UARA—The 1960’s
By Stan Kalwasinski

            1960—Russ Sweedler, a former UARA rookie of the year, won a total of 11 features during the season and won his first UARA title.  UARA presented a total of 47 events with Sweedler besting Johnny Riva and Bernie Wilhelmi in the final points tally.  Sweedler piloted his Bob Steffes-owned mount to victory in the 50-lap Season Championship race at the Joliet Memorial Stadium, which was the scene of weekly UARA action.  Sweedler also copped the season finale at Santa Fe Park Speedway near Willow Springs.  Another UARA feature winner during the campaign was Mel Kenyon, who won the 50-lap Season title race at Raceway Park near Blue Island.  Riva and Tattersall were winners of UARA main events during the Speed Jamboree that was held indoors at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre in early April.

            1961—Indiana’s Leon Duray “Jigger” Sirois was the 1961 UARA champion, winning a total of eight features along the way.  Sirois wheeled Larry White’s yellow No. 82 midget.

            1962—Veteran Danny Kladis captured the UARA title in 1962.  A 29-year veteran of racing, including participating in the Indianapolis 500 in 1946, Kladis captured 11 features wins during the campaign, including the 100-lap season finale at Joliet on September 15.  Kladis finished ahead of four-time UARA champion Ray Elliott and newcomer Henry Pens in the points.

            1963—Russ Sweedler, the “Flying Farmer” from Elwood, Ill. was again the UARA champion, wheeling his Bob Steffes-owned Chevy II-powered machine to the title.  Sweedler chalked up a total of 11 feature wins on his way to the title.  The veteran Elliott in Lou Cooper’s “screaming” Falcon No. 3 and Bob Hauck, driving John McDowell’s Volvo-powered No. 75, finished behind Sweedler in the final standings.  The flat Joliet oval was again the regular UARA Saturday night stop with Sweedler winning the 75-lap Season Championship in September.

            1964—The veteran Elliott garnered his fifth UARA driving crown, guiding body shop proprietor Lou Cooper’s Falcon-powered No. 3 to the championship. Elliott grabbed a total of six feature wins during the campaign and bested Henry Pens and Gene Varing in the final points.  Pens, won seven feature wins during the season, including the 50-lap Season Championship in late August at Joliet behind the wheel of Steffes’ Chevy-powered machine.  Bob Richards was the ’64 “rookie of the year.”  The “Stadium” became a paved track with the first race on the new pavement held on June 6th with Elliott claiming feature honors.

            1965—Just like in the “old days,” Elliott made it two UARA titles in a row again using Lou Cooper’s Falcon to get the job done.  Elliott nailed down six feature wins along the way and bested Henry Pens and George Kladis, who finished in a tie for the runner-up spot.  Pens was the winner of the of the 50-lap season title battle at Joliet, wheeling the Hank Jeffrey-owned Chevy II-powered open wheeler to the checkered flag.  John Deering was “rookie of the year.”

            1966—Gene Varing of Oak Lawn was the association’s titlist, guiding his Chevy II-powered mount No. 77 to the championship.  Varing won one feature race and defeated John “Pancho” Padilla and Bob Richards in the final points tally.  Jim McClean was the top rookie driver.  Pens in Dick Herath’s No. 22 Chevy won the 75-lap season finale at Joliet in September. 

            1967—Joliet’s Roger West was the ’67 champion, defeating Richards and Bill Kollman for the title.  West won two “compact sprint” features along the way, using the Herath No. 22 at Joliet and Bob Corson’s No. 15 on the dirt on Peotone.  Richards won the 50-lap season title race at Joliet in September.  Jim Jeffries and Charlie Cook were co-rookies of the year.

            1968—Manhattan’s Wally Lambert claimed top honors in UARA action, finishing ahead of Dick Pole and Padilla in the standings.  Lambert claimed feature win honors twice during the campaign, winning at Joliet and Mazon—a 50-lap score on September 2.  Lambert used Ron Giampalo’s No. 27 and Dale Hampson’s No. 17 cars on his way to his title.  Ken DuBeau was the association's “rookie of the year.”

            1969—Bill Krueger of Lombard drove his father-in-law Max Reichenbach's No. 132 bobtail midget to the championship.  Krueger, who claimed one main event victory during the season, bested Kollman and sophomore driver Jim Gates, who won four features to lead all drivers in the win column.  Finishing fourth in the standings, Tom Steiner was named the group’s top rookie driver.  Tragedy struck the UARA ranks as Paul Rademacher lost his life in a feature race crash at the Waukegan Speedway on July 4th.  For the first time in some 17 years, UARA did not compete at the Joliet oval.