Thursday, July 11, 2024

1984 – Kraft dominates annual ‘NAPA Gopher 50’

Willy Kraft proudly holds his Gopher 50 trophy while his son Shawn gets ready to don his new hat. – Phil Dullinger Photo

Owatonna, Minn. (July 11, 1984) – Willy Kraft of Lakefield, Minn., led all 50 laps Wednesday as he dominated the NAPA Gopher 50 at the Steele County Fairgrounds.

Kraft drove to an impressive victory over a field of top-notch late models representing five states.

Kraft grabbed the lead off the pole with outside front row starter Pete Parker of sliding high and Gary Webb moving into second. Webb moved up to Kraft’s rear bumper and rode him hard until the yellow flag came out on lap 6 in the race. Les Duellman, Ed Sanger and Jay Johnson were involved in a three-car collision.

Webb developed tie problems and was forced to pit under yellow and drop to the tail of the field. The yellow changed to red when the fire truck was needed to wash away spilled fuel from Sanger’s car.

Terry Lamphear took up the chase on Kraft with Parker, Tom Steuding and Lance Matthees close behind. The cars ran in that order until lap 25 when Johnson hit the wall in turn one. This brought out the crossed red flags signaling a fuel stop.

The last 25 circuits went non-stop. Kraft gradually extended his advantage into a quarter-lap lead. His car handled beautifully as ran the track like he was on rails.

Lamphear was receiving heavy pressure from Parker and Steuding was working both of them hard. The hot pace started to take its toll near the end. Steuding dropped out with motor issues and with only five laps left, Lamphear developed rear end problems and pulled to the infield.

Kraft crossed the finish line leading home Parker, Matthees, Jerry Redetzke and Craig Jacobs. Sixteen of the 25 starters were still around at the finish.

Heat winners were Kraft, Parker, Webb, Steuding and Matthees. Semi feature wins went to Bob Shryock and Dick Schiltz.

A crowd of 5,400 was on hand with 54 cars from five states in the pit area. The event was postponed from the night before because of heavy rains in the area.

Results –

1. Willy Kraft, Lakefield, Minn.
2. Pete Parker, Kaukauna, Wis.
3. Lance Matthees, Winona, Minn.
4. Jerry Redetzke, Eau Claire, Wis.
5. Craig Jacobs, Des Moines
6. Dick Schiltz, Waterloo, Iowa
7. Joe Kosiski, Omaha
8. Gary Hopp, Harlan, Iowa
9. M.J. McBride, Shawano, Wis.
10.Bob Shryock, Estherville, Iowa
11.Leon Plank, Eau Claire, Wis.
12.Todd Steuber, Fairmont, Minn.
13.Steve Kosiski, Omaha
14.Dave Bjorge, Austin, Minn.
15.Phil Prusak, Eau Claire, Wis.
16.Jay Johnson, Wapello, Iowa
17.Terry Lamphear, St. Paul, Minn.
18.Tom Hearst, Wilton, Iowa
19.Tom Steuding, Eau Claire, Wis.
20.Steve Fegers, Mound, Minn.
21.Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
22.Gary Webb, Davenport, Iowa
23.Jim Bruggeman, White Bear Lake, Minn.
24.Ed Sanger, Waterloo, Iowa
25.Les Duellman, Fountain City, Wis.

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