Friday, June 14, 2024

1977 – Four Straight Mains for Smith

Jerry Smith of Medina would win four consecutive late model features on four different Wisconsin tracks. He’s shown here at Shawano County Fairgrounds. – Pete Vercauteren Photo

Oshkosh, Wis. (June 14-19, 1977) – It would be a profitable week for Jerry Smith of Medina as he would win all four late model features, he entered, starting at Leo’s Speedway in Oshkosh on Tuesday, Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna on Thursday, Shawano Speedway on Saturday, and ending at Seymour Speedway on Sunday night.

He would start the ball rolling at Leo’s Speedway on June 14, driving his 1977 Camaro to victory in the 25-lap feature. Smith would get off to a great start, breaking the track record in time trials, with a 17.042-second time on the 1/3-mile dirt oval.

In the feature, Smith started dead last in the 12-car field but steadily move his way through the pack, eventually passing Gary Roehrborn of Menasha on lap 22, to take the lead and the win.

On June 16, Smith would slip by Bob Abitz of Freedom on the last lap to win the 20-lap Fox River Club late model feature before a record crowd of 3,483 fans.

Smith and Abitz ran the final six laps nose-to-tail on the half-mile paved oval with Abitz in the lead behind the wheel of his 1973 Camaro. Abitz, a high school teacher, drove the finest race of his six-year career as he held back Smith until the final lap.

Smith nosed his car inside of Abitz as the two speeding racers entered turn one. As the cars roared down the backstretch, Smith pulled into a slight lead, but Abitz made a last-turn passing attempt on the final corner, only to spin his car around, dropping him out of the top-six finishers. The victory was Smith’s third of the year at WIR.

Smith would continue his week-long dominance of Wisconsin tracks with a 20-lap late model victory at Shawano speedway on June 18.

Being the night’s fastest qualifier, Smith started dead last in the 14-car field but wasted little time in advancing his position. With his Camaro running to perfection, Smith quickly dispersed of Pete Parker, Lowell Bennett, and Herb Iverson to take over third place. He then slipped to the inside of Al Presteen on lap 7 to take over second place, setting his sights on race leader Scot Hanson of Green Bay.

A caution on lap 12 would bunch the field and on the restart, Smith would roar past Hanson to take the lead. He would motor to a four-second victory over Parker and Roger Regeth for his third feature win of the season at the track.

Sunday, June 19 would see Smith as the fast qualifier and the fastest racer, as he won his third straight late model at Seymour Speedway. Smith would pass Russ Peterson of Milwaukee on lap 6 of the 20-lapper to take over the lead. Peterson would trial Smith for 10 more circuits before tire problems dropped him back. Larry Ninneman of Milwaukee would finish second to Smith with Cliff Ebben of Appleton taking third.

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