By Stan Kalwasinski


Steelworker Bob Hollifield claimed Late Model stock car track championship honors at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind.  The Gary resident, part of the Hollifield racing clan, wheeled a couple of potent Pontiacs, both former Ray Nichels-built “factory” cars, to feature race victory honors.  Hollifield scored two 50-lap features during the season at the half-mile paved oval in his 1962 Pontiac convertible No. 31.  Finishing behind Hollifield in the final points rundown were Don Oldenberg, defending champion Raleigh Hinkle, ’64 rookie of the year George Rondelli, Buck Hinkle and Otto Richardson.    


Instead of hosting the event as an United States Auto Club (USAC) stock car program, Illiana owner/promoter Harry Molenaar  decided to present an “open competition” Tony Bettenhausen stock car race in 1965.  Conan” Moose” Myers of Fort Wayne was the winner of the fourth annual Tony Bettenhausen contest.  A 50 lap main event highlighted the October 10th afternoon action with 77 entries on hand for the competition.  Myers, who earlier in the day set a new stock car qualifying track record, wheeled his ’57 Chevy convertible No. 0 to victory ahead of Joe Shear’s ’65 Pontiac GTO, who came back from an early race tangle.  Chicagoland frontrunners Roy Martinelli and Bill Lutz finished third and fourth followed by former Soldier Field hot rod racer Herb Hill and Fort Wayne’s Jack Reilly.  Myers would come back on October 24 and win the season finale after lowering the one-lap qualifying mark to 22.97 seconds.


Earlier in the year, NASCAR driver Bobby Isaac guided a Nichels Engineering-prepared ’65 Dodge to victory at Illiana in a 100-lap USAC stock car race on May 23.  The southern visitor bested Norm Nelson, Jim Hurtubise, Herb Shannon, Don White and fellow NASCAR star David Pearson.  The USAC stocks returned on July 4th with Norm Nelson in a '65 Plymouth winning a 100-lap headliner over Isaac, Hurtubise, White and Sal Tovella.  Both Isaac and Pearson were competing in USAC competition as Chrysler (Dodge and Plymouth) boycotted NASCAR action for a time.


Ted Janecyk wheeled Bill Koenig’s 1965 Chevelle No. 1 to Late Model track championship honors at Raceway Park in Blue Island.  Koenig and Harry Withall built the car and stuffed a big “409” Chevy engine in it, which was replaced later with a “396” power plant.  The 35-year-old Janecyk, who lived across the street from the track, won 27 feature races at the tight quarter-mile paved oval, taking his first career track championship points battle in front of five-time track champion Bud Koehler, Stash Kullman, Bob Pronger and Jerry Kemperman.  Kullman drove his Rosario Sausage-sponsored ’65 Chevy No. 4U to victory in the track’s annual 300 Lap Classic on September 18, taking the checkered flag with a half lap lead ahead of  Ray Young with Bob Hicks, Bill Milan and Erv Dunner rounding out the top five.  Ray Para won 21 features and was named the speedway’s Amateur division champion.


Ken Finley posted his second career Late Model title on the dirt at Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs.  Finley, who was a co-Late Model champion in 1959, piloted Bob Pohlman’s 1961 Ford No. 777 to the championship, winning 13 feature races during the ’65 season.  Finley’s biggest win of the year was a 150-lap victory on August 7 ahead of Don Waldvogel and Bill Van Allen.  Van Allen, who had strung together three consecutive Late Model titles from 1962 through 1964, captured 14 features, including the 50-lap Memorial Day  Classic.  Waldvogel wheeled Rich Ponkauskas’ Chevelle No. 51 to victory in the track’s annual National Clay Track Championship 200 on September 5.  Danny Albrecht was another winner on Santa Fe’s “half-mile” taking the 50-lap Stars and Stripes contest on July 3.  Dick Nelson, Clem Lewandowski, Red Swanberg and Bobby Burger were other Late Model feature winners during the year.  Bill McMillan was the track’s Sportsman division champ, winning 16 feature races.  Nationally-known Fred Nix was the speedway’s motorcycle champion.


Prairie View’s Roy Martinelli made off with his first career Late Model championship at O’Hare Stadium in Schiller Park.  The track’s Modified division champion in 1956 when the track first opened, Martinelli wheeled his Martinelli Brothers ’64 Chevy convertible No. 7 to the championship.  Martinelli won 11 feature races at the banked quarter-mile paved oval with the racing sanctioned by the American Racing Organization with Frank “Ham” Lobaza overseeing things.  Martinelli finished ahead of two-time champ Bill Lutz, 1960 and 1961 champ Roy Czach, Leroy Roberts, Erik Johnson and Bryant Tucker in the final points tally.  Martinelli claimed top honors in the speedway’s O’Hare American 500 on August 7 ahead of Roberts, Bob Dotter, Johnson and Dan Lewand with Martinelli having an eight-lap advantage at starter Art Kelly’s checkered flag.  45th in the points a year ago, Tom Jones was the track’s Cadet (sportsman) champion with 10 feature wins to his credit.


With a bunch of previous victories and track titles to his credit, 35-year-old Gene Marmor of River Grove was the Late Model titlist for the first-time in his career at the Rockford Speedway.  Late model rookie of the year in 1964, Joe Shear, celebrating his 22nd birthday, captured his first career Late Model win at the high-banked quarter-mile paved oval on May 8, besting defending track champion Bob Chapman and Marmor.  Dave Cox was the winner of the 100-lap Mid Season Championship race, finishing ahead of Whitey Gerken and Marmor.  For the second year in a row, Marmor in his ’64 Chevy convertible No. 5 won the Forest City 200 in September ahead of Bill Lutz and Danny Bellard. 


Racing on the dirt at the Gordon Sill-promoted Waukegan Speedway saw Johnny Reimer win his third consecutive Modified championship.  Hailing from Caledonia, Wis., Reimer would win both the 50-lap Mid Season Championship and 50-lap Season Championship races.  Dennis “Beaver” Burgan would capture the Late Model/Sportsman championship, piloting his ’59 Studebaker Lark convertible No. 30 and winning 10 features.


For the second straight year, Lockport’s Ray Elliott was the driving champion of the United Auto Racing Association (UARA) midget organization.  Elliott, whose career dated back to the beginning of UARA in 1947, would win six feature races in his Lou Cooper-owned, Falcon-powered midget No. 3.  Elliott, who also won UARA titles in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950, bested George Kladis and Henry Pens, who finished in a tie for the runner-up spot.  Bob Richards, Gene Varing, Jerry Matter and John “Pancho” Padilla rounded out the top six in the points.  Richards, last year’s rookie of the year, captured the 50-lap season finale at the Joliet Memorial Stadium on September 11 ahead of Jigger Sirois and Elliott.  The flat, quarter-mile, Joliet oval was the scene of 19 UARA events under the promotion of Leo Melcher and Chuck O’Day. 


Bob Kelly was the big winner during Late Model stock car competition at the Mazon Speed Bowl during the annual Grundy County Fair, held annually in the small town of Mazon.  Bobby Grim and Mike McGreevy won USAC midget feature races during the Fair.  Jerry Matter in the Dale Pierce Chevy II beat Ray Elliott and Roger West in UARA competition on September 5 with Elliott beating Pens and George Kladis on September 6.


Other USAC midget feature winners included Jimmy Knight with two victories at O’Hare, Bob McLean with a win at O’Hare, Jimmy Davies and Bob Tattersall with wins at Santa Fe and Mike McGreevy at Rockford.  Hailing from Shelby, Ind., Sirois was the winner of 100-lap Badger Midget Auto Racing Association-sanctioned midget race at the “Milwaukee Mile” on August 21. 


Aurora’s Ken Soderdahl was the Late Model champion on the dirt at the Bob-Jo Speedway in Sycamore.  Indiana dirt tracks saw Chuck Embry (Broadway Speedway in Crown Point) and Bob Cronenwett (Rensselaer Speedway) take track championship honors in their flathead coupes.  Bobby Shell (Late Model) and Corky Ritter (Early Model) were the champions on the dirt at the Sugar Island Park Speedway near Kankakee.


Road racing at the Meadowdale International Raceways in Carpentersville saw a limited schedule.  Jerry Hansen of Minneapolis won a 100-mile Sports Car of America contest on May 30.  California’s Dick Mann won a 150-mile American Motorcycle Association event on August 15.