Monday, June 3, 2024

1972 - Knoxville USAC Win to Sessions

Family and race fans greet Sam Sessions in victory lane after the Nashville, Mich., ace won the 40-lap USAC sprint car feature at Knoxville. – Beetle Bailey Photo

Knoxville, Iowa (June 3, 1972) – Sam Sessions of Nashville, Mich., jumped from Indianapolis and the 500-mile classic to the half-mile dirt oval at the Marion County Fairgrounds and won the 40-lap United States Auto Club sprint car race before a crowd estimated at 6,000.

Sessions, piloting the Maury Amerling Chevrolet, set a new USAC record with a time of 16 minutes and 21.23 seconds for the 20-mile distance. He collected $1,000 for the victory.

Sessions was followed Don Nordhorn of Wadesville, Ind., Greg Weld of Kansas City, Mo., Tom Bigelow of Whitewater, Wis., and Billy Thrasher of Fort Worth, Tex.

Sessions started on the outside of the front row in the feature, after setting fifth fastest time in qualifying, and the top six are inverted. He jumped to an early lead, with Nordhorn, Weld and Bigelow giving chase. Halfway through the race, these four cars had pulled to a quarter-lap lead over the bulk of the field.

Sessions continued to set the pace, then found himself slowed when he started lapping the back of the field, and once again, Nordhorn, Weld and Bigelow were able to close the gap on the Indy 500’s fourth-place finisher.

Sessions, however, was able to negotiate slower traffic and pull away for the victory.

“I was lucky to win," said Sessions. “It was slick and dusty out there, I had troubles at times.”

Joe Saldana of Lincoln, Neb., Bill Thrasher of Fort Worth, Tex., Rollie Beale of Toledo, Ohio and Bill Cassella of Weirton, W.Va., were heat winners. Weld, driving Lee Kunzman’s regular sprint rife, the R&B Racing Chevrolet, won the 12-lap consolation.

It was a disappointing night for Joe Saldana and Earl Wagner of Pleasantville, Iowa, who perform here weekly. Saldana started the feature in the second row but finished eleventh. “I had the wrong tires on the car,” he said. Saldana survived an early accident which sidelined Wagner for the night.

Two other Indianapolis 500 drivers scheduled to appear – Lee Kunzman of Guttenberg, Iowa and George Snider of Bakersfield, Calif. - along with Jim McElreath of Arlington, Tex., did not appear.

Russ Clendenen, head of USAC’s sprint car division, said they didn’t come because of the Sunday’s race at Milwaukee.

“They had entries in here well before the Milwaukee race and I’m not happy that they’re not here,” he remarked. “I’ll be looking into the matter.”

Results –

1. Sam Sessions, Nashville, Mich.
2. Don Nordhorn, Noblesville, Ind.
3. Greg Weld, Kansas City, Mo.
4. Tom Bigelow, Whitewater, Wis.
5. Bill Thrasher, Fort Worth, Tex.
6. Rollie Beale, Toledo, Ohio
7. Bob Pratt, Union City, Ind.
8. Bill Puterbaugh, Roxana, Ill.
9. Johnny Parson, Reseda, Calif.
10.Larry Cannon, Oakwood, Ill.
11.Joe Saldana, Lincoln, Neb.
12.Steve Cannon, Springfield, Ill.
13.Gary Ponzini, Morgan Hill, Calif.
14.Bruce Walkup, St. Paul, Ind.
15.Bill Cassella, Weirton, W.Va.
16.Karl Busson, Toledo, Ohio
17.Bill Koepfer, Fostoria, Ohio
18.Larry Dickson, Marietta, Ohio
19.Rick Goudy, Los Angeles
20.Charlie Masters, Waddy, Ky.

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