Instant Replay: 12th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1989 By Paul Haase BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 21, 2001) - Chuck Gurney of Livermore, Calif., topped an excellent field of over 60 cars to add his name to the list of champions of the...
Instant Replay: 12th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1989
By Paul Haase
BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 21, 2001) - Chuck Gurney of Livermore, Calif., topped an excellent field of over 60 cars to add his name to the list of champions of the Belleville Midget Nationals. Gurney led from start to finish in the 1989 event before a record crowd in a race in which nearly all the starting cars finished the 40-lap championship race of the 12th annual extravaganza.
In only his second year at Belleville, Gurney, driving one of the top performing cars in recent years -- the Larry Howard car -- jumped in front and never looked back.
Gurney, who had earned his way to the championship by winning Thursday's main event, jumped out from his pole position to lead the whole race. Gurney's win also marked a rare feat in recent years in that a car powered by an Arias engine won the race. The championship races in the past have been dominated by the Cosworth-powered cars.
In the feature race Gurney was followed closely by Robby Flock for the first 10 laps until Gurney was able to move around slower cars while Flock had more of a problem passing. At one time, Flock came as close as a half car-length from Gurney, but was unable to pass.
By the 23rd lap Gurney had built a lead by as much as 15 car-lengths, followed by Flock and 1988 champion Steve Knepper. The order remained the same until the 28th lap when Flock was forced out of the race with a broken valve spring.
"Coming in we had hoped we would do well and after Thursday's feature we thought we had a good chance in the championship," Gurney commented after the race. "We ran well last year (finished fourth in the feature and set the one-lap track record) before having some engine trouble in the feature, but we had our car running with plenty of power left over this year."
Gurney added that he would definitely be back next year to defend his title.
The only cars not to finish the feature were Flock, Kevin Doty and Dave Strickland Jr., making it the largest number of cars to finish the punishing championship race.
Because Friday's show was canceled after rain made the track unusable, several drivers were forced to run several races with the combined shows on Saturday. A delay after the Friday preliminary feature gave the drivers enough time to prepare their cars for the finals qualification. The delay also allowed the sun, which sometimes blinds the drivers coming into turn 4, to go down.
Already qualified for the championship race from the Thursday feature were Gurney, Flock, Randy Roberts and Doty.
The Friday feature (run early Saturday) qualified Dan Boorse, Knepper, Strickland and Dave Burns for the championship.
These eight automatically received the front positions of the championship race, leaving more than 50 cars still trying to qualify. In a draw among the first- and second-place finishers from each preliminary feature, Flock and Gurney drew the front row positions.
A special race added to this year's event was the Dash for Cash. The event allows the drivers of cars with less powerful engines to race against cars of equal strength. The 10-lap race was run by the top-10 qualifiers of both Thursday's and Friday's show with five coming from both nights. Dean Ward of Wichita, Kan., took home the $400 payoff.
Two track records were broken in the Thursday night preliminary. The one-lap record was initially set by Roberts with a time of 18.824 seconds but Flock ended up posting the best time with an 18.736. The previous record was held by Gurney with a time of 18.862 in qualifying for the previous year's Nationals. John Andretti's record of 2:38.40 for eight laps in 1987 was bested by Gurney with a time of 2:37.03, but the honor soon was turned over to Ron 'Sleepy' Tripp with a record time of 2:35.15.
12th Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1989
Top 5 finishers:
1. Chuck Gurney
2. Steve Knepper
3. Ron 'Sleepy' Tripp
4. Dan Boorse
5. Randy Roberts
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.