Sunday, July 23, 2023

1967 – Eaker Worries, But Wins

Verlin Eaker

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (July 23, 1967) – Oh, to have Verlin Eaker’s worrying problems.

The smooth driving Eaker claimed he suffered a few anxious moments Sunday afternoon while charging to the championship in the third annual National Late Model Modified Stock Car Championship at Hawkeye Downs before a disappointing crowd of 3,445.

Heavy, late morning rains throughout Iowa and Illinois and the ever-present threat of showers in Cedar Rapids no doubt affected the attendance as well as driver presentation which was well below the official entry list of 51 cars. Only 29 cars were present.

Eaker, the current point leader at the Downs, started on the pole position and led the entire 100-lap distance on the quarter mile to capture the $1,000 first prize money.

Verlin, and his hemi-powered 1967 Dodge also walked off with the entire lap purse of $320, awarded on the basis of $3.20 per lap paid to the leader.

As champion, Eaker was also awarded a free trip to Florida courtesy of Wynn Oil, Co.

Eaker was never challenged on the dirt track which resembled asphalt even before the feature spectacular began, due mainly to the heavy pounding of time trials, five preliminary events, and a blistering 96-degree temperature.

Eaker’s worries started 10 laps into the main event when his car starting sputtering.

“I got worried when the fuel pressure wasn’t up where it should’ve been,” Eaker explained. “I think it stored up on me when I had to slow down to lap slower cars.”

Second place finisher Dean Montgomery of Milan, Ill., provided Eaker additional worries, even though Dean was almost lapped by Eaker.

“I knew he wasn’t too close to me,” Eaker said. “But every time I looked for him, I couldn’t find him. That worried me.”

Asked if he knew how much he won by, Eaker replied, “I have a good idea.”

The famed Johnny Beauchamp of Atlantic, Iowa, showed his skill by climbing from his 16th starting position to finish third, right on Montgomery’s bumper at the finish.

Beauchamp, running smooth as silk in a ’60 Chevy, also copped the 15-lap third heat. With about 22 laps to go in the feature, the former IMCA national champion, lost his brakes.

“I thought I had a good chance of catching Montgomery until that happened,” he said. “I was just hanging on there at the end.”

Fourth place went to popular Mert Williams of Rochester, Minn., while Darrell Dake of Cedar Rapids, the 1965 winner of this event, rounded out the top five finishers.

Lee Kunzman of Guttenberg, the defending titlist, dropped out with engine trouble after only 25 laps.

Del Williams of Aledo, Ill., won the 20-lap semi-main, while heat winners, besides Beauchamp, were Ray Guss of Milan, Ill., Jack Rebholz of Peoria, Ill., and Jim Gerber of Long Grove.

Results –

1. Verlin Eaker, Cedar Rapids
2. Dean Montgomery, Milan, Ill.
3. Johnny Beauchamp, Atlantic
4. Mert Williams, Rochester, Minn.
5. Darrell Dake, Cedar Rapids
6. John Connolly, Delhi
7. Jim Gerber, Long Grove
8. Tom Hughes, Monticello
9. John Schlemmer, Cedar Rapids
10.Ernie Speth, Davenport

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