By Stan Kalwasinski



1964 saw Bud Koehler win the Late Model track championship at Blue Island’s Raceway Park for the fifth time in his career, but his first since 1957.  The 43-year-old driver wheeled his , Swets Lincoln Mercury-sponsored, Bob Pohlman/Walt Mortenson ’64 Mercury Marauder No. 77 to 28 feature wins at the tight, quarter-mile paved oval, only two victories short of Bill Van Allen’s record of 30, which was set in 1960.


Trailing Koehler in the point standings were Ray Young, Ted Janecyk, Johnny Kapovich and Don Oldenberg.  Young won the track’s annual 300 Lap Classic in his ’63 1/2 Ford fastback No. 99, finishing five laps ahead of ’63 race winner Jerry Kemperman.  Rich Miller, Erv Dunner, Oldenberg and Bob Alonso rounded out the top six.


During the season, “The World’s Busiest Track” would run as many as four-nights-a-week during the summer.  One of its most popular events was the Monza 120, which comprised of four 30-lap Late Model features in one night.  During the season, both Ray Young and Bob Pronger “clean swept” a Monza event, taking all four feature races on that particular evening.


Ron Wilkerson won seven feature races on his way to winning the Claiming division title with Ray Para being named the Amateur class champion.


O’Hare Stadium in Schiller Park saw Kentucky native Bill Lutz capture his second Late Model track title, winning 10 feature races in his Grand Car Wash-sponsored ’63 Chevy convertible No. 1.  Lutz defeated Whitey Gerken, Bob Urban, Roy Czach, Elmer Musgrave and Gene Marmor in the final point standings.  For the second time in his career, Lutz won the O’Hare American 500, defeating Marmor and Musgrave.  Rich Speith was the track’s Cadet (sportsman) division champ with Speith winning 11 features at the banked quarter-mile paved oval, which was located in the shadows of O’Hare International Airport.


Starting the season at Raceway Park, but finishing on a strong note at Santa Fe Speedway, Bill Van Allen nailed down his third straight Late Model track championship, the sixth of his career, winning 16 feature races during the season at the Willow Springs dirt track.  During his latest three-year title splurge, Van Allen won a total of 51 feature races at Santa Fe.  1964 saw Van Allen and his Bobby Burger-owned ’62 Ford No. 6 capture the track’s annual National Clay Track Championship 200 lapper on September 6, in addition to winning the 100-lap season finale in early October.  Dominating the early season events, Dave Hirschfield won the Memorial Day Classic 50 lapper and a 100-lap chase in June in his fast ’64 Chevy convertible No. 77 but a broken arm later would put him out of action for the remainder of the season. 


Soldier Field on Chicago’s lake front, once a thriving mecca for auto racing in the “Windy City,” saw only two stock car races held with Bill Lutz and Harry Simonsen winning feature races in May.  California’s Tommy Copp closed out the “brief” racing season by winning a 50-lap United States Auto Club (USAC) National Midget feature on June 6.


Raleigh Hinkle was the Late Model champion for the Steel City Racing Association-sanctioned competition at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind.  One of the highlights of the weekly racing was Gene Marmor’s twin-feature victories during an early October Sunday afternoon contest at the half-mile paved oval.  Norm Nelson of Racine, Wis., and his “factory-backed” 1964 Plymouth were victors of the USAC-sanctioned Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 lap contest.  The third annual running of the event saw Nelson finish in front of Don White, Lloyd Ruby, Joe Leonard and Herb Shannon. 


Elmer Musgrave, of Mundelein, won 250-mile Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) stock car race at Meadowdale International Raceways in Carpentersville on July 19.  Musgrave drove his 1963 Mercury to the win in the first annual Ed “Twenty Grand” Steinbock Memorial stock car race.  Iggy Katona was second, followed by Paul Wensink in a ’63 Ford and Dick Freeman in a ’63 Pontiac.  Defending series champion Jack Bowsher finished seventh.  The race was 100 laps around the 2.5-mile road course with a reported 11,000-plus fans in attendance.   Katona in ‘64 Ford was leading the race until running off track on lap 86. Musgrave received a suspension from USAC for competing in this race.


Ken Miles and Jim Hall were Sport Car Club of America (SCCA) race winners at Meadowdale on August 9.   Miles drove his Shelby Cobra Ford No. 98 to victory in the 37-lap SCCA U.S. Road Racing Championship GT race, defeating Bob Johnson, Tom Payne, Jerry Hansen and Ray Cuomo.  Hall captured the 52-lap SCCA U.S. Road Racing Championship contest, wheeling his Chaparral No. 66 to the win over Roger Penske and Dick Thompson. 


An American Motorcycle Association (AMA) National Championship race took place at Meadowdale with AMA Champion Dick Mann winning the event.


Chicago’s Bob Chapman was the Late Model champion at the Rockford Speedway.  Chapman drove a ’63 Plymouth to the title.  21-year-old Joe Shear was named the track’s Late Model Rookie of the Year.  Willie Rients, Chet Scott, Herb Nolley, Gene Marmor, Bobby Wawak, Arnie Gardner, Terry Parker and Whitey Gerken were among the drivers that broke up Chapman’s feature win strings.  Marmor would win the track’s second annual Forest City 200.


Dick Schultz was the Late Model champion on the dirt at the Bob-Jo Speedway in Sycamore.  Earl J. Hubert (Late Model) and Bobby Shell (Old Model) were champions in dirt track stock car action at Sugar Island Park near Kankakee.  Indiana dirt tracks saw Larry Cope (Broadway Speedway in Crown Point) and Danny Guth (Rensselaer Speedway) win track championships, wheeling their flathead coupes to season honors.


Racing at the quarter-mile dirt Waukegan Speedway saw Wisconsin’s Johnny Reimer in Fred Nielsen’s No. A3 win the track’s Modified championship, while Jim Cossman and his Chevy garnered Late Model division honors.


The Joliet Memorial Stadium would be paved for the 1964 season with Ray Elliott in Lou Cooper’s Ford Falcon-powered midget No. 3 winning the opening night United Auto Racing Association (UARA) 25 lapper on June 6.  Cooper “cleaned house” that evening – setting fast time, winning the trophy dash and a heat race in addition to the feature event on the flat, quarter-mile paved oval.  Claiming his fifth UARA title, Elliott would win the 50-lap season finale at Joliet on September 12, giving him six UARA feature wins for the season in addition to three USAC victories.            Henry Pens, Gene Varing, George Kladis and Wally Lambert finished behind Elliott in the final standings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Former go-kart racer, Bob Richards, who won his first career midget feature on August 1 at Joliet, was named the association’s Rookie of the Year.  Pens terrorized the UARA ranks late in the season with multiple wins at both Joliet and at the high-banked quarter mile paved Mazon Speed Bowl.  Pens dominated the Labor Day weekend action at Mazon in his Bob Steffes-owned Chevy II midget.  Pens closed out the season with a victory on the dirt at Speed Bowl Park in Sterling.


Elliott and Indiana’s Bob McLean started off the Chicago area racing season by splitting 50-lap USAC Midget victories indoors at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre on March 21.  Other local USAC Midget feature winners were ’63 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones at Rockford, Tommy Copp at both O’Hare and Mazon, Bob Tattersall at Santa Fe and Mel Kenyon at O’Hare.