Tuesday, September 12, 2023

1976 - Shear Resolves Differences, Wins Dells Midwest Championship

Joe Shear and his wife Connie are joined by Dells Motor Speedway promoter Larry Wehrs after Shear won the 100-lap Midwest Championships. – Kurt Luoma Photo

By Dick Johnson

Wisconsin Dells, Wis. (September 12, 1976) – After patching up a squabble with car owner Marvin Palmer, Joe Shear returned in his familiar #36 Camaro to capture the 100-lap finale of the Midwest Championships at the Dells Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. Earlier, Larry Detjens and Joe Ruttman had split the 50-lap preliminary features.

Shear and Palmer parted ways Friday night with Shear piloting Gary Hemmerling’s car in Saturday’s events. However, they resolved their differences Saturday night and Sunday found Shear back in his regular ride.

The South Beloit, Ill., charger earned his starting berth in the 100-lapper with a third-place finish in the second of two 50-lappers. Each of the 50s started its top-10 finishers in the finale with four additional cars being selected to complete the 24-car field.

Slinger’s Tony Strupp was the initial leader in the 100-lapper, but he pulled into the pits after five laps, giving the top spot to Rocky Breezer, who held it through the 11th lap.

On lap 12, Jim Hornung took over as Shear moved into fourth. By lap 16, Ruttman had moved swiftly though traffic and was right behind Shear. Shear and Ruttman were running one-two by the 22nd circuit with Shear starting to slowly pull away.

Meanwhile, Detjens was hurrying through traffic, taking third from Doug Strasburg on lap 377. However, it wasn’t until lap 52 that Detjens caught Ruttman, and after an extended side-by-side battle, Detjens finally prevailed.

With Shear nearly a quarter lap in front, chances seemed remote that Detjens would have an opportunity to challenge Shear. But a tangle involving Leonard Reimer and Marv Marzofka brought out the yellow on lap 63 and enabled Detjens to restart right on Shear’s rear bumper.

When the green appeared, Detjens gave chase to the leader and 10 laps later, managed to pull even with Shear on the backstretch trapping him behind a slower car.

However, Shear managed to squeeze past the slower car and keep ahead of Detjens the rest of the way by a combination of smart driving and using heavy traffic to his advantage.

At the finish, Shear was a couple of car lengths ahead of Detjens with Ruttman a quarter-lap down in third place. Tom Reffner, Doug Strasburg, and Jerry Makara, finished fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively, all on the lead lap.

Detjens won the first 50-lapper after passing Tom Reffner for the lead on lap 44. Reffner held on to place second followed by Bob Gunn. Ruttman won the second 50-lapper after passing early leader Bill Oas on lap 15 to gain the top spot. Doug Strasburg and Shear finished second and third, respectively.

Results –

1. Joe Shear, South Beloit, Ill.
2. Larry Detjens, Wausau
3. Joe Ruttman, Dearborn, Mich.
4. Tom Reffner, Rudolph
5. Doug Strasburg, Johnson Creek
6. Jerry Makara, Ancaster, Ontario
7. Bob Gunn, Madison
8. Mike Miller, Wisconsin Rapids
9. Bob Carnes, Kalamazoo, Mich.
10.Bill Oas, New Brighton, Minn.

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