Instant Replay: 15th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1992 by Paul Haase BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 24, 2001) - With dark clouds moving in and a forecast for rain, the first night of preliminaries for the 1992 Belleville Midget Nationals was run...
Instant Replay: 15th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1992
by Paul Haase
BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 24, 2001) - With dark clouds moving in and a forecast for rain, the first night of preliminaries for the 1992 Belleville Midget Nationals was run quickly. Maybe just a little to quickly for Rolling Hills, Calif.'s Page Jones.
Jones, driving the ever-popular Wilke Racers Stanton, started the main event from the outside front row. Considered one of the favorites to win the championship, Jones started out to prove his supporters knew what they were talking about. Dogging Jones all the way for the first 18 laps was Tempe, Ariz.'s Lealand McSpadden.
On lap 18, Jones drifted high in turn 4, striking the rail, knocking the nerf bar into his right rear tire and blowing it. That was all McSpadden needed to cruise on to the checkered with Jones ending up 14th by way of the last man out.
Thursday's 25-lap main qualified McSpadden, Richard Griffin, Dave Strickland Jr. and Terry Gray for the Saturday championship. They were followed by Randy Roberts, John Heydenreich, Jerry Coons Jr., Davis, Marchese and Pierce to finish out the top 10. McSpadden picked up $1,000 for winning the main.
Two-time Belleville Midget Nationals Champion Stan Fox of Janesville, Wis., decided that his Thursday night prelim run just wasn't what he expected so he elected to scratch his Thursday run and re-enter his backup car on Friday. It proved to be the right move as he won the Friday main, qualifying him for a starting position in the Saturday championship race in the front of the pack.
Fox also had top time in the time trials with a time of 18.413 seconds around "The World's Fastest Half-Mile Dirt Track." Of interest to many is the fact that last year John Heydenreich of Bloomfield, Pa., broke the track record with a time of 18.358, previously held by Jeff Gordon with a time of 18.500. In fact, two cars on Friday were under the old record with Cary Faas joining Fox with a time of 18.485. Fox had a time of 18.968 in his Thursday car.
Tommy Estes Jr. was awarded the pole position for the feature event only to finish a spot away from qualifying for the championship Saturday event. Fox, on the third row outside, was able to weave his way through traffic to get the win.
Following Fox were Steve Knepper, Kevin Doty and Ron Shuman to join the Thursday top four for the starting positions in the Saturday championship.
The main event was halted by a tragic accident on lap 3 between turns . 3-4 Bob Shupp died of injuries sustained in a violent series of flips .
With a racing name and reputation to match, McSpadden took on what he referred to as the "Grand ol' Lady" and came away with $10,000.
McSpadden is known for his smart driving skills and pursuit of checkered flags. Noting that he has always wanted to come to the Nationals a few of the past champions are probably glad he didn't until now.
McSpadden drew the number one starting spot for the championship race with Griffin right beside him, and a definite threat. Another favorite, Fox, was seated right behind McSpadden but after challenging McSpadden for a few laps began to fall back. Later in the race Fox was able to regain his momentum and finished fourth.
Fox would challenge Estes on the restarts but would fade back after about a half a lap. Estes noted that his car on the restarts would not come up to full strength until he got on it for a while. Estes was able to hold Fox off to place third.
In the meantime, Griffin was racing between McSpadden and Estes and was not a real threat to McSpadden except on the restarts and was never really challenged by Estes.
Knepper was seated in the second row outside and was looking to be a threat to McSpadden but pulled up lame when his ignition went out.
A possible contender coming in was Eric Wilkins, who had won at Pueblo, Colo., in a show preceding to the Nationals. Wilkins was running back in the pack on lap 33 when he got high between turns 1-2, striking the wall. Something on the car appeared to have busted as he was sent flipping in the air in turn 2. Wilkins was able to exit the car on his own power and refused treatment by emergency services personal on hand.
During the red flag period caused by the Wilkins accident, crews were able to change tires on the cars. This set up a seven-lap dash as all new rubber replaced many blistered tires that would probably not have lasted if not changed.
15th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1992 Top 5 finishers:
1. Lealand McSpadden
2. Richard Griffin
3. Tommy Estes Jr.
4. Stan Fox
5. Robby Flock
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.