THROUGH THE YEARS ... 1975
By Stan Kalwasinski
The birth of ARTGO Racing, later renamed the ARTGO Challenge Series, took place September 7, 1975 at the Grundy County Speedway (Morris) with Wisconsin’s Tom Reffner winning the first annual Wayne Carter Classic. ARTGO was founded by Chicago area businessman, Art Frigo, who was ably assisted by Grundy PR man, John McKarns. Reffner and his 1974 American Motors Javelin won the 59-lap feature event, which was held in honor of Wayne Carter, who brought automobile racing to the annual Grundy County Fair 59 years earlier. Reffner, who set a new track record during qualifying for the late model stock car contest, bested Bob Roper and Joe Shear in the main event.
Twenty-one year old Tom Musgrave notched his second consecutive late model crown during the weekly Friday night action at Grundy. The third of a mile paved oval saw Musgrave win nine straight late model feature races during the season. Tony Hertko was the track’s hobby stock champion.
Shear and his 1973 Camaro won the annual National Short Track Championship 200 lapper at the Rockford Speedway for the third time. Shear defeated Mike Miler and Dick Trickle, who both drove 1970 Mustangs. Dennis Burgan and his Chevy Nova garnered late model division honors at the high banked quarter mile paved speed plant.
Tom Jones was the Waukegan Speedway late model track champion, while Larry Schuler captured the late model driving crown at Illiana Motor Speedway (Schererville, Ind.). Waukegan, Illiana, along with Grundy, were part of the Chicagoland Driving Championship (CDC) with the overall championship going to veteran Ray Young. Young and his 1975 Camaro won 10 CDC features along the way.
Nearly 90 entries crowded the pits for Illiana’s annual Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 lap chase with Ed Hoffman taking starter Art Kelly’s checkered flag for the win. Hoffman in a 1974 Camaro finished ahead of Schuler and Jerry Kemperman in the October event. The veteran flag-waving Kelly retired at season’s end.
United Auto Racing Association (UARA) returned to competition at the Joliet Memorial Stadium for the first time since 1968. Don Vogler was the UARA midget champion in his Chevy II-powered open wheeler. Speaking of champions, Orland Park’s Tom Steiner journeyed up to Badger Midget Racing Association country and went on to win the Wisconsin-based group’s midget driving title. Earlier in the year, Newt White was the Florida Winter Series midget champion.
United States Auto Club (USAC) sprint cars made their first ever appearance at Illiana in early June with Gary Bettenhausen winning the 40-lap main event. Sheldon Kinser and Greg Leffler also won USAC sprint car features at Illiana during the campaign. USAC midget racing saw Larry Patton and Ron “Sleepy” Tripp win at Illiana with Tripp also winning on the dirt at Santa Fe Speedway near Willow Springs.
Larry Jackson and his Camaro made off with late model season championship honors at Santa Fe. John Garrett was the speedway’s sportsman titlist. Arnie Gardner and his 1974 Camaro captured Santa Fe’s annual National Clay Track Championship 200-lap battle ahead of J.J. Smith and Dick Potts, who was the top man in the final points at the Rensselaer (Ind.) Raceway. Gardner and Dave Whitcomb won late-season 100 lappers on the almost circular Rensselaer oval.
Bud Koehler won his 10th stock car track championship at Raceway Park (Blue Island). Koehler and his Bill Koenig-owned Camaro netted a total of 17 feature wins at the tight quarter mile paved oval. Larry Middleton was the winner of the motordrome’s annual 300 lap contest. Burt Weitemeyer was the track’s hobby stock champion while Al Stuchel claimed top honors in six-cylinder action.
Jim O’Connor drove a Boyce Trackburner Camaro to the late model track championship at the Norm Weltmeyer-promoted Kankakee Speedway, while Max Zimmerlein notched his second consecutive driving crown on the dirt at the Sycamore Speedway. O’Connor won the annual Farnsworth Ford 100 and a 250 lapper at Sycamore during the season.
Sal Tovella guided his ’72 Plymouth to victory in the 200-mile USAC stock car race at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis in August. The veteran Chicagoland racer picked up his first Milwaukee win after 18 years of trying and scored his first USAC victory since 1966. Tovella registered another USAC win later in the season at Trenton, N.J.