1st Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1978

Instant Replay: 1st Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1978 by Paul Haase BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 10, 2001) - It started out as a challenge and turned into the biggest event for the midgets nationwide. The Midget Nationals were started at the...

Instant Replay: 1st Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1978
by Paul Haase

BELLEVILLE, Kan. (July 10, 2001) - It started out as a challenge and turned into the biggest event for the midgets nationwide.

The Midget Nationals were started at the Belleville High Banks in Belleville, Kan., after some men involved in a 1977 midget challenge race kicked around the idea among themselves. High interest was shown in the track by the drivers during the Rocky Mountain Midget/St. Louis Midget Challenge race.

With the interest in the track by the drivers and a lack of a true national race for the midgets, the Belleville Midget Nationals were started.

The first annual Belleville Midget Nationals held in 1978 turned out to be the beginning of an event that the Fair Amusements Board had hoped for: big names, fast cars and a lot of action.

Some of the big names that were on hand for this premier event were Stan Fox, Larry Patton, Buz Taply, Mike Gregg, Ron 'Sleepy' Tripp, Bob Wente and the eventual first Nationals champion, Eddie Jackson.

Fox started his reign as one of the Nationals' greatest drivers that year after setting the fastest time among all the drivers, but saw his chances of being the first champion disappear when he flipped during the finals.

Gregg showed that he was one of the top contenders in midget racing by winning one of the preliminary night main events. Tripp won the other preliminary.

The first championship race was marred with what many Belleville Midget Nationals veterans call the most horrifying accident in the event's history.

On the second lap of the championship race, seven cars were involved in an accident on the first turn. Several of the cars were in the air with the rest of them either spinning or turning over. Lowell Voss was the only driver that required extensive medical help with several internal injuries. Voss was flown from Belleville to a Wichita Hospital the night of the accident and died the following week from injuries.

1st Annual Belleville Midget Nationals - 1978 Top 5 finishers:
1. Eddie Jackson
2. Larry Patton
3. Ron Sleepy Tripp
4. Bob Wente
5. Steve Troxell

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 Vintage , Midget