Saturday, January 28, 2023

1979 – Mack Wins Florida Sprint Opener

Don Mack 

Lake City, Fla. (January 28, 1979) – Don Mack of East Grand Forks, Minn., a two-time Florida 500 winner, took the lead on the third lap and held the top spot the remaining 47 circuits to win Sunday’s opening race of the third annual Florida Sprint Nationals.

The victory was Mack’s first on a half-mile dirt track in two years of competing in the series.

Rick Ferkel of Findlay, Ohio, who set fast time (19.214) during time trials finished second. Johnny Beaber of Gibsonburg, Ohio was third, followed by Johnny Anderson of Sacramento, Calif., and Ralph Parkinson Jr., of Gladstone, Mo.

Robert Smith of Gibsonton, Fla., qualified for the feature by winning the consolation and while Zephyr Hill’s Wayne Reutimann did the same with a third-place finish in the semifinal race.

Results –

1. Don Mack, East Grand Forks, Minn.
2. Rick Ferkel, Findlay, Ohio
3. Johnny Beaber, Gibsonburg, Ohio
4. Johnny Anderson, Sacramento, Calif.
5. Ralph Parkinson Jr., Gladstone, Mo.
6. Bill Roynon, Tampa
7. Roger Rager, Mound, Minn.
8. Allen Barr, Columbus, Ind.
9. Greg Leffler, St. Paul, Ind.
10.Cliff Cockrum, Benton, Ill.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Remembering Corning’s Gold Cup

Don Hoffman (2) and Joe Kosiski (53) battle during the Gold Cup Invitational. Kosiski would win the inaugural race in 1980, while Hoffman would be victorious in 1982. - Jerry Adams Photo

by Lee Ackerman

Corning, Iowa - On April 19, 1980, the Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa staged the first of what would be four annual season openers called the Gold Cup Invitational. The event was for Dirt Late Models and Limited Sportsman. That first event drew more than 40 late models in a shootout that featured more than $5,000 in prize money.

The four heat races were won by Don Hoffman of Des Moines, Rex Nun of Lincoln, Nebraska, Bob Shryock of Estherville, Iowa and Joe Kosiski of Omaha, Nebraska. How about the C Feature! The drivers that finished first and second in the C Feature are both inductees in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. Billy Moyer, Jr. then living in Des Moines won the event and Steve Kosiski of Omaha finished second.

In the B feature, Moyer would drive through the entire feature to win that event as well. Following Moyer to the line were Phil Bivins of Nebraska City, Ray Lipsey of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Larry Hiatt of New Market.

In the 40-lap feature, Don Hoffman jumped into the lead at the start and appeared headed to a convincing win, when at about the midway point of the race he stalled in turn two. “I hit a hole in the track between one and two and when I hit the throttle the motor just died.” said Hoffman after the race.

Joe Kosiski picked up the lead with Hoffman’s misfortune and led the rest of the way to pick up the victory. Shryock finished second Denny Hovinga of Pocahontas was third and Nun fourth. Despite his bad luck, Hoffman refired and raced his way up to a fifth-place finish.

Al Urhammer won the 1981 Gold Cup Invitational. - Jerry Adams Photo

Mother Nature came close to claiming the victory in the Second Annual Gold Cup. First, on Saturday night she brought a halt to activities after the third heat race and then on Sunday she postponed the starting time from 2 pm until 5:45. Heat races went to Al Druesedow of Omaha, Martin Bennett of Des Moines, Billy Moyer and Dwaine Hansen of Lakefield, Minnesota.

Jerry Wancewicz of Omaha won the Position race with Al Urhammer of Radcliffe finishing second and Bill Martin of Council Bluffs third. Denny Hovinga won the B feature followed by Joe Merryfield of Des Moines, Randy Rosenboom of Rock Rapids, Gary Hopp of Harlan, and Al Humphrey of Giltner, Nebraska.

When they waved the green flag to start the race, outside polesitter Al Urhammer jumped into the lead and from thereon was never seriously challenged for the win despite some real battles for position behind him. Defending race winner Joe Kosiski made a late charge to take second from Jerry Wancewicz with Bill Martin fourth and Al Druesedow fifth.

While it was a mild, sunny day for the Third Annual Gold Cup held on April 17, 1982, nevertheless the weather did play a factor in the night’s events. The track became increasingly greasy during the night and that combined with it being the first time out for many of the drivers accounted for quite a number of wrecks and mishaps that eliminated a number of contenders.

Heat race action saw Ken Walton of Viola take heat one over Jerry Holtkamp and Al Druesedow. Don Hoffman won the second heat with Bill Martin and Joe Kosiski in tow and Billy Moyer, Jr. laid claim to heat three with Steve Kosiski and Don Weyhrich of Norfolk, Nebraska trailing. Bob Hill of Randall won the B feature followed by Randy Rosenboom and Frank Ince.

The late model feature turned out to be quite a race with Walton and Hoffman on the front row and Moyer, Jr right behind. When the race went green, Hoffman grabbed the lead with Walton following all the way back to fifth, but immediately Walton started working his way back through the field to challenge Hoffman.

Around lap 15, Walton took the lead and held it for some time thru several restarts. Late in the race Walton made one mistake and Hoffman capitalized on it and charged to the lead and held on to the checkered flags. Walton was able to hold off a serious challenge from Moyer for second with Bill Martin and Joe Kosiski rounding out the top five.

Sam Jacobs was an upset winner of the Gold Cup Invitational in 1983. - Jerry Adams Photo

Sam Jacobs of Columbus, Nebraska was the surprising winner of the fourth and what would be the last Corning Gold Cup Invitational. The April 23, 1983, event saw a good field of cars compete in four heat races.

Jim Jenkins of Council Bluffs won heat one over Pat Wancewicz of Omaha and Jeff French of Mt. Ayr. Don Weyhrich won heat two over Bob Hill and Greg Larsen of Lincoln, Nebraska. Karl Ritterbush of Omaha took the third heat over Bruce Mark of Williams and Rich Germar of Red Oak with Jacobs taking heat four over Glenn Robey of Omaha and Steve Borts of Ames.

Mike Smith of Ellsworth bested Bill Wrich of Kennard, Nebraska, and Corning’s Jack Viner to take the B feature.

Weyhrich took the lead at the start of the event, but the fourth starting Jacobs took the lead early in the event and despite getting into a lapped car later in the event, he was able to hold off the challenges of Weyhrich and take home the win. Weyhrich came home a comfortable second with Robey, Hill and Mark rounding out the top five.

In 1984, the Adams County Speedway became a NASCAR-sanctioned track, and the Gold Cup Invitational was replaced by the Spring Invitational as the season opening event at the Adams County Speedway.

Monday, January 16, 2023

The 'Lisbon Leadfoot'

Bill Beckman at Hawkeye Downs - 1978

Late driver's career spanned 30 years, many titles. 

by Pete Temple
Monticello Express Sports Editor

Monticello, Iowa - Bill Beckman didn’t know how much he would love driving a dirt track racecar until he climbed into one. 

 It was 1967. Beckman’s neighbor in Lisbon, renowned Eastern Iowa driver Roger Dolan, was testing a car during a practice session the day before the opening night of racing at Hawkeye Downs.

In a detailed, fascinating memoir penned by Beckman himself, just weeks before his Dec. 5 death at the age of 80, he describes what happened next.

“Roger got out of the car and handed his helmet to me and said, ‘Get in the car. I want to watch it. And don’t run into anyone!’” Beckman wrote.

“I was nervous. I started slow for a couple of laps (and) got the feel of it. Then I nailed it. I had lots of fast street cars, but this was a thrill. It was so much fun the flagman had to run out on the track with a red flag to stop me.

“Somebody said, ‘How long were you going to stay out there?’ I said, ‘Until I ran out of gas.”

Beckman, who lived in Monticello for much of his life, was a graduate of Sacred Heart High School in 1960.

Bill Beckman holds his trophy after winning the Novice championship at Cedar Rapids in 1968.

His racing career lasted 30 years. During that time, Beckman won the Dubuque season championship, was Tri-State champion in Davenport, and was fast qualifier for Davenport’s National Dirt Track Championship.

He won season championships in Tipton and Cedar Rapids, and won races at Hawkeye Downs, Maquoketa, Vinton, Tri-State and Farley.

Beckman lived in Lisbon for most of his racing career and earned the nickname “Lisbon Leadfoot.”

He competed in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri.

It all culminated in his induction into the Iowa Dirt Track Racing Hall of Fame this past Nov. 12, less than four weeks before his passing.

Getting started

The morning after the 1967 practice session, Dolan pulled into Beckman’s driveway, saw a 1954 Ford sitting there, and told him, “That’s your racecar.”

Despite financial concerns, Beckman wrote that “The next Friday night I was at the racetrack with a 1954 Ford with a 239, two-barrel carb. We got second.”

On two occasions that season, Beckman recalled, other drivers protested that he was driving an illegal car. The first time, he wrote, “the other drivers were saying the car was illegal because the rulebook said cars had to be 1955 or newer. Well, Roger talked to the promoter. He looked at the car and said, ‘It’s a nice car and he can race it.”

The second time, Beckman had to comply and make it a ’55.

“We went back home and cut the body off and made it into a convertible with a 55¼ (-inch) panel, which was the only difference between a ’54 and ’55.”

The memoir, which served as Beckman’s nomination form for the Hall of Fame, details several instances of winning races, working on vehicles, buying and selling auto bodies, motors and parts, and winning more races.

“In 1968, my good friend Bill Jilovec wanted to help me,” Beckman wrote. “I built a ’56 Chevy that we owned 50-50. He owned the motor, transmission, rear tires and wheels.

“It was bad fast!”

After winning an early-season feature race at Hawkeye Downs, the car went on to win championships in Cedar Rapids and Tipton, as well as fair features in Tipton, Cedar Rapids, Maquoketa and Vinton.

Help from Petty

Beckman’s 1969 season was derailed by a ruptured appendix. He got back on track, literally, in 1970, largely due to a career-changing conversation with NASCAR hall-of-famer Richard Petty.

“In 1970 my friend Ben Jamieson and I teamed up and built a ’69 Camaro convertible,” Beckman wrote. “The first six races I spun out a lot. We didn’t know what to do with the 108-inch wheelbase.

“On a Saturday morning while sitting around the garage, Bill (Jilovec) said, “Why don’t you call Petty? When I did, Richard answered the phone.”

Petty suggested a new set of Chrysler springs, which Beckman agreed to purchase.

“Richard said, ‘Bill, those springs will put that little Camaro right on the program.’ He told me what I had to do, and I had the torch and welder to complete the job,” Beckman wrote.

“What a man he was then and continues to be today. This car went on to win many races. It beat (Eastern Iowa legend) Ernie Derr twice, at both the Cedar Rapids and Tristate (tracks).

“At the end of the season, I won three races at Erv Valentine’s new Farley Speedway: $970 the first night, $810 the second night, and $760 the third night. Those were big purses back then.”

A movie car

Beckman took a detour from his racing career, so to speak, when he was hired to build a car for a Steve McQueen movie that was being filmed in Florida. Part of the process involved building a roll cage off to the side of the car, so that a cameraman could ride along outside the vehicle.

“I was there for a month,” he wrote. “I had a great time doing what I love, being around cars, and meeting tons of great people.

“I got paid $15,000 in $500 bills. I wish I still had them!”

Beckman wrote that after a divorce in 1973, he sold his racecar and went to work at Star Engineering, while helping other drivers maintain their cars on the side.

More success

He and Ben Jamieson then bought a car from Larry Moore and put a Horn motor in it.

“This car was a rocket. Driving the car was a win-win-win for us!” Beckman wrote. “We won seven times at Freeport (Ill.). At one point we won nine in a row at West Liberty, Freeport, Eldon and Davenport.”

Along with his success, Beckman also displayed sportsmanship in defeat.

“On the 10th night Johnny Johnson beat me by two feet at Elton in the 50-lap midseason championship,” he wrote. “I started on the pole and Johnny was outside pole. He got the jump on me at the start, and he never made a mistake. Great job Johnny!”

He and Jamieson lost two motors that year, causing Beckman to sell the car.

“I decided to change my focus from racing to my grain bin business (Beckman Grain Systems, Monticello),” Beckman wrote. “I did drive Terry Jamieson’s modified car off and on for a while, but by this time I was in my late 50s. I was getting tired.

“It seems like you just can’t quit. It was difficult because it is not easy to give up something that I loved so much.”

‘A great run’

In his memoir, Beckman also thanked those who helped him, and in particular, “my brother Paul for the endless hours he spent being the best working crew chief and for being with me every step of the way.

“My racing accomplishments would not have happened without great sponsors, and all the great friends who supported me through the years.

“My racing career has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Fun, fun, fun! I had a great run.”

Bill Beckman takes a victory lap at Davenport in 1970.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Motor City 250


1951 Motor City 250 program

By Kyle Ealy

Detroit, Mich. – The Motor City 250 stock car race was held annually on the one-mile dirt oval at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

The first race was held on August 12, 1951, in conjunction with Detroit’s 250th birthday. Bill France, the leader of NASCAR, staged the event right under the noses of the automotive brass, so they could see what their cars could do. The event brought together all makes and models from 1950 and ’51; American made-products competing in one of the most grueling contests that stock car racing had ever seen.

France staged the program with all of the pomp and circumstance that rivaled the Indianapolis 500. Pre-race entertainment included a feigned dogfight between two miniature model airplanes, fireworks, and a releasing of balloons at the start of the race.

A field of 58 cars started the first 250-miler led by Karl Greiner, vice-president of Packard Motor Car Co., in a brilliant yellow convertible used as the pace car before a cheering throng of 16,352.

Four hours, 21 minutes and 58 seconds later, Howard “Tommy” Thompson of Louisville, Ky., emerged from the scrap to take the checkered flag behind the wheel of his 1951 Chrysler V8.

Tommy Thompson accepts his trophy after winning the inaugural Motor City 250.

During the entire race the lead changed 12 times with five different leaders holding the top spot at one time or another. Marshall Teague of Daytona Beach, Fla., driving the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, took off from his pole position to lead the field in the early going until he was squeezed out by Fonty Flock of Hapeville, Ga., in an Oldsmobile 88.

Fonty held on to the 26th circuit when Thompson took over. Those two swapped the lead four times in the next 36 laps until the 62nd lap when Thompson stopped to replace a tire. Flock moved into the top spot at that point while Teague also pitted to have his radiator cleaned.

At the 94th mark, seven cars got snarled in an accident which resulted in much ripping and bending of metal. Among those involved were noted racers Hershel McGriff in a Olds 88, Bill Holland in a Cadillac, Frank Mundy in a Studebaker, and Lee Petty in a Plymouth.

During this period, most of the field pitted. When the race resumed, Gober Sosebee of Dawsonville, Ga., pulled his Cadillac into the lead. He held that position until a broken tie-rod sent him to the infield on lap 130. Fonty Flock once again moved into the top spot. But that lead would be short-lived…

On the next lap, Bob Greer hit a pothole in his Olds and Fonty, right on his tail, plowed into him and went end over end. Johnny Mantz, in an Ambassador, and Jack Smith in a Plymouth joined the pile.

The crash would put the Olds 88 of Curtis Turner of Roanoke, Va., into the top spot with Thompson right on his rear bumper. Turner would fend Thompson off until lap 212 when Thompson’s Chrysler wouldn’t be denied. On the 216th lap, however, Turner moved back into first place in what would develop as a see-saw battle between the two drivers with Tommy moving into first place on lap 225.

The next lap around saw Turner try to get by Thompson on the outside while wallowing through the beat-up southeast turn. The cars lock hard, broad-slided and stalled. Thompson got his car started first and continued the race. Turner got restarted but his radiator had been badly damaged, and his car was soon boiling over.

Thompson sped the final 20 laps to victory and the $5,000 first prize plus the Packard convertible.

Second place when to Joe Eubanks of Spartanburg, S.C., in his Oldsmobile 88 while Johnny Mantz limped his wreck-battered Ambassador to a third-place finish. NASCAR veteran Red Byron of Atlanta, Ga., would bring his Ford 6 home in fourth place and Paul Newkirk of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, rounded out the top five in his Nash.

1952 Motor City 250 program

Twenty-eight-year-old Tim Flock, the youngest of the famous racing family, beat 46 other challengers to win the second annual Motor City 250 on June 29, 1952. The slim, Hapeville, Ga., pilot came down the frontstretch to get the checkered flag a half-lap ahead of second-place finisher Buddy Shuman of Charlotte, N.C.

He not only beat a classy field of drivers but also beat the stifling heat, winning the race in the record time of 4 hours, 10 minutes, and 23 seconds. The time bested the mark set by Tommy Thompson in the inaugural race by 10 minutes and 5 seconds. More than 23,000 speed hungry race fans that paid a gate of more than $70,000 witnessed the action.

Overheating was a major issue and only 21 cars were there at the finish. Finishing behind Flock and Shuman were Hern Thomas of Oliva, N.C., Bill Blair of High Point, N.C., and Pat Kirkwood of Fort Worth, Tex.

Dick Rathmann of Los Angeles, who started on the pole, led the first 40 laps of the long-endurance contest. He would quickly develop engine trouble, and four pit stops later, would drop far back into the field.

Lee Petty of Randleman, N.C., would take over the top spot and hold it until the 80-lap mark where trouble ensued. Nearly two laps in front of the field, Petty would lose his left front tire in the northwest turn and retire from the race.

Flock would eventually take over on lap 97 and hold the top spot the rest of the way with the exception of the 211th lap when he was forced to stop for gas. Shuman would take over the lead but only for that one lap, with Flock taking back the lead and never relinquishing it.

Fonty Flock, Tim’s brother, and bitter rival was out of the race after only 13 laps and then assumed command as Tim’s crew chief. He was credited by his brother for helping win the race. His performance was remarkable considering that he had to stop three times in the pits.

In addition to his first-place prize of $7,000, Flock would also take home the Ambassador pace car, making it his biggest payday in seven years of stock car racing. The victory also put in him first in the NASCAR point standings, taking over the top spot from Lee Petty.

A 28-year-old Detroit mechanic who raced as a hobby, won the third annual Motor City 250 on September 13, 1953. Felix Brooks outlasted and outdrove 52 competitors, to score the biggest victory in his seven-year career. The husky, black-haired pilot wheeled his 1953 Oldsmobile around the rough Fairgrounds track in 4 hours, 6 minutes, and 44 seconds.

Another Detroit driver, Paul Goldsmith, took second place in a 1951 Ford. Goldsmith, a national champion motorcycle racer, was 17 miles behind at the finish.

Third place went to Don Oldenberg of Highland, Ind., in a 1951 Mercury. Jack Connelly of Detroit, piloting a 1953 Lincoln, took fourth and Art Binkley of Louisville, Ky., rounded out the top five finishers in a 1951 Ford.

Only 12 cars out of the bulky field were still running at the finish.

The race drew a crowd of 13,278. The Chicago promoter who staged the event, guaranteed a purse of $10,000. Brooks cashed in $1,875.

Starting from the 38th position in the big field, Brooks drove a careful and calculated race through the early stages. The Detroiter didn’t crack the top-five for the first 175 circuits. But, as the big-name national circuit drivers started to drop out, Brooks slowly moved up.

Felix took the lead on lap 207 and steadily increased it as he held the top spot for the final 43 laps around the big one-mile dirt oval.

Minor crashes caused starter Clem Van Rossne to throw the yellow flag five times during the race. All drivers were able to walk away unharmed.

Herschel White, the 37-year-old from Indianapolis, would win the fourth annual Motor City 250 on September 12, 1954, before a crowd of 19,251. White, a father of five, won in the record time of 4 hours and 4 minutes in a 1953 Oldsmobile.

A field of 86 cars competed for a $7,500 with White collecting $2,000 for his victory. The Flock brothers, Fonty and Bob, of Atlanta, Ga., combined talents to take second and collect $1,500. Fonty drove for the first 200 miles in their 1953 Hudson before turning over the chores to Bob for the final 50.

Third place went to Mason Bright of Detroit, in a 1953 Dodge. He cashed in $1,000.

Pat Kirkwood was the unfortunate victim of the Sunday afternoon matinee, taking the lead on the 6th lap and was ahead by five after 210 miles, only to develop steering problems and being waved to the pits by his crew. He would get back on the track but not finish the race.

White took over after that and lead the final 40 miles to take the checkered. White also set fast time in qualifying, clocking in at 49.02 seconds.

1955 Motor City 250 program

Mason Bright would win the Motor City 250 on September 11, 1955, parlaying some luck with smart driving. The race would go down as the slowest to date, but it was a wonder it was held at all. The race took 4 hours and 27 minutes to complete.

Of the 55 starters, 21 drivers took the checkered flag just before darkness halted the event. This was a race with “half” a straightaway and slick turns which sent a dozen or more cars either into the fence or over it. Dick Jeanette of Whitmore Lake was taken to a local hospital with serious cuts, abrasions, and a concussion.

An hour before the 2:30 pm start, ankle deep mud from the middle of the track to the inside guardrail stretched for 100 yards on the main straightaway, making for a dangerous mess. Saturday night rains also left the always hazardous south turn even more difficult.

The south turn took its toll on the first lap when both Roy Atkinson and Charlie Jackson flipped. That’s where Jeanette’s car spun on lap 49. It flipped four times throwing the driver from his car and forcing the race to temporarily stop.

Bright played it smart all the way. He started 12th and gradually moved up to take the lead on lap 207 after misfortune caught up with a half dozen other front runners.

At various stages in the race, Hershel White, the ’54 winner, Darel Dieringer, who won the pole, Bill Lutz, Bill Brown, and Jack Shanklin were the leaders. White and Shanklin, however, undoubtedly incurred the worse luck.

White led for the first 12 laps, regained the lead after 117 miles to hold on until his ’55 Oldsmobile stalled on the backstretch on the 187th lap. White held a three-lap margin when he was forced to drop out.

Shanklin took over in his ’55 Ford, took a pit stop during a caution period around the 200-mile mark, came back out, spun on the north turn, avoided a pileup and then finally hit a fence in the south turn a few moments later when a front wheel collapsed.

Bright, who had been running second at the time, took over to win by nearly two laps over Red Swanberg of Detroit. For Bright, who had competed in stock cars for six years, it was the biggest win of his career.

Of the top 20 finishers, 16 of them were from the Detroit area.

Fans would join the drivers in defying death during the Motor City 250 on September 9, 1956.

The race was halted at the 227-mile mark when many of the 4,000 fans standing in the infield, started dashing across the dusty and darkened one-mile oval after becoming tired of trying to follow the race from their poor vantage points.

After the speeding racers narrowly missed several of the pedestrians, MARC officials decided to halt the race and award the trophy and $2,000 check to Troy Ruttman, a 26-year-old driver from Lynwood, Calif.

Ruttman, driving a ’56 Ford, was the leader of Iggy Katona, the veteran local favorite, when the race was terminated after 3 hours and 33 minutes of action. Ruttman had led the most laps, dominating the action, and most experts said that he would have probably won the race anyway.

As things would turn out, Lady Luck was generous in her rewards. No fans were hit by speeding cars. Despite a dozen flips, skids, and assorted fence crashes, no one was hurt.

Even promoter Pete Spencer of Saginaw, Mich., found lick riding with him. The overflow crowd of 16,470 contributed to a gate of $49,027, $10,000 of which went into the driver’s pool. Spencer had experienced two previous promotional failures in sprint car racing at the State Fairgrounds, but Sunday’s success wiped out his losses.

Ruttman, the 1952 Indianapolis 500 champion, made only two pit stops in beating Katona by less than 100 yards. He averaged 69.71 miles per hour over the long haul. Ruttman started third behind Russ Hepler and Les Snow, moved into second place on the seventh lap and took the lead on lap 21.

Katona, far back in the early going, moved into second place after 80 miles and from there on it was primarily a two-man race.

When Roy Atkinson flipped on lap 101, both Ruttman and Katona came into the pits for gas. Katona, driving a ’56 Ford, beat Troy out of the pits and when the race resumed on lap 109, Katona took the lead with Ruttman and 31 other challengers in hot pursuit.

Jack Farris of Sulphur Springs, Ind., driving a ’56 Chevrolet, moved into third place but rammed the outside wall on the backstretch on the 136th mile, causing another slowdown.

When the green flag waved again on lap 142, Katona was still in front, but Ruttman overtook him four laps later. The two rivals swapped positions several more times before Ruttman got out front to stay after 188 miles.

With 200 miles gone, 26 of the 50 starters were still running. When Katona was forced into the pits after 216 miles, it was all over. Approaching darkness and the unruly infield crowd brought the decision to stop the race a few minutes later.

The 1957 Motor City 250 was a two-race/two-day affair starting with a 100-mile strictly convertible race on Saturday, September 8, and the 150-mile sedan/convertible contest on Sunday, September 9.

Bob James of Montrose, Ohio, drove his 1956 Chevrolet averaged 51 miles per hour to take the win on Saturday afternoon. James led for the last 48 miles, four of them under caution, to finish two seconds ahead of Johnnie Parsons of Van Nuys, Calif., the 1950 Indianapolis 500 champion, who also drove a ’56 Chevrolet.

James took the lead on lap 52 when Bill Granger of Clinton, Ind., lost control of his 1957 Ford and crashed into the retaining wall. Granger suffered facial lacerations and released from a local hospital.

Nelson Stacy was admitted to the same local hospital with three fractured ribs after his ’57 Chevrolet flipped on the backstretch after blowing a tire while leading the race on lap 22. As 3,200 fans waited breathlessly, the Cincinnati driver climbed unaided from the wreckage.

James, who was timed in 1 hour, 26 minutes and 10.54 seconds, collected $1,000 of the $6,000 total purse. Parsons collected $650 and George Henderson of Mason, Ohio, took home $500 for his third-place finish in a 1956 Ford.

Parsons would end his profitable weekend in Detroit, with a victory – worth $1,500 – in the 150-mile hard-top/convertible race on Sunday afternoon.

Parsons used the same car he had ran on Saturday, a 1956 Chevrolet convertible. He grabbed the lead on lap 98 and led the remainder of the distance to finish in front of Don Schisler of Detroit before an estimated 8,200. Schisler, driving a 1957 Chevrolet sedan, collected $1,100 for his runner-up finish.

Coupled with his $600 second place finish the day before; Parson’s two-day take was $2,100. The 1950 Indy champion also collected $1,300 for his victory in the previous Sunday’s 100-mile midget race.

On Sunday afternoon, Parsons played it cozy. He started in the fifth position and waited until pole winner Tom Horner faded with mechanical trouble after holding the lead in his 1955 Ford.

Parsons moved to third as Saturday’s winner, Bob James, led the pack of 34 starters for the next 88 miles. When James made the first of three pit stops, Parsons roared into the lead and was the first of 13 finishers to receive the checkered flag.

Parsons averaged 79 miles per hour and won the race in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 19 seconds. Another Detroiter, Mason Bright, drove his ’56 Chevrolet to a third-place finish and collected $800. James settled for fourth place and Dick Bailey of Rose City, Penn., was fifth in a 1956 Dodge.

Jack Farris

Jack Farris of New Paris, Ohio, nursed an ailing 1957 Chevrolet to victory in the Motor City 250 on September 7, 1958. Farris, making his first start since a near-fatal crash only three months before, averaged 71.69 miles per hour in the long wreck-strewn grind. He led only the last six laps.

Darel Dieringer of Indianapolis finished second, slightly more than a mile back. He had the race all but won when tire trouble forced his 1957 Ford into the pits for two stops, on the 243rd and 244th laps.

Tom Hirschfeld of Chicago, Jerry Unser of Albuquerque, N.M., Clyde Parker of Detroit and Johnny Roberts of Wheeler, Mich., finished behind Farris and Dieringer.

The fast pace cut the field of 44 cars to 20 when the checkers waved. So did crashes which required four caution flags for a total of 21 laps. The most serious was a spectacular flip which sent Bob Wallace of Madison Heights over the fence in the northwest corner. He walked away unhurt.

Farris, who suffered five broke ribs, a punctured lung, and a brain concussion in a crash in Dayton, Ohio, last June, earned $2,000 of a total purse of over $7,000 for the victory before an estimated 12,000 spectators.

With heavy rains wiping out time trials, Farris started third in the pre-race draw. He was never worse than fourth while the lead changed six times in the first 244 miles.

Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., was the leader for the first 41 miles, losing the top spot due to Unser, due to a pit stop. Then it was Dieringer’s turn. He replaced Unser on the 95th mile and Unser replaced him on lap 111. Pit stops provided opportunities for both drivers to move up.

Snow took over on lap 128 but mechanical issues forced him out of action. Unser, driving a 1957 Ford, resumed the lead and held it until the 201st mile.

Dieringer, also driving a Ford, sprang back into first place, and after fending off a threat from Farris, appeared to have the race won with 7 miles to go. But he had to stop for 15 seconds on the 243rd lap, and then he stopped again a lap later for a lengthier stop. That’s when Farris took over for the final 6 miles.

Farris drove a convertible owned by Bob Buesener of Cincinnati, was not without mechanical trouble himself. His clutch began slipping after 150 miles and his tires were well worn towards the end of the race.

“I was running fourth and didn’t figure to improve,” he said. “but they started dropping out. “

“I just about didn’t make it either,” he added. “The innertube was showing right through my right tire the last few miles. My crew kept trying to wave me in, but I kept going, I didn’t want to take a chance.”

Ed Elisian and Dick Rathmann, the two Indianapolis veterans who were special entrants, developed trouble early. Elisian broke a connecting rod during warmups and didn’t even start. Rathmann dropped out on lap 72 when a wheel fell off and severed a gas line.

Motor City 250 winner Don White is joined by promoter John Marcum. 

Don White, the diminutive, little race driver from Keokuk, Iowa, was perhaps the saddest person in victory lane on September 13, 1959. White was unhappy because there wouldn’t be anymore races at the State Fairgrounds that year.

After blowing three engines in the last three races, White came “home” on Sunday to the one-mile dirt oval and drove off with the top money after winning the Motor City 250.

Just as he did in the 100-miler last June, White had the right combination, the right driving ability, and some expert help from his pit crew to win the 250-miler.

He left little doubt about his “home” track performance. He was the first car to qualify and broke the track record with a lap of 43.98 seconds for a speed of 81.95 miles per hour. The old mark of 44.91 seconds, set in 1957, was bettered by 12 other drivers on Sunday.

Then White, in a 1959 Ford, went from his pole position, led one lap, then dropped back to second place for 15 laps. That would be his worse position for the rest of the race.

Dueling for the most part with Bob James of Akron, driving a 1957 Chevrolet convertible, White took the lead on the 16th lap and paced the field until he pitted on lap 106.

James took over again and led until he made a stop for gas on lap 130. White would take command for good and even though he would stop one more time on lap 199, he held the lead the rest of the way.

James would be eliminated when he lost a wheel in the north turn on the 233rd lap. He wound up out of the big money, finishing ninth.

Norman Nelson of Racine, Wis., driving a 1958 Mercury, finished second and Don Oldenberg of Chicago, piloting a 1957 Pontiac, took third.

White’s winning time of 3 hours, 8 minutes and 18 seconds was also a record for the distance. His average speed was 79.97 miles per hour.

A crowd of over 12,000 watched the action run over a track that held up surprisingly well despite a huge field of 41 starters. Only 18 cars were still running at the finish.

Bill Cheesbourg of Tucson, Ariz., with dispensation from the United States Auto Club, won the Motor City 250 late model stock car race on September 11, 1960. Cheesbourg was in complete command of the race after the first 75 miles, leading the final 175 in his 1961 Ford.

Cheesbourg averaged 62.03 miles per hour and finished the race in the record time of 3 hours and 53 minutes. Bob Duell of Frewsburg, Penn., was second in a 1960 Ford and Jack Shanklin, driving a ’59 Ford from Indianapolis, finished third.

The race was marred by several wrecks, particularly in the south turn. The caution light blinked 13 times for a total of 38 laps. The most spectacular crash was by Ed Stillman of Milwaukee who went through the guardrail and fence and into the parking lot beyond the first turn. He was not injured.

Three drivers paced the field during the long grind. Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., was the original leader, pacing the 41-car field for the first 68 miles.

Paul Goldsmith, who established a new qualifying record when he turned in a one-mile dash in 43.91 seconds for an average sped of 81.99 miles per hour, led from the 69th to the 76th lap when he ran into mechanical trouble. He would eventually drop out after 93 circuits.

Iggy Katona of Lambertville, finished fourth in a 1960 Ford, and Paul Wensink of Deshler, Ohio, was fifth in a 1958 Plymouth.

The drivers cut up a purse estimated at $11,000 with Cheesbourg earning $2,600. Officials estimated that approximately 14,000 watched the action.

After seven years of frustration, Iggy Katona of Willis, Mich., would finally win the big one on September 11, 1961. Although he had won virtually every other race honor, the Motor City 250 had always eluded him. The fact that the race was in his backyard, gnawed at him.

The veteran of motorcycle, hardtop, midget, and sprint car racing roared home ahead of 15 other competitors still running at the end of the 250-mile stock car race before 10,654 fans. Katona, driving a 1961 Ford, covered the long-distance affair in 3 hours, 34 minutes, and 6 seconds for an average of 78.58 miles per hour.

In fact, the first five places were swept by Ford’s. Keith Plough of Indianapolis, Paul Parks of Columbus, Ohio, Jack Shanklin of Indianapolis, and Virgil Barbe of Detroit all followed Katona to the finish line.

It seemed that this race would be another also-ran race for Katona when his brakes went out midway through the contest. Harold Smith of Dayton, Ohio, and Darrell Dake of Cedar rapids, Iowa, had waged a fierce duel for first place for the first 75 miles.

Katona was barging along steadily but well back in the field. He blew a tire on lap 16 and had to come into the pits. He made two more stops for fuel and oil but somehow managed to stay close enough with the leaders to move in when mechanical failure and crashed eliminated the front-runners.

Smith, who had won 14 of his 18 starts, eliminated himself on the 163rd lap when he went over the outside retaining wall on the third turn. Smith had led from the start through the 76th mile, and then again from 103rd to the 163rd when he crashed.

Dake then led until the 180th lap when Katona powered by him. Dake’s brakes had failed and then he developed engine troubles that dropped him far back into the field.

From there to the finish, Katona drove a speedy, yet cautious race. He had to watch closely every driver in front of him because he couldn’t stop his car quick enough in the event of a car cutting him off.

The best previous finish for Katona was a second place in 156 behind winner Troy Ruttman. He had finished in the top 10 every year since the event had become MARC-sanctioned in 1956.

Smith had established a one-lap record in qualifying, when he circled the one-mile dirt oval in 43.59 seconds, a speed of 82.5 miles per hour. That broke Paul Goldsmith’s one-year-old mark of 43.91 seconds or 81.91 miles per hour.

Katona would make history the next year when he became the first driver to win the Motor City 250 twice. The rotund driver broke a couple of records in completely outclassing a field of 35 starters on September 2, 1962.

The crowd of 12,078 fans paid $45,000 to watch Katona’s performance. They had little doubt about the ultimate outcome once Katona rolled his 1962 Ford onto the track. He broke the qualifying mark by turning the one-mile oval in 43.22 seconds.

Then, despite a badly cut hand suffered that Sunday morning, Katona broke his own record he had set last year for the 250 miles when he completed the race in 3 hours, 18 minutes, and 26 seconds, averaging 79.5 miles per hour.

It was strictly an “All Iggy” show. He led essentially all of the race except for two brief periods when he stopped for fuel. Even a one-lap penalty because he re-fueled during a caution light couldn’t stop the Willis, Mich., speedster.

For the first 15 miles, Homer Newland of Detroit battled Katona unsuccessfully for the top spot. Then, Jim Cushman of Columbus, Ohio, took a crack at Katona and failed, as did Joy Fair, another Detroiter.

Cushman finally moved out front at about the 130-mile mark when Katona stopped for gas. Iggy trailed by 30 seconds at that point but went back in front at the 143-mile mark when Cushman was forced to stop.

On the 158th go-round, Katona was forced to stop again, and Cushman was back in front. Then Katona staged a show for the capacity crowd. He started his move on Cushman, who now held a 37-second lead.

Picking up a couple of seconds on every lap, Katona moved back in front on lap 186 when he passed Cushman on the south turn. From there, it was Katona by as much as three laps, and he finished with a comfortable two-lap margin over runner-up Jack Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio, driving a 1962 Ford.

Cushman finished third in his 1961 Plymouth with Johnny Roberts of Detroit, driving a 1962 Ford, finishing fourth and Bob Parks of Columbus, Ohio, in a ’60 Ford, rounding out the top-five.

The victory clinched the MARC national championship for Katona, his fourth title, also a record (he had been tied with Nelson Stacy with three apiece). Harold Smith, who had come into the race second in points, eliminated himself when crashed into the north wall during qualifying.

Bowsher would turn the tables when the Motor City 250 returned on September 1, 1963. Bowsher would out-last a tire-troubled Katona to reverse the one-two finish of the year before. The victory clinched the MARC driving title for the Springfield, Ohio, pilot.

This time Bowsher, after assorted stretches in and out of the lead position, got ahead to stay when Katona blew a tire while running in the top spot on the 233rd mile of the 250-tour race. Katona came out of the pits to draw within five seconds of Bowsher when he blew another tire only four laps from the finish.

Katona limped the rest of the way without a tire change to hold off third-place finisher Les Snow by another lap. Katona, Bowsher and Snow had led the race for all but 18 early laps. All three drivers piloted Fords.

Bowsher’s winning time of 3 hours, 24 minutes, and 18 seconds was six minutes slower than last years’ time, but the field was under the caution light for a total of 30 laps.

They were slowed considerably after Jack Shanklin plowed through the fence on the fourth turn during the 133rd lap. He went to a local hospital for observation and stitching of head lacerations.

Minor mishaps or mechanical issues eliminated a good percentage of the field as only nine of the 38 starters were still on the track when the checkered flag waved.

Johnny Roberts of Saginaw, Mich., would push his 1964 Ford to victory in record time on Sunday, September 6, 1964, in the 14th annual new model stock car classic at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

Roberts completed the 250 miles in 3 hours, 7 minutes, and 46 seconds. He took the lead on lap 212, when early leader Les Snow blew his engine.

Roberts piloted a car owned by defending champion Jack Bowsher. Bowsher, the defending champion, would finish second, also driving a ’64 Ford. Taking third was Danny Byrd of Taylor, Mich., driving a 1963 Ford.

Charlie Glotzbach of Edwardsville, Ind., was fourth in a ’62 Chevrolet while Don Arnold of Mentor, Ohio, finished fifth in a ’62 Chevrolet.

The new record bested Iggy Katona’s 1962 mark. Katona, beset by oil line troubles, dropped out of the race on lap 10.

Eighteen cars finished the long-distance race out of a starting field of 37.

The 1965 Motor City 250 would be the last, so it would be fitting that Michigan’s own, Iggy Katona, would win his third title on Sunday, September 5. Katona, the ARCA point leader, averaged 80 miles per hour in his 1965 Plymouth, winning the race in 3 hours and 13 minutes. Katona’s winning time was impressive considering the track conditions.

Brief showers that morning delayed the start of the race. The racing surface was a quagmire forcing ARCA officials to skip qualifying and start the field based on points.

Katona and Bowsher were the lucky ones – starting on the front row – having a much better chance of keeping their engines free of the mud.

The race eventually started almost an hour late with some question as to whether the 250 miles would be completed before dark because of the horrendous track conditions.

There were 38 cars on the track when the green flag waved the start with only nine cars seeing the checkered flag.

Clyde Parker of Detroit, driving a 1965 Chevrolet, placed second, but a distant five miles behind the winner. Jack Bowsher was third, in a 1965 Ford.

The Motor City 250 would not return to the Michigan State Fairgrounds in 1966, in fact there would be no more major races at the one-mile dirt oval. In 1971, the grandstand was deemed unsafe, and the track was closed for good.

It would be demolished in 2001.