auto Club 200-lap feature race at New Bremen Speedway. It was Foyt's first feature win ever at New Bremen, although he has raced there often in stock cars, sprints, and midgets.

Foyt snared the lead the first time on the 41st lap when he sneaked inside Roger McCluskey. He lost it to Roger on the 63rd lap but recaptured it on the 88th. He was out of the lead again only when he pitted on the 131st lap, but he took it for good on the 147th circuit and stretched it to a three-quarter lap lead over second place Don White.

By finishing second, White maintained his point lead in USAC's stock car division over Foyt and McCluskey with just two races left.

The luckless McCluskey, who held the lead for 48 of the first 88 laps, was forced to make three pit stops in quick succession during the second half of the race and finished sixth.

Bruce Sparrman drove an excellent race throughout, even leading briefly when Foyt pitted, to finish third. Verlin Eaker ran fourth, and Whitey Gerkin, winner of last week's event at Tri-County, also passed McCluskey during his problem to snare fifth.

Bay Darnell, Jerry Smith, Frank Freda, and Paul Feldner rounded out the top 10.

Results –

1. A.J. Foyt, Houston, Tex.
2. Don White, Keokuk, Iowa
3. Bruce Sparrman, Excelsior, Minn.
4. Verlin Eaker, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
5. Whitey Gerkin, Melrose Park, Ill.
6. Roger McCluskey, Tucson, Ariz.
7. Bay Darnell, Deerfield, Ill.
8. Jerry Smith, Medina, Wis.
9. Frank Freda, Elmhurst, Ill.
10.Paul Feldner, Colgate, Wis.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

1970 – ‘Nice Guy’ Dave Sorg is Winchester Victor

Dave Sorg waits to qualify during the Dri-Powr 400 at Winchester Speedway. Sorg would go on to win the inaugural event.

Winchester, Ind. (October 4, 1970) – Dave Sorg, one of Midwest racing’s “nice guys,” avoided a rash of spins to win the first annual Dri-Powr 400 by more than five laps.

Sorg, a veteran from Fort Wayne, Ind., who ran the first part of the season with the United State Auto Club, put his Ford Fairlane across the finish line five laps ahead of runner-up Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Janey, who finished third in the International Motor Contest Association point standings, drove a 1969 Plymouth.

A crowd of more than 3,500 fans watched the longest race in Winchester Speedway history. It was the biggest turnout at a Winchester event in recent years.

John Sommerville of Louisville, Ky., was third in a 1969 Chevelle after trailing oil smoke for almost the entire 400 circuits.

Fourth went to Jerry Norris, also of Louisville, in a 1968 Chevelle, and fifth went to USAC stock car driver Jay Behimer of Potomac, Ill., in a 1968 Dodge Charger.

The fastest qualifier was Ron North of Huntington, Ind., who set a track record for stock cars with a lap of 18.98 seconds. The old mark was 19.04 seconds set earlier this season by Jim Blount of Anderson, Ind.

The yellow flag flew 16 times for 125 laps during the running of the 400-lap race for late model stock cars. There were no injuries. Most of the leaders were able to steer clear of trouble, but one spin did eliminate one of Sorg’s chief competitors.

Jim Blount was involved in a five-car tangle on the 123rd lap that completely demolished his 1969 Chevelle. Although Blount, a pre-race favorite, was uninjured, his car was eliminated from further competition.

At the time of the spin, Blount was running a close second to Sorg after leading 49 of the first 122 laps. Sorg had passed Blount on lap 110 and remained on top for the final 290 laps to take home the $1,500 first-place money.

Blount took the lead from fast qualifier Ron North on the first lap and held it for three until North pushed his 1969 Chevelle back into the lead on the fourth trip around the high-banked half-mile. North led for four more until Blount once again moved to the front on lap 8.

Blount held the top spot until lap 38 when Homer Newland of Detroit, Mich., roared from third-place in traffic to pass both Blount and Sorg. The ARCA veteran saw his lead last only four laps before the engine in his 1969 Chevelle blow.

Sorg, who had gotten by Blount in heavy traffic, resumed the lead and held it until lap 88 when Blount caught him in traffic.

Results –

1. Dave Sorg, Fort Wayne, Ind.
2. Irv Janey, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
3. John Sommerville, Louisville, Ky.
4. Jerry Norris, Louisville, Ky.
5. Jay Behimer, Potomac, Ill.
6. Ken Black, Indianapolis, Ind.
7. Larry Cope, Elroy, Ind.
8. Terry Elmore
9. Darrell Skaggs, Cambridge City, Ind.
10.Wayne Trinkle, Jeffersonville, Ind.