By Stan Kalwasinski
Bill Van Allen of Justice set a single-season record for feature wins at Raceway Park near Blue Island, as he captured 29 late model stock car main events in his 1960 Studebaker Lark No. 6. The 33-year-old Van Allen finished in the runner-up spot in the final point standings behind Chicago’s Harry Simonsen, who won a total of 10 feature races in this ’57 Chevy No. TS-1. Simonsen competed in all 64 of Raceway’s stock car programs in 1960, while Van Allen only ran two nights a week during the hectic schedule at the “World’s Busiest Track.”
Simonsen and Van Allen were trailed by Ray Young, Bud Koehler, Bob Vickery and Bob Pronger in the final standings. One of Van Allen’s victories was Raceway’s annual 300 Lap Classic with Van Allen piloting his little yellow Lark to the checkered flag over Vickery, Ted Janecyk, Stash Kullman, Tom Cox and Simonsen. Rich Miller won an impressive 20 feature wins on his way to winning the Novice division driving title.
Russ Sweedler of Elwood copped overall driving championship honors in the United Auto Racing Association (UARA) midget ranks, winning a total of 11 features. UARA presented 47 racing events with Sweedler, the association’s 1958 rookie of the year, besting Johnny Riva, Bernie Wilhelmi, ’53 and ’54 UARA titlist Tony Lenti and Byron Fisher in the final points. Wilhelmi, the Joliet speedster, was named NASCAR’s 1960 midget champion as he captured two 25-lap midget main events in February at Memorial Stadium in Daytona Beach.
George Sellery wheeled the Bob Lockard-owned, Falcon-powered midget to victory in the 50-lap Mid Season Championship at Joliet Memorial Stadium, which hosted weekly UARA midget action. Santa Fe Speedway and Raceway Park were also regular stops for the UARA circuit. Sweedler piloted the Bob Steffes No. 96 to victory in the 50-lap Season Championship on the Joliet pavement with Mel Kenyon winning the 50-lap Season title race at Raceway Park. Sweedler also copped the season finale at Santa Fe.
A couple of other midget specials included Riva winning the 50-lap Tri-State Championship at O’Hare Stadium in Schiller Park, which featured both Offenhauser and Ford-powered midgets and Bob Tomlinson, behind the wheel of the speedy Frank Pavese Ford, claiming victory in a 30-lap “special” at the “short” half-mile dirt Speedbowl Park in Sterling.
Fred Lorenzen swept the first six out of seven late model feature races held at O’Hare. Lorenzen and his Nickey Chevrolet ’57 Chevy were “red hot” at the beginning of the season until the Elmhurst resident turned his attention to NASCAR Grand National competition. The 25-year-old Lorenzen made 10 NASCAR starts, turning in three “top five” finishes and two “top 10.”
Roy Czach and his Hollywood Automotive-sponsored ‘57 Chevy would grab late model season honors at O’Hare, which was sanctioned by NASCAR. Winning six features along the way, Czach, who was crowned the NASCAR Midwest Champion, was trailed by Gilbert “Skippy” Michaels and Lorenzen in the final points. One of Czach’s wins was a non-stop run to victory in the 200-lap Season Championship race on September 3 with Czach topping Erik Johnson, Roy Martinelli, Leroy Roberts and Rich Kleich.
With Lorenzen giving up his two year “hold” of the United States Auto Club (USAC) stock car championship, Norm Nelson of Racine, Wis. captured the USAC stock car title in 1960. A bevy of Chicago area drivers competed on the USAC circuit, which saw a nine-race schedule of which four of the races were held at the “Milwaukee Mile,” Nelson and Tony Bettenhausen “split” the Milwaukee dates with two wins a piece.
Bettenhausen finished third in the standings behind Nelson and runner up Paul Goldsmith. Local drivers in the “top 20” included Whitey Gerken (6th), Bob Pronger (7th), Gene Marmor (9th), Arnie Gardner (10th), Neil Houston (13th), Elmer Musgrave (15th), Bill Shoulders (16th), Tom Cox (18th) and Skippy Michaels (20th). Don Oldenberg, Bill Lutz, Sal Tovella, Ed Kozbiel, Gordon Gorman, Al Shear, Art Derry, Joe Wright, Red Duvall, Dave Hirschfield, Al Swenson and Rich Clement were other locals who tried their luck in USAC competition during the year.
USAC midgets competed locally at Soldier Field and at the fast, high-banked Mazon Speed Bowl. Leroy Warriner and his Hank Green-owned “Offy” won twice at the “Field” including a 100-lap victory on June 29 over Gene Hartley and Bob Wente. Hartley also won a 100 lapper at Soldier Field, besting Tommy Copp and Wente on July 9. Warriner won at Mazon paved quarter mile, defeating Wente and Bob Tattersall on July 17. Hailing from Streator, Tattersall, the former stock car driver and front-ruunig UARA pilot, won four USAC features during the season and finished fifth in the points. Tattersall scored a USAC victory indoors at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre on December 17, the first-ever USAC-sanctioned event presented at the Halsted Street arena. Tattersall and his Iowa-based, Leon Mensing-owned Ford V8 defeated veterans Byron Fisher and Danny Kladis. In early April, Tattersall and Riva were feature winners indoors at the Amphitheatre during “Speed Jamboree.”
Bettenhausen claimed a USAC midget win at Milwaukee, wheeling Howard Linne’s car to victory on August 27. Another area speedster, Johnny Roberts of Lansing picked up two USAC wins, one at the Springfield, Ill. quarter mile dirt oval and one indoors at Fort Wayne, Ind.
Elmer Musgrave of Niles won a 150-mile stock car race at the tricky and sometimes treacherous D-shaped, one-mile dirt Langhorne (Penn.) Speedway. The event was sanctioned by the Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC) with Musgrave guiding his ’59 Ford to victory over Iggy Katona, John Rostek, Jack Shanklin and Nelson Stacy. Musgrave was the fastest qualifier for the May 15 event. On March 27, Musgrave won a 100-mile MARC event at the one-mile dirt Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, Ga. ahead of MARC regulars Clyde Parker and Paul Wensink.
Later in the season, Stacy and his ’60 Ford won the MARC-sanctioned 250-mile “Illini 250” at the 3.27-mile Meadowdale International Raceway in Carpentersville on August 14. Stacy, the Cincinnati, Ohio driver, had fast time at the Meadowdale road course, which featured the track’s signature—the steeply-banked turn, the “Monza Wall.” On May 29, Augie Pabst wheeled his Scarab to victory in sports car action Meadowdale.
Bryant Tucker and his ’57 Buick claimed top late model stock car honors at both Soldier Field and at Mance Park Speedway in Hodgkins. 1960 would mark the final season of racing at the paved fifth of a mile Mance oval, which was built, owned and operated by the Mance Brothers—Hal and Bill.
Tucker got things off to a good start at Soldier Field, winning the season opener on May 14 over Neil Houston and Legs Whitcomb. Hammond, Indiana’s Red Duvall won the Mid Season Championship race at a the “Field” while Whitey Gerken closed out the season with a victory in the 100-lap Season Championship. Tucker won two features on his way to the title.
Tucker won five feature races at Mance Park, including the track’s last main event on September 1, 1960 with Tucker besting Bud Koehler and Gene Marmor.
Dick Nelson nabbed 13 feature wins on his way to winning the late model title on the dirt at the Santa Fe. Indiana’s Kenny Boyer, the track’s ’53 and ’57 champion, won the stock car season opener on May 14 over Ken Finley and Mal Lane. Roy Martinelli captured the 100-lap National Clay Track Championship season finale. Milwaukee’s Greg Krieger was the modified stock car champion on the dirt at the Waukegan Speedway.
Arnie Gardner in a ’57 Chevy won late model features at O’Hare, Mance Park and Soldier Field and was named the Mazon stock car champion in 1960.
Don Harvey was the late model “kingpin” at the Rockford Speedway. Bill Lutz and his Tom’s Standard Service ’57 Chevy scored a NASCAR Championship Circuit victory at Rockford on June 8, besting Whitey Gerken, Fred Lorenzen and Tom Cox. Art Brady of Peoria won a 100-lap International Motor Contest Association (IMCA)-sanctioned stock car race on June 22. Brady and his ’57 Chevy defeated fastest qualifier Ernie Derr, Mert Williams and Dick Hutcherson.
The reopening of Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind. saw Indianapolis 500 veteran Bill Cheesbourg win an “open-competition” 50-lap late model stock car feature race on July 29. Cheesbourg and his ’58 Ford defeated Iowa’s Darrel Dake in a ’60 Chevy and Rich Sutkus in a T-Bird. Les Snow grabbed fast time honors with a lap of 27.41 seconds around the half-mile dirt oval. On August 26, Nelson Stacy won a 100 lapper at the Northwest Indiana speed plant.
Northwest Indiana champions included Luke Gilbert at the Broadway Speedway (Crown Point) and Ted Schroeder at the Rensselaer Speedway, both racing coupes at their respective dirt tracks.
The 1960 Indianapolis 500 was won by former Soldier Field champion Jim Rathmann in his Ken-Paul Special. Former Raceway Park midget competitors Lloyd Ruby (7th) and Gene Hartley (14th) finished among the leaders. Tony Bettenhausen came home in 23rd spot in his Dowgard Special with former Soldier Field “hot rodders” Don Freeland finishing 22nd and Dick Rathmann (Jim’s older brother) coming home 31st.
Junior Johnson captured the 1960 Daytona 500. Local drivers that competed included Fred Lorenzen, who finished 8th in his ’60 Ford and Tom Pistone, who crashed after leading 26 laps in his ‘60 Chevy and was still credited with 12th place. Pistone suffered a concussion, a broken collarbone and some internal injuries. Other locals in the 68-car field were Whitey Gerken (17th), Gene Marmor (29th), Arnie Gardner (38th) Bill Lutz (53rd), Dave Hirschfield (63rd) and Sal Tovella (67th).