Tuesday, July 4, 2023

1977 – Johnny Parsons Jr. Scores USAC Midget Win at State Fair in Huron

Johnny Parsons Jr. 

Huron, S.D. (July 4, 1977) - Johnny Parsons Jr. of Speedway, Ind., was missing the gear shift lever to his midget race car and was also experiencing problems with the steering but nevertheless, he took the checkered flag to win the main event in the USAC-sanctioned national championship midget races held in Huron Sunday night at State Fair Speedway.

Parsons, who enjoyed a clean sweep of the races he was in by also winning the trophy dash and the second heat, made his move late in the race to pass Bob Wente of St. Louis, Mo., and capture the $800 pay-off for first place.

Parsons was untouchable in his trophy dash and heat victories but suffered a poor start when the green flag came out for the 30-lap main event and found himself in the middle of the pack.

He worked himself up to second place behind Wente on lap 17 and ten laps later, on lap 27, the Indy 500 veteran went low into curve one and sneaked under Wente for the lead spot where he kept his Volkswagen powered midget.

Earlier this year on Memorial Day, Parsons received his largest paycheck ever - $33,170 for a fifth-place finish in the famous Indianapolis 500.

Lebanon, Ind., native Mel Kenyon, a 25-year racing veteran, shared the spotlight with Parsons by awing the crowd with a spectacular crash on the front straightaway during a heat race.

Kenyon was competing in the second heat along with Bud Whitfield of Colorado Springs, Colo., when the two brushed sides coming out of turn four. Kenyon's car started to roll and then flipped over 30 feet into the air, coming down in a thunderous crash that demolished the car and sent emergency crews to the scene.

But no sooner had the midget hit the ground than Kenyon was lifting himself out of the car having weathered the ride without a scratch.

The courageous Kenyon was then offered another car by a fellow driver and within five minutes was back on the track racing in the next heat race.

Kenyon was severely burned several years ago in a fiery crash at Langhorne, Penn., and was left with only a few stubs on one hand for fingers.

A unique glove was designed for his hand with a ball .and socket arrangement that allows him to wrestle his midgets through the corners.

South Dakota's own Roger Larson, a top-notch sprint car driver from Madison, made a successful debut in USAC midget racing by winning the fourth heat and then finishing eighth in the main event.

It was Larson's first time behind the wheel of a midget car, and he enjoyed the opportunity. In the heat race, Larson suffered a slow start on the green flag, but followed the leaders for several laps as if sizing up the opposition, and then passed the entire field to win the race.

In the main event, Larson got off to a better start and was in fifth place after the first lap but was unable to keep his car there and finished the race eighth.

Chris Cumberworth of Santa Ana, Calif., winner of the semi-main, finished third behind Parsons and Wente in the main event with Ron Shuman of Tempe, Ariz., fourth and Larry Patton of Anaheim, Calif., fifth. Joining Parsons and Larson as heat winners were Patton and Clark Templeman of Seattle, Wash.

Results –

1. Johnny Parsons Jr., Speedway, Ind.
2. Bob Wente, St. Louis, Mo.
3. Chris Cumberworth, Santa Ana, Calif.
4. Ron Shuman, Tempe, Ariz.
5. Larry Patton, Anaheim, Calif.
6. Clark Timpleman, Seattle, Wash.
7. Alan Brown, West Lafayette, Ind.
8. Roger Larson, Madison, S.D.
9. Sleepy Tripp, Costa Mesa, Ariz.
10.Steve Chassey, Indianapolis, Ind.

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