14th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1991

Instant Replay: 14th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1991 by Paul Haase BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 23, 2001) - A first timer by the name of Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio, most often in a sprint car, came to the famed Belleville High Banks and with...

Instant Replay: 14th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1991
by Paul Haase

BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 23, 2001) - A first timer by the name of Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio, most often in a sprint car, came to the famed Belleville High Banks and with many saying he would be in contention of winning the '91 Belleville Midget Nationals. And that he did.

The three day event started off with Bloomsburg, Pa.'s John Heydenreich demolishing 1991 Nationals champion Jeff Gordon's track record of 18.500 seconds. At an average speed of 98.04 mph, Heydenreich clocked in Joe Gander's Van Dyne at 18.358. He kept up the speed winning his heat race and the trophy dash. Heydenreich also brought a unique car to the Nationals this year in the fact that it sported a starter and clutch thus not requiring a push truck for ignition.

Thursday's main saw Danny Drinan go from ninth to first within two laps but his suspension failed on lap 22 after he tagged the guardrail and brought out the yellow flag. Stevie Reeves eventually took the checkered in the Wilke Challenger Gaerte. Hewitt took the second spot followed by Dan Boorse in the ever hot Rollie Helmling car. Heydenreich slowed a bit to take fourth with Wally Pankratz and Larry Brown finishing up the top five.

Friday morning looked like rain but apparently mother nature was a race fan and no rain was produced out of the gray skies. It looked as though lady luck and her sister good luck were Ron 'Sleepy' Tripp fans as he looked to run away with everything handily. Tripp went from last to first in one lap to win his heat. He ran off with the trophy dash. He started third in the main and was on his way to taking it all. On lap 20 the luck sisters must have gotten into an argument. Good luck ran out and lady luck decided to become a Stan Fox fan.

Tripp was running right up against the fence and putting on a show but with five yellow flags coming out which he didn't need -- he ran out of fuel. The crew and Tripp decided they had to lighten up the car somehow and decided that fuel was the way to do it.

Fox was followed by Phil Heavelow, Frank Pedregon, Gary Howard and Randy Roberts to round out the five.

Tripp wasn't alone in the pits as only seven of the 22 starters finished the race. Keith Rauch came the closest to a bonafide accident when he climbed the rail in the first lap in turn three. Rauch was able to keep the car upright with some quick thinking.

On Saturday it appeared mother nature decided she wasn't a race fan after all as the day started with a steady light rain. But at noon she came to her senses and decided that she had racing in her heart.

The top four finishers in each of the preliminary nights main events automatically qualify for the 24-car, 40-lap championship race. The starting position draw saw Heavelow in the pole position. The rest of the field is made up of the top three finishers in the last chance heat races and the top four in the semi-main.

Some of the heat races listed like a race track promoters dream feature race lineup. Qualifying for the championship race in heats were Jimmy Sills, Chuck Gurney, Russ Gamester, Ron Hazelton, Rauch, Pankratz, Tripp, Steve Knepper, Eric Wilkins, Dean Franklin, Brad Noffsinger and Randy Roberts.

The semi-main saw Eric Gordon winning followed by Robby Flock, Jerry Coons Jr., Gary Faucett. Gordon was unable to start and alternate Dave Strickland rounded out the qualifiers.

In the Saturday championship race, Fox, starting from the outside front row, was looking to be the only three time champion taking the green in front and led the first 25 laps. A caution flag on lap 25 allowed the leaders to bunch back up and that's all Hewitt needed to take over on the restart. Reeves also got by Fox to get into second place. Another caution flag allowed Heydenreich to dog Fox and get by him and eventually by Reeves to finish second.

14th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1991 Top 5 finishers:
1. Jack Hewitt
2. John Heydenreich
3. Stevie Reeves
4. Stan Fox
5. Russ Gamester

The Belleville High Banks, located in Belleville, Kan., is managed by a volunteer racing committee that host 10-12 racing events annually. "The World's Fastest Half-Mile Dirt Track" allows drivers the rare opportunity to run "wide open" the entire track, and the sweeping oval is one of the most demanding test of endurance and skill for drivers. The track's mainstay is the annual Belleville Midget Nationals, held every year during the first weekend in August. As the nation's most prestigious midget car race of the year, the best equipment, owners and drivers flock to the small rural community of 3,500, which is transformed into a racing Mecca of more than 30,000 people each August.

For more information on the Belleville High Banks, write to: Belleville High Banks, P.O. Box 349, Belleville, KS 66935, or call (785) 527-6050. Sponsorship inquiries may call or fax (402) 761-3676 or via e-mail at wdake@alltel.net. Information is also available on the World Wide Web by logging on to http://www.highbanks.org or http://www.whowon.com.

Reserved tickets for the 24th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals presented by WhoWon.com are available by calling (785) 527-5179, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by logging onto the Belleville High Banks Web site.

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Series History , Midget
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Frank Pedregon , Jack Hewitt , John Heydenreich , Brad Noffsinger , Russ Gamester , Eric Gordon , Wally Pankratz , Dean Franklin , Robby Flock , Steve Knepper , Stevie Reeves