Saturday, August 19, 2023

1976 - Mistake by Wolfgang lets Utz win sprint car race at Fairgrounds


Bill Utz

Des Moines, Iowa (August 19, 1976) - Bill Utz, capitalizing on the only chance he had, slid under Doug Wolfgang on the 14th lap and coasted to victory Thursday in the sprint car races at the State Fairgrounds.

With only one groove forming on the dry, slick track, Utz of Sedalia, Mo., drove under Wolfgang when the Des Moines driver drove too high into turn two, then coasted to the $1,000 first prize in the 30-lap race.

“Doug went into the turn too hard and got sideways,” explained Utz, a two-time International Motor Contest Association sprint car champion. “It was what I’d been waiting for.”

Once past, Utz stretched the lead to one-half straightaway over runner-up Wolfgang until a caution flag six laps from the finish erased the margin. However, Utz pulled away on the restart and was never challenged.

Joe Saldana of Brownsburg, Ind., was third, followed by Gene Gennetten, Parkville, Mo., Ralph Blackett of Des Moines, and Eddie Leavitt of Kearney, Mo.

Leavitt, the recent Knoxville National super-modified champion, had the fastest lap in time trials of 23.65 seconds around the Fairgrounds’ one-half mile dirt oval.

Prior to taking the lead, it was a two-car battle with Wolfgang in front. Utz said he doubted that he could have passed Wolfgang if Doug hadn’t made the mistake in turn three.

“You almost have to make a mistake on a track like this to get past,” Utz said. “Usually on this track you can pass on the outside, but it (the outside groove) was real loose today.”

The dejected Wolfgang blamed no one but himself. “I just goofed up once,” the Knoxville season point champion said.

Wolfgang was an easy winner in the first heat, while Gennetten and Ralph Parkinson, Jr., of Kansas City, Mo., were the other heat winners. Jim Darley of Phoenix, Ariz., captured the 10-lap consolation race after Rick Weld of Kansas City, Mo., spun on the second lap while leading. Lloyd Beckman of Lincoln, Neb., was second in the consolation. Jack McCorkell of Redwood Falls, Minn., third and Bill Robinson of Lincoln, Neb., took fourth.

Results –

Fast Time - Eddie Leavitt, Kearney, Mo. (23.65)
Heat #1 - Doug Wolfgang, Des Moines
Heat #2 - Gene Gennetten, Parkville, Mo.
Heat #3 - Ralph Parkinson Jr., Kansas City, Mo.
Consolation - Jim Darley, Phoenix, Ariz.
Feature -
1. Bill Utz, Sedalia, Mo.
2. Doug Wolfgang
3. Joe Saldana, Brownsburg, Ind.
4. Gene Gennetten
5. Ralph Blackett, Des Moines
6. Eddie Leavitt
7. Gary Johnson, Colfax
8. Bill Robison, Lincoln, Neb.
9. Randy Smith, Mount Ayr
10.Lloyd Beckman, Lincoln, Neb.
11.Jack McCorkell, Redwood Falls, Minn.
12.Leonard McCarl, Des Moines

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