Tuesday, December 5, 2023

1982 - Late Model Specials in the Show-Me State

By Lee Ackerman

Omaha, Neb. - In 1982 they held a number of Dirt Late Model Specials in Missouri bringing may of the best drivers in the Midwest and the Country to the Show-Me State. The first of these was the annual Frostbuster held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia on April 3.

Tom Hearst is joined by car owner Keith Simmons in victory lane at Sedalia. 

Ronnie Hoover of Fulton, Mo., would take the lead at the waving of the green flag, but his turn at the front was short lived as Billy Moyer of Des Moines, Iowa, grabbed the lead from Hoover on lap two. Moyer would lead the next nine circuits before defending Frostbuster champion Tom Hearst of Wilton, Iowa, took control of the race on lap 10 and from that point on Hearst was never really challenged in the 30-lap event.

However, a battle raged for second place between Moyer, Bill Martin of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Kevin Gundaker of St. Louis. Gundaker would make the pass of Martin for third on lap 15. Disaster almost struck the leaders as Bill Breuer and Craig Spetman spun in the second corner on lap 18 with Hearst, Moyer and Gundaker going high to avoid the spin. Gundaker would get by Moyer for second on lap 23 but could not mount a challenge to Hearst.

After the race, Hearst said that he was aware Gundaker was behind him, but “I felt I could outrun anyone today.” Moyer would finish third, Roger Thompson of Junction City, Kan., fourth and Vic Bentlage of Jefferson City, Mo., fifth. Hearst also set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 24.327 seconds.

Charlie Schwartz won the Spring Nationals at I-70 Speedway. - Pete Vercauteren Photo

The next big Late Model Special in Missouri was the “Spring Nationals” held on April 30-May 1 at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Missouri. On Friday night, Larry Moore driving out of Phenix City, Ala., would set fast time of 19.10 seconds with Steve Kosiski of Omaha right behind at 19.11. Heats were won by Kevin Gundaker, Mike Crabtree and Dave Bjorge with Bill Martin taking the B feature. In Friday night’s feature event it would be Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., taking the win followed by Gundaker, Moore, Kosiski and Bjorge.

Saturday night would start off with more heat races, those events going to; Bobby Goulden III, Charlie Swartz and Bjorge. Billy Moyer would win the Non-Qualifiers race setting the stage for the 40-lap finale.

Ashland, Kentucky’s ‘Chargin’ Charlie Swartz would hold off Omaha’s Joe Kosiski for the win in the finale with Austin, Minnesota’s Dave Bjorge finishing third despite losing his driver’s side bodywork. Steve Kosiski and Terry Quinn would round out the top five.

Joe Kosiski won the Missouri Stock Car Nationals at I-70 Speedway. 

The gladiators of dirt returned to the I-70 Speedway in late June for the ‘Missouri Stock Car Nationals.’ Steve Kosiski lowered the track record set by Larry Moore at the ‘Spring Nationals’ when he tripped the clock at 18.97 seconds easily beating second fastest qualifier Billy Moyer who turned 19.34 seconds. Heats were won by Larry Phillips, Billy Moyer and Les Duellman of Fountain City, Wis., with Dwaine Hansen of Lakefield, Minn., taking the B feature win.

Joe Kosiski of Omaha led the entire 40 laps to take home the ‘Missouri Stock Car Nationals’ but not without a late race challenge from Billy Moyer. The two battled the last five laps with Kosiski shutting the door on Moyer coming off four as the two encountered lapped traffic. Moyer would slide high allowing Dave Bjorge to get by for second. Moyer, Phillips and Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., rounded out the top five.

Andy Claiborne (47) and Ronnie Hoover (5) battle it out during the Missouri State Fair. 

The next big race of the year was back at the Missouri State Fairgrounds and the annual Missouri State Fair on August 22 where young 21-year-old Andy Claiborne of Shawnee Mission, Kan., put on a whale of a drive as he thrilled the 6,000 fans in attendance. Things did not start well for Claiborne, and he was forced to go to the back of the 22-car as a result of being involved in an accident on one of the three starts of the 30-lap affair.

From there, Claiborne but on a driving exhibition as he moved through the field grabbing third place on lap 23. Then on lap 24 he got past race leader Ed Knaebel of Jefferson City, Missouri and Ed Dixon of Washington, Mo., and from there he wheeled his Corvette to the win and a $1,000 payday.

“I thought I lost my motor when I was in the crash. But it was just the dry sump belt that came off. I finally got the car started and knew the motor was OK.” said Claiborne after the race. “I was running low and passing cars early in the race but when I got to the faster cars, I moved up high and was amazed at how much faster I was up there. Knaebel was trying to protect his lead from Dixon, who was trying to get by on the outside. I stayed high and got by both of them.”

Ronnie Hoover would get by both Knaebel and Dixon last in the race to finish second. Third through fifth would go to Knaebel, Dixon and Dick Elliott of Mt. Ayr, Iowa.

Joe Wallace is congratulated after winning the 100-miler at Sedalia. 

Action would continue at the Missouri State Fair on August 28 but this time it would be a 100-mile feature on the big Missouri mile. Billy Moyer would set a new track record on the mile with a lap of 36.857 seconds more than a second better than the old track record.

Mike Crabtree of Lebanon, Ill., led from the start and despite an altercation on the backstretch that took out Billy Moyer with front end damage, Crabtree would maintain the point for nine laps when he was passed by Bo Smith of St. Charles, Mo. Smith led until lap 30 when the yellow came out and several cars including Smith pitted. Crabtree then resumed the race lead until lap 43 when another caution waved sending many of the competitors pit side.

Sonny Kimberling of Gilliam, Mo., assumed the lead for one lap and then it was Kansas City’s Joe Wallace taking the lead. Wallace would keep his green and yellow Oldsmobile Cutlass out front the rest of the race but not without a fight from Joe Kosiski. The two battled side by side with Wallace holding on for the win. Kosiski would finish second, Mike Barbeau of St. Charles, Mo., third, Charlie Moubry of Novelty, Mo., fourth and Crabtree fifth.

The final big race in the Show-Me state in 1982 was the annual Missouri Nationals at the Capital Speedway in Jefferson City, Missouri on October 9. Gary Webb of Davenport, Iowa, would win the 100-lap event followed by Dan Dickey of Packwood, Iowa, Ed Dixon, Rick Standridge of Divernon, Ill., and Ronnie Hoover.

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