Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Goodyear Missouri Nationals


Ron Jackson and Mike Niffenegger had reason to smile after each driver won one of the twin 50-lap features at the Goodyear Missouri Nationals. Joining them in the trophy presentation are (l-r) flagman Larry Koch, Jackson, race sponsor Dick Ewer, Niffenegger, and Robin Lowrey, director of competition. – Bill Haglund Photo

By Lee Ackerman

Holts Summit, Mo. - In 1977, Ed Bloom became the owner and operator of Capital Speedway in Holt Summit, Missouri. Previously Bloom had been the promoter at the Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois. During his tenure at Capital Speedway that lasted through 1987, Bloom in addition to a fine weekly show, held several special events. Perhaps the one that stands out the most is the Goodyear Missouri Nationals.

On October 10 and 11, Bloom brought the 1980 season to a conclusion with the Goodyear Missouri Nationals. Over 60 late models were on hand (actually 64 took time with 26 breaking the old track record). When they time trials were completed Viola, Iowa’s Kenny Walton had turned a lap of 20 second flat around the 3/8-mile oval.

A tick off Walton’s lap was St. Louis ace Kevin Gundaker at 20.01 seconds. Waterloo, Iowa’s Dick Schiltz clocked in at 20.17, Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Leon Plank tripped the clocks at 20.321 with former track record holder Ron Jackson of Burlington, Iowa posted a 20.36.

Four 20-lap heats and a handicap race were held on Friday night with Fenton, Missouri’s Ken Schrader taking heat one followed by Larry Phillips of Springfield, Missouri and John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa. Billy Moyer, Jr. of Des Moines, Iowa took heat two followed by Dick Taylor of Springfield, Missouri and Dan Dickey of Packwood, Iowa.

Steve Keppler of Marion, Iowa led Ed Knaebel of Jefferson City, Missouri and Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, Iowa to the line while Morning Sun, Iowa’s Johnny Johnson took the checkers in heat four with Ed Sanger of Waterloo, Iowa and Eddie Gray of Jefferson City, Missouri in pursuit. Mike Niffenegger of Kalona, Iowa won the 6-lap handicap event with Kevin Gundaker, Ron Jackson, Ken Walton, Dick Schiltz and Leon Plank the race of the top six qualifiers.

Saturday night saw two 25-lap consolation races followed by twin 50-lap features. Ron Fisher of Centralia, Illinois claimed the first consolation race with Brian Leslie of Hamilton, Illinois and Leland Frank of Fulton, Missouri rounding out the top three. Dalton Walker of Curryville, Missouri won the second consy with Rick Kimberling of Slater, Missouri and Galen Schaefer of Topeka, Kansas following.

In the first 50-lap feature it was Kenny Walton jumping into the lead at the start with Kevin Gundaker right behind. On lap four, Gundaker took the point and held it until lap 15 when Walton retook the position. Gundaker charging hard, got together with Darrell Dake in turns three and four and had to be towed to the pits with front end damage.

Walton continued to lead for the next 25 laps before misfortune befell him as a broken spring caused him to slow down and Mike Niffenegger took over the lead and held to the checkers. Walton held on for second, Billy Moyer, Ron Jackson and Ken Schrader rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth went to Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Leon Plank, Vic Bentlage of Jefferson City, Missouri, Dick Taylor and Johnny Johnson.

The second feature saw the top six cars inverted with the other competitors filling in the field based on their finish in the first feature. When the green dropped in the second 50-lap feature it was Ken Schrader in his beautiful yellow Ford taking the lead with Ron Jackson a close second.

Ron Jackson took over on lap 4, surrendered the lead temporary to Bill Martin and then retook the lead and held it for the duration of the second feature taking home a check for $1,000 and the trophy. Mike Niffenegger posted a third-place finish with Ken Schrader and Larry Phillips rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ed Knaebel, Steve Keppler, Galen Schaefer, Billy Moyer and Brian Leslie.

The event was not held in 1981, returning in 1982 despite rain that postponed the event from Friday and Saturday, October 8 and 9, to Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10. Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa posted fast time with a lap of 21.50 seconds.

Other activity on the first night included a Cam2 Challenge of Champions race, which featured 14 track champions in a race for 14 laps. Dick Schiltz, track champion at the West Liberty Speedway in Iowa took home $300 in the winner-take-all-event. Ronnie Hoover of Fulton, Missouri finished second and Jim Leka of Illiopolis, Illinois third.

The six fast qualifiers ran a six lap trophy dash with Joe Ross of Mechancisburg, Illinois picking up the win trailed by Gary Webb, John Provenzano of Wheaton, Illinois, Rick Wages of Moline, Illinois, Duane Steffe of Colona, Illinois and Rollie Frink of Davenport, Iowa.

In the five heat races, Denny Falkos of Chicago, Illinois bested Dan Dickey and Randy McGraw of Marshall, Missouri in heat one. Jim Leka led Bobby Goulden of Independence, Missouri and Bob Menzie of Springfield, Missouri to the line in heat two. Heat three saw Dick Taylor, Ed Dixon of Washington, Missouri and Rollie Frink.

Heat four was all Iowa with Dick Schiltz posting the win following by Ed Sanger and Tom Bartholomew of Waterloo. John Seets of Brighton, Illinois posting the heat five victory followed by Mike Null of Champ, Missouri and Mark Fleischman of Jefferson City, Missouri.

Consolation action saw Ronnie Hoover take the first consolation followed by Rick Standridge of Divernon, Illinois and Martin Bennett of Des Moines, Iowa. The second consolation went to Bloomfield, Iowa’s Jerry Pilcher with Terry Gallaher of Hannibal, Missouri and Steve Fraise of Montrose, Iowa following.

This set the field for a 100-lap, 32-car field. Gary Webb showed why he was perhaps the fastest car at the Goodyear Missouri Nationals, leading 83 laps to post the win. The other 17 laps were led by Joe Ross who was forced to pit for a flat tire and finished 24th. Following Webb to the stripe were Dan Dickey, Ed Dixon, Rick Standridge and Ronnie Hoover. Sixth through tenth went to Jim Leka, Tom Bartholomew, Rick Wages, John Provenzano and Ed Sanger.

1983 Advertisement

When the Goodyear Missouri Nationals returned to Capital Speedway on September 30 and October 1, 1983, one thing was for certain. Drivers from the Hawkeye State continued to dominate the event. In time trials, Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa set quick time with a lap of 20.81 seconds followed by Dick Schiltz (Iowa) at 21.15, Missourian Ronnie Hoover at 21.32, Ed Sanger (Iowa) 21.37 and Gary Webb (Iowa) 21.38.

Dick Schiltz won the Cam2 Challenge of Champions 8-car, 8-lap race for track champions and pocketed $500. Roger Dolan took the trophy dash over Gary Webb, Ronnie Hoover, Dick Schiltz, Ed Sanger and Jim O’Connor of Kankakee, Illinois.

Iowans swept the heat race wins with Joe Merryfield of Des Moines beating Joe Ross of Illinois and Scott Sells of Waverly, Iowa in heat one. Heat two saw Tom Bartholomew best Mike Wallace of Arnold, Missouri and Ed Knaebel while Steve Fraise took the checkers in heat three ahead of Rick Wages of East Moline, Illinois and Curt Martin of Independence, Iowa.

In Saturday action, Roger Dolan won another trophy dash followed by Gary Webb, Ed Sanger, Jim O’Connor, Dick Schiltz and Ronnie Hoover. The consolation event went to Rick Kimberling of Boonville, Missouri followed by Dick Crane of Palymra and Bob Lekander of Burlington, Iowa.

When the green flag dropped in the 100-lap feature it was Hawkeye drivers at the front as Dick Schiltz took the early lead then surrendered it on lap 16 to fellow Iowan Roger Dolan. Dolan held the lead for a good share of the race although he was continually pressured by Ed Sanger who finally took the lead on lap 68 and started lapping cars on his way to picking up the win.

When the checkered flag had waved, the top five were all from the Hawkeye State. Following Sanger across the finish line were Roger Dolan, Joe Merryfield, Tom Bartholomew and Steve Fraise. Sixth through tenth went to Jim O’Connor, Gary Webb, Denny Osborn of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Dick Schiltz and Rick Kimberly.

The race was also part of the NASCAR/Winston Racing Series Central Region. Roger Dolan had already wrapped up the Central Region Championship with 17 wins coming into the Goodyear Missouri Nationals.

Iowa drivers dominated the Missouri Nationals at Capital Speedway in 1984. Pictured, from left, Jeff Aikey (consolation winner), Miss Jefferson City, Curt Martin (feature winner), CAM2 representative, Dan Dickey (third place), and Ed Sanger (runner-up). – Debbie Bohr Photo

In 1984, it became the Cam2 Missouri Nationals and a Missouri driver, Ronnie Hoover set fast time with a lap of 21.33 seconds. A 12-lap trophy dash was held for drivers based on year long performance at Capital Speedway and Sonny Findling of Kirksville took the win. Dick Crane, Ed Knaebel, Terry Gallaher, Rick Kimberling and Bill Vaughn of Hartsburg followed.

In heat race, Ronnie Hoover won the first heat followed by Ron Elbe of Augusta, Illinois and Gene Claxton of Kansas City. Andy Claiborne racing out of Stanley, Kansas claimed the second heat with Tom Frasher of Jefferson City and Dick Crane following. It was all Iowa in heat three with Steve Fraise winning over Ed Sanger and Jeff French of Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Curt Martin took the fourth heat with Kenny Walton and Bart Allen of Kirksville, Missouri in tow.

A 25-lap preliminary feature was held on Friday night and it was all Iowa with Steve Fraise leading, Curt Martin, Ed Sanger, Kenny Walton and Dan Dickey to the line.

Action on Saturday night included a consolation event won by Jeff Aikey of Cedar Falls, Iowa with Chuck Ludwig of Keokuk, Iowa and Jim Mudd of O’Fallon, Missouri trailing.

The 100-lap feature proved to be a good race with Steve Fraise taking the point at the outset and holding until lap four when Curt Martin took over the lead. Martin led through lap 46 while Ed Sanger took a turn out front and he stayed out front until lap 62 when Martin took the lead back. A lap later it was Sanger back out front until lap 69 when Martin went back to the front and stayed there for the balance of the event.

It was another all Iowa top five with Martin holding off Sanger for the win followed by Dan Dickey, Steve Fraise and Jeff Aikey up from the consolation race. Sixth through tenth were Rick Beebe of Overland Park, Kansas, Tom Frasher, Ed Knaebel, Kenny Walton and Terry Gallaher.

Packwood, Iowa’s Dan Dickey (second from left) won the Missouri Nationals in 1985. Joining him is runner-up Steve Fraise (second from right). – Debbie Bohr Photo

In 1985 the Missouri Nationals became part of the newly created NASCAR Busch All Star Tour. Despite a cold weekend in Missouri 112 race teams in several classes were on hand from Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. In late model action Iowan Dale Fischlein set fast time of 20.80 seconds and ensure himself a front row starting spot in the 50-lap Busch All Star Tour feature.

Qualifying heat race wins went to Rick Beebe, Steve Fraise, Roger Dolan, Dan Dickey and Steve Kosiski of Omaha, Nebraska. Roger Dolan won the Friday night 25-lap NASCAR feature followed by Jim O’Connor, Dale Fischlein, Donnie Cooper, Steve Fraise and Steve Kosiski.

Saturday night’s consolation event went Kevin Gundaker followed by Donnie Cooper. In the feature event it was Dan Dickey (driving Ken Walton’s car) taking the lead from the outside front row and leading the entire 50 laps to take the checkers and a check for $2,000. Following Dickey were Steve Fraise, Council Bluff, Iowa’s Dave Chase, Jim O’Connor and Steve Kosiski. Sixth through tenth were Curt Martin, Gene Claxton, rollie Frink, Omaha’s Joe Kosiski and Sonny Findling.

Track owners Ed and Donna Bloom did an outstanding job in presenting the Missouri Nationals and a number of Busch All Star Tour events were held in the following years at Capital Speedway although not necessary at the end of the racing season.

One thing stands out about this event, drivers from Iowa dominated the event and won every year that is covered in the story.

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