Saturday, September 9, 2023

1979 – Shear Claims First Place in Illiana’s Bettenhausen

Joe Shear poses proudly with his hardware after winning the 18th annual Tony Bettenhausen Memorial at Illiana Motor Speedway. – Stan Kalwasinski Photo

By Stan Kalwasinski

Schererville, Ind. (September 9, 1979) – Joe Shear of South Beloit, Ill., captured the 18th annual Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 late model classic at Illiana Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Shear, who had been an on-again-off-again competitor in the Bettenhausen event, drove his 1979 Camaro to victory, making the second-generation driver the 14th different winner in the prestigious race.

A total of 30 cars started the 50-mile event which saw Jerry Kemperman move into the lead from his outside front row starting position at the drop of the green. Kemperman stayed on top until lap 9 when Shear worked his way into the number one position.

The first part of the race saw pre-race favorites Frank Gawlinski, Larry Middleton and fast qualifier and five-time track champion Ed Hoffman all sent to the sidelines with assorted mechanical woes, including Hoffman’s blown engine while running in third place.

In between five caution periods, Shear maintained a commanding margin, which at times was sliced away by Kemperman and Billy Kuhn. Kuhn attempted to move in to challenge Shear only to see his chances of victory soured by a sputtering engine.

With the first three spots in the hands of Shear, Kuhn, and Kemperman, a real dogfight for the remainder of the top-10 spots developed as the race drew to a close.

Former Bettenhausen winners Tony Izzo (1978), Tom Jones (1973), and Gene Eding (1970), along with Larry Knowlton, Larry Schuler, Bob Strait, and Bruce Odell all looked to improve their positions in the final laps.

Entering turn one on the last circuit, Schuler and Eding tangled, sending both cars and Strait spinning wildly and losing valuable positions in the process.

After the dust had cleared, the final order of finish was Shear, Kuhn, and Kemperman, followed by Knowlton and Izzo.

Qualifying heats were won by Tom Jones, Larry Schuler, Steve Seligman, and Bobby Dotter. Another former Bettenhausen winner, Ed Hoffman (1975), paced the 42 entries in time trials.

Results –

1. Joe Shear, South Beloit, Ill.
2. Billy Kuhn, Blue Island, Ill.
3. Jerry Kemperman, Blue Island, Ill.
4. Larry Knowlton, Kalamazoo, Mich.
5. Tony Izzo, Bridgeview, Ill.
6. Bruce Odell, Palo Heights, Ill.
7. Tom Jones, Northbrook, Ill.
8. Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill.
9. Bob Strait, Flossmoor, Ill.
10.Gene Eding, Grand Rapids, Mich.
11.Bob Weltmeyer, Harvey, Ill.
12.George Hill, Oak Forrest, Ill.
13.Tom Musgrave, Des Plaines, Ill.
14.Denny Nyari, South Bend
15.James Bond, Blue Island, Ill.
16.Woody Pool, Tinley Park, Ill.
17.Tony Hertko, Joliet, Ill.
18.Johnny McPartlin, Dolton, Ill.
19.Gil Tarbutton, Lake Eliza, Ill.
20.Bob Theriault, Chicago

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