Tuesday, March 26, 2024

1972 – Bettenhausen Waltzes in Penn National Race

Gary Bettenhausen is joined by owner Willie Davis after winning the USAC sprint car feature at Penn National. 

Grantville, Penn. (March 26, 1972) – Defending United States Auto Club sprint car point champion Gary Bettenhausen, driving the lone Ford powered car in the field, completely dominated yesterday's inaugural sprint race at the Penn National Speedway before more than 5,000 spectators to capture his first feature event of the season on the USAC trail.

Bettenhausen, Tinley Park, Ill., starting on the pole, lost his lead to Jim McElreath of Arlington, Tex., on the very first lap. McElreath in turn fielded the front running position to Rollie Beale of Toledo, Ohio; on the third lap, setting the stage for Bettenhausen's comeback.

Beale held onto the lead until the 10th time around the half-mile oval, that's when Bettenhausen took the inside groove on the track and went flying past Beale into the number one spot.

Bettenhausen, after taking the lead, opened a considerable margin over the rest of the field, in fact, Gary lapped everyone except second place finisher McElreath.

Sam Sessions, Nashville, Mich., showed his driving courage when he finished seventh after his face visor and windshield were shattered by a flying stone. Sessions was forced to drive the remainder of the race without face protection.

Local favorite Dick “Toby” Tobias had his problems as he dropped from the running after nine laps. Tobias, on the opening lap, almost dumped the car when he hit one of the many ruts on the-oval, then twice in succession he hit the outside retaining wall, forcing him to leave.

Following Bettenhausen across the finish line were McElreath, Larry Dickson, Johnny Parsons, and Charlie Masters.

Lee Kunzman, Guttenberg, Iowa, set a track record when he completed a time lap in 25.03. Track records were set for various categories since this was the first time sprint cars competed at the local track.

The win puts Bettenhausen in the thick of the point race, while McElreath moves into the lead past Sessions with his second-place finish.

Results –

Heat #1 – Karl Busson
Heat #2 – Larry Dickson
Heat #3 – Jim McElreath
Heat #4 – Billy Cassella
Consolation – George Snider
Feature –
1. Gary Bettenhausen
2. Jim McElreath
3. Larry Dickson
4. Johnnie Parsons
5. Lee Kunzman
6. Charlie Masters
7. Joe Saldana
8. Bruce Walkup
9. Lennie Waldo

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