Sunday, October 15, 2023

1977 - Larry Dickson Cops Salt City 100

Larry Dickson gave car owner Russ Polak his first Champ victory at Syracuse. 

Syracuse, N.Y. (October 15, 1977) - Larry Dickson, the winningest driver in United States Auto Club Spring car history, scored his first victory in the prestigious USAC Championship division Saturday afternoon, when he cruised to an easy win in the fourth annual Salt City 100 on the one-mile dirt oval at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

The 43 USAC sprint car wins recorded by this tough 39-year-old veteran from Marietta, Ohio, still stands as the all-time career record and with Dickson being honored on Larry Dickson Day this afternoon at a sprint car event in Winchester, Ind., the $9,000 victory Saturday at Syracuse will serve as the topping on the cake.

After qualifying fourth in time trials, Dickson took over from polesitter Roger Rager after 11 laps and was never seriously challenged. The leader built up about a quarter lap margin over Billy Vukovich by the half way mark, but the only yellow of the race on the 68th lap left Vuky on Dickson's tail for the single file restart.

Vukovich, who's Dad won fame and fortune with his wins at Indianapolis, took a run for the top spot when racing resumed, but other than a slight tap on Dickson's rear bumper, Billy could get no closer and Dickson came home a winner by fifty yards over Vukovich, who hails from Fresno, Calif.

Bubby Jones from Danville, Ill., and Chuck Gurney from Livermore, Calif., finished third and fourth, respectively, and were the only other finishers to complete the entire 100 miles.

The 10th place finish of Larry Rice of Indianapolis was enough to nail down the 1977 USAC Championship Dirt title, but it wasn’t without a struggle. His regular mount suffered rear end problems in the warmups, but Ron Shuman gave up his ride in the Smith Speed Shop entry to Rice and with his nearest competitor, Sheldon Kinser, finishing ninth, the 1977 title went to the 31-year-old veteran from Linden, Indiana.

For winning car owner, Russ Polak, it was also his first Champ car win, and he was proudly showing off his newly acquired Roger Penske rear engine champ car that he hopes Dickson will put into next May's lineup at Indy.

Polak’s winning dirt car is a Ron Ward chassis, powered by a 320 cubic inch Chevrolet engine and Chuck Looper is listed as crew chief. Dickson won USAC Spring titles in 1968,'70 &'75.

Forty cars were in the pits, but five machines ran into mechanical ills after the warmups Lee Kunzman in Pat Santello’s City of Syracuse Special ran into injection problems and was forced to watch the show. Defending champ Pancho Carter had oil pressure problems on the pace lap and did not start.

The only serious incident of the day occurred during the time trials, when popular Jim Hurtubise hit the third turn wall and went through a series of wild flips. Jim quickly scrambled out unhurt, but his machine was through for the day.

Twenty-eight cars started the feature event and 11 were around at the finish. The final four starters came from a special 10-mile consolation race, which was won by Jackie Howerton of Speedway, Indiana.

Results –

1. Larry Dickson
2. Billy Vukovich
3. Bubby Jones
4. Chuck Gurney
5. Greg Leffler
6. Bill Cassella
7. James McElreath
8. Bill Puterbaugh
9. Sheldon Kinser
10.Larry Rice
11.Joe Saldana
12.Roger Rager
13.Bill Engelhart
14.Junior Parkinson
15.Mark Alderson
16.Bruce Walkup
17.Jerry Weeks
18.Jackie Howerton
19.Clark Templeman
20.Lynn Paxton
21.Jim McElreath
22.Steve Chassey

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