Thursday, July 6, 2023

1969 – Jerry Smith Cops 150-Lap Firecracker Classic

Jerry Smith poses with his trophy after winning the Firecracker Classic at WIR.

Kaukauna, Wis. (July 6, 1969) – “Spirit of Medina” or “Medina, Here I Come” or “Hail to the King”. Regardless of which one you pick, there was a “Hot Time” in that little village Sunday evening.

Medina’s Jerry Smith came home with all the ‘bacon’ as the hometown hero won his first big-time major racing event on Sunday afternoon.

The event was the $6,220 150-lap Firecracker Classic held at the KK Sports Arena.

The quiet, personable Smith, driving a hard but steady race, worked his way from the back of the pack into the glory position for the first time on the 98th lap. The impressive Smith was still scheduled for a pit stop which he took on lap 118 for gas, and relinquished is spot to Kimberly’s Clyde Schumacher.

A fast pit stop put Smith back in the fifth position and the genial track master again drew a bead on the evasive #1 position.

Smith took the lead for good on the 128th lap and proceeded on his homeward journey which came at the magic 150 mark.

Bobby Wawak of Villa Park, Ill., driving a ’69 Dodge Charger, grabbed the early lead in the race, and was setting the pace from the second to the 80th lap until going into the fourth turn, he went high and cut in ahead of Gene Marmor of River Grove, Ill., and went spinning down the back straightaway, but only lost two positions as he straightened the car out and found himself in the third position.

The entire race was concentrated around Smith, Marmor, and Wawak, as each were three-car-lengths of each other than the latter parts of the race.

At the end, Marmor ended up taking second, with Schumacher in third and Rich Somers of Stevens Point taking fourth. Wawak rounded out the top-five.

It started out as a frustrating afternoon for Schumacher, who had his ’69 Torino on the track, but only to take two laps and slam into the wall coming out of turn three. The car was towed to the pits and his crew immediately went into operation, and by the start of the feature, the car was ready to compete.

Some stiff competition was erased when Wisconsin Rapids ace Dick Trickle blew an engine. Lost with mechanical trouble during the feature was Kimberly’s Roger Regeth, who dropped out after only 17 laps. Ironically, fast time was shared by Trickle and Regeth, as both turned laps of 22.70 seconds on the half-mile paved oval.

Marv Marzofka of Nekoosa won the first heat while Bay Darnell of Deerfield, Ill., was the second heat winner. Regeth won the consolation.

Results –

1. Jerry Smith, Medina
2. Gene Marmor, River Grove, Ill.
3. Clyde Schumacher, Kimberly
4. Rich Somers, Stevens Point
5. Bobby Wawak, Villa Park, Ill.
6. Marlin Walbeck, Rib Lake
7. Ed Hoffman, Niles, Ill.
8. Bay Darnell, Deerfield, Ill.
9. George Giesen, Menasha
10.J.J. Smith, Appleton

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