Thursday, July 4, 2024

1968 – Hughes Wins Speedbowl 50-Lapper


“Big” Tom Hughes won the 50-lap late model feature for the Holiday Spectacular at Speedbowl Park. Buzz Reed presents the checkers. Trophy girl is unidentified.

Sterling, Ill. (July 4, 1968) – It wasn’t done without interference from the elements, but the rains came, and the rains went while the stock car races continued at Speedbowl Park on Thursday night.

Fortunately, the shower was of a different variety than those which have made a habit of arriving here the past few weeks on race night and was short lived.

As a result, the rain wasn’t heavy enough to create problems which would have warranted calling off the 50-lap late model championship race, even though the racing surface was a bit slippery.

Tom Hughes of Monticello, Iowa, came out the winner of the event, but even after 50 laps of racing, the difference between Hughes and second=place finisher John Connolly of Delhi, Iowa, could probably been measured in millimeters than inches or feet, much less car-lengths.

Most of the race fans on hand had no idea which driver was the winner when the two cars crossed the finish line, but track officials ruled Hughes had the edge.

Not to distract anything from his driving effort, but Hughes inherited first place somewhat as a fluke, when Verlin Eaker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who started on the pole position by virtue of his under 19-second showing in time trials, had to pull off the track with less than half the race gone.

Eaker was running well ahead of the rest of the field and had already lapped numerous cars when trouble started for him. He was attempting to pass a slower car on the outside when that driver started to pull high to allow Eaker to pass. Since Eaker already had the front of his car alongside the rear bumper of the slower car, the two bumped together. The collision did not appear to be a serious one, however the impact was great enough to break the steering column on Eaker’s hemi-powered 1965 Dodge, thus causing him to pull into the infield.

Hughes had it fairly easy going the rest of the way, with Connolly slowly closing the gap on him. Hughes appeared to have victory in his pocket when the white flag waved, signifying one lap left, when suddenly Connolly pulled alongside Hughes on the backstretch. The real race was on with Hughes getting there first…but barely.

Hughes and Connolly were followed by Ron Weedon of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, and John Schlemmer of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Results –

1. Tom Hughes, Monticello, Iowa
2. John Connolly, Delhi, Iowa
3. Ron Weedon, Pleasant Valley, Iowa
4. Roger Dolan, Iowa
5. John Schlemmer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
6. Bill McDonough, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
7. Bill Forbes, Rock Falls
8. Bruce Lindbeck, Kewanee
9. John Engelkens, Rock Island
10.Del Williams, Aledo

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