Monday, September 4, 2023

1977 – Merryfield Nabs Mason City Marathon

Joe Merryfield

Mason City, Iowa (September 4, 1977) – It was almost Monday when Sunday’s special late model feature at the North Iowa Speedway screeched to a halt.

But despite being delayed four times by spinouts and a two-car lockup, Joe Merryfield of Des Moines led all the way to claim the $1,200 first prize in the 40-lapper.

With the stakes considerably higher than usual and the racing intensively competitive, tempers also flared at times during the night, providing a sideshow just as interesting as the racing itself.

But Merryfield didn’t get mixed up in any of the extracurricular stuff and he never faltered en route to his first feature win of the season here and his second in two years, with a 1976 win coming on a 4th of July special event. Merryfield also won the second heat during the four-hour program.

Merryfield built up fairly good leads over runner-up Red Dralle of Evansdale several times during the main event only to lose the distance advantage when the yellow lights flashed.

The most severe delay happened on lap 5 when Jerry Holtkamp of Williams and Bill Kirk of Salix became entangled. It took track workers nearly 20 minutes to separate the two cars but both cars and drivers continued racing.

The feature was basically an eight-car tussle at the front, though some feisty racing took place in the rear of the 18-car pack. Following Dralle for nearly the entire contest was Dave Bjorge of Austin, Minn., Lynn Idler of Ionia, Ken Farrell of New Hampton, and Mason City’s Ted Zieman. Season point leader Don Hoffman of Des Moines and his fellow townsman Bill Rice, made up the next pack of cars.

That arrangement varied little during the race, although the back six stayed consistently on each other’s bumpers.

On the 38th circuit, Hoffman’s engine would fizzle, and he would be credited with 15th place. Zieman would also slow down considerably and finished ninth.

The season’s biggest crowd, 3,807, never got to see a continuance of the spat between Hoffman and Farrell, plus at least one of Dralle’s pit crew members, which erupted during the third heat race.

That event featured the most action of the evening. Farrell led all the way but the hard-charging Hoffman, coming from the middle of the pack, severely challenged Farrell on the last few laps. On the final stretch, in front of the grandstand, Hoffman pulled within a half-car length, and in the process, bumped the side of Farrell’s car.

Farrell apparently felt that the bump was deliberate, and a heated discussion ensued in the infield. That argument, which also included a Dralle crew member, didn’t result in much physical action but lasted 15 minutes.

When the late models assembled on the frontstretch for the feature, Farrell made the most of the moment and blew kisses towards the crowd. That drew a hearty response of both boos and cheers. Hoffman got the same greeting when he was introduced a few moments later.

In preliminary action, Kim DeVries of Hollandale, Minn., made it look easy, winning the street stock feature. It was his 11th feature win this season and fourth in a row. Steve Coe of Ames made it a clean sweep in the sportsman division, winning his heat and the feature.

A total of 74 cars were in attendance with 32 late models on hand – that entry total one of the largest, if not the biggest, fields in speedway history.

Results –

Heat #1 – Red Dralle, Evansdale
Heat #2 – Joe Merryfield, Des Moines
Heat #3 – Ted Zieman, Mason City
Heat #4 – Ken Farrell, New Hampton
Consolation – Curt Houge, Ames
Feature –
1. Joe Merryfield
2. Red Dralle
3. Dave Bjorge, Austin, Minn.
4. Lynn Idler, Ionia
5. Ken Farrell
6. Bill Rice, Des Moines
7. Bob Hilmer, Dysart
8. Jerry Holtkamp, Williams
9. Ted Zieman, Mason City
10.Bill Kirk, Salix
11.Darrell Sells, Waverly
12.Bob Hill, Randall
13.Jim White, Cresco
14.Lyn Rysavy, Osage
15.Don Hoffman, Des Moines

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