Sunday, September 3, 2023

1954 – 20,000 Watch Slater Win Big Car Race at Fair

Bob Slater wipes dust from his face and neck after winning the 20-lap National Speedways big car race at the Iowa State Fair. 

Des Moines, Iowa (September 3, 1954) – Bob Slater, the elongated Kansas Cityan, slammed his foot to the floor and kept there the entire way to win the 20-lap National Speedways championship feature before 20,000 spectators at the Iowa State Fair on Friday night.

In covering the 10 miles in 9 minutes and 1.75 seconds, the thin man of big car dirt track racing settled accounts with Missouri rival Jimmy Campbell, who beat him last week when Slater was forced out with an overheating motor.

Campbell, the Bates City farmer, finished third, nearly half-a-track length behind another Kansas Cityan, Jud Larson, who was piloting a red-hot Offenhauser sent by a Dallas, Tex., car owner.

Campbell set the pace at the start, taking the lead from Bobby Grim of Indianapolis on the opening turn, but it was Larson who would offer the only challenge to Slater, the International Motor Contest Association point leader, in the closing stages.

After Larson closed the gap to two car lengths, Slater stayed in front with some perilous skids around the curves in the final five laps.

Herschel Wagner, the Hickman Hills, Mo., driver who clung to the heels of the first four leaders throughout, finished fifth. He was followed by Jim Wegschneider of St. Louis, Earl Bonnema, the Orange City newcomer in Emory Collins’ old racer, and Wally McWhorter, a teenage hot-rodder from Wichita, Kan.

McWhorter showed up and filed his entry in the middle of qualifying as a surprise entry. After finishing out of the money in the heat races, he placed fourth in the consolation to win a starting berth in the feature.

Bob Cleburg, another teenage sensation from Rio, Wis., moved up among the time trial leaders with a 26.84 second clocking on the half-mile, then won the third qualifying heat in his debut on the big-time circuit. However, he failed to place among the money winners in the championship final.

Results –

1. Bob Slater, Kansas City
2. Jud Larson, Kansas City
3. Jimmy Campbell, Bates City, Mo.
4. Bobby Grim, Indianapolis
5. Herschel Wagner, Hickman Hills, Mo.
6. Jim Wegschneider, St. Louis
7. Earl Bonnema, Orange City
8. Walt McWhorter, Wichita, Kan.
9. Mickey McCormick, Hutchinson, Kan.
10.Al Sherman, Van Nuys, Calif.

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