Monday, June 24, 2024

1979 – Top Pick Goes Home, Anderson First to Flag

John Anderson

Springfield, Mo. (June 24, 1979) – As the finish drew close in Sunday’s 100-lap American Speed Association stock car race at Fairgrounds Speedway, there was not a driver on the track who thought he was a winner.

Not Mike Eddy, the Midland, Mich., veteran, who was leading, yet praying because of a slowly failing right rear tire.

Not John Anderson, the Massillon, Ohio, driver who lost track of his laps and almost made the charge too late.

Not Mark Martin, the Batesville, Ark., youngster who led the first half of the race, only to be chased down by Eddy and Anderson.

And defintely not Dick Trickle of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., a pre-race favorite who packed his bags after Saturday’s rainout and blazed highways to another race in Kaukauna, Wis.

For a race in which nobody felt good about their chances, both Eddy and Anderson tried darn hard to reach the checkered flag first. Anderson did it with a final lunge out of the fourth turn to clip Eddy by less than two feet in one of the most exciting finishes ever at the Fairgrounds.

Anderson got around Martin 25 laps from the end to move into second place but counted himself out of the finish before Eddy ran into heavy traffic.

“I thought with a little luck, I might get by him,” said Anderson, who tucked his third ASA victory of the season under his belt. “I needed that traffic to catch up, but it also hurt me a little. With all of traffic and battling with Mike, I did not even see the five to go sign. It surprised me to see the white flag coming out, and I thought it was all over then.”

It really looked bleak for Anderson when he dove deep into the first turn just after taking the lead on the last lap. His sleek Camaro slowly nosed its way towards the outside wall.

Anderson brought the slide under control and pulled to Eddy’s outside door down the back straightaway. He and Eddy race side-by-side around the third and fourth turns, and Anderson simply had enough power down the main straight to inch ahead at the wire.

Eddy was doing fine until he approached a battle for fifth-place between Ray Young and John Knaus. The two had been going at it all afternoon and they were not about to let Eddy slide by with five laps left.

“The traffic didn’t cost me the race,” said Eddy. “In fact, I was trying to use the traffic to save the race, but I had troubles the last 10 laps with my right rear tire. It was getting thin, and I was trying to stay on the bottom of the track.”

Martin, who led the first 50 laps from his pole position, had no excuses.

“I knew darn well we weren’t set to win this race,” said the former Fairgrounds Speedway champion and defending ASA titlist. “Those two guys just plain outran me. That is all there was to it.”

Few persons – especially the estimated 2,500 in the stands – knew that Trickle had departed. It wasn’t until the ASA late models were being lined up that most of the crowd noticed the popular Trickle was missing.

No announcements were made to the patrons – who paid $9 to $10 to see the race – until minute before the 100-lapper.

Trickle is part of the ASA Winner’s Circle Program, a series of nine races which guarantees promoters and spectators that the top-10 drivers in the ASA point standings will appear. Rain dates, however, aren’t included in the contract which the drivers sign prior to the season.

Martin and Bob Senneker of Michigan were also committed to the race in Wisconsin but elected to stay in Springfield.

“We found out about it (Trickle’s decision) at 6 o’clock Saturday night,” said ASA president Rex Robbins. “He (Trickle) knew there was no easy way out, because he’d be making race fans made here if he went and he’d be making fans mad there if he didn’t go.”

Results –

1. John Anderson
2. Mike Eddy
3. Mark Martin
4. Don Gregory
5. John Knaus
6. Randy Sweet
7. Terry Devine
8. Bob Senneker
9. Ray Young
10.Harold Scott
11.Jim Campbell
12.Bob Sensiba
13.Russ Phillips
14.Terry Shirley
15.Bobby Henzie
16.Doug Klein
17.Dave Jensen
18.Don Ely
19.Roger Chism
20.Rick Knotts

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