Thursday, April 4, 2024

1971 – Bettenhausen First at Eldora

Gary Bettenhausen 

Rossburg, Ohio (April 4, 1971) – Gary Bettenhausen took the lead on lap 5 and won his first United States Auto Club sprint car race of the season.

Larry Dickson was second with Karl Busson coming in third and Don Nordhorn finishing fourth.

Bettenhausen started in the fifth slot alongside the day’s fastest qualifier, Johnny Parsons Jr. Just in front of Gary was the man that usually dominates the sprint car division as of late, Larry Dickson, the defending USAC national champion.

For the first few laps, it was a four-way battle for the lead between Bettenhausen, Dickson, Larry Cannon and Karl Busson. Parsons was apparently having mechanical difficulties and never threatened the leaders.

Dickson was running third when he slowed up a little for Busson, who got a little high in turn two and allowed Bettenhausen to get under him and around for second place.

Bettenhausen, the son of the late and great Tony Bettenhausen, then dipped under Cannon on the second turn and steadily increased his lead until lap 30 when a caution flag came out.

Ralph Liguori of Tampa, Fla., had some heating problems and was forced to come to a halt at the head of the front straightaway.

On the restart, Bettenhausen left no doubt who had the fastest car and steadily increased his lead until the checkered waved.

Bettenhausen also won his heat race, and it was a new track record for Eldora and the sprints. The Tinley Park, Ill., native won the second heat of the day in 3 minutes and 9.27 seconds, eclipsing the old mark of 3 minutes and 9.76 seconds set by Rollie Beale.

Johnny Parsons Jr. won the first 10-lap heat, Bettenhausen the second, while Dickson grabbed the honors in the third heat and Dick Tobias was on top in the fourth heat. Sam Sessions led all the way to win the 12-lap consolation.

Results –

1. Gary Bettenhausen
2. Larry Dickson
3. Karl Busson
4. Don Nordhorn
5. Larry Cannon
6. Joe Saldana
7. Johnny Parsons Jr.
8. Carl Williams
9. Dick Tobias
10.Jan Opperman
11.Sonny Ates
12.Bob Black
13.Tom Bigelow
14.Jim Linder
15.Duke Cook
16.Doc Dawson
17.Ralph Liguori
18.Greg Weld
19.Sam Sessions
20.Darl Harrison

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