Tuesday, July 2, 2024

1969 - Driver's Home is Keokuk's Claim to Fame

Ernie Derr is flanked by his son, Mike, and the rest of his crew. 

Keokuk, Iowa (July 2, 1969) – Ernie Derr has won more late model stock car championships in a recognized circuit than any other driver. He has won nine IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) titles, which makes the 46-year-old Keokuk man racing's most unbelievable champion.

With a trim figure, pencil thin mustache and hair graying at the temples, Ernie Derr is the picture of “Mr. Business”. His business, however, is winning races and he's been making a nice living at it for more than 20 years.

Derr wheels a 1969 Dodge Charger, a factory – equipped dynamo with more than 500 horsepower and a bright red paint job. The key factor of the racing team is the driver.

Ernie owns a dozen track records and several national marks. When most race drivers would be thinking of calling, it quits, Ernie Derr is trying for his tenth national IMCA championship.

Talking about the Topeka, Kan. 100-mile stock car race coming up Friday, July 4, at the Mid-America Fairgrounds, Derr said, "This is an entirely new game.” He had won the 50-lap Memorial Day contest, but the July 4 race will be for 200-laps, requiring different strategy.

For a man who is past the mid-forty mark in years, the thought of racing at top speed for more than an hour on a half - mile dirt track and under the broiling sun could be a little alarming. But Ernie Derr is used to that kind of grind. So many things can go wrong in 100- mile race; Ernie makes no predictions until he sees the checkered flag waving.

Living in the shadow of a successful big brother isn't the ideal life pattern for stock car driver Ron Hutcherson, so the lanky Keokuk pilot wants to be a winner in his own right.

Ron Hutcherson

Ron is the younger brother of Dick Hutcherson, who was one of the great drivers in IMCA history, twice national stock car champion, 1963 and 1964. That led Dick into the NASCAR ranks, where he was runner-up to Ned Jarrett in 1965 and third in Richard Petty’s championship year, 1967.

Being the younger brother of Dick Hutcherson can’t be all bad if you are in the racing profession, because Ron receives all the advice, which he wants, and it does lead to new important connections in the sport.

For, you see, Dick Hutcherson is now a retired race driver, but very active as chief mechanic for the NASCAR Grand National champ David Pearson, out of the famed Holman-Moody stable.

Ron Hutchison’s race car is a 1969 Ford Torino, which he will pilot at Topeka, Kan., on July 4. It's the same car which David Pearson drove in the Daytona 500 in February and the pit – wall birds say it is a real scorcher with enough horsepower to run away with the Topeka honors.

Ron Hutcherson is not a first-year rookie. He started in the stockers five years ago but was involved in a bad crash from which he walked away.

That experience didn't sit too well with him, so he also walked away from racing until last year, when he decided on a comeback. Now, with renewed confidence and enough racing muscle to do the job right, Ron Hutcherson is intent on putting his own name in the record books, and you can just bet that his biggest booster is that slightly older brother down in Charlotte, N. C.

A passing thought: Since 1953, the city of Keokuk, Iowa has claimed the IMCA stock car national championships in all but two years, and it also claimed the USAC stock car title two years.

First there was Ernie Derr in 1953, driving an Oldsmobile. The next two years, Ernie’s brother-in-law, Don White, held the crown, also in Oldsmobile’s. In 1956-1957, the honors went to Chevy driver Johnny Beauchamp of Harlan, Iowa, but a Keokuk pilot recaptured the crown in 1958 when Don White switched to Ford and gained his third title. Ernie Derr took over for the next four years, piloting his Pontiacs, and then Dick Hutcherson held the championship for two straight years, driving Fords. Ernie Derr wrapped it all up from 1965 to the present, after catching that Dodge fever.

When it comes to stock car drivers, they surely grow them right in Keokuk.

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