Wisconsin's Larry Detjens won ARTGO Racing's 80-lap Spring Classic stock car race at the Rockford Speedway. ARTGO's John McKarns interviews Detjens after his victory. - Stan Kalwasinski Photo
By Stan KalwasinskiLoves Park, Ill. (April 13, 1980) – Cold weather and hot competition were the key words Sunday afternoon at Rockford Speedway as ARTGO Racing opened its 1980 late model stock car racing season with Larry Detjens winning the 80-lap Spring Classic.
A good crowd chilled by weather that battled the 40-degree mark saw the 34-year-old Detjens wheel his 1979 Camaro to victory on Hugh Derry’s high-banked, quarter-mile paved oval.
It was ARTGO Win number three for the Wausau, Wis., speedster who ranks third on the ARTGO all-time point sheet.
A field of 20 faced starter Bill Gronley’s green flag for the start with Michigan ace Fred Campbell putting his 1980 Camaro into the lead from his outside front row starting spot.
The race was just one lap old when the first yellow flag was displayed for slippery track conditions caused when Don Collins bean losing lubricant from his mount’s differential.
After the green flag reappeared, Campbell, the 1979 Berlin (Mich.) Raceway champion, stayed on top through eight circuits with Larry Schuler pressing for the lead. Campbell and Schuler tangled momentarily on lap 9 coming off turn four, giving Detjens the rest of the closely-knit freight train a chance to get by.
With 12 laps down and Detjens leading, the yellow flag flew once again, as Campbell, who was in the process of regaining some of the ground he lost, came to a halt on the backstretch suffering from transmission problems.
Detjens, being dogged by six-time Rockford champion Joe Shear, Mike Miller, Mark Martin, and Dick Trickle, was still on top on lap 18 when the caution light flashed again as Tom Reffner and Dave Weltmeyer both contributed their share to making the racing surface a bit slippery.
Back under full racing conditions, Detjens staved off repeated challenges by Shear, and at the end of 25 laps it was Detjens, Shear, Miller, Martin, Trickle and Schuler. Before the halfway mark, Trickle seemingly made quick work of both Martin and Miller and set hi sights on the leading duo.
With 40 laps recorded in the books, Detjens still held onto the number one spot, closely followed by Shear, Trickle, Miller, Martin, and Schuler. With a combined 1,200 feature wins among them, the top six battled bumper-to-bumper, lap after lap.
With the race winding down, Detjens was granted a little relief as Trickle began to pressure Shear for second place with Miller trying to overhaul Trickle.
When the checkered flew, Detjens had his first comfortable lead of the afternoon, a couple of car lengths over Shear, who was followed closely by Trickle, Miller, and Martin.
Martin, the 21-year-old driver from Batesville, Ark., and two-time ASA champion, set a one-lap mark during time trials as he piloted his 1980 Camaro around the quarter mile in 13.416 seconds, bettering his old mark of 13.476, set during the 1978 National Short Track Championships.
1. Larry Detjens, Wausau, Wis.
2. Joe Shear, South Beloit
3. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
4. Mike Miller, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
5. Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark.
6. Larry Schuler, New Lenox
7. Ed Hoffman, Bensenville
8. Dave Watson, Milton, Wis.
9. John Knaus, Rockford
10.Pat Schauer, Watertown, Wis.
11.James Bond, Blue Island
12.Bill Venturini, Chicago
13.Bobby Dotter, Chicago
14.Willie Goeden, Kewaskum, Wis.
15.Don Collins, Antioch
16.Butch Mierendorf, Lake Mills, Wis.
17.Dave Weltmeyer, Harvey
18.Tom Reffner, Rudolph, Wis.
19.Fred Campbell, Battle Creek, Mich.
20.John Speer, Janesville, Wis.